Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Overheard on the tram

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

18-year-old girl #1: “What did you do on the weekend?”

18-year-old girl #2: “I went down to a pub where one of my friends was performing.”

#1 (excited): “Ooh, is your friend a DJ?”

#2: “No, man I wish I had a DJ friend. No, he was just singing.”

I know it’s a bit boring to talk about things that make you feel old, but jeez, did I feel old. Since when was it more impressive to be able to operate a turntable and dress over-fashionably than to actually be able to sing or play an instrument? I’m serious, can someone give me a date?

Soccer Dog

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

Our puppy, Luffy, found a soccer ball in the garden when we moved house. He chased it round and barked at it and did accidental somersaults over it. Last week, he killed it. He might kill the cat next if he doesn’t get a new ball.

Soccer dog



I killed John Inman

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

OK, I probably need to backtrack a bit from there…

Things have been a bit quiet in the freelance editing world, and I knew there would be no Lonely Planet work through February and March. In January, instead of confidently approaching new publishers for proofing work, I took a backwards step and contacted Leader Community Newspapers, where I worked as a reporter years ago, with the hope of finding some casual work.

For anyone who doesn’t live in Melbourne, Leader papers are free, have lots of real-estate advertising, and cover doings in the local council area. As the lowest rung in Rupert Murdoch’s empire (mixed metaphor, sorry), Leader is also the training ground for News Limited reporters. My dad has a good Leader story: A few years ago he was listening to the radio in his car and tuned in to 3RPH, and someone was reading a deadly dull story from a Leader newspaper about a girl getting her foot caught in a drain in a Doncaster park. He laughed to himself and thought ‘Wow, that must have been a slow news week, even for Leader’. At the end of the report the announcer said ‘And that was “Girl Gets Foot Caught in Drain” by Kate James’.

Anyway, that kind of brilliant reportage must have been remembered by someone at Leader, because they took me on for four weeks of reporting, at the Dandenong Leader and then the Progress Leader (again, if you don’t know Melbourne, that’s pretty much the whole socio-economic spectrum covered, with stories about drugs and refugee gang warfare at one end and jet-setting surgeons and indignant soccer moms at the other).

Let’s be honest – I didn’t much enjoy the last four weeks. I like editing, and I really enjoy working from home and setting my own hours. I had forgotten how hellish it is to be confined to an office cubicle full time, doing a job you don’t like, listening to sales reps on the other side of the partition making loud pitches for ad packages or discussing their advancing pregnancies. (None of which was the fault of the very nice reporters and editors I worked alongside, let alone the chief of staff who kindly gave me as much work as I’d asked for at exactly the time I needed it.)

One of the more interesting stories I wrote was about a film writer and reviewer turned filmmaker, Tim Hunter. His first film, a documentary about Speedos, did pretty well on the gay film-festival circuit, and he’s just put together a short film called Working it Out, which is screening at the Melbourne Queer Film Festival tomorrow.

I liked Tim, and I wrote up what I thought was a reasonably interesting piece, including his observations about the way people wrongly stereotype gay men. When the paper came out (so to speak) the story had been clumsily hacked by the sub-editor. Even worse was the sub’s headline: Gay times for director.

I was seriously embarassed, and I openly ranted at the editor, questioning whether the sub’s sexual politics came from watching Are You Being Served? ‘The caption under the photo might as well have read “I’m free!”‘ I said.

The editor, Natalie, is in her 20s and had no idea what I was talking about. She had never heard of Mr Humphries, bless her. So I gave her the run-down on one of the most stereotypical gay characters in TV history, played by John Inman.

The next day, John Inman died.

Natalie saw the news on her computer, and turned to me. ‘You put the moz on him,’ she said.

If I believed in the moz, I’d be very worried right now. Luckily, there’s only one Moz for me.

More reviews!

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

The Eureka Street review of Women of the Gobi is so good that Pluto Press has put it up on its website. I met the reviewer at a writer’s event late last year; am I allowed to say that receiving a good review seems even better when you know it was written by a handsome young man? Probably not. So I won’t.

Women of the Gobi was also reviewed in a list of favourite travel books in the Australian, and had a positive review in the Canberra Times, which unfortunately isn’t online … it starts by calling the book “both wise and clever, as well as downright fascinating”, which is a phrase to savour (also to whip out in arguments with boyfriend: “I am wise and clever! It says so in the Canberra Times!”).

Another reason not to mention the handsomeness of Eureka Street’s assistant editor is that I might do some writing for them. An article idea has been percolating in my brain, based around the following quote from Penn Jillette; how it pertains to a Christian I know who turns out to have done some abominable things and appears to think that because God has forgiven him everyone else should forget about it; and how that has helped lead me, kind of unexpectedly, on the path from apologetic agnosticism towards outright atheism.

Believing there’s no God means I can’t really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That’s good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around.


Friday, February 2nd, 2007

I haven’t been able to stop and draw breath for the last couple of months, let alone update this site. Chris and I had to unexpectedly move house, and I’ve been working like a dog with LP editing. Actually, considering my dog’s life involves being cuddled, having impromptu songs composed in his honour on the ukulele…

Chris serenading Luffy

… and licking the dregs out of ice-cream bowls and sniffing butts down at the park, that’s hardly an appropriate analogy.

We’ve moved from Clifton Hill, which is apparently number 2 or so in the ‘Melbourne’s most liveable suburbs’ lists, and is populated mainly with well-off white left-leaning folk (think Cultural Studies lecturers), to Brunswick West, which is about number 135 on the same list, and is decidedly more multicultural and working class. The rent’s a lot cheaper, the take-away pizza is both cheaper and tastier (and available on every street corner), the Mediterranean Wholesalers and Coburg Trash and Treasure are nearby … sounds pretty liveable to me.

I’ll update a bit over the next couple of days, with links to lots of Women of the Gobi review-y goodness. But for now, here I am with the damned donkey.

Simpson and his donkey

More Chingrish

Friday, October 20th, 2006

When I was in China I caught a news report on CCTV9 about a campaign by the China Daily to stamp out Chingrish in the lead-up to the Beijing 2008 Olympics. It looks like the campaign is still going. (Thanks to Jim Hsu for the link!)

Near Turpan

WOTG launch

Friday, October 20th, 2006

Women of the Gobi was officially launched at Reader’s Feast bookshop last night. “I ask my wife what ‘launch’ means, she tells me it’s like the pushing out of the boat into the sea,” my French friend Thierry said, after arriving late as usual.

Unfortunately I couldn’t break a bottle of champagne over my book to launch it on its journey into the ocean of bookshops (the analogy’s breaking down a little, isn’t it?) because I was staying away from alcohol – I put my back out in the morning, and I was full of anti-inflammatories and painkillers (which would have combined quite nicely with a drop of red, but not a good idea when I had to give my first public speech since my Nana’s funeral six years ago).

Lonely Planet co-founder Maureen Wheeler talked about Women of the Gobi, and how it reminded her of missionaries she used to hear speaking at the YWCA in Belfast in the ’60s, and how that may have contributed to her desire to travel the world. Then I read a bit from my prologue, and tried to disguise the fact that I was shaking. There were more people there than I expected (thanks everyone!) – Tasmin estimated 150 but that may be a tad generous.

Then I had that glass of red, and as expected it was indeed a nice buzz, but I had to sign a bunch of books and I scrawled illegibly and wrote some slightly silly things in them. Sorry everyone.

It was fun, if slightly nerve-wracking. Highlights of the night: watching a certain Noble Prize nominee flipping through the new Robert Hughes autobiography trying to find the dirty bits; my mum hassling Philippa Hawker (‘So are you going to review it for the Age? Are you?’); seeing my beautiful niece Adela; hearing everyone who had already read the book asking my brother Jack why he wasn’t wearing his hat.

Here’s a couple of pics. That’s me taking a break from book-signing to fondle Chris – I’m not sure I knew a photo was being taken.

WOTG launch 2

WOTG launch

Here‘s where to buy the book!

All hail the penguins

Wednesday, October 11th, 2006

My dad has a volunteer job teaching English to migrants. Of all his students from around the world, he particularly likes and gets along with twos Iranians, a middle-aged Muslim couple. And being who he is, he recently lent them a copy of the Jesus film on DVD.

The next week they returned the film, and thanked my dad. And being well-mannered people, they loaned him a DVD in return. March of the Penguins.

I can’t even imagine the conversation in their home that led up to that choice; was there any deeper meaning behind it or was it just a polite gesture? What do the penguins represent? Who is the penguin in this scenario? (After all, they could have lent him the Mohammed film, where the Prophet is always off-screen or represented as a light.)

My parents stayed in and watched the penguin movie on Saturday night. They liked it. Whether they appreciated it more or less than the Iranians enjoyed the Jesus film is impossible to say.

Talking of my parents and their raging Saturday nights: recently I asked my dad what he had done on the weekend. (I assumed he had done the usual – written a letter to the Age; constructed a complicated toy-train system with his grandson Isaac; cleaned the house from top to bottom stopping only to catch flies with the vacuum cleaner.)

“On Saturday night we went to Grandma’s and played Scrabble,” he said. Then he paused, realising how sad that sounded. “We’re not like you hip inner-city dwellers…”

“Actually Chris and I stayed in and watched Dr Who,” I said. Which is true, and made him feel better.

I ain’t got no linkage

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006

So I’m adding links to my blogroll, and I’m realising that very few of my friends have any kind of online presence. Chris has been blogging since the beginning of time (since last century, anyway), and even my mother had a web page before I did, but few of my buddies are burning to share their brilliant thoughts with … well, anyone who’s not sitting at their table at the pub.

Good for them, I say.

It just means nobody’s going to be linking to me (sniff).