THE FALL OF ARTHUR
J. R. R. and Christopher Tolkien
HarperCollins, May 2013
Guinevere will always remain the Yoko Ono of Arthurian romance. For men of a certain bent, she summons to mind the new wife or girlfriend of their old friend, who now threatens to intrude upon the Round Table of their male camaraderie. What if she doesn’t just stay at home and darn his socks? What if she wants us to see her as a person, not just our friend’s possession? Already, she’s changed him. Remember the good old days when he slapped you on the back and denounced all women as whores?
Tolkien’s The Fall of Arthur continues the ungenerous tradition of presenting Guinevere as a figure of treacherousness, not just discord. On those occasions where she rises from the role of disputed possession, she becomes a manipulative temptress towing men to their deaths. From her first entrance, we hear of her remorselessness, Continue reading
I think you can make an omelet in the dryer. Crack the eggs into a zip-lock bag, wrap it in a pair of pants and run them through on high for an hour. I know it will work.
Colin would never let me try it when we lived together. He acknowledged it might work, but felt that the reward couldn’t justify the risk. Continue reading
NEW CYCLIST HANDBOOK
Hewitt, Ben (editor; Rodale Books, November 2005, ISBN 9781594863004)
Winter found me cycling down a service road on the Princes Highway, in the calm of the middle of the night, when two men leapt out of their car and chased after me on foot.
“Oi!” yelled one, “Oi! Stop you bastard!” Continue reading
Since August, I’ve made a point of saying hello to people on the street. When out walking, if I pass someone, I say, “Hello!” or, “Good afternoon, Sir!”. People hate it. They become uncomfortable, as if I’ve invaded their personal space. Moreover, they resent having to reply. At best, they mumble back the reciprocal greeting as if discharging an irritating obligation. Almost nobody looks pleased to do it.
A Chinese woman to whom I said “good afternoon” flinched and moved over to the extreme margin of the footpath. A Sikh family recited back “good… afternoon… sir” in unison, looking pained. A gent in a sleeveless shirt told me to bugger off, and then quickened his stride. A woman in a purple jumpsuit said “good afternoon to you too!”, but her dog pissed on me. A little, rolling fatman at the bus stop said, “hey now?” confused, and then eyed me until I rounded the corner. And a heroin dealer told me he’d found himself, “about to ask you the same thing, mate”, which I thought cause for concern. Continue reading
THE HIGH COST OF FREE PARKING
Shoup, Donald (APA Planners Press; Updated edition, June 21, 2011, ISBN 9781932364965)
When I pulled up outside Avi’s, a man ran out of his apartment to watch me park. He wore a singlet tucked into a pair of yellow slacks. He had his hands up. While I reversed in, he hurled anxious glances back and forth between the front and back of my car.
This makes it harder to park. Continue reading
LEAVE IT TO BEAVER
Dir. Norman Tokar Perf. Jerry Mathers and Hugh Beaumont. Gomalco Productions 1957-1963
I hung this jacket on my clothesline in 2006 (photos below). Through that summer, the sun bleached it from black to grey. In autumn it faded to white at the high points, but you could still find some of the original black in the valleys of its folds.
Next spring a colony of weevils built a nest under one of the sleeves. But in summer, a competing colony of earwigs from the collar drove them from the jacket. Continue reading
THE FRANTIC AND EXHAUSTING LIFE OF A PARLIAMENTARY MEDIA ADVISER
Jacobs, Colin (7 August 2014; Crikey.com.au)
I bundle out of the train in short-pants and find a phone box to call Colin. I’ve started explaining where to meet me when Colin screams and I hear the receiver clatter against the tabletop.
When he comes back on a few minutes later, Colin explains that from his kitchen window, he saw his car start to roll back down the slope out of his garage. He ran out of his house and slapsticked along beside it trying to get the key into the lock as it picked up speed, rolled down the slope and through the neighbour’s fence in front of an audience of staring children. Continue reading
From my backyard in the middle of the night, I can see the cars on North Road whipping past gum trees while five other backyards sleep in silence. In one of them, my neighbour Chen has two identical woollen yellow sweaters drying on his clothesline. Chen has spaced them out so they fill the space, leaving a gap to either side the same width as the space between them. They have crisp black V-necks and no creases or sun bleaching, floating there in a sliver of lamplight in the middle of the night.
THE MILITARY EXPERIENCE IN THE AGE OF REASON
I find I have a copy of The Military Experience in the Age of Reason on my bookshelf. I assume I must’ve purchased it for its cover art. Could I ever, in sincerity, have doubted the general tenor of that ‘experience’? Could I have imagined that soldiers woke up in the morning and thought, “My do I enjoy catching diseases out here in the mud. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank providence for the string of circumstances that led to my becoming an artillery target in the Austrian Plumed-Hat Corps.”?