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It's a fine line between living for the moment and being a sociopath.

Patricia B McConnell: For The Love Of A Dog.

Pema Chodron: The Places That Scare You

Daniel Wallace: Mr Sebastian & the Negro Magician

All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. --Pablo Neruda

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Location: Oxfordshire, United Kingdom

100 things about me

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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Heard last night at Postcardsfromhome HQ

"I don't mind about the terrorists, but I wear socks around the house!"


Thursday, January 26, 2006

I am married to the most wonderful woman on the planet

I got home yesterday evening and went, as is habit, into my study, to find, as is usual, the days mail plopped on the leather chair before my desk. A package. From Australia. This part isn't usual.

It's from Flame-Haired Angel, who's in the kitchen making fish, which is somewhat confusing given she's apparently sent me a package from Australia. But there, on the address label, there is proof it's from her: "To my cricket fan."

It's a DVD issue of the old Australian Broadcasting Corp's miniseries called "Bodyline", about the most famous series of cricket matches in history. I've always wanted to see it.

In the picture below, you can see a very young Hugo Weaving, Agent Smith from The Matrix, and Lord Elrond (Liv Tyler's father) from Lord of the Rings.



This is one of the most interesting collections of erotic photography in the world, I'm convinced. It's not always beautiful -- it's not even always sexy -- but it's never cliche. And given what we're normally given that's supposed to pass for eros, that's plenty an achievement.


Warning: Not worksafe.

Further warning: It's unexpectedly, inspiringly human.

UPDATE: There's apparently been a change of management at Softr. It's nothing but porn promotion, now. Don't bother.


The @ Generation

Care to feel old, today?

Your grey hair and spreading once-tautness not enough to remind you of the ever-lightening fade of your youth?

Have a read of this article, from Business Week online.

All at once, I both envy them and mourn that they're lives -- at least as I imagine them -- seem so free from those moments of sustained connection that define the sweetest flavours of my memory. When you have more than 4,000 friends, who do you really turn to in your joy and despair?

But, listen to me. My hair is grey. My tautness is un-taut. And I use semicolons.


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Vonnegut is cool, except...

My only issue with the excerpt from Vonnegut's memoirs, about which I blogged here, is his absolute rejection of the semicolon.

I love semicolons; they love me. They extend the range of expressive punctuation, and if anyone ever needed an extended expressive range, yo, baby.

And then there's my fondness for remarking, "Yes, I went to college. Hard to believe, isn't it?"


Baggie Boy

I can’t explain this other than to say that there was some question in my mind about whether Flame-Haired Angel would want to keep this bag, and the consequent need to demonstrate its size. Then there was the handiness of her camera, and my inability to see that she had it handy. Because, well, my head was in a bag.


Singapore: home of non-zany oddness

I spent much of last week in Singapore. If you’ve never been there, it’s a city suffering an identity crisis somewhere between George Orwell and Rene Magritte. It’s home to a created version of normalcy so complete, it’s tempting to succumb to paranoia that you’re actually the Jim Carrey character in The Truman Show. It’s Pleasantville writ in skyscrapers and humidity.

In fact, everything is so damn ordered that, when anything the slightest bit odd happens, you notice. That’s not to say that oddness is rare, there; it’s just extra noticeable. Odd things cross either one’s path or one’s mind all the time, but against a backdrop of so much bland orderliness, the odd stands out.

And I mean “odd”. Not zany-nutso-shake-your-naked-tits-while-garlanded-hippos-dance kind of crazy. That’s too out there. Singapore is clenched far too tight for serious nonsense like that. No, Singapore’s oddness oozes quietly out from the edges that aren’t quite as firmly tacked down.

Singapore is so unnaturally tidy, clean and well-lit, there simply aren’t any dark corners in which the usual pedestrian, human neuroses can take refuge. But any substance squeezed hard enough will begin to squelch out between the fingers of the clenching fist. That’s life in Singapore: squeezed so tight, the oddness starts to ooze out. Singapore’s fingers are just meticulously manicured.

A simple example. It’s no secret to anyone who’s traveled on Singapore Airlines that the hiring policy discriminates on looks. As unenlightened as it may be to say so, each SIA aircraft is, as a result, a flying garden of earthly delights. It’s been so for years.

But what I’ve never been able to figure out is why the stewardesses are always having such a good time. Every flight I can remember, these young women are chatting and giggling and gentle with each other. And it isn’t just in front of the passengers. On my flight from Paris to Singapore, I went to the galley in the middle of the night, and five stewardesses were in there having a grand time. And I mean partying like they were all on a quarter tab of ecstasy. It was a love-in laugh-in. Noticing me after a while, far from acting like they’d been caught, they included me in their joke, and went on laughing while pouring my wine. Not even Qantas staff are *that* laid back.

There’s nothing wrong with it, of course. It’s delightful. It’s just a little odd. More than a couple of standard deviations from the norm.

Another example. I checked into my “executive sea view” hotel room drolly wondering how an executive view of the sea differs from the usual vista. Throwing back the curtain, I got hit in the eye with what seems to me a rather typical Singapore kind of pay off. It was a sea view, right enough: miles and miles of sea. But the particular bit of sea I was viewing was one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world: tankers and container titans as far as the reach of my eyes. Just there, out beyond the swim-up bar.

Another? Waiting in the hotel business center for my document to emerge from a slow printer, I idly leafed through a glossy local magazine with lots of ads for wrist watches that require a second mortgage. In the back pages, I came upon some sort of society section: pages of couples and small groups snapped at big-money, see-and-be-seen events about town.

Lord knows why but one couple’s picture jumped out at me. They were young, fetching, bright-eyed and well-dressed. Then I read their names. I am *not* making this up: Rachel Kum and Hugh Hoyes-Cock. After getting over my initial shock, I couldn't help but wonder at what would happen if they got married and she hyphenated her last name.

More? Okay, then, there was the ersatz Polynesian culture and dance entertainment at the faux jungle-hut function hall on the grounds of the Singapore Night Safari. Since when do Singaporeans consider themselves Polynesian, dress like Maoris and shoot darts (in this case, large Q-tips) out of blow guns? And, call me jaded, but, if you’re gonna make the effort to perform a fire dance, hey, at least try to make either the dance or yourself look a little dangerous.

To be fair, on the Singapore Night Safari I did see something I’d never seen before: a South American mammal that looks like a rat the size of a Golden Retriever. It was beguilingly cute, actually. The guide, who sounded exactly like a Singaporean Peter Lorre in his night-time half-whisper, advertised it as the world’s largest rodent. I just stopped myself from yelling out, “What? You never seen a kangaroo?”

No angry letters re marsupials, please.


Sunday, January 15, 2006


Saw "Chronicles of Narnia" last night. Darn good rendering of the books to film, but I have to agree with almost everything Mark Morford said about it.

Especially the bit about how annoying a couple of the kids are.

Liam Neeson as the voice of Aslan is inspired. As with any voice characterization of God, the director probably considered James Earl Jones for half a second before remembering he's the voice of the devil figure in that other series of films with ham-fisted good/evil symbolism that every kid in the world has seen.

Another bit of voice casting I loved was Dawn French as Mrs Beaver.


Older and no less wise

Vonnegut in The Guardian. He may look like month-old meatloaf, but he still writes like a god.

This is an excerpt from his memoir.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Maybe it's really this good

Is it just the mood I'm in, or is the following description of speed dating just dead great?

Eight strangers, eight minutes each: it’s hard not to smirk at speed-dating. And yet I don’t think we need eight minutes, nor do we need much in the way of words. When there is no recognition, you may as well talk for eight years. And when you’ve met before, in some guise, you know enough in an instant. Only the facts need to be unpacked. You know what this person needs to hear; what their heart longs for; what delights them. You know enough, and because that moment is such a perfect fractal, you even know how it will turn out—the ending is contained in the beginning. It’s no wonder we shield ourselves from such clarity. It gets written, I think, to the same part of the brain as those vivid morning dreams that dissolve by the time coffee is brewed.

And this has got to be one of the loveliest lines to poke me in the eye in a long while:

...Love lies in the wonder, not the rarity.

All from www.dervala.net

Os a moelle

Went out to dinner, last night, with Flame Haired Angel. An old joint we'd never been to that's famous for its game. It's definitely "got game": venison, wild boar, pheasant. Meat lover's paradise.

The lady at the table next to us ordered os a moelle: bone marrow. FHA watched as the waiter delivered the plate. A large white bone, sawed in half lengthwise, naked on the white plate, with no garnish of any kind. And a small spoon.

"That shouldn't be eaten," she said, turning away. "It should be donated."


Sunday, January 08, 2006

Good Night and Good Luck

Just saw Good Night and Good Luck. While I'm not sure the film deserves any major awards, David Strathairn, playing Edward R Murrow, sure does. The film was a competent telling of the story, but no Schindler's List. Strathairn's performance, however, was embodiment so complete, so uncanny, it made all the other actors look like, well, actors.


Saturday, January 07, 2006

Beauty in a different eye

Pardon the sorry scans.

I saw these two portraits of Australian aboriginal artists in the Qantas in-flight mag and was immediately moved by them. I haven't been able to articulate exactly why, but they continue to affect me. I can imagine there being humour in both images; a wry comedian could make mincemeat of each. Yet, somewhere on the path to a chuckle, something profound happens in an explosion of colour. These are exactly the kinds of portraits I'd like to hang on my wall.

The Fickle Tongue of Time

Why is it that one can go through more than thirty years of life disliking a food then, rather suddenly and without explanation, start really liking it? Liking it a lot.

No olive is safe around me anymore.

Yanking at Cricket

(Written Dec 27, 2005)

Geri's asleep on the hotel room bed, behind me. We're in the middle of nowhere at a "wilderness retreat", a term which apparently means a rustic place to stay in the middle of nowhere. We will be here through New Year's Eve, so it's a fine and fortunate thing that I like being in the middle of nowhere with nowt but my beautiful wife, pen and paper, a few books, an equal quantity of wine -- by which I mean equal to the volume of reading -- and walking trails all 'round. And cricket on the TV.

Yes, there's TV, thanks to satellite reception. And, yes, there's cricket on't. And so there should be. It's the immediate aftermath of Christmas and it was a pre-condition of my Australian citizenship that I should annually watch or listen to the Boxing Day Test match. At least so long as my feet are on Australian soil. As with taxes, there are reprieves granted for those bodily abroad. Those cricket-watching reprieves, however, are no blessing as, on the taking of them, one is accursed with being both away from the summer paradise that is Australia at the close of each year, and also, therefore, by definition, remote from the game that so befits a summer paradise: cricket.

For those of you already with me on this, I don't need to tell you that we're two days in, as I write, extraordinarily grateful for Hussey's unexpected century after the late collapse on the first day, and yet a bit adrift as the South African
batsmen seem to have a pretty solid line on our bowlers. Most distressingly, Warnie seems more talk than spin. Usually a harbinger of trouble to come on Day 3.

For those of you still reading only out of a sense of morbid curiosity about slowly dying cross-cultural anachronisms, allow me to early make the point that those of us who love the game also find it just as easy to mock as anyone else, so don't waste your breath. We know all the jokes, but we feel your derision as a badge of honour. And as for the blinking, yawning apathy of the vast majority of humankind, we find it, at worst, an invitation to expound on how no, actually, it isn't the least bit like baseball and, at best, rather obvious evidence of our superiority.

I shall not, here, enumerate the many types of cricket fan. It will suffice simply to advertise that I am one of the worst.

Most resentably, I came late to the game. A dilettante, I fell like a wicket on a wet pitch, in my twenties, listening on the radio as the then-mighty West Indies side toured Australia. My second sin is that I've never played, save for a few picnic bashes with a rubbish bin serving as stumps. Those properly passionate about the gentlemen's game earned their fandom as boys over a hundred long, sweaty days standing bored under the bursting sun waiting for a cut to come their way, while their parents paid an equal price in patience. My third deficit -- in no way to be equated with strike three -- is one of knowledge. I am merely a fan: no master of the arcana of cricket numerology me.

Yet, in the eyes of almost every fellow fan with whom I have ever had the pleasure to fantasize about watching Bradman bat, what I lack in vital credentials, I make up for with each enthusiastic flap of my mouth. My accent saves me. Never have I been among cricket fans who didn't marvel at hearing passionate patter about their game in an American accent. The sheer novelty even garners forgiveness that I still stumble on the taxonomy of field placement. For my exoticism, I am even forgiven the deficiency of not having abandoned my first love: baseball. Careful I am, however, with diplomatic double-talk, should there be an attempt to name the superior game* among those who've already had a few pints of philosophy.

I am forgiven all, and embraced in my roughness like the fellow colonial I am when I proclaim: "Yeah, mate, Paris is good, but it's great to be back in Oz after so long away, especially as the Boxing Day Test's on!"

* * *

Post Script: We -- Australia -- ended up winning the Boxing Day Test match. The side then went on to win the following test for good measure. Ponting's got a few runs in 'im yet.

(*For the record: Cricket's the far superior game of strategy -- test cricket, mind you, not those silly one-day whack-a-thons. Baseball's the far better day out, especially a dusk-straddling double-header. And neither is a test of athleticism. Stamina, maybe, but, even then, the Tour de France this ain't.)

Geek fun

Ya gotta love Canadians in the middle of winter. Nothing to fire the home-spun creative urge like outside temperatures that would freeze your spit before it hits the ground.

Check this out. A little ditty they like to call "Every OS Sucks".

Friday, January 06, 2006

Back from holidays in Australia

Apologies for the silence. Time away from the computer was good.

The few pictures below pretty much sum up the trip.

For a slightly more extended look, there's a brief slideshow here.