Treat or Trick

1800, 31 October 2019

Treat or Trick—that’s American foreign policy: give us what we want (world domination) or we’ll fuck you over.

I’m an Australian. We do not have a cultural tradition of observing Halloween. It is being imposed on us (mainly by commercial organisations taking yet another opportunity to try to sell us stuff we don’t need).

Treat or trick, in our streets, is a local version of global American imperialism.


See less Salinger

Having posted recently in Facebook so as to leave little doubt that J.D. Salinger was my ‘favourite’ author, I am now having to revise my opinion. I actually read Seymour: An Introduction all the way through (it’s a ‘novella’). It took three sessions.

I discovered (again, by the way) that the more I read about ‘Seymour’, the less I knew (or, more to the point, cared). His name is like a Zen koan. ‘Seymour Glass’. The more you try to see into him, the less you see, because you see right through him: ‘he’ is a glass window.

The case of his creator is not so different. Oh, you do learn a little about Salinger: his interest in oriental thought and art, and Zen Buddhism in particular, but he uses language partly as a barrier behind which to conceal himself.

Language – writing – is finally all you do get from this ‘Introduction’. It’s actually about the New Yorker (which even gets a mention along the way, no not by name). The piece is not much more than ‘something written for publication in the magazine’. It is the New Yorker style. Not much more than that.

AACTAs 2019

I predicted that the nominees for AACTA Best Film in 2019 would come from among these eight films: Ride Like a Girl, Danger Close, Hotel Mumbai, The Nightingale, Storm Boy, Palm Beach, Top End Wedding, I Am Mother. I even dared to say, ‘in that order’. Now that the noms have been announced, I see that I got only four right.

Danger Close did not make the cut (and I am sorry for Kriv Stenders, after all his hard work), nor Storm Boy, nor I Am Mother, nor – and I am really surprised – did Palm Beach.

But Judy and Punch has got in, and The King (the king, in this case, being Shak).

I shall have to continue to rethink my ideas about the real criteria. I started to in my previous post.

Girl Rides Horse

Cinema is an industry. Its income depends on the number of people paying for films, which logically depends on their popularity. Which in turn depends on the extent to which it conforms to the expectations (of a film) of a large number of people. Their mores include things they really care about (sport, money, life and death, nationalism—perhaps in that order) and things they think they should be seen to care about because of political correctness (indigenous issues, feminism, animal welfare).

This year’s top Aussie film has had an exemplary ride. It did very well at the box office, making far more millions than any other in 2019 … until the scandal hit the media. Never having thought about it, people were shocked to discover that horsemeat is being used for pet food. Not only that, people were actually killing the horses first.

The film will still finish first, but now rather ignominiously. I expect there will be demonstrations on AACTA awards night, and that people will say disparaging (or defensive) things about the racing industry in their speeches.

Footnote. What is done to racehorses during their working lives is far worse than what happens to them in the minutes before their deaths.

Detectives and their companions

I watch a lot of detective shows on TV. And I’ve being considering the relationships between the principal detective and her or his offsider.

There are detectives who manage to fill the screen with enough panache or gravitas not to need a companion: Poirot and Miss Marple come to mind. But the sleuth usually needs someone to explain things to (Dr Watson) or be assisted (Joe/Aiden, in Vera) or thwarted by (Valentine/Sullivan/Mallory, in Father Brown).

If the principal detective is not a professional (Fr Brown) the companion may be a policeman, in which case he (the cop) will see the amateur as an impediment and/or a competitor.

DI Geordie Keating (Robson Green) and Rev. Sidney Chambers (James Norton) on Clare College bridge

Said ‘companion’ will, however, always come round to seeing the strengths of the detective. In the last episode of Grantchester with James Norton as the vicar Sidney Chambers, his adversary in the force, Geordie Keating, is just about crying into his beer when Norton was leaving the show.

If it’s a policeperson who is the main character, the companion is never (?) a layman, but always another officer, whose function is therefore to admire the deducer, and sometimes care for her (Vera) or him (Poole/Goodman/Mooney, in Death and Paradise; Jimmy Perez in Shetland).

Anne-Marie Medcalf adds another, different kind of analysis:

I think the detective couples are a version of mythical dyads. Myths of origin dyads could be siblings of whatever mix, spouses, parent and child. They are usually immortal and live in some kind of beatitude. They are complementary and often represent two different faces of humanity. The wise and the happy-go-lucky for instance. Then one of them does something stupid – say, eat an apple, or break the jug containing the water of immortality. They are no longer immortal as individuals but thanks to all that going forth and multiplying, humanity keeps on going, becomes immortal itself … well until further notice anyway.
The police series dyads are often made up of complementary and opposite characters. They are not family but their relations reproduce family ties -mentor/father and disciple/son or daughter, for instance. Or brothers – I think the relation between Chambers and Geordie is a sibling one, Geordie being the older one. Their relations are complementary: the wise and the quirky, the aristocrat/ middle class  and the working class, the intellectual and the doer. In the series Inspector Morse, Morse is an upperclass Oxbridge man, fond of fast cars, crosswords and poetry. His methods are offbeat.  His offshoot /son/ disciple, Lewis, is working class and the epitome of the plod, with a systematic, no-stone-unturned approach. Poetry is not in his blood. The Inspector Morse series is replaced by Lewis. Lewis has his own offshoot, Sergeant Hathaway, an ex-seminarist Cambridge graduate, hyper-erudite and a misfit. Lewis is now the father; together they perform miracles. In the later series, Lewis is now retired, Hathaway’s sergeant is a no-nonsense young woman. And the beat goes on. They all complement and contradict each other. They never succeed in establishing a haven of peace and order, but they insure in some ways the continuation of society within their beat.

kith and kin

To deal with this, I had to get out one volume of the Shorter OED.  (It’s only of two large volumes, while the OED itself, if you can buy it in actual print, consists of a dozen or more books.)

‘Kin’ is straightforward in its meaning: it refers to the people you’re related to genetically. And in fact the Germanic ‘kin’ is related to the Greek ‘genus’  That’s a bit surprising, and not obvious, but it is in SOED. So that’s that.

‘Kith’ is less precise. The word is related to lots of words that have to do with ‘knowing’. Modern German ‘kennen’, to know – in the sense of have an understanding of or acquaintance with – is related, as is the Scots verb ‘ken’, as in ‘D’ye ken John Peel?’ … or whatever.

Kith and kin are the people you know, and the people to whom you are related.

Here endeth the lesson.

Workers Club website

I wrote in my previous post that I’m no longer going to support a separate Fremantle Workers Club website.  I’d like to use this medium to say why.

I was a member of the Workers Club in the early 1990s for a couple of years.  I took up membership again in 2012, when Donald Whittington saved the club from being wound up.

I saw the club as a traditional place of refuge for the Fremantle working man.  The original members were all unionists, and most of them were waterside workers.  So it was a heritage site for that reason.

The building was also the only 1950s building in the West End of Fremantle. I never liked the look of it much, but it was unique.  So that was a second reason to keep the building.

Less importantly, it was engagingly gothic in its internal arrangement.  It had innumerable doors leading mysteriously nowhere much.  There was a caretaker’s flat on the upper level which hardly anyone knew was there, and was not used for anything.  The second street entrance led merely to a corridor used for nothing but storing chairs.  There was a ladies toilet at the front of the building, behind the street wall, but it was never available for use.  There had been a library room, which in the 2000s had become a room containing a pool table (hardly ever used) and a TAB betting machine (used a great deal).  And there was a hairdresser’s salon! right next to the front door.  It was briefly staffed by an attractive man who spoke Spanish as well as Italian.

Mainly, it had a 30 metre long bar, and served beer cheaply and cold through well-maintained pipes.

I made my website, which I gave at no cost to the club, in support of Donald Whittington’s action in saving the club.  I had in mind both the club – with everything I’ve written above – and Donald himself, who is idealistic and altrustic.

However … it quite quickly turned out he apparently couldn’t manage to keep the building.  So it was made available for sale, and plans were made for the money from the sale to go towards buying part of a new building in Fremantle Park.

I went on supporting the club’s own domain and website for some years, but my motivations had evaporated.  Particularly when I came to understand what kind of building the Fremantle Park Sport and Community Centre is going to be, namely: boring.  It’s so boring I can’t be bothered thinking of a less boring word.

I’ll go on supporting the Workers Club sub-website on my Stuff website, but only because it’s part of the great Fremantle community.  I may never visit the new building. I don’t think I’d be welcome 🙂

A functionalist building, suggesting a high school in a country town

Big Day on the Internet

I decided that I was no longer willing to maintain websites for other people, and today was the day when I gave up on three sites for individual friends, and one for an organisation. I’ll continue to support all of them – but on one of my own sites – Fremantle Stuff.

One of the reasons I’m doing this is that my web design ability has barely got beyond the end of the millennium. I don’t know how to use a web authoring program, and still write all of my code by hand (as it were). Another reason is that I’ll turn 76 before the end of this year (deo volente) – say no more.

Goodbye to All That

The title of Robert Graves’s 1929 autobiography, Goodbye to All That, it turns out in the Epilogue (1957), merely means that he had left England to live in Majorca.

I assumed it meant that the First World War had fixed a great gulf between life before and after it.

I’ve just read it again, and note here a few excerpts.

G.H. Rendall, the then Headmaster at Charterhouse, is reported to have innocently said at a Headmasters’ Conference: ‘My boys are amorous, but seldom erotic.’ … I agree with his Rendall’s distinction between ‘amorousness’ (by which he meant a sentimental falling in love with younger boys) and eroticism, or adolescent lust. The intimacy that frequently took place was very seldom between an elder boy and the object of his affection – that would have spoiled the romantic illlusion – but almost always between boys of the same age who were not in love, and used each other as convenient sex-instruments. So the atmosphere was always heavy with romance of a conventional early-Victorian type, complicated by cynicism and foulness. (Penguin, 39)

At least one in three of my generation at school died; because they all took commissions as soon as they could, most of them in the infantry and Royal Flying Corps. The average life expectancy of an infantry subaltern on the Western Front was, at some stages of the war, only about three months; by which time he had been either wounded or killed. The proportions worked out at about four wounded to every one killed. Of these four, one got wounded seriously, and the remaining three more or less lightly. The three lightly wounded returned to the front after a few weeks or months of absence, and again faced the same odds. Flying casualites were even higher. Since the war lasted for four and a half years, it is easy why most  of the survivors, if not permanently disabled, got wounded several times. (Penguin 54-55)

Professor Edgeworth, of All Souls’, avoided conversational English, persistently using words and phrases that one expects to meet only in books. One evening, [T.E.] Lawrence [of Arabia] returned from a visit to London, and Edgeworth met him at the gate. ‘Was it very caliginous in the Metropolis?’
‘Somewhat caliginous, but not altogether inspissated, ‘ Lawrence replied gravely. (Penguin, 246)

I photographed the photo of Robert Graves from the Penguin that was published in 1957, the revised edition of the book.

Freud and Me

I wrote the dissertation for my PhD in the first half of 1993 while on OSP leave (sabbatical).

This was immediately after I had coordinated (taught) a unit called Language Culture and the Unconscious in 1991 and 1992. As a result of this, I enrolled for a PhD under the supervision of Bob Hodge, who had conceived the unit. The dissertation was based on the structure and thought of said unit, and took a positive view of the continuing usefulness of some of Freud’s ideas – in fact that was its thesis.

During those same years I was in contact with a close friend who happened to  be a liberal feminist psychiatrist, Lois Achimovich, and she was continually making me aware of Freud’s feet of clay, as exposed by writers like Jeffrey Masson and Frederick Crews. As a result of her influence the dissertation came to be richer and more complex.

In two lectures I gave in 1994, I took the opportunity to say as succinctly as I could what I thought about the ‘seduction hypothesis’ in a lecture on Freud given to unsuspecting students in their first university course, the Foundation unit Structure, Thought and Reality, in April 1994. The next month, I gave a related but more complex lecture to the more sophisticated students of Literary Theory 1, which examined the way in which the ‘structure’ required by Freud for his pseudo-science of psychoanalysis meant that what he ‘thought’ came into conflict with the ‘reality’ of what he was hearing in his consulting-room. With the result that … he denied his patients’ reality.

In a 2000 publication, ‘Mind and culture: Freud and Slovakia‘, which also drew directly on my dissertation, my critique of  Freud suggested that he relied to a great extent on analogy as a rhetorical strategy, rather than, say, logic – or demonstration.