Archive for October, 2008

Goddamit, America – I make one small promise not to blog anymore about your ludicrous electoral processes until after the¬†Big Day¬†(which neatly coincides with the Melbourne Cup:¬†just one more reason to crack open a series of bottles and screeeeam at the television) but I just can’t do it. The pressure of saying nothing has both exhausted and weighed upon me, so that I feel like Will Smith in Independence Day, hauling a half-dead alien through the desert. And now –¬†by jingo! – I need to get some things off my chest.

1. The Republican Party

It doesn’t seem unreasonable to compare a vote for John McCain¬†at this point to a vote for Nixon after Watergate. The Republican ticket has demonstrated itself to be so duplicitous, hypocritical and untrustworthy – not to mention downright insane – that electing them on the offchance of improvement makes¬†about as much as sense¬†as¬†giving a serial DUI offender a bottle of single malt and the keys to a vintage roadster.¬†Do Not Want.

2. John McCain

Is a cranky old man, and everyone knows it.¬†That’s not the only reason he shouldn’t be president, but¬†it does¬†explain his prejudices, selective ignorance and random interview¬†tantrums.¬†Assuming¬†he ever was,¬†McCain is no longer a statesman¬†for whom patience and tact come easily. Can you imagine¬†him facing tricky questions over the foregin negotiating table without physically lunging for the nearest Russian throat? Having an excellent poker face is moot if your temper never allows it play, and whenever the media starts talking about McCain on a ‘good day’, like they did¬†during the last Presidential debate, I instantly think of¬†a nurse describing a dementia patient during a moment of lucidity, viz: someone undergoing¬†a temporary return to form, not a step towards recovery.¬†Age can bring experience, but only when tempered by self-control and a lively mind. McCain boasts neither – at this point, he can’t even keep his running mate in check. Which brings us to:

3. Sarah Palin

Lord, how this woman scares me. I could talk about her jibberish jargon-babble, winks to the camera, campaign¬†wardrobe,¬†complete¬†and utter ignorance of foreign policy, purposeful deviations from the party line and¬†the Alaskan trooper scandal, but those are all just symptoms of the woman herself. When I look at Sarah Palin – when I read about her, listen to¬†her and examine her actions – I see someone convinced of their own self-righteousness but¬†lacking introspection.¬†I see a¬†politician who takes instinct unlevened by either experience or education as her primary guiding star, and who believes that the¬†Biblican injunction for man and wife to work together¬†overrides¬†political confdentiality. I see a woman so powerfully convinced of the rightness of her vision for America that she’s willing to disregard all¬†due processes – even go against her party leader – to see it take shape. I see a woman who, deep down, believes that intellectuals don’t know what they’re talking about if they don’t know God, and that even intellectuals who do know God are still too far removed from the common man to be useful. I see a rich, power-hungry politician who still believes in her own humility¬†and down-to-earthness because, although she wears the trappings of success, she’s really just a layman¬†on a holy crusade.¬†I¬†see someone who’ll burn the world and call it Rapture.

……..aaaand I’m back to the American Apocalypse. Great. This is exactly what I didn’t want, and the reason I’ve been keeping my Goddam mouth shut. I’m rooting for Obama, all the evidence says he’s going to win, but I can’t shake the¬†awful fear that the USA will vote GOP. Like taking a flu shot to combat the actual flu, I feel the need to fill up on bile and bitterness now, the better to deal with disappointment. Logically, I know it’s not the end of the world. American hegemony was always going to end around now, and I’m not so Yankee-centric as to assume it bespells horror for the rest of us. But the writer in me – the fantasist, lover of apocalyptic fiction – keeps theorising on How It Can All Go Wrong.

Damn America. I give up.

In keeping this blog, I’ve had a few weird search engine terms crop up.¬†Questions like¬†things to draw for mom (why not a pony?)¬†and is marriage about love or pragmatism (depends on the person) at least represent coherent thoughts, while¬†lollies for cartoon cake and¬†transform lizardman- calibur are markdly more abstract. Still, I can at least picture the kind of person who types these things into Google.

But someone who looks for peaches geldof deformed arm children?


Delightfully, the good folks over at Village Wit have published a short story of mine called The Nihilist Ice Cream Parlour. Check it out!

For those who’re interested, the concept¬†came from a night out with philosophers – the night of this conversation, actually – after Zach posited the idea of a nihilist ice cream vendor. Everyone, naturally, thought it was hilarious, and I vowed on the spot to write a short story about it. Zach agreed, but not before making me promise to give him joint credit. I accepted. On we went.

A few days later, I found myself with a free half hour at work. I thought about nihilist ice cream, grinned, and wrote the¬†first version (850 words long –¬†the published iteration, due to submission guidelines, is 700)¬† in about twenty minutes. I printed it out, and, as it was a Friday, proceeded to the Melbourne Uni postgradute philosophy room to join my Long-Suffering Husband. Zach was also there. With a triumphant flourish, I dropped the finished article on his lap. He read it. I waited.

After about a minute, he looked up.

‘Foz?’ he asked. ‘I don’t get it. I mean, I get it, I just don’t get why.’

Turns out, he’d forgotten the entire conversation, as had almost everyone else. So in a way, the story is my reward for not ending up utterly drunk that night.

It’s like an After School Special come true.

Digital Dilemmas

Posted: October 24, 2008 in Good News Week
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In news today, a drunk Sydneysider has been caught taking sickie thanks to his Facebook status, while elsewhere, a woman has killed her virtual online husband Рor rather, his avatar.

Clearly, despite mounting anecdotal evidence to the contrary, we have yet to form total symbiosis with the World-Wide Web.

Yes, it’s that time again –¬†my latest article, Life After Rowling, is now up at Halo 17. Knock yourselves out.

Also, awesome sidenote: Nick Harkaway blogged about me last week. Shiny!

For some reason known only to the various technological demons, lares and penates governing this modern age, my computer has recently decided to stop recognsing the wireless modem. Not entirely, of course: it lets me log on, then drops out a minute later. There is no discernable pattern to these occurrences, but when they strike, it usually proves impossible to log on again. Which is why this blog has been scatty lately: I can’t often stay on long enough to post. So, apologies. I’m working on it.

I wanted many things from the latest St Trinian’s adaptation – black humour,¬†a visual hats-off¬†to Ronald Searle, a vague resemblance to Timothy Shy’s book, knuckledusters – but mostly, given its abysmal 5.6 rating on IMDB, I wanted it not to suck. For this reason, it’s a film I’ve had to gear myself to see, bracing against every possible atrocity modern cinema could unleash on such an absurdly wonderful premise. Like a mantra of hope, I found myself muttering the names of Stephen Fry, Colin Firth and Rupert Everett, clinging to my conviction that, surely, no film featuring all three could fail utterly.

And you know what? I was right.

From the opening credits, St Trinian’s slams the audience into the world of Searle’s belovedly crazy schoolgirls and runs with riotous insanity through¬†ten-year old twins with dynamite and a vodka distillery, Rupert Everett as an alcoholic¬†headmistress¬†hitting on Colin Firth, an art heist, Stephen Fry on drugs and hockey sticks akimbo.¬†At times, it’s hysterical. The modern elements – such as emos, geeks, randy royals¬†and YouTube pranks – all blend seamlessly with the original stock of violence, explosives, skulduggery¬†and¬†drunk teachers; so much so, in fact, that anyone not familiar with Searle’s comics could be forgiven for wondering just how many liberties had been taken.

In fact, the biggest weakness is character development. In order to keep the pace cracking, much has been sacrificed in the way of individual nuance, so that many girls are little more than names or distinctive faces. It’s hard to say whether this fact is worsened or ameliorated by the archetypes in play: the audience can still readily tell Chivas from Posh Totty, but the girls belonging to each group are deliberately bounded by these definitions, so that even though nothing is lost in translation, neither is anything gained. Still, it’s a flaw that sits well with the original material, given that Searle’s comics featured no recurring characters, and anyone familiar with Shy’s novella can spot La Umbrage in Everett’s persona, the sly minx in Kelly.

All in all, St Trinian’s is a rare and hilarious remake, one that sticks entirely to the spirit of the original without sacrificing modernity. Throw in an awesome soundtrack, and you’ve got a recipe for success. IMDB hath spoken wrongly: rent it and see for yourself!

When it comes to alcohol, there’s only two things I don’t drink: beer and sambucca. I’ll hack the sambucca if it’s part of a Harvey Wallbanger, but even so, not liking¬†liquorice-flavoured spirits is hardly¬†a handicap on your average trip to the pub.¬†The same cannot be said of disliking beer. It’s a social drink. It goes well in rounds, most people drink it, you can share¬†jugs, and¬†it’s markedly cheaper than just about anything else. Nonetheless, I drink bourbon and coke (shut up), which at least has the advantage of being readily available.¬†But since I’ve¬†been old enough to drink in pubs, I’ve noticed my choice of¬†beverage, apart from being, yes, boganly,¬†brings¬†an unintended consequence: the Sexism of the Straw.

Imagine this: a confident young woman in a ThinkGeek shirt approaches the bar and asks for a B & C. The bartender (male) takes in her appearance, the gaggle of unruly logicians with whom she has entered, grins, pours her drink, and puts a little black straw in it. Firmly but politely, the young woman removes the straw, wipes it on the inside rim of the glass, and lays it back on the barmat. Drink in hand, she returns to her table. The round goes on; the bourbon is consumed. Someone else Рmale, most certainly a philosopher of some description Рsaunters up and orders a jug plus same. When he returns, huzzah! Рthere is no straw. Perhaps, the young woman thinks, the bartender has learned. But she is wrong: for, lo, when next her round appears, the straw is back, protruding from her bourbon and coke like a tiny plastic javelin.

Now imagine this happens at every¬†single bar, everywhere, ever. I cannot begin to describe how annoying this is. Firstly, who drinks bourbon and coke from a straw?¬†For that matter, what adult drinks¬†anything¬†other than¬†cocktails¬†from a straw, alcoholic or otherwise? Secondly, why¬†would chicks need straws more than guys? It’s not like our¬†lips are weaker. It’s not even neater, or more¬†girly-girly-feminine, because any¬†possible element of girly-girly-feminine¬†gained by¬†the straw is instantly lost by the fact that it’s bourbon-and-fucking-coke. The highlight of this weirdness came tonight, not at the pub (for once) but a Chinese restaraut, where the (male) waiter¬†brought my Long-Suffering Husband and I two glasses of water: one strawless, for him, and one with straw, for me. I mean, water.¬†It’s not like there was even a slice of lemon there, or ice, you know, something to swizzle around: no. Just plain ol’ water. With a straw.

God help me.

There’s only two scenarios in which I’ve ever been served strawless: either the barman takes careful note of my straw-refusal and thereinafter learns (although usually they go to put the straw in a second time,¬†catch my expression¬†and whisk it out again, whoopsie!), or the bartender has been female.

O barmen of the world, take heed: renounce your ludicrous straws. If it’s absolutely necessary, put them within reach on the counter, supply on demand – who cares?¬†But for the sake of everloving sense, stop giving them just to women.

It’s enough to make a girl start drinking beer.

Remember that episode of the Simpsons when Mr Burns ran for Governor? It was called Two Cars In Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish, and began with toxic waste from the nuclear power plant causing one fish to mutate a third eye. Burns starts up on the campaign trail in order to avoid being prosecuted; because of his unpopularity, however, he hires a team of spin doctors, mud-rakers and media advisors to oust Mary Bailey, his beloved competitor. Eventually (because this is, after all,¬†the Simpsons) Burns’ victory hinges on having a middle-class dinner with Homer et al. Marge, a Bailey supporter,¬†has been forbidden to ask political questions during dinner, but gets her own back by serving Mr Buns the same three-eyed fish his campaign has been calling harmless. At the cruical, televised moment, Burns spits out the meat,¬†losing the election as a direct consequence. Family fun all round.

Eighteen years after the episode first aired, John McCain is running for president. There’s a distinct physical similarity between the current Republican candidate and Monty B, but that’s not what makes the comparison so disturbing. Rather, it’s how he refers to average voters, viz: Johnny Lunchpail, Joe Meatball, Sally Housecoat, Eddie Punchclock and – wait for it – Joe Sixpack.

Huh. Now, where did we hear that recently?

Generation Why

Posted: October 8, 2008 in Ink & Feather
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My latest column, Generation Why, is now up at Halo 17. So why not check it out?