Saturday, January 30, 2010

Birthday Greetings

Happy birthday to Didius Julianus who was Roman emperor for a couple of weeks in the second century AD. He had a respectable early career including command of the XXII legion and a stint as governor of Bithynia (wherever the hell that is). He bought the imperial title when the Praetorian Guard deposed and murdered his predecessor Pertinax. The guard seemed to have been deeply annoyed with Pertinax because they murdered him without bothering to have a successor standing by. The result was that Julianus and a rival, Sulpicianus, engaged in a bidding war with the guard as auctioneers. When Julianus got as high as 25000 sesterces per man the guard closed the bidding and proclaimed him emperor.

This was probably the high point of his imperial career as everything went rapidly downhill from there. The Praetorians hadn't fought a real battle in decades and when the commanders of the border legions raised the standard of revolt they fell over themselves trying to surrender. Septimus Severus one of the afore mentioned border generals marched on Rome and the Praetorians promptly murdered Julianus and crawled to Severus with assurances of loyalty. Possibly Julianus' only achievement as emperor is to provide a fitting example of the latin phrase "caveat emptor".

On an unrelated note Serena Williams just beat Justine Henin for the Australian Open title despite being wrapped in enough tape to get her a supporting role in The Mummy Returns.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Three Minutes of Your Life You Won't Get Back

I was sitting on the train writing in my commonplace book when I noticed somebody reading over my shoulder. He wasn't being subtle about it either, he was openly gawking as though he had never seen anybody use a pen before. Since he looked about twenty it's possible he hadn't. I tend to do a lot of shoulder reading myself but I do try to be subtle about it which makes me furtive as well as intrusive. This is of great benefit to the person whose reading material I have usurped as it allows them to feel morally superior. My shoulder reader was so enthusiastic I felt bad about being annoyed. If it happens again I'll start writing vilely obscene and sexually explicit passages and see what kind of a reaction that elicits. Although it is entirely possible the reaction will be even less welcome.

The prevalence of shoulder reading started me thinking. This is usually a bad idea as thinking is not something I do particularly well. I start to think and then wander off on irrelevant tangents that get me further and further away from the original topic. Not to put too fine a point on it; it is very easy to derail my train of thought. So easy in fact that I am even worse at train management than City Rail.

Not much though, the better part of this entry was written while standing on Circular Quay railway station waiting for a train which was, in the immortal phrase, "running late and out of timetable order". Apparently this was due to a fatality at Beverly Hills. Beverly Hills isn't even on my train line but "running late and out of timetable order" (copyright City Rail) is a gregarious beast and likes to spread itself around.

The lateness of my train irritated me for two main reasons; firstly I was at Circular Quay railway station a place whose appeal largely lies in the arrival of trains that will take you away from it. Secondly running late made me disinclined to stop off on the way home and do some shopping. This means that dinner tonight will be whatever I can scrape off the inside of the fridge. Since that was last nights dinner as well scrapings are getting rather lean.

Food and eating annoy me; there must be a better way of refuelling the body. I wonder if scientists have taken a close enough look at photosynthesis. Food shortages would be a thing of the past and think how cheap dating would be when going for dinner simply meant standing outside for five minutes. And I'm sure we'll get used to being green.

In point of fact the only food in my house is half a grapefruit, a rasher of time expired bacon and a fourteen day supply of catfood. The food supply for my cat is better organised than my own which is strange when you consider that I am responsible for both. In return for food the cat sheds on the rug, vomits on the floor and wakes me at three in the morning for more food. I put up with all of this because the cat is company. As long as the food holds out I have a friendly companion to share the flat with. If the food does run out the cat will probably eat me.

Pets are great company, particularly if you don't know (or choose not to associate with) many humans. Social contact of one sort or another seems to be important to Australians. Apparently social networking websites are booming in Oz. I know this because I read it in a newspaper. Over somebody else's shoulder.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Thought for the Day

If you're not sleeping your way to the top you probably shouldn't dress as though you are.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Melbourne Trip

I found it difficult to locate the centre of Melbourne. I have actually been driven through the heart of the city and travelled through the entire CBD without realising it. Broad streets and low warehouse sized buildings are everywhere which doesn't gel with what a Sydneysiders idea of a city centre is. Buildings should be ridiculously tall and the streets narrow, awkward and smelling interestingly of urine. Melbourne's occasional tall building stands out like an erect middle digit mocking my confusion. Standing on the 42nd floor of one of these middle digits the view of Melbourne stretches forever except for when you hit Port Phillip Bay. In that area Port Phillip Bay stretches forever. I think the main difference between Sydney and Melbourne is that in Melbourne the urban sprawl starts at the GPO.

One thing I noticed about Melbourne was that they didn't seem to have many pigeons or bats. In Sydney you can't move without tripping over these airborne plague carriers. Melbourne does have sparrows but its not really the same. Both Sydney and Melbourne have seagulls but that shouldn't surprise, seagulls turn up anywhere there is water. If you spat in the desert you would be surrounded by seagulls.

For the last few years it has been fashionable in Sydney to whine about our underutilized laneways and how vibrant Melbourne's laneways are by comparison. I think this is grossly unfair. Sydney's laneways are incredibly vibrant; they're full of people pissing, sleeping, throwing up, getting mugged, raped and occasionally having consensual sex with someone they met five minutes ago and won't remember five minutes hence. You can't get much more vibrant than that. I do understand the point though, in Melbourne you can do non self destructive things in laneways like have lunch and shop. On a medium to warm Summer's day lunch in a Melbourne laneway can be very pleasant indeed.

In between training more grist for my employers mill I wandered out to the tennis. Melbourne's trams are great, and they're free. At least they're free if you spend the entire journey trying to figure out how to work the ticket machine and then have to get off before you succeed. Rod Laver arena is the typical public event venue. There are many doors and it would be easy to get in if the place wasn't crammed with booths selling grotesquely overpriced and nauseating "food". Apparently the centre's catering was done by a cinema chain. The arena itself is pretty good though. The seating is arranged so that everyone has a view even if, like myself, they are quite high up in the stands. My view was awesome and so was the first match. Justine Henin was playing Elena Dementieva. Henin has come out of retirement and since she looks about twelve retirement was probably a little premature.

The match developed into a gruelling contest to see who could lose the most service games. Henin (who from the umpires pronunciation has two surplus consonants in a five letter name) proved slightly poorer at this game and wound up winning the first set. The second set followed the same pattern; Henin tried hard, twice heroically snatching defeat from the jaws of victory when serving for the match but Dementieva proved her resolve by losing the tie breaker and Henin reluctantly advanced to the next round.

The sound of racquet on ball was quieter than I expected but this was more than made up for by the sound of Dementieva. She howled, shrieked, moaned and gibbered; at one point I looked around to see if a hyena had wandered onto the court. Occasionally when Dementieva paused for breath I could hear a gentle gasp, this it turned out was Henin making her own noise in a quiet and understated way.

The match was fast and exciting and it was particularly enjoyable to watch it without commentary. It wasn't an unalloyed pleasure as various members of the crowd had little signs with comments like "shot" and "Yes, that was fast!" which sounded like the Channel 7 commentary team at their least inspired. It must be gratifying for them and the rest of the team at Banalities R Us to see their worthless observations preserved on non biodegradable materials to be waved for an hour and then dumped in landfill for centuries. This, too, is a form of immortality.

The second match was between Bernard Tomic and Marin Cilic. Compared with the women they looked like giants. Tomic is the latest Australian singles player to have lunatic expectations placed on him by the Australian public and particularly tennis commentators. Tomic won the first set but then I had to leave as I had to get up for work the next day. Tomic eventually lost in five his reason being that he had to stay up too late. At some point during the match it began to rain and I was able to watch the roof being closed. This took almost as long as the match as the roof moves with a speed normally associated with glaciers cutting a path to the sea.

PS there are no photos on this blog. Please feel free to draw pictures if that will help.