Archive for March, 2010

Is there anything sadder than a government add campaign self-consciously endeavouring to relate to Teh Young Peoples? I mean, seriously – how stupid do these people think teenagers are? I don’t care how it was back in the Good Old Days Of Yore, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and John Howard was still the lifeblood of the Young Liberals, because nowadays, people don’t look upon advertising as a natural Goddamm phenomenon. It’s not like the weather. It doesn’t just exist in some pristine, impartial state. This is not the 1950s. We know where advertising comes from, and what it is for. The fact that the government is endeavouring to promote law rather than a product grants them a unique legitimacy, especially as the intended consequence here is to save lives. But these ads, right here? They are the televised equivalent of entering a valid argument in full possession of the relevant moral highground, and then proceding to answer every statement with inane schoolyard insults. The government is trying to relate to young people, but instead, it is insulting their intelligence.

A small interlude, by way of comparison. Consider the following recent ad, wherein ANZ has created the (admittedly amusing) strawman of Barbara, a bank manager who lives in Bank World, and who is described as being the diametric opposite of an ANZ employee. I laugh when I watch this ad, because I have encountered people like Barbara in my travels, but I am not fooled into thinking that ANZ’s recognition of the stereotype equates to their having eradicated it. The point being, I am meant to find Barbara repulsive, because the ad works on the assumption that I, its intended audience, am not a Barbara myself. Furthermore, I do not want to be Barbara; I am not friends with a Barbara; I should, in fact, have nothing to do with her (wait for it) barbarous kind, and therefore – it is hoped – the humour and disgust I feel when looking at Barbara will lull me into accepting the premise of the ad, which is that ANZ is home to bunnies and light and sweetness, while all other banks are slavering, scabrous bastions of cruelty and disease. Or, like, not.

But.

The government, in its infinite wisdom, has elected to mock emos and redheads as part of its campaign. Question from the gallery: are there emos and redheads among the teenage population? Ding ding ding, that’s an affirmative, Captain! And are they friends and associates ofΒ  other teenagers who, although neither emo nor redheaded themselves, are likely to be outraged on their behalf? Double jackpot! And now, for the winner: assuming the remaining population of phone-wielding teenage drivers who like to mouth off their hatred of emos and redheads find these ads funny, what are the chances that their mirth will translate into careful driving practices, rather than – as seems infinitely more likely – serving as justification for their bigoted trashtalking? Do I hear cries of slim to none from the audience? Hallelujah! Thanks for playing another tedious round of Yet More Proof The Government Is Run By Crazy People With Little Or No Grasp On Reality And The Social Intelligence Of A Concussed Trout! I mean, Sweet Zombie Jesus!

Some days, I hate everything.

Look, dudes-in-government: there’s no shame in being so hopelessly out of touch as to qualify you as having only four working senses. Well, tell a lie – maybe there’s a little shame, but that’s only because you can’t bear to admit it. You like the idea of being in touch, because you’ve made a career out of popularity, and deep down in the tiny, scum-encrusted carapace of your stunted souls, you can’t bear to think that there’s a demographic alive you might not be able to sway, should you desire it – but you are not in touch. And most of the time, we, the Thinking People Under Thirty, don’t particularly care, because it’s what we expect. But when you do something like this, it makes us sit up and take notice, and not in a good way. Suddenly, we smell the lies on you, the way dogs smell fear; we curl our lips and remember why we are so fucking disinclined, by and large, to take your advice in the first place. You, with your forced joviality and condescention, you make yourselves resemble a set of creatures we have no wish to become; but inevitably, we will grow up, and when that happens, we do not wish to be scrambling for the approval of our juniors, as you so clearly are, but earning it through a demonstration of the idea that maybe, just maybe, our older selves are something worth imitating.

Today, you failed at that. You failed hard.

Try and learn from it.

First up: for all you Melbourne people, I’ll be signing books at Southland Dymmocks tomorrow from 11:30. It would be great to see you there!

Secondly, I’ve not been blogging here lately as often as I’d like – which is to say, I’ve been stopping in to put up links, but otherwise not doing much in the way of generating content. My apologies! What with full time work, househunting, writing The Key to Starveldt and trying to keep abreast of the million other deadlines I seem to have accrued of late, not to mention chewing a hole through my To Be Read pile, the fact that I’m still on the sanewards side of the Great Wall of Crazy feels like a smallish miracle. Therefore, by way of a cheap blog-stunt in celebration of this fact, I give to you this largely pointless list itemising the contents of my bag, because I feel like it, and because really, I carry around a lot of stuff.

So:

Things In Foz’s Bag

1. My red iPod nano, the back of which is engraved with my name and Toby’s, because we were each given one as a wedding present. Thanks, Andre!

2. A pair of cheapish black headphones, large enough to snag on anything else I put in there.

3. My review copy of Karen Healey’s Guardian of the Dead. I’ve just started reading it, and so far? Awesomeness.

4. Two Anne et Valentin glasses cases. One is purple and empty, the summer home of the pair I wear everyday. The other is silver, and holds my very first pair of prescription sunnies. From the coolness of these pairs of glasses, one might mistakenly infer that I have good taste, when in actual fact, all the credit goes to Josie Meadows, my sister-in-law, and her shop, Scoogle. If you’re looking for some good frames, check them out!

5. A stylish blue lanyard with matching security pass for my current job with the Department of Justice. That’s right, people. I occasionally work for the government. Be afraid.

6. My camera, which is to say, Toby’s old camera, which works beautifully provided you have hands that are steady as carven stone and no intetion of ever using the flash. Or which, if you do want to add a little illumination, will take anywhere up to a minute to register that yes, you’ve pressed the button, and therefore that taking the Goddam photo might be a good idea.

7. An old, mostly dead USB key in a large plastic case. I keep it because…maybe it works? Sometimes? Also, it says Baulderstone Hornibrook on it, from when I used to work there. Yes, that’s the name of a real buisness. Stop sniggering.

8. A notebook with a cover that looks like a stack of old Penguin edition spines, given to me by an old boss, in which I’ve written various story notes. Thanks, Helen!

9. My bunny stitches purse from Cybertart – which, incidentally, is where the garden of hearts bag also came from.

10. A pair of 3D glasses, taken from today’s viewing of How to Train Your Dragon. Which, just so you know, is the best dragon movie ever.

11. A small purple notebook, in which I write down interesting names.

12. My red secondary purse, which contains a whole lot of absolutely vital stuff. This includes: a booklet of nightclub matches; a card my friends gave me when Solace & Grief was first accepted for publication; a plastic strip of valium tablets from when I last kronked my neck, but which I’ve subsequently used to help get to sleep on planes; an untouched Ikea voucher for $200 that my parents gave Toby and I as a wedding present three years ago, but which we haven’t yet spent; about four pages of handwritten story notes; all my old school and uni ID cards; my Medicare, blood donor and video store cards; various business cards; some tampons; bandaids; a hairband; some cheque stubs; and a small pink envelope, the original purpose of which eludes me.

13. Half a hairbrush. Toby knocked it onto the bathroom tiles one day, and the handle broke off, so now I carry the head of it around rather than buy an actual travel-sized brush.

14. Two identical Indigo Moon notebooks. One I bought a couple of years ago: it’s battered and almost entirely full up. The other was part of this year’s birthday present from my aunt and uncle, who had no idea about the first one.

15. A spare ventalin cannister, in case my asthmatic-but-never-carries-an-inhaler husband actually needs one.

16. Two plastic Mr Men figurines: Mr Pernickety and Mr Grumpy. I tend to refer to these as my visual aides, which I use to illustrate the very important difference between philosophers plying their trade Before Beer (Pernickety) and With Beer (Grumpy, whose fist is raised mid-tirade).

17. Random Crud, which includes: eight pens; three hairbands; the plastic bowler hat from the top of a bottle of gin; scribbled-on Post-It notes; two miscelleneous keys, plus a third that fits my bike lock; a chapstick; several dead tram tickets; a promotional Boost Juice flyer; stickers promoting Solace & Grief; bookmarks that do the same thing; and a Home Brand AA battery. There used to be a yellow golf ball, too, but I think I might’ve given it to someone.

This constitutes the minimum amount of stuff I’m carrying at any given time. Which is, you know. Scary. But also weirdly enlightening.

Just a quick update on mentions of Solace & Grief throughout teh internets.

1. I was recently interviewed by the lovely Callie Martin of Readings, St Kilda.

2. The illustrious Kat of BookThingo has posted a review, plus a signed book giveaway.

3. Another review, courtesy of The Reading Stack.

4. With Extra Pulp has written a write-up of the recent Sydney launch.

That is all. But, yay!

‘Scuse me, mate. Do you know where the strip clubs are?’

It’s nearing midnight in the Melbourne CBD. Toby and I are chaining our bikes up outside Hungry Jacks (all the better to eat you with, my dear) and a bloke somewhere between our ages has approached. He’s clearly drunk – not yet in a falling-down-slurring way, but there’s an obvious sway to his posture. His eyes are bloodshot, and his clothes speak of corporate money.

‘Sorry,’ I say. ‘No idea.’

‘Not talking to you,’ he says, swinging his eyes to Toby. ‘Talking to your friend here.’

‘Husband,’ I correct, firmly enough to regain his attention. This earns the pair of us a derisive snort.

‘Husband? Bloody taking a chance there, mate.’

I make a huffing noise, one that an arrogant drunk might mistake for laughter, and realise that, come to think of it, I do know where to send him. The venue has such a ridiculous name on so massive a sign that after four years of regular passingΒ  by, it would be more surprising if I hadn’t remembered.

‘Go up there,’ I tell him, pointing to Flinders Street. ‘Go up there for two blocks, and there should be a strip club on your right. The Spearmint Rhino.’

‘The Rhino.’ He sways a little, starting to slur now. ‘Cool. Hey, can I have a smoke?’

‘Sorry, mate. We don’t smoke.’

‘Don’t smoke?’ He looks hazily outraged. ‘What kinda people are you?’

‘Hey,’ says Toby. ‘We’ve given you directions.’

‘Directions?’

I give them again. He squints and stares, then nods his comprehension. Or bobs, rather, like a wobble-headed plastic dashboard dog.

‘Thanks, mate. You’re a legend.’

Off he goes.

‘Charming young man,’ I mutter.

‘No,’ says Toby, choosing to ignore my sarcasm. ‘He wasn’t.’

We head into Hungry Jacks. Sitting outside is a dreadlocked girl on a pale green rug. She is young and skinny, bedecked in plastic coloured beads, wearing beaten-up shoes and tights so ripped that they are more air than fabric. Delirium, I think. She looks like Delirium.

We walk to the counter, order our food. This being week’s end, there’s not too many people about, but still the usual nightlife has filtered in – mostly men, without the bottle-blonde, totter-heeled womenchicks in shiny Supre dresses you usually see on Friday or Saturday. As we wait for our meals, Delirium comes to the counter. She asks the server for some water. He hands her a tiny plastic cup, the smallest size they have, in which sundaes, rather than fizzy drink, are served. She points to the big cardboard cups; can she have one of those instead? He shakes his head and tells her no. They only serve water in plastic. It’s a policy. She looks sad, but takes what she’s given without complaint. As she heads back outside, I am struck by a realisation, instinctive and unverifiable. Delirium will wait out there, sipping her water, until enough time has passed that she can legitimately go back in for more without looking desperate or greedy. Until then, she will deal with what she has. Our food arrives then, and I resolve that, if I cannot finish my meal, I will offer her what’s left. It seems a meagre offer. But better than nothing.

We eat and talk. A drunk man yells at a marauding pigeon, running to scare it ouside. This tactic works, and he sits back down with his friends, evidently satisfied. I haven’t eaten a proper dinner; despite my resolution, all that’s left are our two cokes. I tell Toby that I’ll give them to the girl. He nods, and as we walk back outside, I brace for her to refuse them. But as I offer the full cups, explaining that we couldn’t finish their contents, her face lights up; she thanks me profusely and starts to drink. We walk back to the bikes.

‘I wouldn’t have noticed that,’ says Toby. He looks at her over his shoulder. ‘She’s so young.’

The bikes unlock. We put on our helmets, but somehow, neither of us rides away. Instead, we shuffle slowly forwards, eyes on the Delirium-girl, watching as she’s joined by a skinny-tall boy in a black hoodie. They’re clearly together: they swap a drink and talk, laugh. He crouches down, asks a question. I can’t hear what. In answer, she pulls something out of her backpack. He pats it, which seems odd – I don’t remember seeing an animal, but that’s what the gesture suggests. Then he picks up whatever-it-is and slips it into his hood.

I look at Toby. He looks at me.

‘I want to buy them a meal,’ I say.

He looks from them to me, then smiles. ‘OK.’

My helmet goes back in the pannier. I walk over. They glance up at my approach.

‘Hey,’ I say. ‘I know this is random, but do you guys want some food?’

Something sparks in the girl. Her smile is hopeful and genuine. ‘You’re sure?’

‘My treat,’ I say.

They swap a grin like this is the best thing they’ve ever heard. She stands up, and they start to follow me back inside – but then there’s a pause, this shy hesitation. I wait for the explanation.

‘We have a rat,’ she says, a little hurried, a little worried – wanting to be honest, even though she fears it will cost her my offer. ‘Is that OK?’

‘He’s in my hoodie,’ the guy says, sheepishly. ‘He keeps wriggling around,’ and when I look again, I can see he’s right.

It’s so bittersweet an exchange, I can’t keep from grinning. ‘Of course it’s OK! What’s his name? Is he a named rat?’

‘He’s Tushie,’ says the girl. She blushes.

We go inside.

I tell them my name. We all shake hands: the youth is Dan, but somehow, the girl’s name goes straight out of my head. She looks so much like Delirium, I can’t think of her as anything else, despite her cheerfulness and lucidity. Her smile is broad; she tells me that everything is going right today, and as Dan nods, I want so much to ask how they are here, and why. They can’t be much older than sixteen, and not out of home too long, either – not if their braces and her glasses are anything to go by. But I keep my questions to myself.

At the counter, I tell them to order whatever they like. They hesitate, not wanting to ask for too much, but clearly hungry. There’s a pause.

‘Anything,’ I say again. ‘It doesn’t matter what.’

Tentative, waiting for me to correct him, Dan asks for a large Stunner meal. Delirium wants a small version of the same. I ask them what Sundae flavours they want: he has chocolate, and she has caramel, the same as I did. Once again, I’m at the counter waiting for food. They talk to each other, voices soft. Dan has a job interview tomorrow, but worries he can’t afford the tram fare. He doesn’t want to risk another fine, and wishes their shelter paid for such things. Delirium offers to lend him her Myki, but he says no, because it’s not registered to him. I blink in surprise.

‘Myki works now?’

‘No,’ says Delirium, a mixture of sad and mischevious. ‘That’s why we use it.’

Their food comes. I hand it to them, an intermediary, and though part of me wants to stay, ask, learn, the rest of me knows that I’m done. It’s time to go.

‘Have a better night,’ I say.

They grin and nod. Delirium tells me something kind in parting. I wrench a little.

I leave.

Toby is waiting for me outside. He’s seen the exchange. We smile at each other, reclaim our bikes, and start to wheel them through the darkness. As we cross at the intersection, a drunken bloke who I’d swear was the would-be strip-club attendee yells and staggers past us at a loping run – towards what, I don’t know.

We ride home through the night. The wind is cool, and the stars above flicker with time.

Sunday is over.

So, because anything which even remotely pertains to my authorly duties can be justified under the broad heading of Legitimate Work, I spent a smallish portion of yesterday putting together playlists for Solace & Grief and its sequel, The Key to Starveldt. It was a lot of fun to do, and while I still haven’t finalised the songs for TKTS, being as how the book itself isn’t yet complete, I’m pretty happy with the SG mix. It’s meant to reflect/complement the book from beginning to end, but there’s no direct correspondence between songs and chapters; it’s a bit more nebulously based on moods and scenes. Of course, me being me, I might add to it in the future if some new or oerlooked song leaps out at me as being awesomely appropriate, but until then, here’s the list, for your amusement/enjoyment/whatever:

Solace & Grief: The Playlist!

1. Where Do I Begin – The Chemical Brothers

2. How Soon Is Now? – The Smiths

3. Risingson – Massive Attack

4. My Delirium – Ladyhawke

5. Happiness – Regurgitator

6. Bohemian Like You – The Dandy Warhols

7. Hung From The Roof – Decorated Generals

8. Tease – Endorphin

9. What’s In The Middle – The Bird and the Bee

10. Clint Eastwood – Gorillaz

11. Pretty When You Cry – VAST

12. Hypnotise – Audioslave

13. One – Lamb

14. Mad World – Tears For Fears

15. Schitzophrenia – Felt

16. What You Are – Audioslave

17. Spies – Coldplay

Yesterday’s launch at Kinokuniya was, to put it simply, awesome.

There are a number of reasons for this.

1. I woke up, hopped online, and was confronted by two very shiny emails: a lovely missive from someone who’s read the book saying the kind of nice things which, did I have feathers, would cause me to preen them; and a note from my publisher alerting me very favourable review in the Sunday Age, which can hopefully be seen here. It says Solace & Grief is “a well-plotted novel…a little Scooby-Doo, a little bit Buffy, and a lot of fun for readers 15 and up.” Whee!

2. My parents went above and beyond in providing food, nibblies and service, and with the help of Helene, our Kinokuniya contact person, and her organisational magic, everything was laid out perfectly. A big thanks to the staff, who were friendly, interesting and wonderful. There’s a reason why Kinokuniya is such a fantastic store!

3. Once things got underway, Scott Westerfeld launched the book by saying a series of extremely flattering things about Solace and her friends, such that the sides of my mouth started to twitch from grinning too much. It was twelve kinds of awesome to meet Scott, not to mention Justine Larbalestier, and even though my base instinct was to lose all communictive skills in their presence, abandon myself to the squealing fangirl within and go all I’m Not Worthy a la Wayne’s World, I think I managed to actually act like a sensible adult and hold a conversation. I know, kids. I’m scared, too.

4. The people. Everyone who showed up was lovely – thank you all for coming, making yourselves known, and being generally shiny! Special mentions go to Kat from Book Thingo, who I now know in the flesh as well as via IM, and to the Capsicum Girls, who made me a gift of a yellow capsicum with a heart drawn on the stem to remember them by. (They also gave Scott a watermelon.) It took me a while to pin down why I was so wildly excited to receive a brightly coloured vegetable, but apart from the fact that all the Girls were cool and friendly and liked my Pwnies shirt, it struck me later that Ms Catalysta’s blog entry about giving Idina Menzel a pumpkin might have something to do with it. Yay for random produce!

5. After lots of signing, book-selling, photo-taking and talking with peeps both new and old, a few friends, Toby and I retired to the Edinburgh Castle pub for drinks. These went on for a while, and eventually culminated in a pizza dinner with friends-of-a-new-friend in Newtown that was both tasty and full of cool conversation. And then we walked back up King Street toΒ  Elizabeth’s, where we bought the first Anita Blake novel and the volume one trade paperback of Angel: After The Fall, before stopping in at one of the two King Street bookshops to possess an ambient cat called Shakespeare, whom we patted, and then we caught a cab home and fell into well-earned, exhausted slumber.

So, that was Sunday. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who made it work! By way of reward, here is another happy-making review, courtesy of Sue Bursztynski. It made me smile: I hope it has the same effect on you.

People of Earth, your attention please – as of today, being 1 March 2010, Solace & Grief is officially on shelves! Woo! Here is a nice review to celebrate! Pan Galactic Gargle-Blasters all round!

Due partly to the fact that all good things come in threes, but mostly because launches are fun, Solace & Grief is being treated to three of them. The first, as keen observers of this blog may be aware, was held on Saturday 20 Feb at the Carlton Library, and was awesome, if a little nerve-rattling, owing to the fact that I am now an Author Person and was therefore unable to persue my usual ploy of loitering near the cheese platter until rather late in the day. The second launch took place during Friday night’s portion of Continuum 6, courtesy of the wonderful Lucy Sussex, who not only said a series of very nice things indeed about the book, but also gave me a rather delicious bottle of red champagne, the subsequent lifespan of which was, as one might imagine, brief. However, there is still one launch to go, and if you are a native of Sydney or any of the surrounding burghs, it would be a thing of extreme shinyness to see you there. Thus, I give you: the details!

Where: Kinokuniya Books, Level 2, The Galeries Victoria, 500 George Street, Sydney.

When: This Sunday 7 March from 12:30 onwards.

The proceedings will be MC’d by the illustrious Scott Westerfeld. There will be little sandwiches, and things to drink, and books to buy and have signed – in short, it will be an awesome day, and more in these instances is always merrier, so come along! Bring friends, bring fun, and together we will talk vampires. Mua. Ha. Haaa.