Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Unbearable Light

Disclaimer: I have never read this book.

I'm having the oddest feeling down my back. It's as if mice are running up an down my spine. I think it's from muscles that have been rigidly tense for the last three years unkinking.

Come New Year I think I shall capitalize on this and get some massage done.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Xeno's arrow

So, the manuscript is due Monday and the corrections to my final chapter are somewhere in the bowels of Canada Post, despite being sent by 'next day' delivery express mail.

And every time I'm nearly done I look at my checklist and see another 20 items.

Despite that, I'm finally happy with the shape and feel of the book. Now I want to use the current manuscript and rewrite it all from the start. That would make it really good.

A friend of mine once said "the better is the enemy of the good". Valuable advice from a don.

But I'm terribly anxious that something untoward will happen, even though contracts are signed and all.

So altogether, I'm a bit tense.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

End of term rush

What with the life-threatening operations of loved ones, work, extra-curricular talks (attendance non-optional), manuscript deadline and whatnot I'm a bit overwhelmed. Normal service, such as it is, will resume soon. In the meantime here's a picture of a woman in a garden.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

"All of my friends are dead"

So says Harold Ross, one evening eight years after the death of his frenemy Alexander Woolcott. It's a poignant moment in a memoir that manages both to celebrate a life and convey the pain of its loss. One wonders how much of Ross' early death (he was barely 59) had to do with the disillusionment he felt with McCarthyist America of the 50s. Would he have fought harder for his life if he had not felt so discouraged? "Also writes for the New Yorker" had become then (as it is once again) a snide denigration of perceived 'unAmerican' values.

James Thurber's The Years with Ross is full of entertaining anecdotes about New York literati but it's also a tale of friendship between two men. Amicitia was the binding force of most emotional relationships in pre-christian Rome, but the fervent declarations of friendship read oddly to my students. It seems to me that one does not get books written about friendship anymore, nor does it appear to be celebrated in other media. Love, passion, egotism, anger - these are the emotions that drive today's publishing. Friendship seems undervalued. I can't think of any major work of art that celebrates non-sexual friendship that postdates the 60s.
I am wrong? Let me know if I'm overlooking something really obvious.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

A Date With Lady Kaede

Autumn is closing in, and with it comes evenings snuggled up with the cat to watch movies. I saw Ran the other night. I saw it years ago in the IFC and thought it was great, but for some reason I'd never gotten it out on DVD, although I love historical epics.

I couldn't remember if it was Ran or Throne of Blood that contained one of my Favourite Scenes Ever, in which a scheming woman falls weeping to the feet of a man in order to get him to do something awful and while he looks away, stricken, she takes the opportunity to crush a moth on the floor in the folds of her kimono. Well, it's Ran, and the woman in Lady Kaede.

Aah, Lady Kaede, how could I forget you? Your absolute stillness and grace, your glacial beauty, your pathological hatred of the Ichimonji clan. She really is a great character, the sibilant whip-wheep sound of her silk robes is nearly as terrifying as Asami's 'ichi ichi ichi' in Audition.

But having watched the film with its audio commentaries (Film Studies professor and a mate of Kurosawa's) I find I object to the characterisation of her as a great schemer. Kaede does work towards the destruction of the Ichimonji but she hardly needs to plot their downfall. It is Hidetora who puts events in motion, all it takes for Kaede is to direct those events just a little, vanity, greed and ambition of Hidetora and his sons do the rest for her. Where Kaede's real skill lies is in her ability to exploit her moment. When Jiro plots the death of his brother with his vassals they laugh at the easy pickings until Jiro says 'His wife, the Lady Kaede, is a different matter' and then they all go silent.

A different matter indeed.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Look at that, I've now broken my personal record for posting. I am now up to 17 posts this year. Breakthrough of a sort. Yay technology!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

More on the fuzzy logic rice cooker

Earlier in the week I thought I'd make myself some dal. As I was getting out the pot I thought "let's try this in the FLRC.' So in went half a pound of mung beans, some garlic, ginger, onions, chili and spices and water to cover. I set the FLRC to 'slow cook' and went back upstairs to work. One hour later, perfectly cooked dal.

Today's experiment was only moderately successful. I set the timer last night to have porridge ready by 8. This worked perfectly but, perhaps because I actually used Red River instead of porridge, or maybe because I had the cooking program set to 'regular', there was a lot of overspill. Took a while to clean up. The Red River was fine thiugh, although I'm always tempted to take the cooked cereal and fry it with eggs and bacon ('Saskatoon Hash'). This would negate the general healthiness of the exercise.

Anyway, next I shall try the FLRC with a Cuban black bean stew.

I know this is dull stuff but I'm just done with the first week of term. Am v. tired.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Quest for Fire: You're doing it ALL wrong

I forget how I found this, but when I did I immediately thought "This is the film that Ian told me that Gavin told him about." And so I took it home and put it on. The best thing about this movie is that there is no dialogue per se, so basically make your own as you watch it.

So. Fire. We need it, we don't have it. Send Dominant Alpha Male, Tough Beta Male and Sidekick male to get some before we all die of hypothermia. Hijinks with cannibals, naked homines sapientes and saber-toothed tigers ensue.

The most famous scene of the movie involves the scene where the more evolved Ika manoeuvres herself under Alpha to teach him that it's much more fun for both of them when the sex is belly to belly, and not, as some of my older textbooks would say, coitus a tergo (this was on the principle that if you were going to be kinky and indulge anything other than the church-sanctioned missionary position you should be educated, or perverse, enough to read Latin). And it's a great scene, made greater by the fact that they are sheltering under a tiny rock shelf as it's pissing down rain while Beta and sidekick look glumly on. Beta (Ron Perlman in his first role) then pats Sidekick's thigh in an 'any port in a storm' kind of way and is vigorously rebuffed.

It's very entertaining, you should watch it. And after you've done that listen to Ron Perlman and Rae Dawn Chong (Ika) give the commentary: 'I was so cold' 'I thought I was going to die' 'Look at my breasts' 'Man you were gorgeous' 'I wanted to kill Annaud' 'Me too. Me too'.

Money Can't Buy Me Happiness

But it can buy a very comfortable sofa. And that makes me happy. Makes the cat happy too.

Other purchases this week include a fuzzy logic rice cooker. This little gem will also do porridge, and is a steamer and pressure cooker. And it has a timer, which means I can set it the night before to cook my breakfast. Which will be a big help in the dark days of winter as I get stumble around trying to get ready for my 8am classes.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Halifax: Fish City

I'm back from Halifax, where I just spent a great week in the company of Queenie, whose hospitality during a very stressful time was just heroic. The undisputed highlight of the week was the whale watching. Queenie drove us down to Long Island where a friend of hers runs a zodiac tour. I so want to own a zodiac now that I've been in one. It's basically a rubber dinghy with a huge outboard motor so you go flying over the waves: bompa-bompa-bomp. First we went to the seal island, where the seals looked at us and we looked back.

Bompa-bompa-bompa. We came across a pod of 7/8 humpbacked whales, including a mother and calf. Because a zodiac is only about a foot and a half above the water, the whales were unstressed. They rolled around waving their fins in the air, slapped their tails to get rid of barnacles, dived and blew from their spouts. The latter was something of a mixed blessing since it looked impressive, but reeked of sulphur and rotten fish. The calf was extremely curious and swam around us again and again, diving beneath the zodiac and surfacing right next to us so that we found ourselves staring into its melon-sized eye. "It's ugly", whined one of the irritating girls on the tour with us. "Why is it so ugly?"
"It thinks you're ugly too", I said.

After well over 90 minutes of hanging out with the whales we were on our way - bompa-bompa-bompa - while a pod of dolphins, complete with a baby dolphine kept pace beside us. It was just a magical experience. And I would have had spectacular photos except that my camera died on me during the tour which is why you are looking at a photo of a shoe.

But look at these shoes. I got them on my first day in Halifax. Are these not a superlative pair of 'do not fuck with me, buddy' stilettos? It gets better. When I got them back to Queenie's place and look at the box I see that it says 'Carlos by Carlos Santana'. Yes, Santana has gone from guitar hero to shoe designer. I guess you get more babes that way.

These were my wild holiday purchase. Most of the rest of my shopping was confined to long, leisurely trawls through Halifax's secondhand book stores which are well stocked with interesting material (the joys of a town with multiple universities). Combining this with my books, Queenie's own books and a glorious lack of pressing commitments I read my way through:

Madame Chiang Kaishek and her China edited by Samuel C. Chu
A selection of essays, some better than others.

Madame Chiang Kai-Shek: China's Eternal First Lady by Laura Tyson Li
I have not yet finished this, but I recommend it as a gripping tale of power, sex and politics. And all true.

The Secret Life of Lobsters by Trevor Corson
I skipped over the bits that had to do with people. It's the lobsters who are the stars here: aggressive, randy beasts. They communicate by peeing at each others heads.

Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood
I first read this in 1989 after The Handmaid's Tale and found it disturbingly remote and somehow incomprehensible. Now that I live near Toronto, I have a clearer understanding of the cultural/gender baggage that Atwood was writing about. I still like The Edible Woman best.

Bodily Harm by Margaret Atwood
I'd never heard of this one and reading it, I could see why. It's a bit of a mess and lacks an identifiable center. If I had my critical hat on I could talk about Atwood's interest in sparagmos and the dissolution of identity but I didn't like it, so I won't.

The Years with Ross by James Thurber
I *heart* Thurber, whose My Life and Hard Times never fails to cheer me up, reminding me as it does of conversations with my grandmother. Thurber's account of the early days of the New Yorker: the drunks, lech's, neurotics and geniuses who wrote for it are bound together by the promethian figure of Harold "God, how I pity me" Ross. If you haven't read it yet, give it a try. It's a gem.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
For some reason I have never read any of Gaiman's novels. I think I was put off by the difference in quality between his work on Sandman and Good Omens (co-authored with Terry Pratchett). I guess 'co-authored' was the problem since Neverwhere is a highly entertaining romp through Faerie (aka th London Underground).

Bankgok Haunts by James Burdett
More murders for Sonchai Jitpleecheep to solve. If you've read Bangkok 8 and Bangkok Tattoo you'll know what to expect: beautiful prostitutes, crystal meth, state corruption, transexuals, clash between eastern and western mindsets and Buddhism. This one adds hotel porn, a succubus and elephants. Proper holiday reading, and full of black humour.

So there we are. One much needed vacation. Thank you Queenie!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Nullity

Things I have not done since my last post:
1) Watched the Olympics
2) Re-read 'Lavinia' for reviewing
3) Bought a new swimsuit

Things I have done:
1) Worked on manuscript
2) Worked on conference abstract
2) Worked on organising conference

My work/life balance is 3-0 really. And with term starting in 2 weeks it's just going to get worse.

Thankfully, I'm going on holiday next Monday. Viva Halifax!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Blood and Fire

If you haven't read Njal's Saga you really should. For one, it's an excellent yarn, full of fighting, feuding, marrying, piracy, war, witchcraft and courtroom drama. Though it's a long book, the chapters are very short and written in the clear, limpid prose of Grimm's märchen. Don't worry about the cast of hundreds, the numerous genealogies and almost complete absence of plot; most of the characters are bit-parts so there are only about a dozen you have to keep track of, you can skip the genealogies (although for my part some of the best stuff was in those footnotes), and the lack of coherent plot is actually one of its advantages. Basically it's a tale about how one tiny event escalates into the murder of an entire family (Njal and his sons). A man lies to his lover that he doesn't have a bride waiting for him at home. She knows he's lying (does he take her for a fool?). This small moment, like the proverbial butterfly's wing, sets in motion a chain of events that has hideous consequences for a family in no way connected with the original fib.

What makes Njal's Saga so gripping is that events are driven as much by a desire for glory and the redemption of honour, as they are by pettiness, spite, tale-bearing and envy. And yet there are no clear villains, just people getting in each other's way, taking umbrage, sulking and killing for no real defined goals. It's a story of the human condition, eat your heart out Sinclair Lewis.

There are also some interesting historical aspects. If you read between the lines, you get an inkling of the environmental crisis that was gradually looming on the horizon (see Jared Diamond's Collapse for more detail on why Iceland's colonies survived where Greenland's failed). And while you would think that the Vikings' favourite activity was raiding and fighting - and don't get me wrong, there is plenty of that - it turns out that what the Vikings most enjoyed was summoning each other to court. Yes, Vikings were the original bastard lawyers: tripping each other up with proceedural errors, declaring mistrials, transferring cases to courts where they would get a more favourable hearing, the Vikings wrote the book on that (except they didn't because it was all oral tradition, but you get my meaning). In fact, considering the ingrained tendency towards violence in the society, one has the suspicion that the legal code was deliberately geared towards encouraged these kind of proceedural tangles to absorb the murderous impulses of the protagonists. Given that the Viking althing forms the basis of Anglo-Saxon law that explains a lot. It makes me wish my grandfather was still alive; the distinction between Anglo-Saxon and Roman system of constitutional law was one of his pet subjects, I bet he would have something to say about the self-sustaining pattern of suit and counter-suit that makes up the last section of Njal's Saga.

And now, some of my favourite bits:

1) Hallgerd
Beautiful, seductive, proud, maddening, spiteful and lethal, Hallgerd ranks among the great femme fatales of literature. Like the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland, Hallgerd has the same solution for all her problems: the death of the perpetrator. Watching Hallgerd despatch yet another thrall to do some killing, her mother-in-law exclaims in exasperation "Housewives around here have managed well enough without resorting to manslaughter". Hallgerd responds as generations of women have to their MIL's criticism by ignoring her.

Here's another classic Hallgerd moment with her husband Gunnar:

"Gunnar rode to the Althing. Before he left home, he said to Hallgerd, 'Behave yourself while I am away, and don't try any mischief on my friends.'
'The trolls take your friends', she replied."

I believe I have heard my mother say much the same words to my father.

2) Sam the Dog
In the Platonic perfection of forms, the concept 'Dog' must be represented by the Irish wolfhound Sam. Intelligent, noble, courageous, the death of Sam is a tragic moment, heralding the even more tragic death of his master...

3) The death of Gunnar
The peerless hero of the Saga, Gunnar's siege and death is a terrific fight, marked with the laconic humour that characterises much of the Saga's dialogue, such as this exchange between two of the beseigers:

"Gizur looked up at Thorgrim and asked 'Is Gunnar at home?'
'That's for you to find out,' replied Thorgrim. 'But I know that his halberd certainly is.'
And with that he fell dead."

Gunnar is eventually overcome by his enemies when his bow-string breaks and Hallgerd refuses to give him her hair to restring the bow because she is in a mood. Have I mentioned that Hallgerd is seriously bad news to all her husbands?

4) Thangbrand converts Iceland to Christianity: Viking-Stylee

By all accounts Iceland converted to Christianity with alacrity, possibly encouraged by the thought that Christianity's dim view of murder might break the cycle of vengeance-killings (it didn't, at least not immediately). Nevertheless there was some opposition, but nothing could withstand the missionary zeal of Bishop Thangbrand. Thangbrand's most impressive public relations coup involved beating up a beserker with his crucifix.

5) The Battle of Clontarf
Super battle, but actually what struck me most about this is that I'm sure the Valkyrie hymn was quoted in an issue of 2000 AD's Slaine. This got me to thinking about the glory days when Pat Mills was actually a good writer.

So there we are. Next: Lavinia.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Oh Canada!

Keen eyed readers will notice a new link to Kate Beaton's site. It was Lisa who first alerted me to her home-grown cartoony goodness, diverting me from at least two hours of work (thanks Lisa!). Kate is Canadian, so I might conceivably meet her someday. Which would be good because she is clearly someone you want to go out and have a pint or five with. In the meantime I'm going to rely on Kate for all my knowledge of Canadian history, like this gem.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Very Long Day On The Train

I love to travel by train. Not only is it environmentally friendly, it's quiet, comfortable and I can spend the time reading, writing and catching up with administration. Driving is fun, but time-consuming. Flying is faster, but rarely as productive and never as restful.

One of the great advantages of St Catharines is that there is 10 am train to New York Penn Station every day. It's a long journey -- I've never arrived before 10 pm -- but if you plan it well you can have a very fulfilling day.

Of course, lately it's been hard booking a seat at short notice. I asked a conductor in the cafe car how the gas prices were affecting Amtrak and he said it was crazy, every train was booked solid. Which is good for Amtrak, I just hope it has a corollary effect on the way the system is being run. Because it needs work, especially where a border crossing is concerned.

Take my latest trip back from NY. Torrential rains hit the city the night before and there was chaos at Penn Station as thousands of commuters were stranded by electricity outages on the tracks. Flash flood warnings were out. By the time my 7 am train was up to Yonkers, the Hudson was very high, brown and turbulent, but the worst was over and everything was running smoothly.

And then there was a CRKGRNCH noise. "Uh Oh, that's not good", I thought. Seconds later there was the most almighty wallop and a noise like KGRUDKCRRNCHRRGRUCKRRNNNCHK as pieces of kindling flew past my window and the smell of the brakes grew hotter and hotter.

We had hit a tree.

The train had been passing through a steep cutting and there must have been a sudden landslide. The first crunch must have been a sapling or branch. The second must have been a much larger tree. Nobody was hurt and no windows were broken, but the engine had taken damage and there was wood pulp stuffed into the rubber seals of the windows, pulling them apart.

So we limped into Albany, where we were taken off our car and waited on the platform for replacement stock. After an hour a car was found, the engine was recoupled and we were loaded back on. Unfortunately, because of the delay we had lost our time slot. This meant that whenever another train approached we had to stop and allow it to pass because there's not enough track for two trains going in the same direction, so our one hour delay stretched into two.

Then just outside Niagara Falls, Canada we were delayed another hour because there was already a train in the station. Yep, only one train allowed in the station.

Then there was the usual hour while the customs guys went to each person and quizzed them on why they were entering the country, where were they staying etc. One guy asked all the questions, the other just stood there silently. I think they did the whole train. Two guys.

So I finally got into St C. three and a half hours late. It had been a long, long day and while the rail people were great, I was glad to finally get off the train.
All afternoon people had bitched and moaned. Many were travelling by train for the first time and swore never again, which is a shame because when it works it's a superb way to get from A to B. There will always be unexpected setbacks, but there needs to be more investment in tracks and rolling stock if Amtrak want to capitalize on their sudden windfall in customers.

Oh, and maybe someone can look into streamlining the customs process. Having more than two customs officers per train might be a good place to start.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Some good news, some not so good news

Good news: My brother is arriving tomorrow and will spend my birthday with me.
Bad news: My sister has to have a spinal tap.

The latter item has me pretty upset, even though I was expecting it.

I had put this evening aside to do some blogging, but I can't really think of anything else, so I'll call it a night.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Homo Sapiens is just so Old Hat

Humanity is very restrictive, don't you think? All that bipedalism, opposable thumbs and only two genders to choose feels kind of restrictive. So if you could be a non-human sentient being what would you be? Me, I'd be a Tine (from Vernor Vinge's Fire Upon the Deep). Group minds appeal to me and the Tines have the advantage of being one of a non-insect/biomechanoid group mind. They don't have opposable thumbs, they manipulate tools with teeth and stumpy paws. They can have 360 degree panoramic view. Their personality can change over generations as new members join a pack and old ones die. This process can be voluntary and heterogenous ('loose'-souled people) or controlled like a scientific experiment. I like the idea of having an evolving soul.

What would you be?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

One of these things is not like the others

So as I'm waking up yesterday morning, there's a hockey report on the radio.
Hockey news this week has been quite interesting, not that I know anything about it, but as far as I can tell money is being thrown about like confetti. This report is about one of the latest hot signings. Don't ask me to remember his name, we'll call him 'Bob'. In any case this post isn't about him really, it's about the journalist who did a feature on him.

"Before Bob joined the NHL he did something that he doesn't really talk about with his teamates, but he credits it with making him a man."

Blimey, I think, it's a bit early for this sort of thing isn't it?

But it turns out that Bob, who sounds like a nice young man, worked for two years in Las Vegas as a Mormon missionary. The interviewer was terribly excited at all the crime and hardship that nice young Bob had witnessed, police shootouts, dead soldiers crunching underfoot as he went from boarded up door to boarded up door, all the while wearing a suit in 98 degree heat.

"His neighbours were prostitutes, strippers, and crack dealers," intoned the journalist.

Hang on, I thought. That's just not right. Prostitution and dealing crack = illegal. Stripping = perfectly legal. It's Niagara's second biggest industry after tourism. It's not a career choice for everyone, but there's nothing wrong with it per se. At the end of the day it's a way to pay the bills, like everythings else. How dare the interviewer lump them all together like that? Lazy journalism, it ticks me off.

And today's commentators on Quebec's 400th anniversary kept saying that the Irish ambassador was speaking 'Gaelic'. No she wasn't, she was speaking Irish. Gaelic refers to football or what they spoke in Scotland.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Vor really does mean 'Thief'

I watched Eastern Promises on DVD last night. Here are some of my thoughts:
a) Damn, Viggo Mortensen.
b) How much vodka do I have left in the freezer? Better get some more.
c) Cronenberg got the leather jackets spot on.
d) I wonder if compass star tattoos will become the new Maori sleeve as a result of this film?
e) This is the greatest male nude wrestling scene EVAH!
f) Has anyone else noticed that Cronenberg and Mortensen look like father and son? They are the spit of each other.
g) The make up girl in the corner is totally checking out Viggo as he gets his tats applied for a scene. Proper order.
h) Damn, Viggo Mortensen.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Gynoid, not Android

"My name is Divine Endurance. I am feminine. I am twenty-five small units high at the shoulder, and sixty-two small units long from nose to tail tip. I am independent and it is therefore the more flattering when I respond to affection. I am graceful, agile, and especially good at killing things prettily."

I bought Divine Endurance by Gwyneth Jones in my very early teens, essentially because the protagonist was a talking cat. I lucked out, DE is one of sleeper classics of 80s fantasy, one of the first to really get to grips with changing sexual politics of the late 20th century. It confused the hell out of me by having Cho, the young girl travelling with Divine Endurance, initiate a sexual relationship with a bandit/revolutionary leader Anakmati who is also the Royal Lady Derveet. 'How can you have sex with a woman?' I wondered, in all innocence. [True Story from my schooldays from around the same period. On my way to the lunch hall I'm cornered by the Mean Kids. Them: "Are you a Lesbian? Do you know what a lesbian is?" Me: "Yes, they're people from the island of Lesbos, in Greece. Sappho was one." In the hindsight it's no wonder I had no friends].

Divine Endurance is set in that favorite dystopia of the 80s, the post-apocalyptic world. But it looks east instead of west, most of the action takes place in Thailand. It's hard now to understand just how strange that was, most fantasy one way or another still referenced Tolkein, with occidental, nordic perspective. The dominant ethics are Buddhist, the symbolism is Hindu. Fertile women are in purdah, but the politics are gynocentric. At its heart the book is about the power of Eros, both in a sexual sense and in its original Greek sense as the generative force of the universe, simultaneously destroying and creating. There's no happy ending, but it's an absolutely superb story.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


I'm having a great time listening to Ian's 'Best of 2007' CD and a collection of Luke Haines that he sent in the mail. Toptastic.

If you were a small dog Ian, I'd leave you all my money.

The cartoon above is by Tomi Ungerer, who illustrated Jeff Brown's 'Flat Stanley'. It amuses me that TU's personal work is so twisted. I will read 'Flat Stanley' with new eyes.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Incomparable Mme CKS or What I Will be Doing on my Summer Holidays

One of the irritating things about being an academic is that when summer rolls around you find a lot of people say things like "So, you've got the summer off then?".

And the answer is "No, I will be working bloody hard earning my tenure."

But if I learnt one thing last year it was that you have to make some proper holiday time for yourself where you can leave your home and work offices, not check your email, and avoid your family.

So I'm going to Halifax to visit Queenie in August. People keep telling me that Halifax is a great town, the Dublin of Canada. I'm looking forward to a week of cafe's, vintage clothes stores, gossip, drink, music and maybe even dancing.

I'm so excited I've already got my holiday reading sorted out. I will be bringing Mmm. Chiang Kai-shek's biography and a pulp novel about the Soongs. I'm fascinated by Mme. and her sisters. I'm beginning to consider her something of a role model: intelligent, beautiful, rapacious, and she wears great shoes. Look at the photo. There she is at the Cairo summit in 1943, wearing peep-toes with huge bows. That's style. Shame about the husband, though.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Secret (Sexy?) History of the Mullet

Ah, the mullet, that famous object of derision. Subject of many a joke and a special issue of Grand Royal (#2 if you must know). Long despised haircut of footballers. Known as the VORKUHILA in Germany. Quintessentially a late 70's style that has refused, despite the ridicule, to die.

Or is it? It turns out that the mullet has a long pedigree. In ancient Rome senators wore purple-bordered togas, married women wore a stola, and catamites wore mullets. Or at least that is the conclusion drawn by J. Pollini, in his article ‘Slave boys for sexual and religious service: images of pleasure and devotion’, in Boyle, A. J. and Dominik, W. J. (2003) (eds) Flavian Rome. Culture, Image, Text. Leiden, Boston. Pollini analysed the distinctive 'business in front, pleasure in back' style and concluded that it invariably appears in the context of 1) homosexual scenes between freeborn and slave men/youths
2) the ancient equivalent of altar boys (who may also have been pressed into service in category 1).
So the next time you see someone wearing a mullet you might want to point this out. Or you may want to keep your internal organs in a non-leaky condition, in which case it's probably better to just walk on by.

Sunday, June 08, 2008


It's been very tough. I've been going through a lot and with work and all I just couldn't blog. I'm really, really sorry.