Wednesday, December 24, 2008

~ decompositions of the season

THEYesterday a small car ploughed into the venerable magnolia tree on our nature strip. My wife arrived home from a free solarium treatment, (shared in its entirety with a fluttering moth) to find the car abandoned, two vacant child restraints and the neighbours milling about. Someone called the police, who were at a loss as to how a vehicle could have generated the necessary speed to destroy itself so thoroughly, coming up a steep hill on a perfectly straight, short and narrow suburban street ... A momentary suicidal urge, perhaps?

A lady from Somalia was found at her house around the corner, presumably in shock. The magnolia tree is noticeably canted and almost ring-barked. It’s been there as long as I have, the poor thing, I have seen it flower every year of my life, and to be struck like that ... out of the blue ...

Greyish Blackish seems to have caught her first mouse - though it may previously have been partially incapacitated by Tweety Bird, the Jack Ketch of the household. GB is a very sweet natured cat and appeared unaware that the object of the exercise was to kill.

The mouse in the image below is accompanied by a item of biological refuse discovered by my wife in the shower. Tweety Bird seems to have have chewed off the outer coating of something’s head and left the remains as her customary matutinal gift.

(Just now, as I was writing, my wife called me to see this morning’s offering: another bio-hazard on the shower floor, this one resembling a grub-shaped grey-green kidney. Can’t find the camera ...)

Recent rains have eroded the banks of the Grey Creek, revealing an item of archaeological curiosity. This shopping trolley was surely buried long ago, possibly during earthworks associated with the laying down of the abutting Monash freeway. It might have sedately decomposed down the aeons, but no, the elements have thrust its ghastly corroded form back into the light, to further pollute the habitat of Immaculata, that pure white duck.

I’ll let you know how the supermarket responds, when I report the trolley for collection.

And by the way: the best wishes of this dread season to you all. Thanks for reading, [and commenting upon,] my meandering, probably perplexing diary. I hope you all get as focused and happy and prolific in this next year as I am determined to be. Sorry, as usual, for the unpredictable timing of my posts.Usually, it's concomitant with my state of mind. [William Burroughs despised the word concomitant.) When the the posts dry up, I am either in a slough of despond or so obsessively busy with my life that I can’t pause to reflect ... Anyway ...

I hope you get something really good for Christmas. May the wind fill your sails.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

~ a mould of note

These last weeks, my mentality has been feverishly occupied.

Many of my ideas have sunk, slowly, like a poisonous dustfall through the Glimmung’s phantasmagoric ocean, past the sunken cathedral of aeons past - and still deeper to that place where bad thoughts go to die.

But some have served to feed the ever burgeoning Encyclopaedia of Nonesuch. Choices for the name of my protagonist have been whittled down from about twenty to two: Alsus and Alsace. At present I am leaning towards the latter.

Alsace has a new tutor, a tall unsmiling man named Northy, who is more bodyguard than pedagogue - sent from afar by Alsace’s father, Ashen, as the political situation rapidly deteriorates. Touched while still a babe, Northy is formed from canon-tree wood. Another new character has emerged: Jequirity Pea, a girl from a local tribe of Emeraldim whose tattoos - with their eldritch geometries - strike to the heart of Alsace's’ sexual instinct. Jequirity is the only person with the ability to perceive Almathea, the blue spirit who walks behind Alsace. Jequirity, like all women of the Emeraldim has pale green teeth and an intriguing tablier Egyptien ...

But now, to the point:

Please observe this section of soft refrigerated tofu, abandoned for an indeterminate period in a zone reserved for non-preferred mustards, 99% fat-free French salad dressing, blue cheese salad dressing and Outback Brand lime, chilli and ginger sauce.

Mould comes in many colours - green, grey, blue etc. – which are often specific to the substance on which it grows. But upon this block of tofu there appeared an outcrop of almost fluorescent purple, which my camera could not perfectly reproduce. I made repeated attempts with different backgrounds, in various light conditions, but you’ll have to trust me that it was even brighter, even more purple and iridescent than it appears in these images.

Purple mould. Livid ultraviolet mould. Perhaps I have seen too little rancid tofu in my time, but I do find this extraordinary.

I ask myself, since the species appears so unnatural, could it perhaps be unnatural. Might some outrageous additive have spurred a providential mutation?

Further to the dreadful food-industry practices I described in a previous post, some recently announced Chinese food safety protocols have outlawed a swathe of other stomach-turning activities. Boron (among other things, an insecticide) has been used to increase the elasticity of meatballs and noodles. Formaldehyde and/or lye are routinely ‘added to water in which seafood is soaked to make the produce appear fresher and bigger’. Also banned, interestingly, is the traditional use of ‘an addictive substance made from the poppy plant ... used in hot pot, a Chinese dish where meat, vegetables and tofu are cooked at the table’.

In a culture where food colourings seem interchangeable with industrial dyes, increased regulation is certainly good news but, typically, I have veered from the subject of my post: this novel and uncommonly beautiful mycelium.

I won’t prattle on further, except to pose a series of questions.

Is the steady increase in the size of the strawberry a reflection on our society? Perhaps even on our humanity? What is the meaning behind our urge to force the species so far beyond its natural size? This very day, if one wished, one could go out and purchase a strawberry approaching the size of an apple. Why have we worked so hard to grant ourselves this dubious boon? What lies behind this strange imperative?

As the strawberry bloated under the devious hands of the food-scientists, initially the flavour did not keep pace – but now this hurdle seems to have been overcome. The hydrocephalic supermarket strains are becoming as sweet and densely-flavoured as the strawberries of yesteryear – though not, of course, the wild strawberry, which now tastes like an entirely different species.

As the concept of the punnet becomes increasingly ridiculous, broad trays of strawberries are becoming more common. Soon perhaps, we will purchase them in something akin to egg-cartons. Commercial Fruit Behemoths will develop a hardier skin, allowing the strawberry to enter the aisles, if not of golden delicious and fuji, then of the stone-fruit which it has already begun to dwarf.

And, as their genomes are mapped and turned inside-out, will raspberries and blueberries also become subject to the same process of forced gigantism?

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Monday, December 8, 2008

~ melonette

How would you feel if you woke up one morning and everyone was calling the orange a florida? Amid streamers and bunting, posters in the supermarket aisle announce the arrival of a brand new taste sensation – the florida. The same sweet spherical orange citrus fruit as before, but now it is a florida.

Somewhere, in the high boardrooms of Big-Fructo a decision had been made and acted upon. Celebrity chefs have been enlisted as ambassadors, deals arranged with fruiterers, juice-merchants, vitamin and lolly-manufacturers, Microsoft spell-check has been suborned ... and before you know it the coup d’etat is a fait accomplit.

But consider their perspective: the orange isn’t going anywhere. It’s hard to excite someone with such an ancient and fundamental flavour and a fruit which – in a monumental slap in the face of human imagination – is blandly named after its colour. Sales are growing at the pace of the population and to an economist this means stagnation. Something needs to be done. The orange needs to surge. The orange needs a makeover.

So, let’s rebrand it. Let’s rename it after something everyone associates with sunny weather, leisurely retirement and water-sports ... consumers in benighted Belarus and Liberia can suddenly purchase a sweet slice of paradise ...

An impossible scenario? Perhaps, but I experienced something very similar at the age of about seven. It was my first personal experience of the crushing impotence of an individual in our society. The venue: Chadstone.

And a very different Chadstone to the one we know today. A proto-Chadstone if you like. The germ-plasm of the monstrous entity that exists currently - which still shows no signs of slowing its inexorable growth - like a reptile shedding its old skin every few years to re-emerge larger and shinier than before.

At the time, I was learning about fruit. I was fascinated by the variety of brightly-coloured, strangely shaped botanical products – and this was nearly twenty years before I tasted my first avocado, (thank you, Anne Harding,) Mango and Macadamia. I was learning their names from my mother and then memorising them. (In a prelude to the machinegun–like frequency of my obsessions in later life.)

Of the fruits available at that time, the Chinese Gooseberry was one of the more exotic. By way of education, my mother bought me one and I loved it. I loved being able to say the name. Perhaps I could even spell it. I looked forward with great enthusiasm to my next Chinese Gooseberry.

But then a pall descended on my child’s excitement.

On out next visit to the fruiterer at Chadstone, I saw the streamers and bunting; the posters in bright colours espousing a brand new taste sensation. And a new word. A strange unfamiliar word ...


A thing has a name. Adam walked through the garden of Eden and he gave everything a name, and one of those names was Chinese Gooseberry. When my mother explained to me that this kiwifruit was not something new but a new name for my Chinese Gooseberry I was bewildered and disappointed.

And before long, outraged..

I questioned my mother, who must have acquitted herself admirably. She helped me understand that businessmen and advertisers had decided that 'Chinese Gooseberry' was not a good enough name, and that more money could be made if it was called a 'kiwifruit'.

How could you rename something as fundamental as a fruit? My young brain swirled. And why a kiwi fruit?

She explained the connection between New Zealand and the Apteryx or Kiwi bird - though I am uncertain how widespread that link was in the public imagination at the time.

But it’s a Chinese Gooseberry, I complained. Well, now it’s a kiwifruit, she answered. I began to understand that a bunch of NZ fruit-farmers had stolen the fruit’s identity for the sake of profit. And they had named it after themselves, or at least their country. The gall. Had they even asked the Chinese for permission?

Jaded as I am, an act like that would barely ruffle my feathers these days. But at the time, the lesson sank deep. It still riles me to call the Chinese Gooseberry a kiwifruit, though I am aware that it is not strictly a gooseberry. But it is very Chinese. It was first exploited there about 800 years ago. Indeed, the yang tao is the official Chinese national fruit.

What I am attempting, belatedly, after learning of the fruit’s history, is to revive the name melonette. This was a transitional term. It appears that US importers were dissatisfied with 'Chinese Gooseberry' and, being Americans, they called for something snappier. The first shipments arrived under the new name 'melonette', which caused the product to attract high duties ascribed to the melon and berry category.

'Kiwifruit' was their second try and the Americans were satisfied, though these days they simply call it 'kiwi'. Wikipedia says that we add the ‘fruit’ to avoid confusion with the bird and the people. Hmmn. Others say that the name is connected to the fuzziness and flightlessness of the bird.

To quote the Purdue University site in the US: the name has been widely accepted and publicised despite the fact that it is strictly artificial and non-traditional.

Melonette ... Melonette ... charming, perhaps inaccurate ... but inoffensive and sweet. Unlike another of the fruit’s names: the sheep peach.

Wherever you are, whoever you are, why not give the finger to those greedy Antipodean gardeners and their American clients? Just say melonette. Or Chinese gooseberry, if you’re traditional. If you want to give due to the fruit’s Chinese heritage, then say Yang Tao. Or Strawberry Peach. Or Hairy Wood Fruit. Anything but kiwifruit.

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Sunday, December 7, 2008

~ donald's christmas fear 2008

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

~ the stigma of the booth

I don’t like speaking of my enslavement to spasmo-nemigron. In my shame, I even give it a nom-de-plume. I like to think of myself as a whole person without the inclusion of the controversial Bentley compound, but currently I’m not. The equation – at this time - is incomplete without my 9am sublingual dose ... and my diet vanilla coke ... and my copy of the Age ...

Polly’s school is just behind the Pinewood shops. After their children have gone in, many of the mothers mill in the courtyard before breaking up to go their separate ways. Some use the opportunity to go shopping. A few of these go shopping at the chemist where I acquire my spasmo-nemigron, and where my wife acquires her spasmo-dromoran.

I wonder how many mothers recognise the austere booth at the rear of the pharmacy for what it is? Well, one actually works there, but she takes her responsibilities seriously and appears unprejudiced. Neither of us have spoken openly with her about it, but she had no obvious reservations about leaving her daughter at our house for Polly’s party; if she considered us ravening drug fiends, might she not have had second thoughts?

It’s the other, less informed parents that need watching. B--- is a single father who also sups at the evil well of spasmo-dromoran. He tells a cautionary tale.

After he was recognised receiving his dose by a parent from his son’s school, the word spread among gossiping mothers. It wouldn’t have been much of an issue if they had merely shunned B--- - who is bearded, shabby, alternative and an unnatural fit for any suburban socio-parental bloc - but the pall of fear and prejudice also descended upon the innocent son.

I wish I could give you more details on this, but my memory fails me. Also, there may have been an element of paranoia, plus the school involved was Wesley, which may have skewed the parental reaction away from the mean ...

Earlier this week, my wife was seen emerging from the pharmacotherapy booth by the mother of one of Polly’s more obscure classmates. Who knows what the repercussions will be? One thing she has in her favour is her excellent grooming. Only on particularly bad days does she even come close to resembling a hollowed-out, slack-featured, opioid dependent Piltdown woman. The problem is the junky who exits the booth before her and the one who scurries in after.

Often, these are the characters who give the game away, who make the purpose of the booth all too evident. Some, but not many, are indistinguishable from the general clientele. Some are grey shadows, barely noticeable even when you look directly at them. Others lurk in attitudes of extreme discomfort, casting glances of suppurating evil about the store. Others, in faded track-suit pants, runners and beanies give themselves away sartorially. Others speak in loud voices, warmly greeting strangers like friendly drunks, pontificating on subjects of which they are entirely ignorant ...

Who knows what the average customer thinks of this, passing through the chemist on a casual visit ... It’s hard to look at it subjectively after visiting this and other similar booths on thousands of mornings. Do I look any better than my peers in this mournful sub-set of society? Perhaps someone out there can tell me. All I know is that the best way to solve this problem is to take a blade to my nemesis, to finally slip the manacles of my indifferent slavemaster.

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