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Posts from the ‘Humour’ Category

Is that a turkey in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?

Brush Turkey phone home?

So, I’m driving through East Sydney at about 5:15 last night, on my way to pick my daughter up from childcare, when I look out the window and see a Brush Turkey trotting along the footpath. Not a bird that looked like a brush turkey, or some other random Megapode, but an honest-to-Betsy, full-grown, black and red Brush Turkey.

Now I have to confess that threw me a bit. Sydney’s blessed with an abundance of bird life, including a number of quite large birds (Black and Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos, Channel Billed Cuckoos, even the omnipresent Sacred Ibises) but a Brush Turkey? In the inner city? If nothing else Brush Turkeys are pretty much flightless, so it would have to cross the road on foot to get anywhere. And where on earth would it nest? (for those of you overseas, Brush Turkeys nest in huge (and I mean HUGE) mounds of leaves and sticks). Bizarre.

Pleasingly though, it reminded me of one of my favourite stories, which concerns the bird painter John Gould, and is to be found in Isabella Tree’s biography, The Bird Man. The story stems from Gould’s visit to Sydney in the late 1830s, a visit which saw Gould visit many of the local worthies, including one (who if memory serves was Alexander Macleay, one of the founders of the Australian Museum and the original owner of Elizabeth Bay House) who Gould was delighted to discover had a Brush Turkey nesting in his garden.

Gould spent some time observing the turkey and made some sketches of it, but the real treat comes later in a footnote by Tree, in which she notes (rather sardonically if I remember correctly) that despite its success on the day of Gould’s visit, the Brush Turkey later met with an unfortunate end, when it drowned attacking its own reflection in a bucket of water, a fate that suggests a degree of focus that’s not so much admirable as alarming.

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This one’s for you, John, or “I built a sex robot in your memory”

I’m sure more than a few of you will have seen the story out of this week’s Adult Entertainment Expo about the launch of TrueCompanion’s “anatomically consistent” artificial intelligence-driven sex robot, Roxxxy.

I’m reasonably unmoved by the story itself: sex robots aren’t new, and I think it’s safe to assume they’ll grow more sophisticated and lifelike in years to come (if you’d like to know more you might want to check out Shouting to hear the echoes as an introduction to the wild and wonderful world of Synthetiks).

But there’s a detail buried in The Sydney Morning Herald’s coverage of the launch which had me choking on my muesli. Apparently:

“Inspiration for the sex robot sprang from the September 11, 2001 attacks. ‘I had a friend who passed away in 9/11,’ [Roxxxy’s creator, Douglas Hines] said. ‘I promised myself I would create a program to store his personality, and that became the foundation for Roxxxy True Companion’.”

Now, quite aside from the fact this is pretty much the plot of Caprica (which I’ll be reviewing in the next couple of weeks), am I wrong in thinking there’s something splendidly weird about the idea of creating a sex robot to commemorate a friend’s passing? And, if we wanted to get all psychological for a moment, that there’s something about the way the idea mixes up subject and object (literally and metaphorically) which goes to the heart of pornography and the sex industries more generally? Or is it just that Marx was right all along, and all history, no matter how dreadful, is eventually and inevitably reborn as farce?

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Fair suck of the sav (or the revenge of the poo dinosaur)

"Grr, baby."

On Twitter the other day, Angela from Literary Minded pinged me for wrongly attributing her quip about this year’s male-dominated Miles Franklin shortlist being a sausagefest to Kerryn Goldsworthy.

Angela was joking, but I know where she’s coming from. Every writer’s got stories about having ideas pinched or misattributed. And though it happens less often than a lot of people think, it does happen. I keenly remember pitching a story to a TV show and being told it wasn’t for them, only to see the same story turn up a few eps later in the season, virtually unchanged.

For the most part though, I try not to get too hung up about these things. But a few years ago I had the very disconcerting experience of sitting down to read a new book of essays by a highly celebrated Australian writer, only to come across two pages that had been transcribed pretty much verbatim from a conversation I’d had with them at Adelaide Writers’ Week a year or 18 months previously.

It’s difficult to know what to do in this sort of situation, since squealing just makes you look over-sensitive, so I just copped it. But it meant that when my friend Delia Falconer called me a couple of weeks later to ask whether I wanted to be acknowledged as the source for a section in her novel, The Lost Thoughts of Soldiers, I told her I did. Definitely. No questions asked.

The catch was that the section in question was based on a story from my brother’s time working as a bouncer in an Adelaide pub. One night, at closing time, he went to check the toilets, and there on the cistern was a sleekly glistening brown dinosaur crafted from human shit. Disgusting, yes, but what was worse was the care its creator had lavished upon it, inserting little sticks for arms and match-heads for eyes. That and the fact that the tap in the toilet was broken, so whoever had made it had gone back out into the pub without washing their hands.

Of course in Delia’s hands the story gained a literary patina the original lacked, but all the same I was pleased when my copy of the novel arrived to see my name in black and white in the acknowledgements page. This time at least I’d kept control over my material.

Or so I thought. A couple of weeks later I went to the launch of the book, and quickly became aware people were looking at me strangely. At first I thought I was being paranoid, but then, during the speeches I realised what was going on. Having read the story and the acknowledgements people had put two and two together and decided it was me personally who’d made the dinosaur. Appalled at the notion I might have become known as some sort of demented coprophiliac, crafting little animals out of poo in between writing books, I told people they were wrong, it was a story my brother had told me, to which they smiled patronisingly, and said, ‘Oh right, whatever you say’.

But worse was to come. A few months later, when the book came out in the US, Delia did an interview about it which mentioned the story, and namechecked me as the source. which meant that for a long time afterwards if you googled my name and “poo dinosaur” you pulled up multiple hits (all gone now, I note with relief).

Oh yes, me and Auguste Rodin, artists of the living clay.

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Sunday ephemera

"my nipples smell like sauerkraut"

After a very rewarding morning washing a tub of Vaseline out of my three year-old’s hair (in case you’re interested shampoo is useless but talcum powder and then shampoo seems to have helped) I thought I’d chuck up a few links to liven up your Sunday.

The first is a delicious new site called Autocomplete Me, which I found via Spike (who found it via The Millions), which uses the Google’s autocomplete function as a device to peer into the murky depths of the collective subconscious. Having confessed before to the voyeuristic pleasures of eavesdropping on other people’s search terms it’s the sort of site I can’t help but enjoy, but I challenge anybody not to be both fascinated and bemused by the fragmentary glimpses of people’s private worlds the site throws up. Some are cute (“What do you feed a Yeti anyway?”), a lot are weird (“Cheese is the devil’s plaything”) and  some are just plain worrying (“I’ve just had a conversation with my cat in the shower about pancakes. We both like them a lot”).

I also thought in the light of my post a few weeks back about the death of the letter it might be worth pointing to Stacy Schiff’s wonderful review of Thomas Mallon’s equally wonderful-sounding Yours Ever: People and their Letters, a book written in the shadow of the disappearance of the form to which it is devoted. Schiff reads Mallon’s book as an elegy for a dying art, suggesting in closing:

“It is next to impossible to read these pages without mourning the whole apparatus of distance, without experiencing a deep and plangent longing for the airmail envelope, the sweetest shade of blue this side of a Tiffany box. Is it possible to sound crusty or confessional electronically? It is as if text and e-mail messages are of this world, a letter an attempt, however illusory, to transcend it. All of which adds tension and resonance to Mallon’s pages, already crackling with hesitations and vulnerabilities, obsessions and aspirations, with reminders of the lost art of literary telepathy, of the aching, attenuated rhythm of a written correspondence.”

To which, my suggestion that blogs and Twitter might, in a very small way, be replacing the letter notwithstanding, I can only say, ‘Amen’.

And finally, a little Sunday song. I know this video’s done the rounds a lot of times already, I know it’s just marketing, but it’s a wonderful thing all the same. Enjoy.

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More Conservative Craziness

Thought Tony Abbott as Opposition Leader was the nuttiest piece of right-wing nonsense you’d see this week? Think again . . .

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Little Lolita’s adventures in the irony-free zone

LolitaI’m sure many of you will have seen this story about Asinine Australia Post’s decision to remove the Popular Penguin editions of Lolita, The Delta of Venus and The History of Sexuality from display. If it wasn’t so pathetic and stupid it’d be funny (not least because, as Godard’s Letterboxes has pointed out on her Twitterfeed, there’s an irony in the notion of repressing a book about sexual repression which seems to have gone straight over the heads of Australia Post’s public affairs people).

Anyone who’s heard me on the subject will know I can bang on endlessly about the lunacy of the contemporary nanny state, so rather than bore you all with more blog-rage, I thought I’d revisit another piece of marketing hilarity concerning Nabokov’s masterpiece. This was last year’s revelation that Woolworths in the UK were selling a range of bedroom furniture aimed at young girls called “Lolita”, and featuring a bed called the “Lolita Midsleeper Combi”.

A special bed? And a Combi at that? Oh Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. What exalted heaven is this?

Apparently Woolworths “had no idea” about the connotations of the name.

If you didn’t laugh, you’d cry.

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Art criticism done right

piece

I’m planning to be back on deck later today (or just possibly tomorrow) but in the meantime I have to thank my friend Dionne for alerting me to Regretsy, absolutely the funniest thing I’ve seen on (or off, for that matter) line in a long while. It trawls handicraft site, Etsy, for masterpieces of naive and not-so-naive art in order to offer its own unique perspective on the items for sale. It’s vindictive, cruel, totally unfair and out-and-out hilarious.

I know, I’m cheap, but I laughed so much I cried (then again I’m the sort of crypto-philistine who got the giggles over this).

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Peter Carey’s Gumtree

Jesters

There’s a nice little moment in this week’s episode of Movie Extra’s rather excellent new comedy, The Jesters, in which the Mick Molloy character, Dave Davies (a thinly disguised Doug Mulray) is informed by his agent, Di Sunnington (the marvelously deadpan Deborah Kennedy), that Jane Campion wants him to play the part of the villain in her new movie, Gumtree. Worried it’s an arthouse flick, Dave presses her for a bit more information, only to be told it’s based on a Peter Carey novel. “Have you read it?’ he asks, to which Di replies with haughty disdain, ‘Don’t be stupid, it’s a Peter Carey novel, nobody’s read it”.

It’s a cheap line, but it’s a funny one (it doesn’t hurt that every time I hear Deborah Kennedy say “Don’t be stupid,” I’m reminded of her fabulous performance opposite Sam Neill in Death in Brunswick), the only problem is that (a) the book they’re talking about doesn’t sound anything like a Peter Carey novel, and (b) from the plot description and the title it’s clearly meant to be Murray Bail’s Eucalyptus, which was famously about twelve hours away from being made into a movie starring Russell Crowe and Our Lady of the Immovable Face, Nicole Kidman, when it came suddenly and spectacularly unravelled a couple of years ago.

All of which does, in a way, make the joke even funnier. Because the laugh depends on the assumption no-one reads Peter Carey, and the general risibility of Australian writers and writing, but in fact they’ve had to change the name of the writer the joke is really about because while enough people will have heard of Peter Carey to make the joke work, absolutely nobody’s heard of Murray Bail.

Oh dear.

(Just btw, here’s a clip from this week’s episode, an “out-take” of Molloy’s Dave Davies doing his nut on set).

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My face, my valuable (and immobile) face!

botoxYou know those moments you don’t think celebrity culture can get any more absurd?

“Dannii Minogue has revealed how she became addicted to Botox injections while her sister Kylie was battling breast cancer.” (from news.com.au)

I’d complain, except the subject of plastic surgery allows me to bring up two of my favourite subjects. First, the always entertaining AwfulPlasticSurgery.com (go on, you know you want to take a look). And second, that most misunderstood and delightfully, shamelessly trashy of shows, Nip/Tuck, a confection which, aside from giving Dannii’s ex-husband, Julian McMahon, the role he was born to play (don’t laugh, he’s scarily good) manages to somehow combine the most lurid and fantastical melodrama with an uneasy and often quite unsettling meditation on the illusions of beauty and the decay of the body. No doubt its unevenness of tone and quality has something to do with the fact it’s never quite found the audience it deserves, but when it’s good, it’s great.

(And yes, ten points to anyone who picked up the obscure Simpsons/Sideshow Luke Perry gag in the title).

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Dickheads anonymous

Steve FieldingI know it’s wrong to make fun of the intellectually challenged, but this story about the Senate’s Dickhead Numero Uno, Steve Fielding is just too good to pass up:

“Family First Senator Steve Fielding is having trouble describing and spelling the arm of government policy which influences the economy.

“When asked about a proposed Upper House inquiry into Labor’s economic stimulus spending, Senator Fielding said it was crucial to get “physical” policy working.

“‘We need to get the physical and monetary policy working,’ he said.

“Asked if he meant to say fiscal policy he said yes, before attempting to correct himself by spelling the word out.

“‘I will make it quite clear…F..I..S..K..A..L.'” (via AAP and The Australian)

And this is the man who controls the balance of power in the Australian Parliament.

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Nobody reviews paperbacks . . .

It’s like they stole my life and put it in a video . . .

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Ricky Gervais and Ralph Fiennes in Cemetery Junction

If you haven’t seen it, this teaser for the new Ricky Gervais movie, Cemetery Junction, is rather good . . .

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Not so happily ever after . . .

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Dina Goldstein, 'Snowy'. Click to enlarge

I wonder if I was the only one who found the first half of The Incredibles incredibly distressing. It may just be that I found myself identifying a little too much with Mr Incredble’s expanding waistline, but the sequences in which he and his wife struggle to come to terms with their life in suburbia seemed pretty close to the bone for something that is supposed to be a kid’s movie.

Anyway – what happens after happily ever after is a rich theme, and one explored to great effect in this wonderful series of images by artist Dina Goldstein. The images:

“place Fairy Tale characters in modern day scenarios. In all of the images the Princess is placed in an environment that articulates her conflict. The ‘. . . happily ever after’ is replaced with a realistic outcome and addresses current issues”.

Goldstein might have been thinking about one of my favourite Ondaatje poems, ‘Late Movies with Skyler’, which ends:

“In the movies of my childhood the heroes
after skilled swordplay and moral victories
leave with absolutely nothing
to do for the rest of their lives”.

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I have nothing to say . . .

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Click to embiggen.

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You know who’d love this? My Grandma.

This is brilliant. Painful, cruel, almost unwatchable, but brilliant.

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