History of immersion

March 25, 2009 at 12:39 am (Heather) (, , , , , , , , , )

There’s been some old-school console action happening around me lately. A couple of weeks ago, shortly after I signed the lease on my new place and still a week before I moved in, Dan came over to help me with my condition report. We headed out for some dinner, but before we got too far we made an exciting discovery.

Now, I’ve been moved in for… well, tonight will be my tenth night here. And I love this neighbourhood. My street, especially, is quiet and lovely, with lots of beautiful (but incredibly varied) houses. And there is a culture of throwing stuff out and leaving it on the nature strip. It’s like every day is council cleanup day. There was a sign, lovingly produced on someone’s home computer, saing ‘LOVELY PAVERS – Help yourself!’ on a nearly stacked pile on the pavement. I saw some shoes I thought about taking the other day, and for a brief moment I thought I had found an indoor washing line. (it turned out to be broken. I suppose that would be why its former owner threw it out.)

But on our way to dinner that night there was a box on the nature strip with a Mega Drive, a Mega Drive 2 and a Mega CD in it, with a selection of crap games. Dan might talk about this at length, for all I know, as it was certainly his discovery rather than mine. But it’s got me thinking about my console gaming past.

We didn’t really have that kind of stuff when I was a kid. Our first computer was an Apricot. The most advanced computer we ever had was a 386 (and it’s possible some of you won’t know what that even means) until we finally got a decent enough computer, which gave us all the comforts of the internet at home, in 2001.

But we had a Sega Master System II. I’m pretty sure it was obsolete when we got it – my best friend had a Mega Drive at the same time, although when she played Sonic she had to do it with the sound on mute because her pregnant mother found it stressful. I was free to play at full volume, although if memory serves it was a shared Christmas present with my two sisters, so my playing time was much less. Also, my parents both liked to play Lemmings.

Alex Kidd in Miracle World was an extremely formative experience for me. I wasn’t nearly as good at it as my big sister who, four years older than me, had better reflexes or better coordination or a greater capacity to learn from experience. But I made it through that game. Recently in discussion about that game I discovered that I still remember the sequence of tiles as set out in the stone slab, for getting you the crown at the end of the game. For the record, it is: sun ripples moon star, sun moon ripples, fish star fish.

After that knowledge sprang fully-formed into my mind, I messaged my big sister. She, too, remembered it just like that. We would both like that brainspace back to make way for more useful information, please. But by this stage I had already started reading walkthroughs and FAQs about the game, trying to find out about a possible alternative ending, or just what would happen if one did not collect all the relevant artefacts. I’d had no idea that it was possible to progress in the game without picking up the autographed letter, or the moonlight stone, or the stone slab. Such was my commitment to finishing the game that I never really messed around with the game. There was a heartbreaking moment when I discovered in an FAQ that there was an unannounced continue feature, whereby a specific series of button mashes resulted in starting again at the beginning of the last level with three lives. I nearly cried. But there was nobody around to tell us about this. Oh, internet, how did I ever live without you?

But of course, now I am curious about this, and want to at least play it through again from start to finish, and probably again after that to skip selected objectives and see what happens.

I have a TV and a Wii here. I haven’t set them up. I should soon, but the TV weighs a metric arseton and I have no real desire to move it to the side of the room where the power is and then have to move it again post-ikeatrip to get it up on a TV table. It nearly killed Claire and I getting it down some stairs and into the car; I don’t think I could do it alone.

But moving out means that I no longer have access to a PS2. Abby and I reached an arrangement whereby I’m hanging onto her Mario Kart DoubleDash (way better than the Wii version) and she is nominally hanging onto my We ❤ Katamari. It’s been at Dan’s for some time, though.

What I really miss, though, is Bully. I think Bully is probably the game I have been most involved with as an adult. I’m only a few percent off completion – I was down to the arcade games in the clubhouses and a couple of go-kart races, if memory serves. A few times recently I have sat down intending to improve my completion and just ridden around on my aquaberry cruiser. The soundtrack, by Shawn Lee, is fantastic (and in fact the first I heard about the game was when I downloaded a couple of tracks from a music blog), and the music that plays when one is cycling around is my ringtone. On a few occasions I have found myself drifting off to sleep while thinking about cycling around Bullworth. I so enjoy that particular aspect of the game, the sense of freedom one has on one’s bicycle, that I’m planning to get a bike sometime soon IRL. (and I wish I could have a skateboard hotkey so I could whip it out at a moment’s notice when I get tired of the short walk to the cafe. I’ve seen some people with razor scooters lately who I suspect are longing for the same thing.)

My inclination is to keep going with the PS2 version. There are so many cheap games for the PS2 that my investment is sure to pay off. But I may yet be seduced by the siren song of Scholarship Edition. Eight new missions! Four new classes! 2-player competitive minigames! And some new characters. Possibly even some more boys who can be persuaded to kiss Jimmy if provided with a box of chocolates and a few sweet words. All in all, this seems like the perfect excuse to play through from the start again.

Until I decide, I’ll be playing GTA: Chinatown Wars on my DS. This turns out to be slightly problematic, because I tend to swear copiously (albeit silently) and make faces when things are not going well. I looked up from a lunchtime game to find a businessman staring at me from across the food court today, and I did a little dance of agitation when I got busted mid-mission while waiting for the pedestrian lights to change. And I nearly missed my stop on the train yesterday.

At least Alex Kidd never interrupted my life outside the home.


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Putative flat dreams

February 24, 2009 at 11:55 pm (Heather) (, , , , , )

Sorry I failed last week, folks. I had most of this draft, but I kept having the tireds. And then my mum went back into hospital yesterday for more chemo, and today I’ve got some kind of a sore throat thing, but I WILL post tonight.

I’m at that irritating stage of moving where I spend (at least part of) every Saturday looking at flats, and then I fill in forms and I drop them in and then I don’t get picked for the places. It seems pretty likely at this point that my lack of a tenancy history is causing trouble – people look at that and think I’m going to wreck the place and not pay the rent, and don’t look at the part where I’ve been saving money the whole time I’ve been living with my mum and paying board, and my financial situation is far more stable than a lot of people I know who’ve started new tenancies recently.

I missed a call from a real estate agent today, though, and when I listened to the voicemail (at 6pm, naturally, well after the office would’ve closed) I discovered that they were seeking to confirm that I’m still interested and haven’t found anywhere else. The agent also said that they hoped to have an answer for me by lunchtime tomorrow.

Well. This is the best response I’ve had so far. The flat in question is one I looked at on Saturday and applied for on Monday. Julia gave me the idea of sending a cover letter with my applications spelling out why I have no tenancy history. I also sent the last statement from both of my bank accounts along with my payslip, and in the letter I drew their attention to this summary of my financial position.

So! Tomorrow morning I will have to call the agent and confirm that I’m still interested. Of course, I’m having a minor panic about it, as I do about all moderately large financial commitments – what if it’s not perfect? What if I find something better next weekend?

Except, that would be the best thing ever, if I had this place, because then I could stop looking and spend my weekends on something else. I am: very sick of househunting.

(When I call the agent I also need to ask about the oven/stove… it has a fairly minimal kitchen, which is probably fine for just me, but I would hate to sign the lease and then find out that it only has one of those dodgy little toaster ovens.)

Much though I’m sick to death of actually looking for a place, I don’t seem to tire of dreaming of what it will be like when I find it. The putative flat, the one I have to call about tomorrow, has sort of inspired me. I can imagine what my life would be like in there.

It doesn’t have a bath. I wanted a bath. But it has one of those modern shower cubicles, not like the other ones that I have applied for that either had wired glass or bizarre fibreglass moulded things with a curtain. Both of which were charming in their own ways, but this one is nicer. It also has a powder blue pedestal sink.

(Also it’s just now occurring to me that I could be wrong about pretty much any or all of this. Possibly if I get the place I will have a follow-up column about how I am wrong.)

The kitchen is sort of just the end of the living room. This probably means I’ll have to have my fridge sitting on the carpet. I am sort of inclined to make a face about that, but I think I may buy a square of lino from Reverse Garbage or somewhere and it’ll be fine. Also tiny kitchen at the end of the living room means that I’ll be able to watch my stories while I cook. Dan has finagled me an enormous television, and while it will be a pain in the arse to have to store it until I move, my stories will be very large. I’ve been looking for a suitably large piece of furniture for it. I would really like it to be about waist-high, so that if I wii-box the height will make sense. Possibly this one is too small (or it may not even be strong enough) but I am a bit of a sucker for Leksvik these days.


I can keep my Wii in there, and probably I will buy a ps2 so I can keep playing GTA3 and also We Love Katamari. It’s important. I’m also thinking of getting a DVD or HD recorder, which is also convenient because it’ll have the digital tuner built in, and then I can watch ABC2 which seems to have all the things that are good. And I’ll be able to record Yo Gabba Gabba so I don’t have to get up at 7:30 on a Saturday morning.

I’m going to get a couch. Probably I won’t be able to fit a dining table, so it’ll just be the couch and a coffee table. I already have the coffee table, though. I would really like to get a long and comfy couch so I can lie on it.

I’ve been ogling prints on etsy a bunch. I’m more taken with things with words on than I would ever have expected.



I especially like this one for the bedroom:


While I’m at Ikea I’ll also need some slats for my bed, because a few are broken and I cbf trying to pretend to be a handyperson. Also I have needed a chest of drawers for some months, but have basically been putting it off for the future when some men with overalls that say Ikea on them will already be driving a truck to my house.


The top of my chest of drawers seems like an ideal place for storing my jewellery. Probably if a TV show were to give me an organisation makeover, that is one of the things they would pick on for me. Currently I have necklaces on the dining table, on the bookshelves in the room outside my room, on a box (of books, unpacked since moving in August 2007) next to my bed, on my bedside table, and on my quasi-desk. I can’t seem to not take them off when I sit down, and rings fare no better. Probably I could fix this a bit with a forest of these:


Otherwise I might do something with pins and a corkboard. I’ve seen a number of things around that have one covering a corkboard in fabric and pinning necklaces and stuff up. I also recently saw a crafty thing whereby one can make a pinboard by attaching carpet tiles to a piece of wood, but this would rely on me being able to find non-hideous carpet tiles. But any excuse to buy a hot-melt glue gun will do. Otherwise I might just find some old pretty dish at the markets and repurpose it.

So! In conclusion: with any luck I will be moving soon, and I hope it will be awesome. Househunting sucks, moving sucks, but window-shopping an reading design blogs is rad. Also, I hear shopping is the responsible thing to do right now.

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February 11, 2009 at 12:13 am (Heather) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Sometimes Dan and I disagree about food as we often have pretty different ideas. Or, he has pretty different ideas about food, and I often disagree with them.

When we were in Melbourne and I was waxing rhapsodical about kugelhopf he had a strange and frightening fancy: cake soup.

Now, I didn’t know about any of this, but apparently it’s from a Penny Arcade thing. They took cheap, nasty carrot cake, cubed it and added milk. They looked upon it, and lo, it was good (apparently).

But Kugelhopf is not cheap. Nor is it nasty. It is so perfectly delicious alone, and such a rare treat for me, that I could not conceive of perverting its delicious destiny.

However, after a while of resisting I started to get curious. Cake is delicious, Dan pointed out. Cake with a glass of milk is pretty great.

Okay, I thought, but soggy cake?

There were a few very hot and humid days after I got home from Melbourne, and the kugelhopf was sitting in its box on the counter the whole time. By the time I cleared a space for it in the fridge the damage was probably done. After a few days in the fridge it was a bit dried out. One might even have called it stale.

I let Dan know that my kugelhopf was sufficiently degraded for me to countenance its soupification. But I’d played hard to get with it for too long, and he was no longer interested. And by now I was positively gagging for kugelsoup.

Fine! I strode into the kitchen. I didn’t anyone else to facilitate my culinary misadventure.*

I took the kugelhopf out of the fridge – it was looking pretty sad by this stage.

It stared up at me, and this is what it saw.
(well, that’s what it would have seen had it had eyes. I’d eaten them days previously, of course, but for your edification I simulated its perspective by putting my phone facedown on the counter and hitting the shutter button.)

Heedless of its reproachful gaze, I tore its flesh into neatish little chunks.


And then threatened it with a milk bottle.

It didn’t believe I’d really use enhanced interrogation techniques, so I doused it.

I could tell when it’d had enough because it went sort of soggy, limp and floaty.

I ate it. It was pretty good! I was surprised by how much it was like eating Coco Pops or some other sugary cereal, which is probably a damning indictment of contemporary cereal culture. The chocolate didn’t seep out, though, so even when there were only crumbs left it wasn’t much like a chocolate milkshake, and of course it wasn’t crunchy.

I actually made kugelsoup twice. The pictures I have here are from the second time, which was just last night. I also took a few pictures the time before, but they were few in number and generally poor in quality. Also I used different bowls so I wouldn’t’ve been able to just slip them in together without people calling shenanigans.

I’ve been looking at a lot of foodblogs lately, hence the picturetaking probably. One of them mentioned a theory that one can cure oneself of dislike of a food by exposing oneself to it ten times with an open mind. If I had made New Year’s resolutions this year, being more open-minded about food would probably be on there. So with the ten-tries theory in mind I took the plunge and had jelly in my Easyway blended ice beverage the other day. I found I quite liked the texture. So, maybe once will do it sometimes. And maybe I will do more ridiculous things with food that might turn out deliciously, like the kugelsoup.

* Of course, my culinary misadventure couldn’t compare to any of these.

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Books Heather read in January

February 4, 2009 at 1:39 am (Heather) (, , , , )

This is probably a partial list… I’m relying on my memory as I only thought to write them down last week.

Club Dead
Dead to the World
Dead as a Doornail
Definitely Dead

It’s possible I may have a problem, here. This is books 3-6 of the Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Mysteries, on which True Blood was based. I may have also read #2 in January… I know I finished it at Millthorpe but I’m not sure if it was the December or the January end of proceedings.

I’ve lent Dan a couple of these, and since he said that the way they’re written bothered him I’ve been reading them in a much more critical way (which is probably for the best). So there’ve been some conversations like this:

me: I finished my last vampire book.   you know what else is bad about them? 
: the heroin in the paper?   heh
: lol  they fail at mystery but they fail at mystery because the reveal is usually, ‘and then of course it was like this because of [something that was never hinted at before]’. 

This is accurate, of course. And not just in terms of the mystery – characters will be introduced with a chunk of backstory about when Sookie met them that was never mentioned before. One of them had such a big ‘It was great when me and X were hanging out’ thing that I wondered if I’d skipped a book. But, no. Lots happens off-stage, so there’s lots of telling and not that much showing. There was no opportunity for me to go, “Aha!” about the conclusion of the sixth book because the elements leading up to that conclusion weren’t visible. The gun wasn’t shown anytime in the first act and it still went off in the third.

I was all set to swear off them after that. But of course trashy novels always have the first chapter for the next book at the end, and I had nothing to read on the way home…

me: so I was all, screw these they’re shit   but then I read the taster chapter for the next one at the back of the book
but then the heroin?

That chapter suggests that the next book is about the vampire response to Hurricane Katrina. I am a sucker for fiction that ties in real-world events with the imaginary, and also the logistical aspects of an aftermath. Probably I will end up reading it in a little while. I might order it over the internet so that I can’t read it on the spot. All Together Dead is the seventh Sookie Stackhouse book and the last one available, so at least once I read that the madness will stop. Unless I decide to track down all the short stories published in execrable supernatural romance anthologies.

Fables 11: War and Pieces

I think I only found out that this was out the night before we set off to Millthorpe. I had a mad scramble around town trying to track down a copy on the morning of the 28th, but Kinokuniya wasn’t open until a few minutes before our train was leaving Central, and Kings didn’t have any left.

The premise of the Fables series is that fairytale characters were exiled from their homelands (known within the series as The Homelands) and have to hang out in Fabletown, which is a couple of blocks in New York City. Those of them that can’t pass as human live on a farm in upstate New York (known within the series as The Farm). They’ve been working up to a war with the sometimes mysterious adversary that drove them away.

This volume was pretty much all about the war. I read it. I liked it okay. The war stuff has never been a real draw for me with this series. The author’s note in there seemed to imply that there would be more, which would be nice because I really enjoy the stories about the workings of Fabletown and how they all get along.

Howl’s Moving Castle

I saw the Miyazaki film of this back in the day and it confused the hell out of me. Not only were problems solved in ways that didn’t make sense using the information available to the viewer, the problems themselves were only introduced as they were being solved.

The book made a lot more sense. Sophie Hatter is resigned to the dull life ahead of her working in her family’s hat shop. But when the Witch of the Waste turns Sophie into an old crone in response to an inadvertent slight, Sophie runs away (well, hobbles really) and finds work as a cleaning lady for the famous Wizard Howl.

Something about Diana Wynne Jones’s writing doesn’t quite do it for me, though – what are supposed to be lush and well-imagined scenes just don’t seem to register, and I find myself without much of a visualisation. That’s a problem when it comes to scenes with a lot of action, because without an idea of the room it can be hard to keep track of where people are in relation to each other. The way Sophie finds herself old before her time, quite bent by responsibility and care rang quite a note with me during a fairly crappy week.

The Dud Avocado

From the blurb: “The Dud Avocado follows the romantic and comedic adventures ofa young American who heads overseas to conquer Paris in the late 1950s … Charming, sexy, and hilarious, The Dud Avocado gained instant cult status when it was first published and it remains a timeless portrait of a woman hell-bent on living.”

That’s pretty accurate, I think. I read this while I was in Melbourne and it was pretty delightful. I was frequently surprised by some of the language used – it was published in 1958 but I was hopelessly unaware of a few of the words used, and others sounded so modern I couldn’t believe they were around 50 years ago. I did feel somewhat inclined to slap Sally Jay from time to time (despite her endearing name) but I get that with most novels of this sort. In fact, the way the protagonist related her foibles and misadventures reminded me of nothing so much as Bridget Jones. Sure enough, when I finished the novel and read the scholarly introduction I was exhorted not to think that way:

“Now The Dud Avocado is out again in the United States, and I’ll bet money that some dewy-eyed young critic is going to read it for the first time and write an essay about how Sally Jay Gorce, Elaine Dundy’s adorably scatty heroine, was the spiritual grandmother of Bridget Jones. To which I say… nothing. I actually kind of like poor old Bridget, but if you want to properly place The Dud Avocado in the grand scheme of things, you should look not forward to Chick Lit but backward to Daisy Miller.”

Now, I’d never heard of Daisy Miller. I’ll think about reading it now. But what irks me about this is that a modern novel of very similar style and scope is called chick lit, set apart by its charm and focus on the life of a woman, fiction but never literature. The Dud Avocado, on the other hand, has a certain respectability because it was written fifty years ago, and surely everything old is better, classier, more solidly built than anything in the shops now? I think the way genres are sliced up is strange, unnatural and generally snobbish, and I am perplexed by the way popular culture rubs off its patina as it ages and becomes high culture. I can’t really bring myself to read serious literature at the moment because so much of it seems to deal with people who are miserable, and that is not what I want to read right now. But The Dud Avocado was good fun. I may seek out other books by the author, who died a little under a year ago. I just read her obituary and she had a pretty interesting life, but a dreadful husband.

French Milk

I came to this book by a rather circuitous route. I’ve been reading Pictures for Sad Children for some time, and in January the guy behind that does hourly comics every day. I am pretty addicted to these journal comics – reading them seems to be therapeutic in some way, so I followed links to other people doing similar things. The First of February is Hourly Comics Day, so heaps and heaps of non-comicky people joined in. Maybe one day I will try it! If I can bear to attempt to draw. Anyway, Lucy Knisley did it every Wednesday, and her hourly journal comics were particularly delightful. So when I discovered she had a book out I ordered it from the internet*.

From the blurb:

“Through delightful drawings, photographs, and musings, twenty-three-year-old Lucy Knisley documents a six-week trip she and her mother took to Paris when each was facing a milestone birthday. With a quirky flat in the fifth arrondissement as their home base, they set out to explore all the city has to offer, watching fireworks over the Eiffel Tower on New Year’s Eve, visiting Oscar Wilde’s grave, loafing at cafes and, of course, drinking delicious French milk. What results is not only a sweet and savory journey through the City of Light but a moving, personal look at a mother-daughter relationship.”

Okay so blurbs are pretty hokey, and you know I dick on quirky. I would blurb my own blurb if it weren’t 1am. But I really really liked this book. It turns out it’s all journal comics in convenient book form. It was eminently relatable and made me feel better about my fretting and made me want to go and live in a place for a while. I read bits of it when I couldn’t sleep last week, and then ended up staying awake for longer than was really required to finish it one night. I’ve ordered Radiator Days, that appears to be another book of her journal comics, also from the internet. I hope it arrives soon.

Also read but not included on list because they don’t count somehow:  Some portion of The Fiery Cross, at least half of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, White Elephants 2.

Next time: Probably fewer books, hopefully written about with less of an interval so I won’t’ve forgotten so much.  Maybe also pictures. Also linked book titles, but that might happen sooner than that.

* Folks, if you, like me, enjoy ordering books over the internet, you should check out booko. You tell it what you want and it tells you who will ship it to Australia cheapest! You can even tell it you want a bunch of things, and it will tell you who will give you the cheapest basket of books. For me the cheapest is virtually always The Book Depository, who are in the UK but do free worldwide shipping. I have ordered five books from there, and show no sign of slowing.

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Melbourne by cameraphone

January 28, 2009 at 8:09 pm (Heather) (, , , , , , )

Apologies for the delay, folks.  I was in Melbourne for a very long weekend.  It was lovely!  I set aside a couple of hours yesterday and sat down at an internet cafe to make post go, but uploading photos took forever and I thought my brain was going to explode from frustration.

This was my sixth trip to Melbourne, and the third I’ve taken in the last eight months or so.  I rather like it there!  So I thought I’d tell you all about some things that are awesome about Melbourne.  I’ve sort of been wrestling with the idea that novelty is what’s required when travelling.  I’ve developed a bit of a beloved routine about visiting Melbourne, now, because I know the things that I like to do and where they are.  blatI want to go to Melbourne because I want a kugelhopf and a visit to Sticky and to wander around a place that is familiar but not home.  I still think that’s a real and valid thing.  Hmm.  Anyway, on with the slide show.

The last three times I’ve gone to Melbourne I have stayed in the same hotel, in St Kilda.  (St Kilda is awesome because it is basically like Newtown, with lots of cafes and funky little shops, except at the beach, with Luna Park.)

One of the reasons why I love that hotel is that right across the road is my favourite cafe, the Galleon. All the tables are grandma-style coloured melamine, and I’m starting to think about having one in my kitchen one day.  They make a great BLAT, which is pretty much my favourite breakfast.  When I’m feeling seedy and haven’t slept enough, which seems to be the default setting while travelling, a BLAT and a juice equip me for the day.

I should probably add at this point that many of the Melbourne traditions are food-based, and on this trip we did have trouble fitting enough meals in the day.  Breakfast is important, but lunch tends to be delicious snack food.doughnutexterior

We took a trip to the American Doughnut Van at the Queen Victoria Markets. These things are hot, amorphous, jam-filled and coated with sugar. They are pretty amazing. We bought lots, and then discovered that they are not so fantastic cold. Alas.

One day for dinner we made a pilgrimage to Soda Rock, a 50s-style diner.   I’d heard about Blue Heaven milkshakes and I decided I had to try one. It was strange. I had heard that Blue Heaven was vanilla with a touch of citrus, but I thinblueheavenk it’s actually a touch of berry, so the flavour is a bit like bubblegum icecream.  The thickshake was almost chewy.  It came with a spoon on a tiny paper doily that I have started using as a bookmark.   There are little jukeboxes on every table but even if you don’t put money in it plays 50s music all day.  Some of the songs were unfamiliar to me despite my years of listening to 2WS on Saturday nights.

I always buy a chocolate kugelhopf from Monarch Cakes in St Kilda. I didn’t get a picture of my kugelhopf and after a day stuffed in a locker in Southern Cross Station and then sideways in an overhead locker on a plane, it’s not exactly at its most presentable.  (Also I’ve now eaten at least a third of it.)   But you can see one on the website. They’re made from yeast pastry and have melted chocolate swirled throughout. They actually travel pretty well due to not being cake as such.

It’s also important to visit Lord of the Fries, for a cone of chips with Belgian garlic mayonnaise.  It is pretty great!  One time I had some nuggets there, though, and couldn’t figure out if they were pork or something because they sure weren’t chicken.  Then it turned out that the whole place is vegetarian and the nuggets were tofu.  It was surprising!  (Yesterday we had Poutine.  It was delicious once the cheese melted under the heat of the gravy.)

There are non-food traditions too.  I always go to Sticky and buy a crapload of zines.  I really like the way I can buy half the shop’s inventory and it costs me under $20.  It’s in the Degraves Street Subway, which is a fascinating little tunnel leading to Flinders Street Station.

newshoesDegraves Street is one of the charming little laneways that people go on about in Melbourne.  There are tiny cafes more or less set into the walls.  If I hadn’t still been full of chips I would have thought about having an iced chocolate from somewhere.   My favourite shoe shop, Sole Devotion, is right near the corner of Degraves Street and Flinders Street.  Usually I spend hundreds on an amazing pair of Fluevogs.  Nothing really took my fancy this time.  Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood – I’d more or less decided not to buy any more shoes on this trip after discovering that I have quite a few already. I started lining up my shoes against the wall while cleaning and there are over 20 pairs there, with more floating about the place.  But I did end up buying these lovelies from a stall at the Queen Vic Markets.  The guy who sold them to me was a shoemaker of 50 years, he said, and he showed me how to stretch an overly tight instep using warm water and Sunlight soap (or Velvet soap).

Melbourne also has:

friendly batman graffiti; public art with owls in

Mag Nation.  Julia, this is the place that you alwamagnationys want to be there when you travel.  It is a magazine shop that sells coffee.  You buy a coffee if you want, sit down in one of their incredibly comfy chairs, and then you use their free internet as much as you like.  Probably they wouldn’t even care if you didn’t buy a coffee.  Once we were here and there was an american film wanker talking to a guy who desperately wanted him to like him and the internet was bad, but every other time it has been great.

Also there was a magazine with a pig in boots.


In conclusion: roadtrip y/n?

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Ancient History jazz hands

January 20, 2009 at 10:56 pm (Heather) (, , , )

I should probably start this off by saying that I went to a very good school and studied Ancient History for the HSC and then went on to do it at uni for several years.  Study does not seem to have given me any kind of broad general knowledge, though – there are perhaps two or three pockets of time about which I can more or less fudge a working knowledge, but beyond that I smile and nod.

Probably with this in mind it should not surprise me that my brain attempts to fill in its many gaps when ancient things come up in conversation.

About a week ago, maybe longer, after breakfast on a weekend Julia mentioned Lysistrata.  “Is that the one were the ladies refuse to put out?”, I might have asked.  Maybe I didn’t even know that much and Julia just filled me in.  But as soon as it entered my mind, I could only think of it as a prequel to the Rape of the Sabines.

Now, I should add that pretty much my only knowledge of that series of events comes from this educational film.

This is ‘Sobbin’ Women’, from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I think ‘Least, that’s what Plutarch said’ might be the best line in any musical ever.  Yes, Adam did just tell his brothers to kidnap wives because really, no means yes.*

The two stories fit quite neatly together if one ignores some crucial aspects.

LADIES:  Okay, chaps, we’re sick to death of you running off to war.  No more of that, or no more of this.  [They gesticulate]

MENFOLK:  Screw you bitchez.  We know you love it.  We’ll be here when you decide to crawl back, gagging for it.  [They wait]

LADIES: [Raise eyebrows, look at their watches, run about hiding the implements of war]

MENFOLK: Fine!  Who needs you, anyway.  [They storm off to war.]

Then, I think either they lose and the victors go to visit their wives, or while they’re occupied a wholly different group of men visit the town.

OTHER MENFOLK: Hay laydeez.  How you doin’?

LADIES: Just fine without you.  Keep walking, boyo.


LADIES: Ya, r- [They are grabbed by the OTHER MENFOLK!]

LADIES: Unhand me this instant!

OTHER MENFOLK: We wouldn’t’ve had to kidnap you if you didn’t refuse.

LADIES: OH WELL, IN THAT CASE!  [They kick the men vigorously]

Time passes.  The women get bored of being cranky and reflect on the fact that these men are probably no worse than their old husbands who, let’s say, died in some war.

Come to think of it, it could have happened the other way around – the men are the same but the women are different.  That is, the men at the start of the story got tired of the ladies refusing to put out, wandered off ostensibly to war, then came across some other ladies and seized them.

I think I’m going to have to learn hardly anything about a bunch more historical things so I can mash them up.  Ignorance helps me play!

*I would like to add that I do not endorse such a viewpoint, and nor does the film.  The brothers do, in fact, kidnap women and take them back to the homestead.  Because of an avalanche it is impossible for them to return.  However, Adam’s** wife Millie is fairly unimpressed and orders the men to stay in the barn while the ladies stay in the attic having pillowfights.  Or catfights.  One of them, Dorcas, even has a sort of a Dita von Teese look about her.  But they fall in love anyway.  It’s really a romantic tale of Stockholm Syndrome (which I started to type as ‘stuck home syndrome’, kind of aptly).

**In the course of researching this article I discovered that there was a musical TV series made in 1982 based on this film, and Richard Dean Anderson played Adam.  I like to imagine that if they got snowed in for the winter he would be able to make a snowplow out of tallow, lumber and gopher hides.

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On behaving oneself

January 6, 2009 at 11:27 pm (Heather)

Yesterday I skived off work and went to get some x-rays.  Nothing major, it’s just for the dodgy knee that flared up while we were all away.  I didn’t really want to go – the last time I got x-rayed I had to change into a gown and have a gruff Russian man manipulate my limbs in a way that made me slightly uncomfortable, although probably I was in a worse mood than I would otherwise have been, as I’d just received bad results from a blood test, that turned out to be inaccurate.

But yesterday I managed to do it right.  I wore a top and skirt of stretchy cotton jersey, so when my (sweet, young, female) radiographer pointed me in the direction of the changing rooms and indicated I should take my skirt off, she took a closer look at me and enquired whether I was wearing anything with buttons or zippers (I wasn’t) and then indicated I could stay as I was.

Some of the positions I was in were pretty uncomfortable, and one of them in particular had my knee open at an obtuse angle, which hurt, and I had to exert effort to try to stop my foot sliding further away, and that was no good for my knee at all.  Before going I’d had a patently foolish notion that there was no point going to get my knee x-rayed when it was feeling okay, and I toyed with the idea of sitting in ways that make it flare up so that there’d be something for them to look at.  Of course, the x-rays don’t show what’s happening with the muscle, and on that basis the doctor indicated that the x-rays would probably not tell him anything, so I quickly discarded that notion.  The scans should already be at the doctor’s office and I should make a follow-up appointment to discuss them sometime soon.  Sometime.

While the radiographer went and looked at the scans to make sure they were okay, she left me to wait in the room, unaccompanied.  As I sat on the table, I noticed several large flashing buttons on a console beside me, and wondered what the giant humming machine would do if I pressed them.  Possibly nothing, possibly irradiate me, possibly shut down the machine, or possibly explode, killing everyone in the building.  The machine itself was enormous and I marvelled at the fact that it appeared to be fixed to a floating ceiling, some sections of which had been misplaced.  (It was quite a dingy place.)  Had I been a more anxious person, or an anxious person more inclined to claustrophobia, I could well have freaked out about the possibility of the machine slipping its tenuous bonds to the apparently tenuous structure of the building.  As it was, I did (briefly, unworriedly) ponder that possibility, and I’m sure it’s not just me, as when I started telling my mother about this experience, she guessed it was going to be about the machine crashing down on me.  (I do, after all, get a bit iffy walking under railway bridges.)

The radiographer left me there on the assumption that I wouldn’t do anything.  There was a big sign on the wall that said “Emergency Drug Kit” with an arrow to where the kit presumably was.  She assumed I wouldn’t see the prominent sign, investigate the location of the kit, and help myself to whatever was inside.  I have no idea what kind of drugs radiologists would need, or what on earth I’d do with them if I had them, so presumably her assessment of me was accurate, but I am sure there are people who, if left unsupervised, would have investigated all the pharmaceutical possibities of the room.

The thing that interests me is that she made an assessment.  People with mental illness or incapacity, or substance abuse problems, presumably break bones at least as much as the rest of us, so there must be a protocol for those who can’t be trusted to wait quietly in a room by themselves.  Probably they get shown out to the waiting room to sit under the watchful eye of the three burly receptionists.  I am intrigued by the idea that I send out signals that encourage people to interpret me as trustworthy and relatively competent, in whatever way.  Probably, at least in part, it is that I’m white, female, and well-educatedly middle-class.  When I worked in a bottle shop I self-consciously broadened my speech.  I learned to say ‘ta’, which has stayed with me, somewhat to my chagrin.  And I learned to ask more intelligent questions about things about which I know nothing whatsoever..  Earlier, when I worked there, I asked someone why it was so busy and they told me that the State of Origin was on.  “Oh yeah,” I said.  “Who’s playing?”  I’m not even kidding.  I wasn’t even kidding then, either.

The other thing that intrigues me about my radiography scenario is that I did behave myself.  I sat quietly with my hands in my lap, and looked around, but didn’t touch anything.  I didn’t excavate the emergency drug kit, I didn’t push the button.  Fair enough, fear of the consequences associated with those things would keep me from doing them.  But I didn’t even get up and wander around, looking at the equipment behind the lead screen, even though I wondered what was back there.  And it’s not terribly clear to my why I didn’t at least do that much.  There was no risk of irradiation.  I hadn’t been specifically instructed not to wander around looking at things.  But I had a sense that it was not the thing to do, regardless.  The door was open, and if the radiographer (or anyone else) should stop by, they would see me behaving in a non-civilised way, that could potentially lead to button-pressing.  Certainly, wandering around looking at things could indicate the lack of self-control that could lead to button-pressing.

What I thought at the time was that part of being an adult is feeling the curiosity, the impulse to press the button, but not doing it.  I’m turning 26 in a couple of weeks, after all.  Surely it’s time to grow up.

When I thought harder, it seemed to me that keeping my hands to myself was one thing, but not looking around made little sense, since the only real consequence would be an awkward situation.  I don’t know what the radiographer would have said if she had come in to find me behind the screen.  Quite likely she wouldn’t know what to say, either.  Maybe the situation had never arisen.  But it was a bit off-putting to realise that a non-specific sense that I shouldn’t was sufficient to keep me from so benign a course of action as taking a look around a room I was in. (Of course I also toyed with the idea of analysing the self-surveillance at the heart of my self-discipline with Foucault, but I resisted, because I am a recovering theorykid.)

I’ll be 26 in a couple of weeks.  I  don’t want being a grownup to mean that I can’t be curious about my surroundings or try stuff out without fearing the authority of non-authority figures.

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