Blog-vember. A post of day for November 2012.

Blogvember post 21… about a philosopher

@ Tell me about your favourite lecturer/tutor at University and why were they so memorable?

For today’s post I am mining suggestions from my pals on Twitter. Today @eatshootblog has been in my thoughts. She was featured in a story about cycling today in her role as editor of Canberra Cycle Chic in The Canberra Times, as was @damonayoung for laughter. Damon is one of my favourite Australian working philosophers, and I wish I could write about weighty topics as he does, with proper time and care. He loves fountain pens too and often posts lovely photos of them on Twitter.

I am not going to write about either laughter nor cycles. That is actually quite enough about bikes for this blog – even if @eatshootblog takes fantastically gorgeous photos of bikes and describes riding her own bike as like drinking a gin and tonic, I don’t actually like them at all. The hat hair alone is enough to put me off. Apparently, you only need to write about bikes and caffeine to attract more negative commentary than you do if you write about cars and Canberra.

Today, I am going to tell you about my favourite lecturer at university.

When I first went to university, I went to Macquarie University. After about the first two minutes of first year, I realised that everything other than the philosophy I had enrolled in, was a total waste of time. Finally, in philosophy, I had a name and a canon for everything I had been thinking about for, well, for my whole life. I loved every single minute of every single lecture and tutorial. It was sheer unadulterated bliss. Not only the first year course taught by the professor, he was the foundation professor. He had been at Macquarie since the beginning.

At the end of second year our thoughts turned to how best to make the most of our final year. There was a course on the books called ‘Seminar Unit B’. What was this course? Cath, my friend and fellow traveller in philosophy, went to ask.

Max told us. ‘It’s whatever you like. We don’t always offer it, but if you’re interested we will. Just tell me what you’d like to read and we will read it. Then at the end of the semester you can write an essay.’ What? This was a course? We couldn’t believe our luck!

We immediately enrolled. What a gift! Then each week we would turn up, our class of two for a session with the Professor. Sometimes he would forget to turn up. We would slink down the wall outside his office, sitting on the floor talking about what we had read. Sometimes he would just be late and in a flurry of apologies let us in. Every time was a magical tour. His office was stacked with books, with papers and with paintings, two and three deep in places. We often dreamed of liberating them all and hanging them all over the department. He is the archetypal professor, down to the monkish hair and the eccentric clothes. He always wore amazing shoes, and bought clothes in Europe. The sort of clothes I had never imagined. When he laughed his whole body would shake and he would throw his head back and guffaw. Those tutorials were the most liberating and important intellectual discussions of my whole life. There was nothing we couldn’t discuss. No theory too outlandish, no connection too tenuous. The rigour and the depth to those talks, I have never experienced again.

Max supported me through my honours year and assisted my first publication. He also rescued my PhD when I thought that I would never finish it. He nurtured a dissertation topic that few believed was worthy of such a substantial piece of scholarship and he gave me countless hours of his time freely to ensure that I passed. I owe Max Deutscher an enormous debt of gratitude.

He taught me how to think, and how to study philosophy. He gave me insight into how deeply you need to think about things to really get to their core. To the heart of the matter.

The last time I saw Max was at his house. I was walking away with the final pieces of my thesis intact and ready to be written up. I spoke to him afterward, when the result was in and I knew that I had passed. He is without a doubt the most significant figure in my intellectual life.

You can listen to his wonderful words here (vale Alan Saunders). And read about his latest book here.

Max Deutscher studied philosophy (University of Adelaide) and then Oxford (1960-63) with Gilbert Ryle. Appointed Foundation Professor at Macquarie University in 1966; published on themes of remembering, inferring, and physicalism. After involvement in Vietnam protests, wrote Subjecting and Objecting (1983), papers on Sartre, Ryle, and Husserl, and then a series of essays in conceptual analysis after deconstruction. A free-lance philosopher since 1998, he has published Michèle Le Dœuff: Operative Philosophy and Imaginary Practice (2000), Genre and Void: Looking Back at Sartre and Beauvoir (2003), and Judgment After Arendt (2007). His work (since the 1970s), in its concern with themes of European philosophy from Hegel to Derrida, continues to draws upon the varied traditions of analytical philosophy.

Blogvember post 20 … a rambling, ramshackle and ranting post

This morning, I managed to get a take away coffee before work. The logistics of this seem overwhelmingly simple. This would actually be overwhelmingly simple in other city. But not in Canberra. The trajectory I have to travel to make this occur, is worthy of the search for the Higgs Boson participle. It is more complex than pure maths, requires more coordination and planning than the mineral resources rent tax and is more frustrating than can be imagined.

Keep calm and drink coffee

The reasons for this are many and varied. They are mostly too tedious and boring to go into, but some of them are taboo. There are things in Canberra that are not to be mocked. The coffee and the dearth of good coffee in Canberra is well documented. Some people care, more people don’t. The ones whose eyes glaze over when you start up about coffee, are the people with whom you immediately change the subject and talk about something else.

The drive to get the coffee is the part when the frustration begins. It is not done to mock drivers in Canberra. In places like Sydney, mockery of other drivers, other pedestrians and indeed other commuters of all kinds is sport – love your new train marshals by the way – WTF?

Not here. Here it is not the done thing to complain about the fact that Canberra is full to bursting with drivers who are not able to cope with our ‘so called’ peak-half hour. The peak is lengthening slowly as the city grows and I am told that there are genuine bottlenecks that rival the M4 or the Westgate Bridge. As they all occur in places I have never been, I cannot vouch for the veracity of these claims. It seems that these changes to the road conditions and the congestion suit not the drivers of Canberra with whom I am forced to share the road at the hour of eight. Not that I am at all allowed to mock, criticise or otherwise disparage other Canberrans for their driving, heaven forfend.

So having made the arduous journey that should take all of ten minutes but frequently takes much much longer due to delays caused by, lets call them blockages in my path. These delays are caused by failures to understand that at an intersection with a left turning slip lane, if the traffic is proceeding straight ahead to your right, and a set of lights holds all the other traffic from entering the roadway, then it is perfectly ok to just turn left after checking that you are not about to mow down the occasional wayward school girl who happens to be using the pedestrian crossing – noting that the view of the crossing is clear from at least 50 or 100 metres away so it is not actually essential to even slow down to take the corner if there are no pedestrians nearby.

What actually occurs is that 60% of the cars come to a complete halt to observe the traffic passing to their right before proceeding to accelerate once more onto the empty roadway. If you did this in Sydney you would receive a blast of horn or worse a car right up your clacker. Anticipation and using all the available green time mean nothing here. For too long have the drivers of Canberra have had wide open streets with no competition. Lots of them have absolutely no competitive edge with the exception of instances of merging, when they are all politeness – after you, no really, after you – would someone please just go!

Worse, not that I would know about how to draw attention to these things, is that the drivers of Canberra who cannot cope with the two sides of a roundabout being in use at one and the same time. Or indicating. Or giving way to the right. Or just actually driving straight ahead and just concentrating on where you are going!

It would take longer in Sydney to drive twice as far even in peak hour some days. Now toleration is my middle name and the philosopher in me understands the reasons for this behaviour, but all of it impedes me from getting to the coffee!

Mornings where I actually manage to remain cool and spend the enforced extra travel time listening to Emma Ayres telling me wonderful stories and playing nice music, I am greeted by cheery baristas who live for coffee.

Then all that remains is to drive the other ten kilometres to the office, which is another taboo about good coffee outside the narrow band surrounding Civic. How I wish we had public transport that worked, then at least I could just read. My blood pressure would probably be much more reasonable too.

Blogvember post the 19th … new traditions

Coffee, rituals and traditions

I had coffee on Sunday afternoon with three lovely women, all of whom were gifted to me by Twitter. This is not a post about how much I love twitter, although I do and it is not a post about the women, well not really. Read More

Blogvember Sunday Confessional

Blogvember has thrown up challenges in a way that I didn’t expect.

Unexpected interchanges about blogging, with other bloggers. Rivalrous thoughts about other bloggers writing. How I wish my blog could be more voice and less blah blah blah. Challenges too about writing every day. The discipline, the highs and lows – like yesterday where I didn’t write at all. A post appeared but it had no text. The posts I wrote thinking I really thought it was good, but no one read it! Read More

Blogvember post 17 … I’m not here

The dog ate my homework post!

We all knew it was coming today, but yes it actually happened

I should be here











But I am actually here!

Sun and rosé









Listening to this classic. Enjoy your Saturday and join me tomorrow for another Sunday Confession.


Blogvember post 16 … word of the year!

Exciting news courtesy of Sydney Writers Centre this week, I give you my new favourite word! Read More

Blogvember post 15 … the mid-point

It’s the 15th! It’s half-way. Blogvember is now balanced on this post; which serves as a fulcrum balancing what has gone before and what is yet to come, what is yet to be written.

Possibly the most beautiful celebratory gin and tonic ever

There are still posts to write. There are still ideas. I am having them ALL THE TIME. This is one of the positive aspects of focusing on the discipline of writing every day, it makes you think about writing. What to write, how to write, when to write. Writing, writing, writing. Read More

Blogvember post 14 … the mornings

I am not a morning person. This will not be news to any of you who have seen me in the morning.

While I can get myself sorted and to work at a decent hour, I do not like the difficulty of it. The zigging when everyone else is zigging. The busy-ness. The mayhem of leaving the house. The finding of shoes.

If I had my druthers, I wouldn’t have anything to do with it. I’d zag when everyone else was zigging. I’d sleep and miss the whole horrible thing.

As you can imagine, this has made parts of my life a bit complex. My entire childhood for example. Early motherhood was a bit challenging. I am not, geared for five o’clock starts. Read More

Blogvember … post the 13th

Post roses

She stood on the lawn and she and the little boy threw handfuls of rose petals in the air. The bliss of the petals slow decent made the small boy’s face shine with happiness. There were enough for minutes of quiet fluttering, watching and the occasional noisy shriek.


Blogvember post the 12th … chitter chatter is underrated

A while ago one of my favourite people, with whom I speak far less often than I would like, remarked on the value of chitter chatter. It is the talk you have where you don’t really have to say anything of import, but that the pleasure is just in the conversing itself. You talk comfortably and a rambling fashion in chitter chatter. Women are good at it, but men are too in the sort of conversation they have in quiet moments, when no one else is listening. Chitter chatter is best conducted with close confidantes where indiscretions can be swept aside and ignored. It is not the conversations you have that are programmatic. They are not about process, events, times and dates. It is about dreams, wishes, aspirations. It is about the ephemera of life, the insubstantial and the deeply important. Read More

Blogvember … there will be blood … post the eleventh

Black films

In the past five years when I have gone to the movies, the experience has fallen into two distinct categories.

The films I have chosen, and the films in which everyone dies. Read More

Big cups of tea and restoration … blogvember post the tenth

This mug is sometimes only just big enough

C.S Lewis once said ‘you can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.’

Mostly at present, it is the tea. There is precious little reading time. The essential of tea is a constant.

Today is the first time since starting #blogvember that I wished I didn’t have to write something. Read More