Thursday, June 30, 2011

52 poems (week 16)

Some time ago, I was given a book of translated Greek verse. I'm not sure why: perhaps I seemed much smarter that I was; perhaps I'd spoken once too often about Helene Hanff and her love of old books. Whatever, the book was lovely in royal blue cloth and rimmed in gold. But it sat unread for years. I pulled it out and dipped in not long ago, looking for something passing that would spark an interest in the language. I found Euripides, one of those great tragedians.

The Old Men

Alas, how right the ancient saying is:
We, who are old, are nothing else but noise
And shape. Like mimicries of dreams we go,
And have no wits, although we think us wise.

Much too morose for me. Perhaps much of what I found was dulled by translation and that in the speaking, in the original Greek, in the ampitheatres or public spaces where the words were spoken, there was something more lively to it, something moving.

Then I found Aristophanes, who mocked poor Euripides for his tragic turn, and suddenly found Euripides much more agreeable for his beleaguered state.
A Parody on Euripides's Lyric Verse

Halcyons ye by the flowing sea
Waves that warble twitteringly,
Circling over the tumbling blue,
Dipping your down in its briny dew,
Spi-i-iders in corners dim
Spi-spi-spinning your fairy film,
Shuttles echoing round the room
Silver notes of the whistling loom,
Where the light-footed dolphin skips
Down the wake of the dark-prowed ships,
Over the course of the racing steed
Where the clustering tendrils breed
Grapes to drown dull care in delight,
Oh! mother make me a child again just for to-night!
I don't exactly see how that last line is to scan,
But that's a consideration I leave to our musical man

Photo source: Euripides

The persistance of broccoli

The slugs and bugs and grubs ate the broccoli almost as soon as it was planted. Then the chill hit and these tubs were left to fend for themselves in the backyard. Now, out of the chewed and nibbled wreckage, comes signs of life, signs of broccoli to come.

Forest of denim


The laundry pile keeps growing but there's never enough time or space to get it dry. Trying to avoid the mass weekend washing by doing a load here or there throughout the week. Yesterday it was a load of pants and, hanging up in the mudroom, it looks like forest of denim. I slog through these trees of jeans every time I need to get to the back door.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

New songs on a Saturday morning (151-160)

As part of my ongoing effort to improve the range of my cultural consumption, I'm casting out for new things to listen to. Parts one and two of this musical escapade can be found here and here. You'll need to search for the rest yourselves.

151. Le Tigre - 'After Dark' - Strange electro girly punk pop.
152. Le Tigre - 'TKO' - This works for me more than 'After Dark'. 
153. The Kills - 'Cheap and Cheerful' - the cough at the start is the roughest thing about it. Not sure if that's what they after. 
154. DEV - 'Booty Bounce'.
155. Pearl & the Puppets - 'Make Me Smile' - Sweet little sonic ride. 
156. Pearl & the Puppets - 'Because I Do' - Even sweeter.
157. Weezer - 'You Might Think' - cover of old eighties tune for the new Cars soundtrack. Disappointingly similar to the original.
158. Toby Lightman - 'Everyday' - This was playing at the end of a Bones episode and the lyrics got scrawled down on a receipt.
159. Toby Lightman - 'Holding Me Down'. 
160. Paolo Nutini - 'Pencil Full of Lead' - the face and voice don't match but this song is catchy (and it doesn't really matter anyway when they use claymation in the filmclip).

Photo source: Le Tigre

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Heart beat

Our twelve week ultrasound today and I was nervous right up until I saw that first picture, the blurring pulsing heartbeat, the tiny fingers, the little nose, the spine, the movement. And boy, can this kid move, flopping from side to side and squidging around so the sonographer was chasing it around my uterus. All looks well, everything that should be is in the correct range, and all the nasties that are testable at this stage are very firmly in the extremely low risk category.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

52 Poems (week 15)

I've been curious about Gertrude Stein, not because of her own writing, but because of the culture of writing and art that swirled around her, the literati that flocked to her, the ideas they shared and earnestly pushed out into the world.

I'd not read her poems before, mostly because the writing ideas she espoused were anathema to my reading desires, but this piece is comforting in a way I hadn't expected (excerpt only below).

from A Substance in the Carpet

The change of color is likely and a difference a very little difference is prepared. Sugar is not a vegetable.   

Callous is something that hardening leaves behind what will be soft if there is a genuine interest in there being present as many girls as men. Does this change. It shows that dirt is clean when there is a volume...  

Photo source: Stein

Monday, June 20, 2011

The indignities

Oh, the things you find out when you're pregnant.

Okay, so I knew about the emotional upheavals. But I wasn't expecting to burst into tears watching Bridesmaids at the cinema... three times. It's a comedy, for god's sake.

Photo source: crying

"No more words left..."

A lovely, short post from Margaret Simons on the Content Makers section of Crikey, called 'The Tummy of Babes':
Driving my three year old grandson (actually my step-grandson. It’s complicated) to childcare today, I remarked to him that he was being very quiet.

He sighed deeply, and said: “There are no more words left in my tummy.”

May he not grow up to be a freelance journalist.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The guilt of the reluctant Joyce reader

I can't stand James Joyce. I tried, I really did, to read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Perhaps I should have started somewhere else, but I didn't and it took me hours to slog through several pages. Not because the words were hard but because they were so deathly dull and my eyes had to be forced back to the page over and over. Sometimes I look at copies of Ulysses in the library and think about going back, about reading a page before bed every night, or keeping it beside the toilet so I can dip in for a paragraph or two every now and then. But I can't even bring myself to try.

 More than just disappointment that I don't like someone's writing that many seem to have labelled great, this feels like defeat. There are three or four Joyce books on a list of the top 100 reads of the 20th century that I wanted to work my way through. And hating Joyce means I'll probably never finish it.

Peter Craven, strange Australian literary/theatre/cultural critic that he is, made me feel a little better about this today, after reading through his opinion piece on Bloomsday on the ABC's opinion/analysis website The Drum.

"I wonder if we're in danger of forgetting that the difficult pleasures of literature are not unscaleable peaks but exhilarating walks amid the joys of mountain air...
Of course the difficulty of classic works of literature varies a lot. It is a much easier thing to read the whole of Jane Austen from cover to cover - something brave legions of women do every year of their lives - than it is to read late Henry James. It is easier to read (and more particularly to watch or listen to) Shakespeare than it is to read Milton or Ezra Pound's Cantos.
And it's also a lot easier to snuggle down with Steig Larsson or J K Rowling or watch Offspring or Mad Men or Downton Abbey, whatever your poison happens to be. Nor is there anything wrong with any of these things. The pleasure to be got from imaginative representation, from entertainment, is not to be mocked in any form...
Doctor Johnson, that thundering old wiseacre, said that we need to be reminded more than we need to be instructed. One of the good things about Bloomsday - despite every provocation to the kind of blarney Joyce would have deplored - is that it places great writing, literature, fair and square at the centre of the whole shebang.
It reminds us of what we know, that there is a beauty in this thing literature and that, if we have a feeling for language, it is one of our windows to truth.
In the lame penultimate chapter of Ulysses when Bloom and Stephen finally meet and scarcely know what to say to each other we get this vision of the night sky: a heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit.
The ballyhoo of Bloomsday is one reminder that we use language that has been shaped by masters. Once in a blue moon, at least, we should revisit them."
I'm just a little inspired to pick up a copy of Ulysses and at the very least keep it in the house, not necessarily to remind me of failure but to wait for that blue moon when I'll want to revel in the language of a master, right before I crawl back into the arms of more engaging books, comfort books, with characters that step off the page, with words that blend into each other and don't require individual enunciation or appreciation.

Photo source: Joyce statue (Zurich)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

New songs on a Saturday morning (141-150)

As part of my ongoing effort to improve the range of my cultural consumption, I'm casting out for new things to listen to. Parts one and two of this musical escapade can be found here and here. You'll need to search for the rest yourselves.

141. One EskimO - 'Kandi' - This song was playing on some show I flicked to, channel surfing aimlessly. It stuck, hard, in my brain, and I scribbled the lyrics on the back of an envelope.
142. Patsy Cline - 'He Called Me Baby' - I think this might be the original.
143. Candi Staton - 'He Called me Baby' - But I'm fairly sure this is the origin of the One EskimO sample. Same incredible voice.
144. Candi Staton - 'His Hands'. 
145. One EskimO - 'Astronauts'.
146. LadyHawke - 'Magic'. 

147. Mika - 'Rain'.
148. Young Soul Rebels - 'I Got Soul' - Love a charity single ensemble.
149. Codeine Velvet Club - 'Hollywood'.
150. Sam Sparro - 'Cut Me Loose'.

Photo source: Mika; Candi Staton

Friday, June 17, 2011

The indignities

Oh, the things you find out when you're pregnant.

No-one mentioned that it's actually possible to split the seam of your favourite skirt and not even notice. This is going to have to be retired in favour of something a little more stretchy. Might also need to pay a visit to a maternity clothing store to find a few skirts to see me through winter. I thought I might have a few more weeks before that was necessary. The little baby podge is kinda cute but dressed up it still just looks like I've eaten a big lunch and need to pop a button on my jeans. Not sure how obvious this is to my work colleagues, who are mostly male and would probably not even dream of mentioning it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

52 Poems (week 14)

I listened once to 'The Raven', all the way through, as someone stumbled over the repetitious phrases, the loveliness of the rhyme. Then I heard James Earl Jones speaking sections in a Simpsons episode and...well... James Earl Jones make anything sound divine. (Here's the non-Simpsons version.)

And so I turn to Edgar Allan Poe again, and try to imagine Jones' voice when I read them.

To -- --

Not long ago, the writer of these lines,
In the mad pride of intellectuality,
Maintained "the power of words"- denied that ever
A thought arose within the human brain
Beyond the utterance of the human tongue:
And now, as if in mockery of that boast,
Two words- two foreign soft dissyllables-
Italian tones, made only to be murmured
By angels dreaming in the moonlit "dew
That hangs like chains of pearl on Hermon hill,"
Have stirred from out the abysses of his heart,
Unthought-like thoughts that are the souls of thought,
Richer, far wilder, far diviner visions
Than even seraph harper, Israfel,
(Who has "the sweetest voice of all God's creatures,")
Could hope to utter. And I! my spells are broken.
The pen falls powerless from my shivering hand.
With thy dear name as text, though bidden by thee,
I cannot write- I cannot speak or think-
Alas, I cannot feel; for 'tis not feeling,
This standing motionless upon the golden
Threshold of the wide-open gate of dreams.
Gazing, entranced, adown the gorgeous vista,
And thrilling as I see, upon the right,
Upon the left, and all the way along,
Amid empurpled vapors, far away
To where the prospect terminates- thee only.
To --

The bowers whereat, in dreams, I see
The wantonest singing birds,
Are lips- and all thy melody
Of lip-begotten words-

Thine eyes, in Heaven of heart enshrined,
Then desolately fall,
O God! on my funereal mind
Like starlight on a pall-

Thy heart- thy heart!- I wake and sigh,
And sleep to dream till day
Of the truth that gold can never buy-
Of the baubles that it may. 

Photo source: Poe

Eating like my niece

My lovely niece, B, is a special girl, with special needs and a special view of the world that I'm not sure we'll ever really know. Part of what makes her special made it difficult for her to chew and swallow when she was younger and makes her fixate now on some foods. She's an apple and peanut butter fiend, not necessarily at the same time, but she'd happily eat nothing else.

At the moment, nausea makes the thought of quite a lot of food seem off. But I want peanut butter. Eating it with apples makes me feel a little healthier. Lovely B has the right idea.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A hankering for action

I've missed my public library. For some time, I've neglected it, too caught up with university hours to visit and ponder and pore (paw?) over their books. My local council has three or four libraries and some have late hours and weekend hours but I've neglected them all, just the same. Instead, I've been rereading my comfort books, flipping through baby manuals and ordering the latest in the many series I'm reading from Book Depository (oh, free postage/shipping, how you tempt me so). But last week I had a hankering, struck by it on the campus commute, so I detoured.

Most of what I want to read wasn't available but I did manage to pick up James Phelan's Red Ice, the latest in his Lachlan Fox action/journalism series. I'm a sucker for an action book, particularly by an Australian whose managed to translate from student academic/journo to full time fiction writer. I first came across Phelan when Literati popped up at a perfect time during my PhD. When Fox Hunt came out, I was curious, then hooked and plowed through Patriot Act, Blood Oil and Liquid Gold. Fox and Gammaldi worked, the action was over the top but oddly plausible (as all action should be) and it didn't have the irritating manic-edge that Matthew Reilly's books had to them.

But this last book, it just hasn't clicked. The elements seem to be there (sweet-arse car chases in Paris and the French countryside) but some part of that doesn't seem to be working. Perhaps it's the Kate thing, although I've never had an issue with her character before. It just seems awkward and distracting here. Perhaps it's the lack of journalism, which I dig anyway but seemed to be a useful grounding device for Fox. Perhaps it's the sequel thing, which sometimes works in action and sometimes doesn't (aka the film Quantum of Solace - that never should have been a sequel!). Perhaps it's the tall building in China thing without actually having any other action in China, which reminded me an awful lot of Entrapment (wrong country, I know - same, same but different).

Whatever it was, it didn't quite satisfy the hankering for action but won't stop me from searching out Phelan's new post-apocalyptic (young adult?) series.

Photo source: Red Ice cover

Saturday, June 11, 2011

New songs on a Saturday morning (131-140)

As part of my ongoing effort to improve the range of my cultural consumption, I'm casting out for new things to listen to. Parts one and two of this musical escapade can be found here and here. You'll need to search for the rest yourselves.

131. Stan Walker - 'Loud' - Took a look at the ARIA chart this morning and this was hanging in there at no. 20. Stan Walker was an Australian Idol winner a few years ago and a charmingly shy little boy in a man's body. It seems he's found his niche after a few ballady, morose singles. 
132. Stan Walker - 'Stand Up' - song from the Voyage of the Dawntreader sound track.
133. Guy Sebastian - 'Who's That Girl' - The first Australian Idol winner, now on his 6th hit album. 
134. Damien Leith - 'Pretty Woman' - my favourite of the Australian Idol winners, an Irishman who also writes novels. I also really loved one of his early singles, '22 steps'. He's just released a Roy Orbison tribute album.
135.Shakira ft. Pitbull - 'Rabiosa' - not an Australian Idol winner. Love the little 'ra-ta-da'.
136. Beth Orton - 'She Cries Your Name'.
137. Beth Orton - 'Conceived'. 
138. Anja Garbarek - 'The Last Trick'. I hear this and think Meryl Bainbridge. Probably not a fair comparison for either of them. 
139. Joss Stone - 'Fell in Love with a Boy'. 
140. Keith Urban - 'Without You'. 

Photo source: stan walker

The indiginities

Oh, the things you find out when you're pregnant.

Not only are you subject to a million pokes and prods for blood tests and the like, but most of these tests cost of fortune. And only some are covered by Medicare. These of course are luxuries, and plenty of women and their babies have survived perfectly well without these tests for many millenia, but boy, the out-of-pocket for peace of mind is adding up.

P.S. I still love you Medicare and the Australian public health system. I can never stay cranky at you for long.

Photosource: blood test

The many tights of winter

52 Poems (week 13)

I opened my old brown-rimmed Book of English Verse and found the section on William Butler Yeats. Of course, I'm conflicted about that sense of what it means for this Irishman's works to be 'English' verse. Can his work be claimed if it's in the English tradition?

Yeats was a practical man, and single-minded in his pursuit of a wife in his later years. At 51, he proposed to long-time lady-friend Maud, but phrased it with so many caveats, she refused. And then he proposed to her 21 year old daughter. And was firmly rejected by the little gunrunner. Finally he turned to 25-year old Georgie and was wed, producing the heirs he desperately wanted.

Leda and the Swan

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.
How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?
A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.

Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop? 

Photo source: Yeats

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Blooms in the shivering garden

Things are blooming in the sunshine of my shivering garden, although I'm not certain they should be. I'm fairly sure some of these should still be buried away waiting for spring. Instead, I fear they're about to be hit with the cold, 12-degree days expected this week and will wither away rapidly. But they're pretty now and a lovely burst of colour in my otherwise grey, green, brown garden.

The many tights of winter

Saturday, June 4, 2011

New songs on a Saturday morning (121-130)

As part of my ongoing effort to improve the range of my cultural consumption, I'm casting out for new things to listen to. Parts one and two of this musical escapade can be found here and here. You'll need to search for the rest yourselves.

121. NKOTBSB - 'Don't Turn Out The Lights' - This slams me right back into year 6/7, when New Kids on the Block were on the radio (and on Rage) and one boy was adamant that they were the best band in the world. How we teased him so. I see the 30-something mums in the audience and wonder if there's any band from my youth that would make me reach out to touch or kiss a sweaty, ageing teen-idol when he kneels on the stage.
122. Sam Roberts - 'Don't Walk Away Eileen'. 
123. The Wallflowers - '6th Avenue Heartache' - loved this man's mouth...uh, I mean, voice.
124. The Wallflowers - 'Three Marlenas'.

125. Jakob Dylan - 'Something Good This Way Comes'.
126. The Counting Crows - 'Washington Square' - In high school, I slept with my radio on under my pillow, down low but 'Mr Jones' played so often I memorised the lyrics without really hearing the song play. Same with Blind Melon's hit. Now Counting Crows make me think of River Phoenix and Kurt Cobain's deaths and Wayne's World and a million other things I absorbed in my sleep during those years.
127. The Counting Crows - 'She Don't Nobody Near'.
128. Keri Noble - 'Ooh oh'. 
129. Brendan Benson - 'Metarie'.
130. Donny Iris - 'Ah Leah'. 

Photo Source: Jakob Dylan.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

52 Poems (week 12)

Oh, John Keats, what a strange little second wave Romantic you were.
La Belle Dame Sans Merci

Oh what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.

Oh what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel's granary is full,
And the harvest's done.

I see a lily on thy brow,
With anguish moist and fever-dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too.

I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful - a faery's child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.

I made a garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She looked at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan.

I set her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long,
For sidelong would she bend, and sing
A faery's song.

She found me roots of relish sweet,
And honey wild, and manna-dew,
And sure in language strange she said -
'I love thee true'.

She took me to her elfin grot,
And there she wept and sighed full sore,
And there I shut her wild wild eyes
With kisses four.

And there she lulled me asleep
And there I dreamed - Ah! woe betide! -
The latest dream I ever dreamt
On the cold hill side.

I saw pale kings and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried - 'La Belle Dame sans Merci
Hath thee in thrall!'

I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
With horrid warning gaped wide,
And I awoke and found me here,
On the cold hill's side.

And this is why I sojourn here
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.


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