Daily Archives: July 22, 2008


My work for the last couple of weeks has been carefully reading the Port Phillip Herald.

I’ve been mystified by this advertisement which has been appearing regularly, issue after issue :

“WANTED. A Female Kangaroo. Apply at the Herald Office”

And now, on 10 December 1841 we have:

“FOR SALE. Two thorough-bred Kangaroo Pups, 5 months old.  Apply at Herald Office. Melbourne 6 Dec.”

What’s going on here?  I’m not sure if the advertisements refer to kangaroos (as in hopping marsupials) or whether they refer perhaps to kangaroo dogs?  James Boyce, in his excellent book ‘Van Diemen’s Land’ talks about the dogs used to hunt kangaroos, but in VDL they were known as the deerhound, the Irish wolfhound, Irish greyhound, Highland deerhound and Scottish greyhound.   Boyce writes:

Killing by the neck a full-grown kangoroo or emus was a difficult and dangerous affair, even for such powerful canines. Speed was of the essence, which led to the wolfhounds being crossed with greyhounds. One immigrant reported on the outcome of such breeding: “the dogs used here to hunt the kangaroo have the shape and general character of the greyhound, but are very much larger in size, and coarser all together, uniting great strength with speed. (James Boyce, Van Diemen’s Land p 24)

After all, how can a marsupial-Kangaroo be anything else other than pure-bred?  Did they know the term ‘joey’ for a young Kangaroo?  Why would anyone WANT a female kangaroo?

Helen Garner “The Spare Room”

2008, 195 p.

This is Garner’s first avowedly fiction book in over a decade, and was greeted with wide acclaim.  It is a beautifully presented book, right from its crisp front cover and its interesting face boards.  This care in presentation is amplified in the opening pages where Helen is preparing her spare room for the 3 week visit of a friend from Sydney who is seeking alternative therapy for advanced cancer.  Nicola’s death is not really the core of this story: instead the drama of the book is Helen’s rage and inadequacy in the face the demands of friendship, and her frustration at her friend’s relentless faith in a “cure” that Helen feels is quackery.  I suspect that Garner herself is ashamed at her own behaviour, and is seeking absolution from herself and her readers in this thinly disguised memoir.  I loved the embeddedness of this book within Melbourne suburbia, and her confidential and warm tone- like a good, satisfying talk with an old friend.

Ah, technology!

I’ve been mystified by this THING that I’ve been seeing in the paper recently. What IS it???

Ah! So that’s what it is- a code for your mobile to take you to a website???? Obviously I’m not alone in my bemusement: there’s a website QRious.com.au

It really is strange seeing a new technology being ‘born’, and being puzzled by what it is at first. More often, technologies build on other pre-existing technologies and there’s not that same sense of ‘I just don’t get it’.

I can though, from my 50plus vantage spot, remember a few technologies being born.  Dad used to have a mobile telephone in his car in the late 60s/early 70s.  You had to call an operator, who would then connect you. I can even remember the phone number 0172 21522!!!  He also had one that he could take out of the car, but it was VERY heavy, and was literally the size and weight of a brick.

I remember our neighbours across the road, who were international travellers (unusual then) and early adopters (also unusual) who had the first microwave oven I had ever seen.  We all stood around it, watching as Uncle Eric boiled a cup of water.  They also had the first reel-to-reel tape recorder that I had ever seen, and we had great fun round the table listening to it and recording our voices.

And my first personal computer? A little Macintosh- a squat, oblong thing higher than it was broad. Until then, my only contact with computers had been pushing out the chads on a card with a pin in mathematics, aware that it was going off to ‘the university’ to a computer kept in a specially controlled room. To this day I don’t really know what it was all about- push out bits of cardboard with a pin? Hey, even I can do that!

I’ve always been a television child- Mum and Dad bought one for the Olympics when I was a year old. But colour television was something else again.  We lined up at the Royal Melbourne Show to shuffle in a queue into a tent to see colour television- coming soon!! And when Mum and Dad bought one, I can remember sitting just LOOKING at it- even looking at the test pattern once programs had finished for the night. I don’t know if  television even stops anymore- do they still have a test pattern??

And so to this little code-thingie.  I don’t know what it’s called. I don’t know what it’s FOR.  It might be dead in the water in a year’s time: on the other hand,  we might forget that we ever didn’t know what it was!