Saturday, 21 January 2017

Interim reading log

The most recent London Review of Books (39.1) contains a really great essay on David Bowie's legacy, by Ian Penman (or rather it is on, as Penman says, "the alleged Bowie 'legacy'"). This is easily the most worthwhile thing I've read on the subject, which, without getting mawkish, is one that matters a lot to me. 

It's also a superb piece of critical work by any measure. A little taste:

People still get into knots about the ‘mystery’ of Bowie’s serial life-swapping in the 1970s, but he’d been pulling the same trick for years on the perimeter of Tin Pan Alley before he applied it to rock. A bit of sci-fi, a bit of up-in-the-air sexuality, a bit of scarves-in-the-air sing-along, a bit of an ‘Oh no he isn’t!’ panto vibe, and a lot of power chords. Surely one of the main reasons we project other, more fancy motivations onto the blank screen of Bowie’s waiting face is precisely because of its breathtaking and deeply odd beauty. If he’d looked more like John Bonham we might not be having this conversation.
I could quote a dozen similarly sparkling readings - of music and performance, but also reception, fandom, the phases of the career, and the aftermath - but they'd lose a lot by being removed from the context of the bigger argument Penman is advancing. This is that the key quality of David Bowie's gorgeous, suggestive, unhinged work is the particular way in which it authorises freedom, experiment and imagination. He "left spaces for his followers: not just the hierarchy of stardom and fandom but a strange, astute, uncanny folding of one into the other." 

One of the many good things about what Penman does is the way he uses the familiar trope of the review-essay - a conversation about, and also with, books, an enactment of the way a book opens a dialogue with you - to mirror and develop this argument, and where appropriate, to point out that several of the books he is reviewing fail to live up to or capture the astral and explorative spirit of their subject. And in the risks he takes with his own writing Penman honours that critical insight. He shifts genre and tone, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes the gear changes and layerings are hilarious and revealing and sometimes they are just embarrassing. The result of this is an overall richness of effect which probably can't be obtained in any other way, and as I have been trying to indicate, is itself a kind of depiction of the great strength of Bowie's method: selves, voices, attitudes as "mere categories, useful dance steps, not unbreakable truths." And I really liked that Penman doesn't try to act cool, like he's just dashed this thing off - it's very apparent that getting this piece right, striving to find exactly the words, mattered very much indeed and required a lot of careful labour. 

The essay is currently open access but unlikely to stay that way for very long, so I've also downloaded the essay in PDF form and I'll link to it too when I can organise somewhere to put the file. 

Friday, 20 January 2017

Inside & outside

One of the nice things about this job I do is this: irrespective of what outrageousnesses are going on in the universe, regardless of the atrocities & indignities Melbourne's climate foists upon us, it is always - always - a clarifying, sobering, calming experience to approach the front door of the building and walk inside. For me, it's not really a function of the ostensive purpose and meaning of the building - it's more fundamental than that - it's a basic physical response to the space, the quietness, the classical order, the sheer volume of sky arching over the hill and the gardens.

But once inside that feeling tends to ebb away somewhat. It's always there somewhere and it can be drawn on by things as simple as looking around, or looking up, when I remember to do this. But as a rule it becomes just like anywhere else that people are doing their jobs. Perhaps, as I've noted, a little bit more peculiar than other work places, I'm not certain.

When I came in today a colleague approaching from the other end of the hall called a cheery good morning. As we got nearer, he then said, Ha! you look like I feel! Whoosh went my peaceful feeling, to be replaced with a simple, silent, inward, all-caps WTF. Anyone's guess as to what he actually meant. I'm still wasting precious seconds of my life trying to work it out.

For the record:

Thursday, 19 January 2017

stories with no morals

Well I have reached a point that I did not really expect to - all the posts on the front page of this here blog were written in the current year. I know right! I would celebrate if I could think of an appropriate mode in which to do so. But I cannot think of anything, because I am very, very tired - not sleeping - and also there is a nest of unleasant portents and omens gathering around me and probably around you too.

I asked for my work computer to be fixed and just to teach me an important life lesson, it was removed and replaced with one that has none of my stuff on it and also makes a horrible high pitched whining noise. So I took my own laptop to work and am using that. I couldn't be bothered bringing it home today. This means that in order to blog I have to use my phone.  I thought I would do some yoga while writing this post but I got kind of stuck in striking cobra, not in that I was unable to move, more that I couldn't see a reason to bother, and then Vinnie snuck up and bit me on the foot as is his cruel and savage wont.

This is a day of great lucklessness in the foot department because a little earlier I was finding clothes to wear to work tomorrow and I took out a twelve year old pair of high heeled campers which I suddenly remembered I owned and moreover are the most fantastic pair of shoes ever created. But the sole and heel are made of red rubber which has somehow decayed or corroded, and as if in a dreadful nightmare, I was standing there with beautiful shoes disintegrating in my hands. And just a short time earlier than this, I was on the couch reading Brideshead Revisited when I fell asleep, and when I woke up a little later not one but both my feet were sort of half on top of and half inside my dinner, a Spinach pie from A1 bakery that I bought on my way home and which I had thought about all afternoon instead of what I should have been thinking about, which was the Cuban missile crisis. Well there is nothing for it but to link to an eleven year old achewood strip that explains what's about to happen, tomorrow or the day after. Achewood

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Reading log

I used to do these posts about what I'd been reading and at the time they were undoubtedly of very small interest to anyone except for me, and maybe not even me come to think of it. So it's definitely a good idea to start doing them again.

In terms of noting and bridging the gap of about six years between the unplanned demise of SASB and its recent unplanned reanimation, well, I think the reading log would go something like this:

2011 up to end of April: some of the Miles Franklin longlist, a binge on Sookie Stackhouse novels, Naomi Wolf, Katha Pollitt, Rosalind Belben, Jenny Diski

the rest of 2011: Baby Love by Robyn Barker, some Dr Seuss. My Brother Jack was the only book in the lunatic asylum I spent some time in at the very end of the year, so I did read that. I'd read it before though. Also read, very slowly and traumatisedly,  a really strange book debunking Flora Rheta Schrieber's book Sybil, that I think is called Sybil Exposed. I was fascinated by Sybil thoughout my whole adolescence. Just writing this down is making me want to read it again. Thinking about it now I feel worried about why I read it so many times. That can't have been healthy. I also think now that it's bizarre that I could ever have not been sceptical about the reality of some aspects of Sybil's childhood experiences as described in the book. I was, and to an extent have remained, an overly credulous reader especially when something outrageous is being asserted.

2012: Many books, but only one that I hadn't read twenty or thirty times before, always held in just one hand and usually being wept upon and read simultaneously. The single exception: Elisabeth Badinter, The Conflict.

2013: feverish orientation of self within new disciplinary field: philosophy of higher education. Peter Serafinowicz's One Billion Jokes vol 1.

2014: see 2013, plus Freud, Melanie Klein, Donald Winnicott, Wilfred Bion, Jessica Benjamin, Adam Phillips. Those stupid vampire plague novels, I can't even remember what they were called. By Justin someone.

2015: Kim Stanley Robinson's three enormous novels about Mars, then all of the other books about Mars ever. All of Doris Lessing's Children of Violence novels, then the Canopus in Argos novels. Lena Dunham (Loathed it loathed it loathed it.) Had the joyful experience of discovering two new to me novelists and going back through their work to date: Coulson Whitehead and J. Robert Lennon.

2016: All of the books about war memorials, war, wars, wartime, killing, being a soldier, being the child or spouse of a soldier, gender and war, drugs and war, animals and war, race and war, the environment and war, the politics of war memorialisation. Plus Morrissey's Autobiography, again, just the first 200 pages or thereabouts. Cintra Wilson.

2017 (OMFG this is exciting, isn't it? Don't answer that)

Hadley Freeman, Life Moves Pretty Fast: The Lessons We Learned From Eighties Movies and Why We Don't Learn Them From Movies Any More I've been a huge fan of Hadley Freeman, who writes consistently excellent, subversive, brilliantly comic cultural commentary, for at least fifteen years and I was relieved to find that this book is just as awesome as her Guardian columns. It's also been interesting to see her advancing a version of an argument I recently somehow found myself trying to make - that certain aspects of our world have deteriorated dramatically within living memory and there are no signs that the decline isn't terminal. She's talking about the fate of artistry and ideas in American mass culture and, well, I bought her argument. The other notable thing about this book is its tonal gymnastics. It's a bleak outlook with a rich and warm comic streak - not gallows humour - there's a sweetness to it. I add this book to a small group of delightful American works (like William Dereciewicz's Excellent Sheep) which are cynical and bitter about the imminent decline and fall of western culture but at the same time, touchingly enthusiastic about the idea that great works of art teach us stuff.

Rebecca Solnit, Men Explain Things To Me Mostly re-reading the essays in this collection. The title essay is a far thinner thing than I remembered it being. The other essays, especially those about violence, are more useful because Solnit is extremely good at lifting what could be just a passionate and well-written hot take on crime against women into the realm of purposeful activist writing, with anger that burns but doesn't impede the clear-eyed assessment of what needs to be done, right now.

Owen Hatherley, The Ministry of Nostalgia what a great book this is, far from perfect but such an incisive, timely and in the main accurate diagnosis and demolition of the grotesque prancing farrago of crap that Hatherley names 'austerity nostalgia', epitomised by the monstrous and offensive leviathan that is Keep Calm and Carry On. The idea of the book is that the aestheticisation of things about the past that were crappy, and things about the past that never actually happened that way, is not just how Jamie Oliver has built his empire but also explains why the Left is unable to effectively resist neoliberalism, drawing as it does its narratives from a weak and fictive idea of a lost golden age of working class solidarity. I was quite sceptical about Hatherley before picking this up but I'm a complete convert now. Great book.

List TEN albums that MADE a lasting IMPACT on YOU as a teenager

1. Today was the third day back at work - that's going ooooooookaaaaay - I still haven't clicked back into the groove but I can already tell that this going to be a year of greatness workwise, because on the first afternoon back, I went upstairs to the special room* and while I was making small talk with the volunteer on duty there we had the great good fortune to see a young person tumble over the little stone fence* and land on his bottom on the special rock* in there. No harm done, but it was a wonderful thing to observe and I am just so pleased I was there to witness it.

2. Also today I saw my doctor again for the first time in almost a month - that went extremely well -  afterwards my life made sense to me again, and I felt so unburdened that I went and sat in a nearby park for a while just to smile and do nothing in the shade. The transference is so strong that think I may be developing a secondary transference from the doctor onto my bicycle, towards which I am feeling strong sensations of gratitude, affection and respect.

3. If someone set out to design a social media fad that you won't be able to enjoy if you are in the habit of spending 45 minutes a week being psychoanalysed, they couldn't possibly come up with a better one than the 'list ten albums that made a lasting impact on you as a teenager' thing that's doing the rounds on facebook right now.

4. For one thing, unless you're drawing on other evidence than your own memories, you can't actually identify 'now' what it was that mattered to you 'back then'. What you can do instead is identify what you 'right now' need 'back then' to be all about. It's not what you're telling that's truly revealing, rather it's the way you tell it. Still works really well as self-disclosure, just doesn't mean what you think it means.

5. The instruction in the meme was "don't overthink it" and it's clear that that's a totally impossible requirement.

6. So it's funny and also a bit depressing to see loads of people obviously falsifying their lists in an attempt to make their past teenaged selves look cool.

7. I really liked two responses, though: one was just a photo of Johnny Cash and the other was a list of compilations of top 40 pop hits.

8. If I was to just list a lot of records that I was interested in as a teenager, I think that would be immensely boring. There's no pattern, unless the pattern is casting around for something that might stick.

9. I thought about what I'd put in my personal list, and like the Johnny Cash person, I could only get behind one album that felt right: The Beatles ( ie the White Album). I knew almost all the Beatles' stuff by the time I was ten but we didn't have this record until I went and got it, in probably around about 1984. The album came with four A4-sized colour photographs of the group; these I took to school and pinned on the wall of our home classroom. I was deeply into reading everything I could get about the Beatles at this stage, and one of those books was a very detailed and probably fairly mild tell-all kind of affair by someone who worked for the Beatles in some kind of administrative capacity. From the book I got a picture of how the Beatles ceased to function as a band and I applied this understanding to the White Album. I reckon it was at about this time that the listening habit which I still have, for better or for worse, of obsessively playing one record to death before moving on to the next obsession, was formed.

10. The only other real candidate that I could come up with was The Smiths' live album "Rank" which I played a hell of a lot then, but really dislike now.

*Look, just for simplicity's sake, I'm not going to name my workplace or use any of the very many keywords associated with it.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Tell us about a time you made a terrible mistake at work.

I'm about to tell a story which I've told many times since the incident occurred. Consequently there's bound to be some slickness to the telling - sadly, since the essence of the story is the opposite of slickness: a heaving cornucopia of raw incompetence bringing forth a trainwreck of uncontrolled self-exposure in close to, but not quite, the worst imaginable manner.

I took about ten months off work after Lenny's birth, returning on the first day of teaching. At the time I was delivering my Jane Austen subject partly in block mode, starting the semester with a full day workshop for the entire group of students. So I'd got all the materials for this workshop ready at home in the last week or so of my mat leave, and prepared all the media and slideshows on my own laptop, which I brought in and used on the day, plugged into the AV desk in the teaching room. 
It was going fine. I was standing with my back to the screen, a little distance from the lectern, using a remote to click through slides while I talked about Jane Austen's context and milieu. There are lots of excellently interesting and revealing images available from that world in that period and I had some great ones in this slideshow. All the same, at some point I became aware that the hundred or so people sitting in front of me were watching the screen with unusually avid attention. I remember thinking that perhaps I'd made the point extra well that even though we don't have any satisfactory and verifiable portraits of Jane Austen herself, the many portraits of her siblings are so similar to each other that it's not too hard to visualise what her features must have been like. And then the students gasped and I knew for certain they weren't looking at my slideshow. They were looking at something else.  

I turned around, hearing them gasp again and louder than before, still somehow believing what I'd see on the screen would be something like this:

or this:

or even this.

You already know where this is going, don't you? Yes, of course you've most certainly thought of what I hadn't anticipated, or remembered: when a Macbook is plugged into an AV system that requires a change of display settings, if the display of the MB goes to sleep, it won't play the machine's usual sleep/screensaver. Instead, on its own initiative, it will proceed directly to the photo library, and play a slideshow of images plucked from your personal photograph collection. So what I saw they'd been watching with such rapt attention, for only they know how long, was a slideshow, complete with Ken Burns transitions, of the pictures taken by one of the theatre nurses at Leonard's birth. 


At this point in the story (and I've only told it verbally before now) if the listeners are women they ask, apprehensively, how the baby was delivered. 

Well, this was where it was up to when I saw it and stopped the thing:












That's a Caesarian birth going on right there. You can see three or four of my internal organs if you look closely (and I have), some cut open and others merely pushed to the side, and a strange whitish rim that's wrapped in plastic which I think is a sort of brace holding open the cut-apart skin and fat and muscle. So the women listeners are always very relieved to hear that my students didn't see a set of photos of a vaginal delivery. And even though the c-section was really tough to recover from, I am myself super super glad that this is what the students got an eyeful of and not the other items. I very much doubt I could tell this story if it had been otherwise.

So people then ask, What did you do? Well what I did was, I said something like Oh dear! and woke up the slideshow, and continued with the workshop. Actually, then and there, it was the easiest thing in the world for me to brush it off. At this juncture in my life, my daily reality was defined by public bewilderment, failure and indignity. The wheels had fallen spectacularly off just about six weeks earlier and it felt quite unexceptionable to have my persona of academic competence, gravitas, and authority irreparably destroyed just two hours after returning to work. 

In the event, a discernible loss of confidence aside, I think the consequences for me from this episode were amazingly mild. Actually there were no direct repercussions from authority. I know students discussed it widely, faculty-wide at least, but I don't believe anyone complained. And for the remainder of that year and the next two, girl students would sometimes ask me questions about having babies. 'You know those pictures we saw', they'd begin. Yes, I knew the ones. Then they'd come out with whatever it was they'd been stewing on. I always felt grateful when this happened. It allowed me to believe I'd done some good in a strange way, some role-modelling even. Doing scholarship with a tradition of women's writing that revolves around self-disclosure helped me to be cool about it, continue to go to work etc, although a not small part of me knew there's a big difference between highly wrought and calculated self-revelation for artistic and political purposes, and the sloppy out-of-control thing I'd accomplished. And yet, still.   

It's quite interesting to me to reflect on how my feelings about this event have changed with each retelling of the anecdote. The first time I told somebody about it who wasn't already used to hearing the intimate details of my fuckups, I was acting completely on impulse, driven by a wish to provide moral support to an fellow academic whom I had only just met and who was experiencing a professional cataclysm. I wanted to show him that he hadn't humiliated himself too dreadfully in the grand scheme of things, and I do think he cheered up a little bit. He certainly pulled himself together enough to get on with his part of the project we were working on. Just the same, I felt very afraid as I told the story - where was I going with this? - especially when I got to the point in it where people always wonder (aloud or to themselves) just what parts of my body were visible in the photos the students saw. To his great credit, in spite of my own unease and lack of control over the narrative, this first listener produced a response that demonstrated that he didn't think any less of me for what he'd just heard. This hasn't always been the case: a person who heard this story quite recently, and who I would have thought would be well able to take it in his stride, has since referred back to it in ways that show he just isn't as unflappable / imaginative / chilled a person as I had thought. Not that I was hurt by a lack of sympathy from that quarter, it's more that it's just saddening when people who seem OK turn out instead to be smallminded. Telling someone a true and alarming story about yourself, when you are no longer agitated by the memory, is an interesting thing to do: it can be both a gift of trust and intimacy to that person, and a test of their capacity to cope with your mess. Writing the story and putting it out into the world to be received by anyone at all, well, I think that's an extension and enlargement of the same principle (so the exercise then becomes a generalised test of one's capacity to make gifts and an open invitation to receive them.) Excepting, of course, the people who sit on job interview panels. I applied for lots of jobs in 2015/16, and whenever I was asked to describe some sort of cock-up I'd committed, I never described this one (although I always thought about it.) Next time I'm looking for a new job I'll just make this blog temporarily private, that appears to have worked in the past.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

A challenger will arise

A. Reader has written in. Staggering astonishments will never, ever cease will they? Although I should not be too surprised because nothing motivates like seizing the opportunity to find and point out faults and flaws and most especially things that are considered to be fishy.

Reader is sceptical of the claim advanced in my last bloggerly masterpiece, ie that I managed to make myself vomit by laughing at something on the internet.

WHY THE CRAP WOULD I LIE ABOUT THIS, or anything else I bothered to write down here for the edification of myself and whoever you are? Really, why? Well, now I feel I have to justify myself. I will spell it out then, on condition that in future a little more good faith is extended in this direction.

The simple fact is, I have a gross cold that came on about a week ago, and as always when I get a cold, it's now just a hacking cough which disgusts and annoys everybody within sight and earshot. I laughed a lot and it irritated my already sore thoat, the laugh turned into a cough, I coughed / laughed till I gagged, and just like that, up came the contents of my stomach, that being a beetroot icy pole and quite a lot of phlegm. Sorry but I didn't take a photo. The couch I was sitting on is old leather and it has seen absolutely everything that human beings can spill, eject and excrete, so no lasting damage was done, not even to my dignity and sense of self-worth which has taken far severer blows than this and still emerged in tip-top condition. That reminds me, I might as well write my next post about the thing I did on my first day back at work from maternity leave. Probably, no undoubtedly, the most bloggable experience of my entire life, what a shame it would be not to commit it to the internet for ever and ever.

I didn't go into all of this yesterday because it didn't seem relevant to the overall thrust of the narrative, and also I suppose that I was operating on the assumption that within the confines of my own blog I get to make the decisions about what needs to be spelled out and what doesn't.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Share something difficult you've been through.

When the alarm went off this morning, I moved my hand which was under the covers. My fingers brushed against something which felt like a twisted sweet wrapper. What has Dorian been eating in bed while I was away, I thought. I held the thing and felt it sleepily. Disgustingly it began to come apart in my fingers. I also noticed that some parts of it felt a bit like plastic but another part felt rounded and furry. I sat up and turned on the light. In my hand was half of a huge dead moth. I recognised it as the same moth that I'd seen on the bedroom wall before I turned off the light the previous evening. Like all overly large insects, it had obviously tried to get into my mouth or up my nose during the night. When I got out of bed I found the rest of the bits of it smeared across the sheets and, utterly revoltingly, in a number of places on my skin including inside my pyjamas.

That was a pretty difficult start to proceedings. Other difficult things I've been through today include helping Lenny build a lego ice-cream van after dinner, I managed about half an hour before I felt the approach of the point when I just can't bear it for a single moment longer - happily today I was able to say to him in a normal tone of voice "let's do the rest tomorrow" and there was no explosion on anyone's part. This does mean that tomorrow I will have to finish building the fucking ice-cream van. In between the moth and the ice-cream van I went through several quite okay things but sharing those is not the theme of today's little fireside chat, which is good I suppose in that I might very well end up boring myself into a coma.

I will however share one terrible yet great thing I have been though recently, this being making myself laugh so hard I was actually sick. I was sitting on the couch last night wondering if there was any awful slogan that you could not buy printed on a t-shirt (line of inquiry suggested by a couple of different things I've seen the youth wearing in Sydney Road recently). So I searched for some, and sure enough, t-shirts are available, but the thing that cracked me up to the point of emesis was this graphic I happened across on the gallery of a user-generated content site of utter, mindless, inane depravity called, of course, Keep Calm-O-Matic.

Words to live by!! It is just the best thing ever. I could look at it for hours, and hours, and hours, and hours, and hours. And no doubt I shall.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

The holiday is over

Tomorrow morning I go back to work. Feeling oddly unready for it. There have been times over the last three weeks when I've longed to be at work (ie the morning I took Len on the inflatable water slide at Federation Square, thus breaking a lifelong rule not to wear my bathers in a place where most people aren't wearing their bathers) but now that the day has almost arrived I see it'll take a bit of effort to reinsert myself into the daily rhythms, remember people's names etc.

A little worrying this, because there's only about a week before biggish things need to start happening, and so I don't have much time to reacclimatise. I do know that it'll be ok. It's just tedious to embark on a new stage feeling already behindhand with things. Also, not so much worrying but interesting, after many months of being obsessively preoccupied with the new workplace every waking moment, and seeing it as a rich and absorbing environment in a variety of ways, it's quite a surprise to find that its vividness has faded in my mind after a only a very short period of absence.

I wonder why this is. It's not as if I've found something else to be preoccupied by. Perhaps there has been a kind of illusory interestingness lent to the place for me by how completely it was and is unlike anything else in my experience. I hope that's not all that's at the bottom of the fascination. Admittedly it was seriously exhausting to be always in cognitive overdrive - puzzling out every little detail of the place, its cultures, its functions, its weirdnesses, its saids and unsaids, its depths, its vulnerabilities etc - and for the first six months I would come home from work and just mentally crash. I'm happy not to carry on in that mode. But nearing the end of last year, with a view to working towards beginning to research and publish again, I came to some provisional conclusions about what it was that I was finding so fascinating about the place. In large part it's to do with the ambivalences and tensions in the way the content of the place is conceptualised and acted upon by those who are involved with it. So far so good, and so susceptible to scholarship. But along with this I also had a sense of being an observer, not an insider just yet, gazing upon a situation like the one which is supposed to have inspired Kingsley Amis to write Lucky Jim. Amis was visiting Phillip Larkin at Leicester and accompanied him onto campus and into the university common room. 
I looked round a couple of times and said to myself, “Christ, somebody ought to do something with this.” Not that it was awful - well, only a bit; it was strange and sort of developed, a whole mode of existence no one had got on to from outside. 
Now, I certainly didn't think I'd do anything so foolish, unethical and self-sabotaging as to try to write about the culture of the place, in a satirical vein or any other. But I did decide it had that peculiar quality of being developed, indeed possessed it to a much greater degree than the actual modern universities I've worked in and known intimately. And this is why I am a little perturbed to find that I've largely forgotten the specifics. Well, it'll be interesting to see what tomorrow is like. As it always is. 

Tuesday, 10 January 2017


What is some of your favourite music? In my phone there's a playlist called 'songs I really like'. Let's have a look. When I decided to try blogging again I did think about the prospect of public self-humiliation, but I didn't anticipate it taking this form nor coming in quite so quickly. Well, anyway, it is entirely out of my hands and I can't do anything about it now, so: Brian Eno - "I'm Set Free"; Sufjan Stevens - "Should Have Known Better"; Todd Rundgren - "Can We Still Be Friends?"; LCD Soundsystem - "Home"; Rdiohead - "True Love Waits"; David Bowie - "Sound and Vision"; Eurogliders - "Can't Wait To See You"; Shonen Knife - "Jet"; Paul McCartney - "Maybe I'm Amazed"; Tears for Fears - "Pale Shelter"; James Blake - "A Case of You" - etc

List your three favourite scents. The oil released by a just-peeled mandarine; clean sea air; liquorice tea. I am also extremely fond of scents that come in bottles and the three I like best are Chanel no.5, Flowerbomb, and Jean-Paul Gaultier. Highly unoriginal and unsophisticated, but I adore them all and there is not much in the way of little everyday pleasures that I like more than rubbing one of these delicious smells onto my own skin and derangedly huffing it exactly like Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet. Oh god, I'm doing it now. Nose to wrists. You freakin freaker!

How do you ground yourself or recharge? If I was an electric car I would do this by plugging myself into the charging station round at Ceres, but sadly I am not, so what I do is get out for a wander - by the creek, on the road, through the trees. Mostly on a bike, and with my headphones in so I can listen to some more of that maudlin etiolated whispery music (or music with great beats - sooky wailing over a very danceable groove is the best, hence Low Bowie) just like a hormonally challenged fifteen year old.

Any ways you treat or spoil yourself? This is a difficult one. I hardly ever deny myself anything that I want. It might take a while before I plunge in, but I pretty much always get there in the end. So I am continually treating myself, I guess - or perhaps am I permanently spoilt? Either way, there's not much that I can do to break the appalling monotony, the drab routine, of self-treating and autospoiling. I did buy myself a very, very lovely and very expensive pair of shoes last year, and it felt awesome but also frightening - like, this is a bridge that I really didn't need to cross.

Besides your blog, do you have a creative past-time? Yes, I love to sew. I really love it and I am pretty good at it now, after all the practice, all the trial and error, and I get such a ridiculous amount of satisfaction out of making my own clothes. I also enjoy baiting some of the more idiotic people in my orbit, and I flatter myself that I am pretty skilled at this too.

Share something difficult you've been through. Well, keep on reading the blog. It's all gonna come out, I fear.

What helps you fall asleep? Falling asleep is easy. Everything helps me fall asleep. It's staying asleep that's the problem.

What is one strength and one weakness of yours? I think I'm quite an accomplished reader of people - I don't always get it right, but often enough. The weakness is that I sometimes succumb to the temptation of then trying to manipulate those people into doing what I want them to do, instead of just asking them politely.

Have you ever received a letter or written one to someone else? Yes. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by this question. Mailed personal letters are quite rare. I wrote lots and lots of fan letters when I was a child and a teenager. Some of my grandparents wrote me memorable letters. I received love-letter type things once or twice from people who couldn't or wouldn't speak to me directly about their emotions. And I was once dumped by post. I should have held onto that one (the letter, not the boy.)

What makes you feel powerful, what breathes life into you? Love. Dancing.

What's your favourite thing to do at night? Talk.

(I'm censoring myself now.)

If you could go back to any eras, what would they be? All eras. Pffft.

Your favourite things to wear at home? Clean cotton pyjama pants and a floral kimono.

If you could be immortal or have an extremely long life span which would you pick and why? Easy. I would go for immortality. When this question comes up, and it seems to come up a lot doesn't it, I am never convinced that those who think living forever would become a boring hell are not just being a bit unimaginative.

Tell us about something positive you have done for yourself or someone recently. Well, I'm still here in Warrnambool with Len. I think that bringing him here for a few days of quality beach time fits the definition of doing something positive for another person. That was certainly my aim. As for myself I've enjoyed it in a way. I've unequivocally enjoyed watching him have such a wonderful time playing in the sea.

One thing you like about your appearance? I like my colouring. The shades of white, pearl, silver, mushroom in my undyed hair.

Something that makes you feel better after a hard day? Seeing my doctor always makes me feel better. Everyone should have therapy.

If you have one, name a favourite book & movie. A favourite book: Persuasion. A favourite movie: Dead Man.