Tuesday, September 25, 2007

This Sim is Unhappy!

I have just been to one of the more poorly-organised festivals that I imagine I will be attending in my life. The OzAsia Moon Festival was, at the outset, brilliantly conceived: a gentle night of family entertainment and cultural enrichment on the banks of the still-not-so-stinky-you-can’t-ignore-it River Torrens. Lanterns, music and food were promised and banners, posters and television commercials have heralded its coming for quite some time.

If you weren’t in Adelaide this evening, I also need to confirm that it was a balmy summer evening of perfection. Neither too sweaty or breezy. Perfect.

However, someone forgot to organise the festival. I counted three food vendors, including the mooncake shop and the over-priced, over-worked Festival cafĂ©. The lantern parade was less a spectacle than a school pageant. A somber announcer read out the names of each school and informed the increasingly puzzled 3000 attendees that the children had been making their own lanterns from paper and that some particular schools actually had a few students who were from Asia itself. The undoubtedly excited kiddies paraded around the edge of the park past a parental guard of honour that was just enthusiastic enough to block the view from everyone else. I did mention music. That was also provided by the junior members of local Asian music societies and was, I’m sure, brilliant for people that age.

A few dragon boats with a Chinese lantern fixed to their bows punted up and down, but mixed with the now-incredibly-attractive reflections of the streetlights from War Memorial Drive. When the martial arts demonstration began, Mele and I decided it was high time to high-tail.

I felt particularly sorry for the poor women behind us who defended every inch of their turf from the encroaching crowds. ‘Don’t sit on that jacket please!’ they would politely call. ‘We have seven other people coming!’ Saving festival lawn-space without a blanket is no picnic. Heh. Shameful jokes aside, the bitchy looks they got from every pusher-carrying dad and hamper-toting mum were enough to win a little bit of my respect. And my pity when the seven people finally turned up. They hugged, apologised for being late (the traffic was a nightmare), sat in their long-fortressed area, craned their necks to glimpse through the gloom nothing but the backs of about a hundred proud parents of primary schoolers, declared the event fucked and left.

We knew how they felt.

Jokes ahoy
The little book shall go to Jono for his multitude of number puns. Ever since embarking on this joke book I have come to two theories. 1. There is no clean joke, suitable for children that is not in some way a pun. 2. There is no lower form of joke, gag, whit or humour than the pun. It has often been posited to me that sarcasm is the lowest form of humour, but I am here to tell you now that at least sarcasm has a bit of worldliness about it. The pun, the putting one word in place of another, contains humour surely no more deserving of laughter than putting your gloves on backwards. Since reading a large collection of joke books published for children I believe that I have truly discovered the most depraved forms of humour and whimsy. I am devoid of hope for those who expected to get more laughter out of these jokes than from twisting the stalk from an apple or looking right when crossing the street. Behold:
What has fins and buzzes?
A fish gnat (fish net).
Which bugs should you hire to build your house?
Carpenter ants.
What corn do spiders make?
I see why the authors rarely put their names to these joke books. Could I do better? No - this is about as punny as it gets here in Writing.
What did the pun say to the egg?
Is this a yolk?

The point goes to River for playing on to win and playing creatively at that.


My faith is restored! While trawling joke sites for inspiration (read: stuff to plagiarise) I came across this little ripper on a site where all the jokes are submitted only by kids from around the world:

How many ADD kids does it take to change a lightbulb?
You wanna go ride bikes!?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Do you really think I would have asked for a 12-inch pianist?

Team Franzy: Another cry for help. I am compiling a joke book for children 12 and under. I require 300 (yes, three HUNDRED) suitable jokes. Having looked through much of the literature surrounding the topic (ie. my old joke books) I have discovered that 12-year-olds don't really have a lot of jokes published in them with swearing, sexual references or whimsy based around various moral and ethical crimes. These are the only jokes that my brain seems to retain. Observe:

What's Salmon Rushdie's next book going to be called?
Buddha, You Fat Fuck!

The others I can't even bear to type out (however, meet me in person and I will regale you with them all! The 28-year-old joke, the sushi joke, the baby jokes and the famous Feminist Light Bulb zinger!)

So, I call to you, dearest readers, friends and weirdos coming across this page by entering "what is anchovies fishthesis proposal" and "marbles tombolla" into various search engines, tell me your jokes. Tell me them all. Dredge your memories and drill your dads. The best joke will win a copy of the joke book when/if it gets published (looking good at this stage).


GTH - River steals the point from Jono with the beautiful (and well-guessed) metaphor for my painful yoking to the desk of research. Neil gets a raised eyebrow for the hairy nipple/lumpy breast.
The photo is of me (of course) on holiday in Cairns. It was taken about an hour or so after a long Blue Bottle jellyfish tentacle wrapped itself around my neck while I was snorkelling. THE single most painful experience of my life. Flaming razor-blades across the throat most accurately describes the sensation. But I would still take that over a year of stressing out about my proposal. There's no steroid cream for the research heeby-jeebies.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The PhD Student's New Proposal

You're right! You're all right! It has been far far far too long between posts. Mea culpa! But I was working. As has been said on this blog before: the less frequent the posts, the more that's actually happening in my own backyard (ie. 2 well-swept square metres of concrete porch).

I have been workin' it and workin' it hard.
The Proposal is finally out and over. For those who don't know the tortuous story, here is the condensed version:

A year ago my supervisor flicked me an email asking me to bring along everything I had for my exegesis (the mini-thesis one writes in conjunction with their creative work) and give the proposal (a speech about what your research is going to be on) a first run. I walked into the tute room with my bibliography and a few notes about the interesting news articles I had been collecting and, relying on my ability to speak in public, started telling everyone what I thought my research was going to be about.
I cringe even now. It was like one of those dreams where you're naked and can't find clothes. I didn't so much conclude my little speech as trail off. Everyone was very constructive about it, through their embarrassed shock at my lack of preparation, and I slunk away, promising to have "something more polished" to show my supervisors by the following fortnight.

Two drafts later: I still hadn't shown my face at any PhD meetings and I was having a Very Serious Meeting With Both Supervisors in which they were using words like "framework" and "methodology" and I was using words like "newspaper clippings" and "um". Finally an exasperated Jeri asked me: 'What sort of research did you do for your Masters and your Honours?'
'We didn't do any research. It was all creative writing coursework.'
I admired their extreme professionalism in that they didn't gasp in horror.

Then I got married.

Another quick draft later and I dragged my sorry arse into another meeting with Double Supervisors, seriously missing the glory days of being a sumo suit operator.
They liked it.
They understood it.
My half-baked idea about looking at class in young adult fiction made sense.
I rushed straight back to my study and slaved away, spewing 500-word-long sentences wondering when the emperor's new clothes were going to stop fooling people.

The presentation went well. People shook my hand afterwards. Two of the other academics who turn up to make sure you're not crazy actually made sure to congratulate me beforehand for finally taking a proper look at social class in literature. It is all done.

The week before the official presentation, I had finally completed enough of a draft to present in front of my colleagues again. A year after I stood up in front of my class and actually read out the sentence 'This is the hazier part of my thesis' (never were truer words spoken), I was able to regain some confidence and claim that social class can be used as a metaphor for the oppression experienced by the young protagonists of young adult fiction without anyone avoiding my eye afterwards.

However, I almost didn't go through with it. Just before I was due to give a 'dry run' presentation, a few of us were in the tea room, preparing warm brownness for my upcoming seminar. Another lecturer and supervisor saw me and said that she thought my proposal was very interesting, but that she didn't quite understand it. My heart turns to porridge.
'Oh?' I said, trying to sound non-suicidal.
'Yes,' she continued. 'I tried to read quite a bit of it, but it didn't really link up. There didn't appear to be any real cohesion between the sections.'
I edged towards the window, ready to make a break for the Tasmanian wilderness. A life of cold rain and hunting stray sheep awaited.
'I even tried clicking a few of the videos, but it still didn't ...' It was her turn to trail off.
Ohhh. 'You mean my blog, you mean my webpage.'
'Well isn't that what you sent in the email to everyone?'
'No. I mean, yes, but the email had the proposal attached mmm anyway, yes I have it here, it's different I think we're starting ...'
In my piss-poor quest for publicity every email I send has the signature "Writing (click here!)" at the bottom. It almost had me living a self-sufficient lifestyle among the forests of Vaginal Euphemism Island.

I'd like to extend a massive congratulations to my great friend Stefan Laszczuk for winning the 2007 Vogel Literary Prize for his unpublished (but soon-to-be-published) manuscript
I Dream of Magda. There were nicer photos around, but I believe this one is the funniest and the one he'd probably appreciate the most.
He was on the ABC news last night. They filmed him in his self-imposed uniform of t-shirt and backpack strolling along and then sitting on a concrete wall with a tiny notebook and pen to quickly scribble out some notes for the next prize-winning novel. The novel is about a young man who fantasises about the characters played by Maga
Szubanski and so they also had a short interview with Magda herself, who looked very flattered and puzzled at the thought that someone had written a prize-winning novel staring her own creations. Media publicity is indeed a strange thing.
All ribbing aside, I am extraordinarily proud of him. And instead of feeling insanely jealous like I suppose one probably should in the ultra-competitive world of Australian literature, I am surprised to find that I'm inspired to continue writing my own work (which I haven't really had a chance at since Captain Proposal took over). No more! Back to blogging! Back to the novel(s)!

GTH - Aye, it's been too long in coming and The Other, other Sam does indeed take the prize. The photo was taken during my last grand final in 2004 by Trent, who was too slow to check the blog to win the points. It shows a Coopers Pale being drunk at The Pines Hockey Stadium in Gepps Cross and the shadow may well have been me. Speaking of grand finals, this year's hockey campaign is over as of last weekend. Beaten by Port the Nemesis again. Well, not beaten, but after a 2-all draw, the highest team goes through and it was them. Darn.
And for a little insult to injury, today I am going to watch my old team, the Div 4 Rhinos play in their own grand final to which they have pretty much cruised after thrashing the shit out of most sides in the division all year and which I had to hear about as I rehabilitated quick enough to have joined them on this perfect day for a final. Sunny, cold and a little breezy. The Knee would have loved it.

An explanation of The Joy Division Litmus Test

Although it may now be lost in the mysts of thyme, the poll below is still relevant to this blog. In the winter of 2008, Mele and I went to live in Queensland. In order to survive, I bluffed my way into a job at a Coffee Club.
It was quite a reasonable place to work: the hours were regular, the staff were quite nice, it wasn't particularly taxing on my brain.
There were a few downsides: In the six weeks or so that I worked there, there was about a 90% staff turnover (contributed to by my leaving). This wasn't seen as a result of the low pay, the laughability of staff prices or the practice of not distributing tips to staff, rather it was blamed on the lack of work ethic among Bribie Island's youth.
However, one of the stranger aspects of the cultural isolation that touched our lives during our time "up there" was the fact that nobody at my work had heard of the band Joy Division.
The full explanation is available here.
But please, interact a little further and vote in my ongoing poll. The results are slowly mounting up, proving one thing: people read this blog are more well-informed about Joy Division than anyone who works at the Coffee Club on Bribie Island.

Have you heard of the band Joy Division?

Chinese food, not Chinese Internet!

Champions of Guess The Header

  • What is Guess The Header about? Let’s ask regular “Writing” reader, Shippy: "Anyway, after Franzy's stunning September, and having a crack at 'Guess The Header' for the first time - without truly knowing what I was doing mind you - I think I finally understand what 'GTH' is all about. At first I thought you needed to actually know what it was. Don't get me wrong — if you know what it is, it may help you. I now realise that it's more Franzy's way of invoking thought around an image or, more often than not, part of an image. If you dissect slightly the GTH explanatory sentence at the bottom of his blog you come up with this: “The photo is always taken by me and always connects in some way to the topic of the blog entry it heads up.” When the header is put up, the blog below it will in some obscure way have something to do with it. “Interesting comments are judged and scored arbitrarily and the process is open to corruption and bribery with all correspondence being entered into after the fact and on into eternity, ad infinitum amen.” Franzy judges it, but it's not always the GTH that describes the place perfectly that gets it. “The frequent commenters, the wits, the wags and the outright smartarses who, each entry, engage to both guess the origin and relevance of the strip of photo at the top (or “head”) of each new blog and also who leave what I deem the most interesting comment.” It generally helps if you're a complete smartarse and can twist things to mean whatever you feel they should mean - exactly the way Franzy would like things to be twisted." - Shippy Blogger and GTH point scorer.
  • Nai - 1
  • Lion Kinsman - 2
  • Will - 2
  • Brocky - 2
  • Andy Pants - 2
  • The 327th Male - 3
  • Mad Cat Lady - 3
  • Miles McClagen - 4
  • Myninjacockle - 4
  • Asheligh - 5
  • Neil - 5
  • Third Cat - 5
  • Adam Y - 6
  • Squib - 6
  • Mele - 6
  • Moifey - 7
  • Jono - 8
  • The Other, other Sam - 14
  • Kath Lockett - 15
  • Shippy - 19
  • River - 32