Moving forward

August 25th, 2006
Language like this (from a job advert on threatens to numb my brain; that is, when it’s not short-circuiting it entirely:
You will be researching the development and implementation of a range of social policy issues to create strategies for moving forward.

To this I say:

Going forward, we are strongly committed to ensuring enhancement in relation to written and verbal communication skills by limiting recent innovative approaches to expression — currently extensively in evidence — that have a negative impact upon language usage.

(i.e. I hope this trend passes quickly.)

Thirty-six words: only two tensed verbs!

Can you pick them?

Udderly amazed

August 24th, 2006
“Moo-Arr! Westcountry cows moo in farmers’ accents!”

I simply can’t let this pass without comment.

I have no problem with the fact (asserted by West Country Farmhouse Cheesemakers) that

West Country cows are wrapped up in cow coats and they are played classical music to help them relax whilst being milked.

I’m even ok with Glastonbury cheesemaker Lloyd Green’s claim:

I spend a lot of time with my Friesians and they definitely moo with a Somerset drawl.

No problem there. Everyone has a right to express their personal observations.

What I find disturbing is Mr Frege Green’s leap from anecdotal evidence to proof-by-analogy:

I’ve spoken to the other farmers in the West Country group and they have noticed a similar development in their own herds. I think it works the same as with dogs – the closer a farmer’s bond is with his animals, the easier it is for them to pick up his accent.

Of course! It’s much easier to accept the world is flat when you realise it would roll straight off the backs of those turtles if it were round.

- – -

Reuters have reported on this, or you may have seen it on the ABC.

Gyuto Monks

August 23rd, 2006
The Gyuto Monks of Tibet are concluding their year-long “Good Karma” tour of Australia with a two week residency at the Incinerator Arts complex in Moonee Ponds (Victoria), which finishes this Sunday 27 August. If you live nearby and haven’t met the monks on one of their previous trips (or even if you have) I encourage you to head over and take in the vibe. There are usually one or two monks working on the large but intricate sand mandala that, once it is completed, will be swept away and the sand poured into the river (or sea) after a colourful procession on Sunday afternoon.

I attended one of their half-day harmonic throat singing workshops during their residency at Gas Works a few years ago. I found it impossible to produce anything resembling the rumbling harmonic resonances that the three instructor monks managed to make sound like a monastery full of throat-chanting wizards and it didn’t really help when one of the monks — coming over to observe my technique and provide technical advice — pointed at my throat, shook his head vigorously from side to side, then pointed at my navel, nodded and smiled. In what was surely the most gratuitous bit of translation for the day, the interpreter explained: “Not from here (throat). From HERE! (navel)”

What was I supposed to do with THAT?

Then the monk laughed, eyes a-twinkle.

(Translation: “Muhahahahahahaha!”)

I swear for the rest of that day and into the evening every aeroplane flying overhead, every fridge motor running in the background, every truck I could hear driving in the distance sounded like those throat-singing monks.


Full details of the last few days of their program can be found HERE. This year’s sand mandala will apparently look something like this:

[Image from]

A writerly turn of phrase

August 19th, 2006
Australian author Gerald Murnane recently described his soon to be published collection of short stories to The Australian’s Rosemary Neill:

Barley Patch, he says, resembles the “fungus on a corpse of a book that would have been the biggest and most ambitious I’ve ever had published”.

The complete interview here.


August 19th, 2006
I’ve been playing around with the format of this blog and will continue to do so over the coming days. All the content should remain available but the layout may change while you’re looking the other way.

Gift Ideas

August 18th, 2006

In the past I have drawn your attention to quirky plush toys such as Pee & Poo and the Giant Microbes. Well, it seems there are new varieties of Giant Microbes available, including H.I.V, TB, Polio, Hepatitis C and Mad Cow Disease:

Fans of Monty Python and the Holy Grail may appreciate the Black Knight plush toy with detatchable “flesh wound” limbs . . .

. . . or perhaps the bobble variety for your car (comes with faux arterial spray):

Why stop at one, when you can collect the whole cast: a Knight who says “Ni!” or God or Sir Bors:

Or the Beast of Arrrgghh or a Killer Bunny Rabbit:

These beauties are available from

Anatomy for Beginners

August 1st, 2006

SBS television is currently screening the 4-part series Anatomy for Beginners (SBS Mondays 10.35pm). It makes for amazing viewing, but it’s not for the faint-hearted.

***A WARNING: If you are at all squeamish you may want to stop reading now. This post contains descriptions of human anatomical dissection.***

In each episode, famously weird fedora-wearing German anatomist and cadaver plastinator Gunther von Hagens dissects a fresh human body before a live audience, focusing on a particular bodily system. This week it was the digestive system. You may have seen the promo, with Gunther (or was it his Fedora) explaining to ze kamera how he “vill unravel zis vooman’s bauwelz from her maus to her anus.”

Boy, did he ever. I think the official SBS info describes the action adequately:

Episode 3, Monday, 31 July – Digestion:

Professor von Hagens dissects a woman in front of a live audience to reveal the digestive system. After slicing off the back of her head so that he can demonstrate from behind the passage of a mouthful of food down the oesophagus, he removes her entire abdominal block from her tongue all the way to her anus and, after dissecting all the organs along the digestive tract, he unravels it to its full length of seven metres.

Apparently these are the first ever televised human dissections and the live studio audience includes prospective body donors to Gunther von Hagens’ Institute for Plastination.

The final episode is this coming Monday 7 August, where SBS’s summary promises:

The Professor dissects a man and a woman in front of a live audience to reveal their reproductive systems. Following the path of the sperm from his testes, along the vas deferens and out of his penis, von Hagens picks up the journey inside the female dissection specimen where he dissects her uterus and finally demonstrates how a baby passes through a female pelvis.

I’ve seen two of the three episodes screened so far: one featured a formalin-injected fresh cadaver, the other a totally fresh “wet” cadaver. It makes riveting television if you can tolerate the sight of blood and organs and the squelching sound of wet cartilage, tendon and bone being cut, snipped and yanked. Gunther actually uses something resembling a pair of box-cutters for much of the cartilage and bone work.

Alongside the eccentric Gunther — who enjoys his flesh cutting work just a little more than most would consider seemly — is Yorkshire pathologist Professor John Lee. Lee is the straight man. He is Dean Martin to Gunther’s Jerry Lewis and provides a running commentary on what we are seeing, occasionally walking over to demonstrate on a live nude model who spends each episode on stage having the circulatory, digestive or reproductive system painstakingly colour-drawn on their bare skin by an artist in real time.

This is visceral, gruesome, stomach-churning television, bordering on prurient, yet I can’t look away . . .