Friday, October 28, 2011

Ascetic aesthete

I saw the Bill Cunningham documentary last night and it made me FULL OF HAPPY!! "I'm not interested in celebrities and their free dresses! I'm interested in clothes!" says Bill.

This earnest 80 year old rides around New York on his bicycle snapping photos of street fashion for the New York Times. He still uses film that he develops at a corner shop. He wears a bright blue workman's coat that he bought from a hardware store, the same coat that the garbage collectors used to wear, and when his plastic poncho tears he tapes it together gleefully with gaffer tape.

He chains his bicycle to a pole before entering the Museum of Natural History to photograph a high-society gala dinner. Now that's my kind of guy.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Inflated, deflated

This week I read a coroner's report from the UK regarding a man who died under anaesthesia:

The man was having an operation to repair an injury to his little finger, for which he requested a general anaesthetic. A general anaesthetic is not entirely necessary for a finger operation, however perhaps the patient didn't understood the other options.

The anaesthetist taking care of him had difficulty intubating him (putting an endotracheal 'breathing' tube through his throat into his lungs), possibly because he weighed 124kg. After trying several different strategies the doctors ended up putting a Cook catheter in- a narrow, pointy tube, which can deliver small amounts of oxygen. The endotracheal tube can be threaded over the narrow Cook catheter.

That's when things really started to go wrong. The Cook catheter wasn't held in place properly, and it slipped down through his lungs and ended up in his chest wall. At the same time, the nurse was asked to connect the oxygen, which was turned to 15 litres per minute. At this point, the coroner notes, the patient "began to swell up extremely rapidly...The delivery of high pressure oxygen in these circumstances would have caused [him] to inflate."

Some moments later the doctors heard a loud crack- which turned out to be the man's scrotum exploding. He died.

I had several reactions to this report. First, a horrible 'there but by the grace of god go I' fear: it is SO EASY to make horrible mistakes in my job. Second, compassion for the poor man's family. Not least of their traumas is that their loved one's death is detailed for all the world to read on the interwebs!

It's the first time I've properly read a coroner's report and I have to say I really like the way they describe the events both plainly and meticulously. At times it reads like a tragi-comic pantomime: the senior anaesthetist racing into the room at the call of the emergency buzzer, the nurse on hands and knees trying to find the oxygen source whilst a doctor scrambles over her trying to reach to patient's airway.

And finally, if I'm honest, a Roald-Dahlian wonderment in the grotesque: he inflated!! But instead of floating up to the roof like a character from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, he popped and then he died.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Housemates part three: Cops'n'Robbers

After leaving our house in Fitzroy, Pen, Stu and I moved across Smith St to Collingwood, and a much dingier abode. Pen and Stu still live there but I moved out of 'Grey Gardens' in 2007.

The only entrance to Grey Gardens is through an alleyway off Easey street. The alleyway usually smells of piss and on weekends there are often piles of empty shoeboxes and clothing tags, presumably belonging to goods stolen from a Smith st Factory outlet.

When I lived there the light switch in the main living room was broken so the only way to turn the light on and off was to remove or insert the light bulb. I kept special leather gloves for this purpose as the bulb was hard to remove when it was hot. However, it wasn't all doom and gloom: Grey Gardens has a lovely backyard with a lemon tree and my room had a glorious golden glow with the mid-afternoon sun.

The most memorable occurrence during my time in the house was The Gun Siege.

I got out of the shower one evening and walked to my bedroom in my towel. I usually left my bedroom curtain open because the window faced a narrow alleyway with no adjoining windows. A bright spotlight was shining through the window into my room!! And there was a *commotion* next door: shouting, and a very loud bang which may or may not have been an actual gunshot! I peered out the window and saw three policeman standing on the roof of the adjoining property, one was shining his torch into my window. I walked back to the bathroom and looked out into the backyard, which was filled with policemen. Two police cars were blocking off the alley. I was surrounded!

Embarrassingly enough, the first thing I did was call Jason. He sagely advised me to get dressed. I got dressed. Then I called the Collingwood police station and was reassured that, "There's a job next door."

Decent, I went into the backyard. The policemen explained that there was a robber in the shop next door but they couldn't find him. I said that if I were robbing my house, I would escape through the front window onto the eaves above the shops. You could run along the eaves for a whole block. So the policemen came through our house (I asked them to look in all the dark corners with their torches) and jumped through our front window.

In the end, the police sniffer dogs found the robber hiding in a cupboard in the shop. Busted.

This year, Pen and Stu called in the police again when they were visited by a Pantless Intruder. But I shall leave that story to them.

Monday, October 3, 2011


Ghita and I went to see Jonathon Safran Foer speak at the Wheeler Centre yesterday. Before I left, I told Jason that it wasn't too late for me to ask JSF to marry me instead. However Jason needn't have worried (and I'm sure he didn't), because it was not as great as I had hoped.

Mr Safran Foer seemed terribly serious, expounding seriously about Parenting, and Meat-Eating. He seemed to be hiding his incredible imagination quite well. He also reproduced verbatim lengthy answers and anecdotes that I'd read before in print. Though perhaps the interviewer should be blamed for this one.

At the end, as usual, one lady in the audience asked quite a lengthy question about trans-generational trauma. There was a titter in the audience as she entered the third part of her question. I'm sure we all thought, "Who does she think she is?" Surprisingly, Jonathon replied with, "Well that was an *excellent* question."

Ghita felt that this was an example of Australia's tall poppy syndrome in action: the Australian audience cringing at an overt display of intelligence whilst Jonathon, the American, took the question seriously and answered it.

Whenever I hear a young American speak eloquently and intelligently, I envy them for the way they have been expected to take themselves seriously since a young age. In Australia I don't think we take ourselves seriously enough. Although we also don't dissect our trivial problems on day time talk shows. Hmmm....