Friday, September 26, 2008

fa la la la laaa la la la laaaa

It's September! What better time to start selling Christmas decorations?

Sadly enough, when I walked through Kmart yesterday, I came across a whole row of artificial Christmas trees, including this: (or something very like it)

A Yuletide palm tree!

The Kmart one had multi-coloured lights, but otherwise it's very similar.

If I ever start buying fake palm trees made out of glitter with multi-coloured lights and claim that it's somehow related to a spiritual festival, please slap me.

Friday, September 19, 2008


Today I went to a departmental seminar about historiographical nationalism. It was a very last minute decision because it can be quite daunting going to these seminars with big scary historians, especially if you walk in late. But you get Brownie points with the staff for attending, and I think it was worth it, because academic criticism can yield quite interesting people-watching.

I wouldn't have known it, but apparently this seminar was a bit controversial. Immediately after the speaker finished, and the request had gone out for "Comments? Questions?", one of the particularly scary professors, who is rather old, fierce and stuck in his ways, gave some quite provocative-sounding criticism. At least, it sounded so to me. Then the other resident staff started putting in their two cents. It was all very amicable but given that I've just decided to do a Masters, it's terrifying watching the door open into the world of peer review and criticism. Not that we don't get criticised now - it's just we're so liable to burst into tears if they do it aggressively that I think they've learned that Honours students are not to be dealt with carelessly.

Then, as the speaker was summing up his final defence, he said: "Of course, his book is the perfect antidote for fretful sleepers."

I laughed.

A few heads turned my way. One professor who could stare down a Basilisk fixed her eyes on me for at least FIVE WHOLE SECONDS.

What did I do wrong? Wasn't that supposed to be a witty historical insult?

It wasn't until later that I realised Fretful Sleepers is a famous book in the New Zealand history world.

I think I can sum up with what one of the current Masters students said to me via Facebook a few days ago, when I was complaining about essay-writing. Hang in there, it will soon be over, and then you can come and join me in the world of self-doubt and academic criticism!

[By the way, regarding the Masters decision (as I did ask your opinion) - this isn't a rejection of the Russia trip idea but simply a postponement. I think it makes a lot more sense to do a year of undergrad Russian language at uni next year while I do my Masters, and then go, instead of plunging straight into Russia next year without a word of Russian other than "do you speak English?"]

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I LOVE spring!

Last year I think it would be fair to say I missed spring. I was in Australia, and Australia doesn't have a real winter, and so September just feels slightly warmer and flies begin to annoy you. Back in Christchurch, however - it's like the first day of September is a sudden, uncanny change. Winter is no more. Spring is upon us! We may have had a few days of icky weather in the last two weeks, but it's the icky weather of spring, not the icky weather of winter. Best of all, flowers are suddenly appearing. Everywhere!

The daphne bushes are out in flower - my favourite smell in the whole wide world! [This is not my photo.]
At uni, the trees are blossoming around us...
I was going to be a good girl today and study hard, but as soon as I got to uni and allowed myself to be distracted by the sun and the flowers and the general niceness, I got a sudden urging to go into town, to Hagley Park, with the rest of Christchurch, and wander lonely as a cloud among the daffodils.

At this time of year, daffodils, snowdrops and bluebells carpet the floor of the Christchurch Botanical Gardens and it's rather lovely to join everyone else in wandering and admiring. It's one of those genuinely beautiful things about Christchurch that not only tourists enjoy.

I thought these two girls were particularly cool for finding parasols for the occasion.
Now I am back at university, about to start writing my essay. I wanted to share this final photo, though. This is a tree just outside the History building. Apparently the tea bags are an addition by a Fine Arts student. They looked horrid during winter, limp brown sacs hanging on bare branches, but for some reason, with the blossom coming out, I rather like them. At least, I'm intrigued. Is it supposed to be a tea tree? or is that too obvious? Is there some deep significant meaning inherent in the act of hanging old tea bags on a tree?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

got some answers?

Why do I sometimes crave a food that doesn't seem to exist? I walk around the supermarket searching for it and it just isn't there! (That wasn't supposed to be an existential question even though it sounds like it.)

Can the phenomenon of Nazism be adequately explained within the framework of Marxism?

People seem to like the sweets of their own particular countries, and other countries' versions of them never quite live up. Are we, therefore, taught to like chocolate by our upbringings, or is chocolate or saturated fat intrinsincally yummy?

Why are people stupid? Myself included?

Why is it that baby creatures are so much cuter than adult creatures? Of any species?

Is being an academic really a justifiable career?

Why do dictators have moustaches?

Nicos Poulantzas' Fascism and Dictatorship: is his argument really original or is he merely putting his fingers in his ears and insisting that everyone else is wrong?

Should I have a stir fry or pasta for dinner tonight?

Do real skeleton keys, that could open ANY door, actually exist?

Analyse the controversy between 'intentionalist' and 'structuralist' historians over the genesis of the Holocaust. Is it possible, at last, to resolve the main points of the debate?

Did my entire ancestry exist just to produce me? :)

Friday, September 05, 2008

am I the antichrist?

I always get very irritable when the US elections come around again - no offence to American readers but if I have to read about politics every time I open a newspaper or magazine or watch the news, I prefer to be force-fed my own country's politics, which I actually have some say in.

But then I came across a Ship of Fools article. Ship of Fools is my favourite online Christian magazine, being subtitled "the magazine of Christian unrest", with its tongue firmly in cheek, and willing to laugh at the nuttier/scarier adherents to our faith out there.

This article asks the pertinent question: "Is Obama, like, the Antichrist?" Writer Steve Tomkins has done the rounds on a whole heap of blogs, which offer compelling evidence that Barack Obama is, in fact, the spawn of the Devil.

The Damning Evidence:
- "On the very day Obama became frontrunner in the election, we are told, the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro was struck by lightning."
- "Obama hails from Chicago whose zip code is 60606" - that's three sixes in a row!
- "Nostradamus prophesized the name of the antichrist is 'Mabus.' If you write obama+bush, you end up with obamabush. Do you spot 'mabus' in the middle? Bingo."
- "Obama could very well be the anti-christ, because he was born the year sodomy was decriminalized."
- Obama is left-handed, and "the Bible says that the Devil is left handed?" Yup. Sure.
- "The famous apocalyptic phrase 'Abomination of desolation' is an anagram of 'Obama in Sion, tool of end'."
- "Obama has said he hates Israel and Jews. Admires Hitler, Osama etc."

This was a huge shock for me. Not only had I believed Obama was no Satanist, I had also believed I had quite a good chance of being a Christian. How wrong I was!

- in the year 1986, when I was born, the first PC virus started to spread. There were earthquakes, fatal fires, and plane crashes. The Cold War was ongoing!
- on the 30th October, which is my birthday, Antioch surrendered to Muslim forces in AD 637!! Likewise, the day I was born is also known as "Devil's Night" in Michigan.
- My name, when rearranged, can also read "Satan Reclaimed Song" or "Satan Genocidal Rems"!!!
- My zip code, when multiplied by my driver's license number, divided by my street number, and then multiplied by 2.3479, becomes 666!!!!
Isn't that evidence enough?!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Cutting a wheedle with a mawkish chawbacon who smells of April and May

I'm a big fan of Georgette Heyer, especially her Regency novels. Those (and Agatha Christie's detective novels) are basically the only things I can read for enjoyment at the moment without getting a headache, after spending maybe ten hours a day plowing through history books.

One of my favourite things about Georgette Heyer novels is the rich and enchanting vocab she used. And so I thought today I'd write a post about some of my favourite words-that-are-used-in-Heyer-novels and which I want to bring back into circulation.

Bluestocking ::: a woman with considerable scholarly, literary, or intellectual ability or interest. In Heyer novels, this is usually used as an insult by some nitwit male. The word came from a mid-18th century London literary circle, according to
To cut a wheedle ::: to deliberately lead astray or decoy by flattery and insinuation
In a dudgeon ::: angry, in a bad mood
To outrun the constable ::: live beyond your means, overspend
Mawkish ::: falsely sentimental, insipid or nauseating
Flummery ::: false compliments, ie "Don't you try to flummery me!"
Plumper ::: an arrant lie. Possibly from the false cheeks worn in previous centuries.
Swimming in lard ::: very wealthy
Smoky ::: suspicious, curious
All the crack ::: in the mode
Gammon ::: to pretend, lie or deceive; nonsense, lies
Smelling of April and May ::: madly in love
Gulled ::: duped, fooled

In his altitudes ::: drunk
Bosky ::: drunk
Eaten Hull cheese ::: drunk
Foxed ::: drunk
Making indentures ::: drinking
Shoot the cat ::: to vomit

Clunch ::: a clownish person, awkward, foolish
Wet goose ::: simple or stupid person
Chawbacon ::: country bumpkin or stupid man
Loose fish ::: unreliable, someone of dissipated habits, a lecher or a drunk
Mutton-head ::: stupid person
A bit of muslin ::: a girl/attractive female, usually willing to be seduced or taken as a mistress

The thing I love about all these words is how expressive, how imaginative they are.
But my favourite word of all is:

Simplest meaning: pompous rubbish.
According to, this can mean:
* inflated or turgid language in writing or speaking
* pompous or bombastic, as language
* worthless; cheap

Someone says something you think is a load of rubbish?
You shout, "Fustian!"
Someone says something that is clichéd, overly sentimental or wordy?
You shout "Fustian!"

It's the best word ever!

[I got a lot of these meanings from Jennifer Kloester's book Georgette Heyer's Regency World. A highly recommended book for any other Georgette Heyer fans!]

Oh, and by the way: latest issue of Halfway Down the Stairs is out, for those who are interested. Both Stacy and I contribute to it. This issue's theme is "Bon Appétit". Anyone else who writes... we accept submissions! The theme for our next issue is "Twists of Fate".