Sunday, December 18, 2011

Wording a logo: a confession.

Also Bath, source of such
excellent merchandise.
I was recently tempted to use heart as a verb. In writing. It was in an email, which we all know only counts in a court of law or a newspaper, but I resisted. Fortunately, before I used up my slender reserves of lexical discipline, I was distracted by wondering how many other people had verbed this tender noun, whether I was verbing* a noun or wording a logo, and whether any other logos have been worded.

Looking for some stats on its history, I went to the usually reliable google ngram search but, alas, the cold, heartless, digitisation of the server farm was drawn, moth-like, to the tepidity of Sir Walter Scott and the warmth of that terrible flirt, Master Shakespeare. Such simple things as i'heart, Act I: Heart, "with broken-heart, I" and Sir Heart: "I, madam...", not to mention the excitement when !heart or heart! comes along, lead those poor machines terribly astray.

The OED, its mills grinding slightly faster - but possibly just as fine - than God's, is more circumspect. The entry for heart, v. (DRAFT ADDITIONS JANUARY 2011, lest you get too carried away) - speculates as I, much less humbly, did, that it all relates back to the I ♥ NY shirts. The text version: "Originally with reference to logos using the symbol of a heart to denote the verb ‘love’".

The thing is, this blog is, very, very slowly, turning out to be me talking about things I love or like or somewhere in between, and now and then getting diverted into what love or like is, anyway. The original object of my hearting has been lost in my subsequent internet meanderings, but the temptation arose because my attachment lay on the (entirely subjective) spectrum of feelings between like and love.  I still have trouble using love in any serious sense for things that aren't people (apart from cricket, which is still in the balance) but there are any number of things for which I feel more than like, and so heart, daggy and verbalised as it is, is rather useful.  It's the schoolgirl scrawl of affection: I ♥ Dr Who.  Trams. Chardonnay. Melbourne. Budapest. London. Champagne. Travelling. Hmm: I might love travelling. 

Since the OED (which I definitely heart) allows you to search etymologies, I searched unsuccessfully for other verbs arising from logos or symbols. There are names for these things, of course (smiley) but so far it would appear that this transition of a word (love) to a symbol (♥) back out again to the verbing of a different word is unique, and a small, weird part of me is fascinated to see this tiny offshoot of the language growing in front of me.

In the interests of completeness, I must point out that the OED lists five other senses of heart as a verb, the oldest from 897 - senses like 'give heart to' (people), 'to form a heart' (cabbages and so on) - and the most recent from 1892. None of them relate to a sense of love or like; the first citation in this sense is from 1983: "Associated Press; (Nexis) 16 Nov. From Berlin to the Urals, teen-agers wear T-shirts reading, ‘Elvis’, ‘Always Stoned’, and ‘I (heart) New York’."

*which, for the prescriptivists**, has been in use since 1766. Along with its much quieter twin, Nouning. 

** at which point I'd like to re-emphasise that I was educated during a time when teaching formal grammar was Frowned Upon and so the most complex grammatical concept I have grasped is that nouns are Naming Words, verbs are Doing Words and adjectives are Describing Words - after that you've lost me. Fortunately my parents inflicted a lot of books on me, so I have managed to compensate for this disability. 

Saturday, October 01, 2011

A love letter to Melbourne on our first anniversary.

An unexpected glimpse of beauty in architectural detail, a tiny new art piece buried in a laneway corner, the giddiness of standing in a pub falling for yet another quirky, talented band; it’s the little things that catch at my heart.  Things that make me stop, look up, smile - ornamented buildings, blossoms outlined against the sky, clouds rushing to cover the sun.  Heck, the fact that stopping and looking and having internal monologues doesn't stop crowds here. People move around me peacefully, and I know that even though I’m boringly corporately besuited, I could be a pirate or a spaceman or in terribly deliberately clashing colours and be as free as I am now.

Then there are all the tiny villages, every high street a hub - people know their laneway, their walking distance, their nearest good coffee, their tramline, but not the next suburb over. There is adventure in cross-pollinating, jumping tramlines, savouring the transition north to east, back in to the centre, sometimes – bravely – west or south.

There are all the obvious things; coffee, food, plays, wine, sport, cocktails, and, of course, music, and people who also love these things. There are conversations overheard: a musician setting up for a gig and explaining to someone that in Melbourne you can love music and sport, and it’s ok. A six year old lecturing his father on the prospects of the team whose scarf I am wearing.  Old ladies, born thousands and thousands of miles away, who see my phone and ask me when the tram is coming, because they know there’s an app for that.

There are crazy things too: the flagrant crazy of weather and traffic that provide a never-ending conversation supply, the fun crazy of too much drink and not enough sleep, the tiring crazy of too too much work.  But then there’s acceptance, new homes, friendship revived, the broadest brush of remarkable new friends I could ever hope for, and the space and time to be as crazy as I want to be. 

When I first arrived I would glimpse the strange skyline out of the corner of my eye and startle. Once, drowsing on a tram, I wondered where I was, mentally flicking through cities, before remembering, breathlessly relieved, that I was here.

Happy anniversary, Melbourne.  It’s been a good year.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Nothing makes a Wednesday like an invite to MoVida.  Especially when it’s an invite to attend with Frank Camarro’s tour co-ordinator and two long-term MoVida fans, who started back in the day when you could wander in on a Saturday night and actually get a seat: imagine! After the menu kept side-tracking my companions into reminiscing about various Spanish bars, restaurants and wineries, not to mention previous MoVida nights, we gave up and decided on a happy abandonment of our evening into the hands of the staff.  This openness to experience seems to be a common factor in my best-ever foodie nights – somehow, when I control the menu, I’m just not as adventurous.

Being omnivorous, curious, and possibly a bit gluttonous, I love tapas because you get to try everything! Anchovies and tomato sorbet on croutons.  Spicy smoked chicken escabache on brioche. Chorizo and octopus.  Smoked mackerel and pine nut gazpacho sorbet. Battered anchovies and pimientos de padrĂ³n (russian roulette peppers - mild yet tasty, except for every approximately-fifth one, which is incredibly hot).  Quail eggs wrapped in black pudding. Oven-roasted portobello mushrooms finished with PX.

This is also why I love groups: more people = more things to try. The above were all brilliant; you’d think with so many dishes (and that’s not all of them – somewhere in there were scallops as well) there’d be one that I didn’t love, or didn’t quite work, or didn’t have its plate licked clean. Nope. All amazing combinations of flavour and texture which I would happily eat again, and could probably write up in excruciating detail, but I’ve saved that for the two dishes that will drag me back, come what may: the MoVida signature air-dried Wagyu with poached egg and truffle foam, and pan-seared quail breasts with fried bread and grapes.

The Wagyu dish looks, smells and tastes much, much better than something so potentially pretentious should – it’s basically fancy sliced beef and eggs, but when you think about how good steak and eggs are, a fancy version that works is the ideal, is it not? It was one of those dishes that leaves you with an intense sense memory: warm slippery egg, tiny bubbles of foam, smoky dirty truffle haunting the back of the palate, and the strength and unctuousness of the Wagyu holding it together and filling it out at the same time.

The quail appeared quite simple: miniature marylands, cool grapes and crunchy fried bread, a combination of simple flavours well-cooked or wisely left alone. The surprise came underneath: shreds of some dark, moist meat with a rich, slightly sweet flavour.  After various guesses (all wrong!) and vain attempts to remember the menu, we were informed that it was the rest of the quail meat, cooked in Pedro Ximenez. Things should absolutely be cooked in PX more often: its complexity made the meat almost gamey, especially up against the cleaner flavour of the pan-seared quail breasts with delicious crispy skin, and the grapes bursting against the oily, crunchy fried bread. Being way more of an eating (*cough* and occasionally drinking, and even more occasionally writing) foodie than a cooking foodie, it’s reasonably rare that I think ‘I really need to try this at home’, but cooking meat in PX is one of those rarities. It's a sign of how good it was that I'm prepared to cook with PX rather than drink it. 

Speaking of drinking, we had some red wine, too, which is apparently much cheaper in Spain and which, in a really big sign of how good the food was, I can't tell you much about except that it was good, and we had a couple of bottles of it.

Coming soon eventually: Cutler and Co, Longrain, breakfast at Cumulus Inc and lots - and lots - of cocktails. I should have time to write about them, since I've used all my cash going to them!

Sunday, January 02, 2011

1 Corinthians 13:7* (Love) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Gruelling stuff.
Love bears all things: three days outside in Melbourne weather.  Every morning I arrived at the MCG wearing boots, jeans and a jumper with a fur-trimmed hood.  The last week of December, technically midsummer, but I longed for my beanie. I kept my hat on, even when I had my hood up, as it said ‘Australia’ and I didn’t want there to be any confusion about who I was supporting.   The first day stayed that cold, the second day oscillated between the bone-slicing wind and the skin-scorching sun, and on the third the sun finally won.  It wasn’t the heat – I'm West Australian, I can take a bit of warmth – but the searing bite of the UV in every sunbeam that drove us back into the shade. Despite multiple coatings of suncream, I was pink for a few days, thanks to reflections off the grass and the extra thin ozone layer in these parts.

Love believes all things: one of the disarming things about cricket is that belief is always possible – until everyone is out, you just never know. Even now, I believe that we could’ve bowled England out if we’d had a go at a damp pitch under a cloudy sky. I believe that our batsmen have the skill and the talent to have kept on batting, if they’d had the form, the will and the discipline to go with it. I believe that on the mornings of days two and three it was still possible for us to win.  (Probable? Not so much.) I believe that if Mitchell Johnson had got out of bed on the right side he could’ve taken a hat-trick. During the match, I believed that this might be the partnership that won the game. That this next one might draw the game. That these guys – no, wait, these guys – could at least put it into five days. That these next guys could put it into four days… oh, thank goodness.

Love hopes all things: I hoped for form, will and discipline for our batsmen. I hoped for Hilfy to take a hat-trick, because his economy and work rate deserved it. I hoped Punter would have a Waugh-at-the-SCG cap’n’s knock, and save our collective and individual dignities and the match all at once.  I hoped Hughes and Smith would give us hope for the future. (They gave me a little. I had wanted it in centuries, but will take the small Pandoran glimmer that was their second inningses.)  I hoped Watson would not give everyone else more evidence for disliking him - and then I hoped it would rain. Now, I hope the selectors take a good, hard look at themselves. I hope Cricket Australia find someone who can decode the mysteries of swing, or at the very least, nick the English dossier on it. I hope we get pitches like this one, and the one at the WACA, more often, regardless of our form. I hope the cricket boards of other countries (including ours!) can somehow manage to do what the ECB have done - although I'm not sure if even they know exactly how they've done it. Mind you, I also hope the ECB do something about county cricket.

Love endures all things: love endures all out for 98, stays til the last ball, and makes sure it’s in time for the first ball the next day, and the day after that. It is heart-sick that it has to go to work and miss the last hour, despite the expected cataclysmic result and subsequent grave-dancing. Love endures England batting for days, and since this is love of cricket, and not merely love of Australian cricket, it somehow, around the heartache, enjoys Trott’s batting, (no, really – but then I like Watson, so, you know, odd) KP’s defiance, the ebb and flow of the bowling, the mysterious impact of the weather**, Bresnan’s incredulous joy.  Love endures the Barmy Army and the annoying way their tunes get stuck in your head, the equally annoying way we’ve never really come up with anything to counter them,*** and the really, really annoying way they make you laugh. Love endures the captain losing it in an undignified, unprofessional and unwarranted fashion, and although it definitely doesn’t approve, it admires the grit with which he carries on, and the defiant response of the home crowd the next morning when the Barmy Army boos him.

I love cricket. Even when it hurts.

* I am intending to come back to the other six verses, this just needed to be written now.

** God was clearly on England’s side: the sun came out when they started batting, and the only time – I swear, the only time – it went away again while they were batting was during drinks breaks.

*** Now’s our chance: the Barmies were formed in England’s doldrums, after all, and it takes heartbreak to fuel creativity. At the very least, we must be able to come up with something better than ‘Your next queen is Camilla Parker-Bowles.’