Tuesday, June 30, 2009


The above comic, which I find very funny, is from Pictures for Sad Children. I recommend it.

When I was a kid I read several racist children's books by Helen Bannerman, whose most famous was probably Little Black Sambo. I'm pretty sure I've seen them re-released in a bookshop not too long ago, which I think is not a good thing. They really were deeply, deeply offensive and I think I even knew that as at a very young age. Of course they're also silly and kitsch and a re-release is probably a supposedly ironic move, but nostalgia for a period when open racism was ok isn't something I can encourage.

Bannerman, who was writing around 1900, also created The Story of Little Kettle-Head which is only slightly racist but also very compelling and eerie. Check it out.

Both of these links come from the blog My First Dictionary, which is quite rather funny.

That's all.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Happy Centenary Born Dancin'

This is an interesting article. In brief, a study in the US has sought to quantify whether and why female playwrights have a harder time getting their work produced. I'm not totally sure about the results but I'd like to know if the same situation occurs here in Australia.

Anyway, last night I saw my 100th production for 2009 and wished I hadn't. It was the MTC's Man from Mukinupin and I'd actually seen half of it before - I left at interval on opening night because I was deeply and dramatically bored and fell asleep a few times (which would rule out a review anyway). Yesterday I coughed up $70 to watch it again and my earlier suspicions were confirmed. Mukinupin isn't like watching a car crash but is more like looking down in a public bathroom to notice that your shoelace is untied and trailing in an unidentified liquid. Not a disaster, but occasioning a very heavy sigh.

IN OTHER NEWS: This week's Super Dance Style is Jukin (or Jookin or just Foot Work). It originated in Memphis but is getting pretty popular across the US. It pretty much focuses on super fast, complex footwork. Watch them feet.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Alright you fools, here's your required dose of anty trivia. Although - it must be said - sometimes I wonder why I bother. Not that you don't appreciate it, but I do on sleepless nights wonder if it's not like dishing out gruel to Dickensian urchins only to find that, over time, they have come to love the stuff, to crave it even, and eventually to lose sight of the fact that there may be more to life than this. Am I the prison warden, my ant facts the kind treatment that makes this insufferable jail-time somehow manageable? Such is the internet.

In any case, I am not open to replies. I must simply ladle out my facts and keep my concerns to myself. If anyone should care to produce an Ant Fact Monday theme song, possibly called "Born, I'm Antly Dancin'" then perhaps ('mayhaps'?) I may reconsider this stance ('stants').


There's a fungus which turns ants into zombies.

When infected, the ant is compelled to wander away from its colony and attach itself to a plant.

The ant eventually dies and the fungus emerges as a growth from the ant's head which drops spores to the ground.

More ants come across the spores and themselves become infected as zombies.

The cycle of unlife continues.


The inventively-named Large Blue Butterfly of northern Europe was until recently near extinction.

Scientists have discovered that the butterfly's disappearance was linked to cruel farming practices.

Farmers in the 1950s killed a lot of rabbits with myxomatosis. As a result, grass grew a little taller, since the rabbits weren't munching on it.

The grass - now longer by less than an inch - cooled the soil below by a degree or two. The local red ant population wasn't keen on the chill and moved away.

But while nobody likes ants, everybody seems to like butterflies.

The Large Blue Butterfly is a bit of a leech on the red ant population, since Blue Butterfly caterpillars have learnt to imitate the sounds of little red ants. The ants look after the caterpillars and nurture them, even while the caterpillars are feasting on the ants. Eventually the grub becomes a beautiful butterfly and takes to the skies.

Someone worked this out and brought cows in to graze on these grasses, and now the ants and the butterflies are back.

CONCLUSION: Ants are stupid but sort of kind. Butterflies, on the other hand, are merciless bastards.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Pig War

His garden is not orderly but it is, to his mind, in order. Lyman Cutlar sees the black pig digging its nose into one of the potato beds. It is the size of a port barrel on squat, hairy legs. It is oblivious to his presence. A man stands by the fence laughing.

Cutlar fetches his gun from its resting place above the back door’s lintel and returns to the garden. The pig’s snout has uprooted several dirty potatoes and is scattering them as it eats. The laughing man runs off at the sight of the weapon and Cutlar, red-faced, shoots the swine. Or, he raises his gun and fires at the pig and the man scampers off into the trees.

The pig does not die easily.

Cutlar has killed animals before.

The pig was not his to kill. He is dimly aware that it belongs to the Irishman. He finds the Irishman on the sheep ranch and words are exchanged.

I will give you $10 for your pig.

The pig was not yours to kill. You will give me $100 for the pig.

Your pig was on my land. You must keep your pig out of my potatoes.

It is up to you to keep your potatoes out of the pig.

The Irishman reports Cutlar’s offence. Cutlar, meanwhile, has been unsettled by the nasty affair. He talks to fellow American settlers, one of whom asks to see the gun. Cutlar does not want to produce the weapon.

Cutlar and the Irishman live on an island, but the island is large enough that one can never see it encircled by water. It does not feel isolated, not entirely.

The British across the strait are sending men to arrest Cutlar. The American settlers grow defensive. They call for a blockade. Sixty six American troops arrive on the island to prevent the British arrival.

The British send three warships to the island.

The Americans send cannons and more than five hundred men.

The British send more ships, more guns, more men. Two thousand men. Cutlar has never counted to two thousand. His mind still turns to the gun, to the pig, to the disorderly garden. The British will come tramping through his garden, boots sinking into the soil where the pig and potatoes yesterday lay rotting. The Americans will come to fight them, overturning the earth which has only now begun to settle, be covered with cold dry leaves.

What did he do with the pig and where did those half-chewed potatoes go? What of the laughing man? He no longer remembers, on this island slowly filling with other men from elsewhere.

The men leave the island and the Pig War of 1859 becomes the only war in which the single fallen corpse belonged to a pig.

And Cutlar, staring at his gun on the lintel and the potato patch beyond, realises that he was the only man to fire a shot in this war. Where does that leave him? Will it leave him? Where is the laughing man? Why does he no longer remember, now, in 2009, so many islands away? As he types this the only thing he remembers are his rash words to the Irishman. They are both a long way from understanding pigs and potatoes.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tom the Loneliest

Just a quickie for Melbourne theatre types:

This doesn't really look like an image that would sell a show to me, but Tom the Loneliest is definitely worth catching at La Mama. It's by Adelaide's No Strings Attached and is proof that if you bear the theatregoer's cross for long enough you'll be rewarded with some kind of salvation (however temporary). It's sort of somewhere between Black Lung and Ranters; it doesn't exactly have a story or a pin-downable setting but is more a succession of presents that evoke recognisable types, genre situations and comic set-ups. Tom is a loser addicted to porn, Fiji water and calling Maureen at the QuitLine. He lives with Tom, another loser addicted to porn, hating on his neighbour and playing with the lights. More Toms proliferate as the show unfolds, including the brilliantly played Tom the Real Estate Sign (who is exactly that) and a Tom that doesn't even exist. It's junkyard theatre done well, the chaotic set filled with all sorts of detritus, but with the added element of cunning product placement.

That's all I'll say for now. A weird, powerful, consistently funny show. Let me know what you think.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Scientific Concepts Explained Through Dance


The following clip (which I discovered through my old housemate and noted diarist Jess) demonstrates the scientific concept of "emergence". Watch it closely, without skipping through it.

Emergence has been in vogue amongst egg-headed types for some time, and is essentially an academic word for "magic". The final note in this video is wrong: it does not take one person to start a party. It takes one person followed by a few others who seem to be taking the piss who are joined by others with perhaps drunken or drug-fuelled enthusiasm. If enough critical mass is achieved, a tipping point may be reached in which piss-taking becomes something entirely other and irony makes a leap into genuine, magical energy.

I found this clip quite annoying at first but by about halfway through was giving it two flailing arms up.