Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Important List #11 - Ten Great Characters in American Literary Novels

This is a very personal list. I have not read much Updike or any Faulkner, and I'm not going to pretend I have. They, as well as F. Scott Fitzgerald, can wait until some future time when I read a lot more - perhaps when I have mobility issues.
  1. Captain Leander Wapshot - The Wapshot Chronicles by John Cheever
  2. Quoyle - The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
  3. Atticus Finch - To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  4. Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon (they kind of blend in together) - Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon
  5. Ignatius J. Reilly - Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  6. Meyer Landsman - Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
  7. Holden Caulfield - Catcher In the Rye by J. D. Salinger
  8. Sheldon Anapol - The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
  9. Chip Lambert - The Corrections by Jonathan Frantzen
  10. Ruth Ellis - Stern Men by Elizabeth Gilbert
I was inspired by reading The Wapshot Chronicles, and really feeling quite emotional towards the end when Leander dies. He wrote beautiful and candid letters to his sons advising them on how to be men. And I only came across it because I was combing the CH section for Chabon books I hadn't read.

The odd one out in the list is Chip from The Corrections - I don't like him so much as the situations he gets into and especially the mad climax of the book.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Travels in Eastern European Football by Jonathan Wilson

I have nearly finished this quite chunky book - I'm halfway through Armenia, after reading the former Yugoslav republics, Ukraine, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Georgia and Bulgaria. Every now and then I snap out of the world of the book and ask myself - why am I reading this? It is full of names of players and clubs that I will not remember, and secondhand accounts of games in Plovdiv, Perm and Pest that may or may not have been fixed by the mafia or the secret police, details of which I have already forgotten. The names, of course, are torturous, (try ŁKS Łódź) and I have already encountered a whole new kind of umlaut, the Hungarumlaut. ( I have a little bet with myself that no-one will click on that link.)

In the dark days pre-Gorbachev, (see vague rant from last week) each major Eastern-bloc city had a soccer club run by the army, one run by the police and one run by the Ministry of the Interior (secret police). There was a lot of match fixing to ensure the right club won the right cup. At least, there was enough corruption around that any unpopular result would always be written off as a fix.

It is quite interesting, but quite a grim read, in the sense that since democracy and self-determination came on the scene, the football has generally gone to the dogs, and the vacuum created when government patronage ended has in many cases been filled by organised crime.

Here is one sentence that essentially sums up the whole book. Once I'd read this I realised that this (with a few stellar exceptions) is what the story of Eastern European football boils down to. Wilson is talking about an Armenian club, Dinamo Yerevan;
"Success, though, was denied them by the usual tangle of Machiavellian intrigue and the fact that they weren't very good"

I stand corrected

As I went past the boys' room the other night, Michael was coughing. I asked him if he wanted a drink, and before passing him the glass of water from the bookcase, had a little sip myself to make sure it didn't have dust on top. He took a sip, then held it up to the light drifting into the room from beyond and said "Why does it have a dead millipede in it?"

I scoffed "It doesn't have a dead millipede in it, silly!" as I took it out into the light and saw that it did in fact have a dead millipede in it. I chucked it down the drain and refilled the glass with sparkling clean water, feeling pretty awful that I had essentially given him millipede soup.

Me: "There you go! Perfectly fresh water!"
Michael: "What was that? Was it a dead millipede?"
Me: "It was a deadish and millipede-like, yes".
Michael: "Oh well, that's OK. I'm fine."

What a trooper.

8 Hours Day social round

We had a day off today, to celebrate the passing of national 8-hour work day legislation in 1948. I just looked it up, and the 8-hour work day was actually in effect in Victoria from 1860, with an annual public holiday to celebrate it from 1879. Some facts.

We had Nick and Anna and the girls up for morning tea, followed by a very pleasant stroll with Winston down the rivulet. I made anzacs but somehow got the recipe wrong again - they were flat and very, very buttery. We walked as far as the old Boags warehouse (now an evangelical church) - the fence around it has been taken down, so now you can follow the rivulet all the way to town. The existing walking track swerves around the warehouse  and goes up and down a very steep hill, so the change is very welcome.

After the lovely McShanes of West Hobart had departed, we were infested with small neighbours until dinner time. It's lovely to have small neighbours drop in and enjoy themselves, but so nice when they and their large remote control dragonfly have all been repatriated.

Last night Sal and Arthur came to dinner. He is coming up to 2, and talks constantly. He is trotting around the place very confidently, and I think he enjoys having the big space to gad about. Plus we still have a lot of 2-yo attracting toys. Fortunately I had just got around to mowing the back lawn after a very busy month or so, so he was able to floop around up there too. Only once did things get a bit hairy, when Elf heard a yell and went out to find Arthur upside down in a large boofy poa grass, having toppled off the elevated lawn. After dinner we had a very pleasant evening stroll to the park, where Arthur did some truly world-class slide and swing work.

Friday, March 09, 2012

School sports 2012

The boys did very well in the school sports on Wednesday. A quick rundown - Michael won 3 blue ribbons and Marcus 5, with a few other placings each. They won their respective sack races, and Michael also dominated the egg-and-spoon. (There were good spoons and bad spoons and he seemed to have a particularly good one). His bounding technique in the sack race was effective yet hilarious. After the finish he grandstanded a bit by continuing to bound for a few more minutes.

Marcus won the 100m, 200m, 400m, and the 800m which was held a few days earlier. His friend and nemesis Reuben moved to the local fancy boys school this year, and suddenly Marcus's swathe of red ribbons have turned to blue.

He was thrilled to beat the school "beep test" record on Tuesday, with 11.1 (if that means anything to anyone). I think he may have gone a bit overboard boasting, as yesterday he came home to very glumly announce his record had already fallen - to a Grade 4 kid. And about 50 schoolmates came and told him about it.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Go Between Bridge

In 2010 the Brisbane City Council named a new bridge the Go Between Bridge, after a public vote. Obviously any bridge allows you to go between one place and another, but the name is also a tribute to the great Australian band The Go-Betweens who hail from this steamy sub-tropical city.

I just found out about this today, and I am delighted that major civic infrastructure is now being named after alternative cultural icons of my youth. I am hoping to hear soon about the Eurogliders Aerodrome and perhaps the Mental As Anything Secure Health Facility.

Enjoy a little Go-Betweens, won't you?

Sunday, March 04, 2012


Hi. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Snork - zzzzz. OK, I'm sure I can do better than that. It's the tail end of a biggish weekend. I will rattle off the details.

Saturday morning was Little Athletics, for the last time this season, and possibly ever. They have been having a mini-championship, with ribbons for 1st, 2nd, 3rd right down to 10th in every event - which is a departure from the usual emphasis on personal bests only. As it happened we saw Marcus top the podium his massive discus throw last week, but he also did a state final qualifying time in the 1100m walk and came third in the javelin. Michael came third in the triple jump - we are actually delighted with these thirds as they both conquered an event that has been tricky for them this season. After easily winning his first javelin competition, Marcus has since had a lot of trouble getting the bloody thing to stick in the ground, which is mandatory.

I played Proper Soccer again, and I am starting to get a feel for my team. They are extremely limited, and it seems our fortunes each week are going to depend on who we can pull in to guest star for us. Our centre-forward is sixty years old. Yes. To be fair he has scored in both Summer Cup games. We have now had 1-2 and 2-4 losses. I am making some pretty naff mistakes each week but learning from them - it's been a long time since I did this stuff.

Today we had Marcus's birthday party at Zone 3 (laser tag), with 11 kids in all - Marcus and Michael, 4 from the neighbourhood, 2 cousins and three others from school. Elf made a piñata cake - with a solid (almost bombproof) shell of chocolate over it. Should have got a photo, sorry. Marcus went at it with a meat tenderising mallet, but it took a lot of punishment.

It turned into a very steamy day, and upstairs in the Zone it was fan-yourself-with-paper-plate time. The horde were called in for their first skirmish. Everyone else put jumpers and so forth in the Valuables Tub - Michael handed over Kings and Queens of England and Scotland which goes everywhere with him presently. I joined in and enjoyed it more than last time, because Michael knew what to expect and I didn't feel I had to follow him around. In fact in the run of things (you just blast away whenever you see a body) I shot him nine or ten times, then I felt bad, so I walked up and invited him to shoot me, which he did with glee.

It seemed to take forever to wind the party up - after 90 minutes we were shooed out of the party room, but we had told dropping-off parents to give it 2 hours, so then there was an extended loitering period. When we finally got home Elf and I went to sleep on couches.

Marcus received a Wii on his birthday, but on behalf of the whole family. No sooner had we drifted off to LaLaLand, than the boys next door, hopped up on sugar from the party, were in our loungeroom with their own Wii gear and the party was up and running again. Time for me to put on the radio earplugs and go and find something, anything to clean elsewhere around the house.

So - as I said, zzzzzzzz. As soon as I finish this sentence I am going to go and resume that beautiful, beautiful snooze I was having on the couch.