Monthly Archives: October, 2007

Words of wisdom…

I was informed by a Year 10 boy today that defending the rights of refugees to enter Australia because, like, they’re afraid to live in their own country is both a sign of weakness and Zionist propaganda.

This was the same boy who informed me that if the boongs ran this country, there’d be nothing but empty beer cans lying about the place.

Ah, the joys of teaching in a mono-cultural area.

Daughters of Earth

I got my copy today from Amazon – hurrah!* So excited. I’ve been looking forward to reading this ever since cassiphone raved at me about it at NatCon in June. It has a very nice cover…. It’s been a while since I read any feminist theory or lit crit, so I’m itching to start. Of course, I have been somewhat remiss with my duties, so I have to get back to that… and send some hard copies out to collaborators, before they lynch me. So it might have to wait until my resolve weakens.

*Don’t know it? It’s edited by Justine Larbalestier, and includes scifi stories written by women throughout the 20th century – from every decade, I think – as well essays about them and their place in the scifi tradition.

50 First Dates

I am not a big fan of romantic comedies. In fact, as a general rule, I avoid them as though they had something hanging out of their nostrils.

I really like 50 First Dates. I don’t tend to like Adam Sandler, but he’s ok in this; Drew Barrymore is wonderful. The thing is, I can’t stand the advertising it gets. The DVD cover – and the picture they use to advertise it on TV – has Barrymore looking utterly vapid and stupid. It misrepresents her character, and – once you know the film – misrepresents her character’s condition, too.

Yes, things like this really irk me.

Octavian and his position: a lecture

This lecture was given last Thursday by Frederik Vervaet, who received his PhD from Ghent University, Belgium. His accent was a little hard to follow at the start, but once I got into the rhythm it was quite lovely to listen to.

The proper title for the lecture was “The Secret History: The Official Position of Caesar Octavianus at the time of the Restitutio Rei Publicae (31-27BC).” Before I get to that, a note on the guy who introduced the lecture, who pronounced it ‘Kaiser Octaweeanus’ – that is, correctly, as far as we know the pronunciation of Latin. What I can’t figure out is whether he was simply being pretentious and showing off, or whether (since he is actually a Classicist), he knows Latin well enough that it’s simply second nature. Got no idea; interesting to consider, anyway.

Vervaet started off by talking about what it actually meant for Antony, Lepidus and Octavian to be triumvirs, from 43 onwards, because only by understanding that, and their power, can you get the pre-Augustus few years. He also asked two preliminary questions: when did the second triumvirate period conclude? (probably 32, is his conclusion); and how did the triumvirate fit into the idea of extraordinary magistracies? (nicely; and can only be abdicated – doesn’t simply conclude with the end of the year).

The issue of abdication becomes important when looking at Dio Cassius, and what he records of Octavian in 27: a speech that sounds remarkably like an abdication. So, although he hadn’t seemed to be holding the triumviral position up to this stage (because he would have been a solo triumvir, Lepidus having been forced out before the first 5 years finished and poor old Antony suiciding in 30), he seems to have continued exercising it. So why did he not acknowledge it? Vervaet talked about Octavian’s own concealment, and ‘artful delusion’, particularly in the Res Gestae and other bits of propaganda. I also liked the phrase ‘Augustan ambiguity and deceitfulness’. The nomenclature had also started to disappear during the second triumvirate anyway – emphasising his consular position, for example, instead.

After establishing Octavian’s position, then, Vervaet proceeded to ask two other questions: why continue as triumvir (alone), and why did he conceal it – since he didn’t seem to have any trouble with big-noting himself in other ways? As to the first question, it could be argued that the purpose of the triumvirate – to restore order to Rome – had not been achieved until 31 (because of the war with Cleopatra and Antony), so he shouldn’t abdicate; and after that there was (apparently) universal demand that he hang around. The second question needs you to remember that this is still the Republic: keeping hold of power was Bad and Evil and Frowned Upon. As well, when Antony and Octavian were having their spat, there was propaganda on both sides about the other not being willing to give up the power, so you don’t want to prove enemy slanging to be correct, do you? Finally, there’s also the fact that keeping hold of power unconstitutionally doesn’t sit so well with positioning oneself as the champion of tradition and constitutional propriety.

So… Octavian. I’ve always been anti-Octavian. Antony is more my man. This was a really great lecture, thoroughly enjoyable.

Australian Idol

This year, very boring. Seriously: there’s no one very interesting, some of their voices ok, but… meh.

The thing that I have enjoyed is Andrew and James, the comperes. I swear, they are getting funnier every time – and sometimes skating the very edge of rudeness. Certainly in terms of how they deal with the advertising they have to do – it really does look like they are simply reading the lines, and sometimes their body language shows just what they think of the whole deal. I love it! And tonight they sang part of Psycho Killer… very funny.

So yes, despite it being boring, we’ve still been watching. Bit sad… guess we’re just hoping for something interesting. Or we just like heckling… that could be it.

On being a grown-up

I frequently feel old – when I have to go to sleep early, or I worry about cleaning and shopping, or I get cranky at my students. Feeling grown-up, though, is something different – something delightful. For me, it’s a feeling of inclusion in the adult world – where I don’t always feel like I fit! – of being privy to adult secrets and rituals. The other night, I went to a lecture at Melbourne Uni (which I will blog about soon). And I got to feel like a grown-up, courtesy of two dear (and very different) men. One was my history method tutor during my Dip Ed: an enthusiastic, vibrant, history-loving inspiration. The other was my Honours supervisor, with whom I had also done a number of subjects during undergrad. Despite some, let us say, philosophical differences (he’s very anti-Christian), we always got on well, and he kept on pushing and pushing me (in a good way). At any rate, both were there (and they know each other – my supervisor was my tutor’s PhD supervisor…), and both were pleased to see me. The delight when I mentioned that I would be joining the Classics Association was ridiculous! (Until I looked around and realised what I would do to the median age of the members….) And… well, it was just really nice to feel like I was accepted into their group: I wasn’t an undergrad, nor a precocious child, but an equal.

It really made my day. Week, even.

Tennis tennis tennis!

We didn’t go this year, but the few years before that the Ma and I have attended the Aus Open for a couple of days… and wondered why we didn’t start doing it much earlier. We’re going this coming January – very exciting! Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of the first week, couple of days at Vodafone and one at Rod Laver. Very cool!!

My question, though, is this: I opted for the email option, where they send you a PDF and you print out your ticket. And… on top of the price of the ticket… you still have to pay an extra $4.95! for the privilege of using your own paper and ink! Grrr.

Farthing Magazine: a rant

As in far-thing, not an old coin.

As part of Last Short Story, we’re obviously trying to cover all the paying markets. At the start of the year in particular, we had to buy any copy we wanted because very few people knew about the crazy idea and review copies were few and and far between (and always warmly welcomed). Now, things are getting a bit easier, and we’ve got a few more review copies coming in (generally warmly welcomed, with only a very quiet groan of: ‘what, more?’).

One of the magazines I volunteered to buy was Farthing Magazine. I thought it looked cool – they have a great quote from Ursula le Guin on the site! – and some interesting-sounding stories. I eventually managed to pay by Paypal, which was a bit of a saga in itself, and then… nothing.

That was June.

They definitely took my money – can’t even remember how much now. I’ve sent a number of emails to the editor’s contact email address. There is no way postage from the UK should take 4 months. Is there?

I’d love to hear from anyone who’s received Farthing – so that I know it can be done, and to know whether it’s something I should bother with chasing up. I really don’t want to just put zeros in its columns, on our little LSS spreadsheet…

Not reading Slaughterhouse 5

* I never have in the past. I know! Oh! the shame.

As a consequence, I borrowed it from the library for the holidays.

* I didn’t read it at the start of the hols because my sister was.

* I didn’t read it over the rest of the hols because the demands of Last Short Story were getting to me.

Now, it’s no longer the holidays. But that’s not why I’m still not reading the book….

* I managed to lose it. A library book!

A very fishy update

It’s been a while since I reported on my aquatic friends, so I thought I would…

I’m pretty sure I mentioned that the Monster Angel finally went to the big aquarium in the sky… very sad. The tank has consequently been looking fairly empty – it’s a 50 gallon (about 150 litres) thing, with only 20 or 30 smallish fish in it. So last week, as part of our holidays, we went fish shopping. I got 20 neon tetras, who seem to be going ok; 4 harlequin rasboras, one of whom has died – but the others seem to be getting on with the older harlequins; and two bristlenose catfish, to help deal with the algae issue. I can’t find them any more. They’re pretty good at hiding, but… I’m a bit worried. We also got some plants, which always makes the place look much, much better.

In other exciting news, we found a fish place much closer to us – Aqua Fin. We’d heard of the business before, selling equipment, but they only recently opened as a direct-to-public place. Their stock of fish was pretty low, but their plants were ok – and cheaper, too. It’s just nice to have a shop 5 min drive away (or a long walk), rather than more than twice that, for things like food!