Marcel Was ‘Ere

In a previous post I declared that I was a friend of Art. And that I was a kindly and  nonjudgemental soul. That I would celebrate all I saw.

I lied.

You have only to place before me some of the most celebrated works of European artists to call forth from me the Canadian version of the Bronx cheer. It has bellowed forth through the art gallery of New South Wales and the NGV many times. This year Marcel Duchamp’s works evoked it. And it was not even because it was a paid exhibition – I’d have laughed it to scorn for free.

There’s Marcel’s pisser, of course…

And the edifying sight of a bus-load of earnest French  high school students worshipping it.

I was taken with the red wooden box in which Marcel established a portable gallery of his works, and with the revolving discs that made optical illusions when placed on a gramophone…and by the portable chess set he carried.

But I cannot bring the same sense of admiration – other than the sort of regard in which I hold P.T. Barnum – for the bicycle wheel, the ball of twine, or the urinal. He said that they were art and got people to agree with him – but people can agree on folly as readily as they can on wisdom.

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Are You Sorry You Never…?

Yes. and no. When I consider the possibilities of what I might have done…or had done to me…I figure it is about a draw. I have never been as happy or as miserable as I might have been. Not that I did not try.

We can all remember chances we could have taken that would have resulted in vast wealth, fabulous sex, and untold acclaim.  The land we could have bought for a song, the partner we could have bedded, the position we could have stood for and won. But we have to be honest – if we pass the same period of time through our memory we can also list junk bonds and properties that we passed by, people who have turned out really rotten, and ventures that have proven to be toxic to all concerned. If we missed some, we at least avoided the others.

It’s been a constant meme that the saddest phrase is ” If Only…” but this is a crock. The wise person remembers the mixture of events and benefits greatly from the warm glow – in some cases of nostalgia and in the other of burning wrecks. In both cases you benefit from being far away and long after. Just remember the dumb thing and do the smarter thing next time.

But, but, but…what if there is no next time? What if you fetch up on the wrong side of 70 and all the bikini girls are 18? And what if there is no more land in Dalkeith for 5 Pounds? And you have retired from the Association Of Veeblefetzers long before you could become president and reap the bribes? How can you stop the gnaw of regret? Easy. Remember then, if you wish, and then look at now realistically.

Talk to an 18 year-old. If you can get them out of their iPhone long enough. Ask them about music or the movies. Be prepared to grit your teeth and/or other parts of your anatomy at some of the answers. Let’s face it – you’ll be lucky to resist the urge to order the kid off your lawn!

Fabulous land bargains? They come with fabulous land taxes and/or dealing with contractors to develop the dirt. They are the start of decades of worry, culminating in the fear of capital gains tax. You’ll get a six-foot plot of land soon enough…

Position and power? Over whom? The sort of people who have meetings, seminars, and workshops? The committees and subcommittees? The Annual General Meeting? You could wash out stale yoghurt containers and have more fun than occupy most powerful executive positions.

So do not regret. Leave that to others. If you enter into the thing at all, opt for being the person who makes them sorry for it all.

 

 

 

Nice Cake…For Store Bought…

If ever there was damnation with faint praise…

But we cannot help it. Even if we are not bakers ourselves, we can always look askance at other’s cooking. And we do it for the best reasons – we do it to honour our mothers.

Every mother makes three memorable classes of food; the stuff that isn’t as good as that made by our mate’s mother – the stuff that we don’t like to eat – and the recipes that are the correct standard of the world.

It might be sauerkraut, it might be banana bread, it might be oatmeal with gravel…but whatever it is, there will be one dish that we remember our mother cooking that was the correct way to do it. All others are pale imitations, no matter how well done. And we resist any suggestion that we are biased.

Our wives do something that is correct, as well – or we might do it if we are the cooks of the house. Our children will remember this. The difficult part is when our wives do a version of what their mother did, which is a version of what our mother did…and the three dishes are remarkably different, even if the ingredients are the same. Three women cooking the same dish in three correct fashions whilst eyeing each other off over the sharp knives is a daunting prospect.

When they present you with three different tasting tablespoons  to tell which is the right recipe…run.

 

 

An Australian Brag

If you were born in Australia you have been subject to The Brag all your life. If you emigrated here you picked it up as soon as your feet touched the ground. Either way, it has become so engrained that you would be hard pressed to notice it.

The Brag? Well, it really involves a lot of Sub-Brags. We’ve just had this year’s April 25th Brag. We’ll have more Brags whenever the cricket starts up again and all through the football season. If a local cinema actor is nominated for an award…indeed if anyone is recognised with some sort of gong, we’ll add another Brag.

And we are just about to have a federal election – Federal parliament will be replacing its House and Senate members in the next month or so. And it is time for the Election Brag. And I’m proud to be able to enunciate it:

The Federal Election will be honest.

The individual members of both houses that contest the seats, their advisers, and their party organisers may have consciences that could be used to scrub pots…their parties may be collections of bigots, zealots, and ne’er do wells – they may have devious money-grubbing  schemes…but…

The Federal Election will be honest.

No stuffed ballot boxes, no stand over militias, no bought votes, no midnight disappearances. No seizures of power. No bribing of judges. No tanks, armoured cars, or riot police. No burning buses. No dead people.

Instead, we’ll get a huge ballot paper, a tiny pencil, and a funny little cardboard booth to figure it all out in. Our choice will be complex to make and be tabulated in a complex fashion – but it will be done cleanly. Some electorates will declare quickly and there’ll always be one at the end that takes jolly weeks. If some mistake happens that results in the loss of a ballot box, there will be a by-election for that seat and it will all clank through again.

We’ll all get a vote and our vote will count. We’re the luckiest damn country in the world for this – because we can buy barbecued sausages and lemon slices and scones to eat while we are waiting to vote. And smarmy Facebook memes that suggest our vote is worthless are a damned insult us and to something this country does very right.

 

Holy Water, Holy Wine, Sacred Biscuits

It has recently come to my attention that there is such a thing as holy water. And it is available in little dishes out the front of certain churches. They are happy to have you wet yourself with it but frown on you decanting it into old pop bottles for use at home.

As soon as I found this out I looked into other holy substances and found that I could obtain holy bread, holy wafers, and holy wine. I was actually hoping for holy ice cream but this seems a little bit ambitious.

Still, I have not given up hope. Apparently there are lots of other holy things; holy cities, holy books, holy orders, and holy people, Surely the thought of a tub of holy Rocky Road could not be that far-fetched. After all, I’ve been hearing about holy cows ever since I was a kid…

I’m a little hazy, though, about the distinction between holy and sacred. Also sanctified and sanctioned. They seem to be used interchangeably in a lot of conversations, including the ones that urge followers to slay everyone else for the good of God…Who is said to be perfect and doesn’t need anything else at all. Except, I guess, slaughter.

I’m also a little nervous about any thing or any place that is regarded as so precious and valuable that you get to beat up on other people for it. I’ve seen Lord Of The Rings and ” precious ” doesn’t seem so good after all.

I guess the real problem I have is getting enthusiastic about folk tales that are designed to control me – tales that have originated in the stone, bronze, or iron ages and have then been codified for now. I also am nervous about the stuff the tech gurus invent for the iAge but at least most of it doesn’t ask me to murder people or avoid bacon.

Note: Apparently ANZAC biscuits ( an Australian cookie ) have been declared sacred by the Federal Department of Veteran’s Affairs and they are set to fine any bakery who makes them with ingredients not approved by that department. This is approval, not on health grounds, but on historic ones. Apparently you are not even allowed to call them cookies, so I may be getting a nasty note in the post.

No, I’m not rooting your leg. This is real. April 25th in Australia is fraught with dangers that other places never see.

The Family History As A Method Of Torture

I spotted it in a trice – on the shelf of the council library. It was a self-published history of a local family. Paper-bound, A4 size, but about a centimetre thick. I’m a bit hazy about the exact family name but I remember it referred to a country town where they lived and styled them as ” Pioneer Nobility “.

That’s a concept you don’t see all that often in an egalitarian society – but it lurks in the heart of every amateur genealogist. If they can assert that their family is noble, and get you to believe it, they can control the universe.

I come from a mother and a father. They, in their turn, came from mothers and fathers. Funnily enough, so does everyone else riding the N0.507 bus to the train station. And so do you. It is the common experience of mankind to be born because of the combination of a mother and father.

The lucky ones get to know who they were. Even better – they might have gotten to see them for some portion of their lives and can treasure this. But there is a catch to the treasure – a curse, if you will…if you try to grasp too much of it, it turns to fire and burns away your happiness. And that fire can consume all the social oxygen and leave everyone around you asphyxiated.

I met today with a relative of my wife – a pleasant man who is the amateur genealogist for her family. He is good at it and has facts and figures of all the extended family at his fingertips. You have only to sit still long enough and you will find out when in 1887 one cousin shifted addresses in Adelaide, and how we know this, and what it means for the Scottish branch of the family in 1934…

It is not polite to sneer or yawn. Neither is it to run and hide in the toilet or fall lifeless to the carpet. One must look bright and attentive. And not scream.

But, just as with the accounting of dreams, so the history of someone else’s distant family connection to even more distant relations who have done no more than breed and move is the saddest and most banal of communications. No-one wants to know.

None of us are remotely interested in the thing, and unless you can prove in court that you are a direct descendant of a liaison between Benjamin Franklin and Cleopatra, we’re not likely to care. Publish all you like, prattle all you will, thrust forward parish records from the 19th century all you may – We. Don’t. Care.

But let me tell you about my uncle Agnes and the time she met the Kaiser in Woolies…

My Hobby, Sir, Is Below…

No, not that far down. That’s a different hobby. Stop staring.

My hobby is what you are reading right now. I write now.  I write four weblog columns each weekday and three on the weekends. I get paid money to pen one of them and the other three pay in joy.

I did not realise this was going to be the case when my friend Joanne suggested over a café breakfast that I look up WordPress. She, like many young people, is somewhat of an expert on the social media and connection side of things. But she doesn’t make the technical side of things sound as hard and confusing. Nor was it, once I had picked up a couple of simplistic books on the WordPress blog experience.

My first efforts were crude – like my first engagement with Facebook – but gradually the business of telling a story ( and that is all I am doing when I write ) started to flow and it has gushed ever since. I’m a photographer with my own studio so I can make pictures to enliven the print and as much as the graphic designers amongst my readers may quail, I can dot them with words. Generally the words I choose try to be funny. Sometimes they succeed, but only sometimes…

So I finally have to admit I like engaging you in this one-sided conversation – I look upon it as a Catskill monologue. Hence the title of this first weblog column. I’m here all week – try the pasta surprise.

The chef was absolutely surprised. He was aiming for bacon smoothies.