Flags of All Nations (that I've visited in the past 12 months)
Walking West

Friday, December 01, 2000

Hi, and welcome to Mate-Plug! What's that, you ask? It's not a new-fangled contraceptive; it's not even a handy sink-blocking device. No, Mate-Plug is where Rory drops a Blatant Plug for one of his Mates (or friends, to you non-Australians) into his weblog. And today's mate is: Scott!

Scott is the author of one of this month's featured reviews in The Australian Review of Books, guaranteeing him readership on a scale I, with my puny weblog, can only dream of. So why am I giving him extra publicity he clearly doesn't need? Buggered if I know; you can't even read the review online. Pointless, isn't it? But that's the beauty of Mate-Plug—it's entirely self-indulgent!

You can in fact read an earlier version of his review at Partisan Review. Sally forth and learn why David Stove may, in Scott's opinion, be 'the greatest philosopher of the twentieth century'.

Mate-Plug! Guaranteed to embarrass the crap out of your friends.


I know I'm getting slack with my posts when readers start asking me what I've been up to lately. So much for the 'Life as an Open Book' Theory of Weblogs (no. 47 in a series).

So... what have I been up to lately?

Nothing exciting, I'm afraid. I've just finished writing an examiner's report for a master's thesis. I've also had to write a long letter to a travel insurance company about my lemur-related claim (now there's a sentence you won't see every day). They only coughed up two-thirds of what I figure they owe me. I've had to justify why they should send me the rest by explaining that taxi-drivers don't give receipts in Madagascar because they're often illiterate and can't afford paper; that sort of thing.

Then there's been the usual stuff—banking, shopping—none of which served up any pithy vignettes for the weblog. (Phew, close call.)

I've seen a few good flicks lately, though. (I'm starting to get worried: the last three movies I've seen have all been good, so the odds of getting a dud must be getting shorter.) Last Tuesday it was Snatch, the new film by the director of Lock, Stock and Smoking Barrels. Like that movie, this was another London crime-caper—The Lavender Hill Mob meets Tarantino—and very good too. Ugly villains, convoluted twists and turns, a squeaking dog, and some very funny moments. Brad Pitt risks being typecast as a bare-knuckle-boxing nutter, but he's choosing some good roles these days.

The week before it was The Dish, the second big-screen outing for Working Dog. Unlike The Castle, this is less a straight-out comedy than a docu-drama with comic moments; it paints a gentle portrait of 1960s country Australia alongside the excitement of the Apollo 11 landing, and depicts them both well.

And a couple of weeks before that, I finally saw High Fidelity, which I'd been wanting to see for ages. Another 'comedy' that succeeds by reigning in the goofiness, then letting it out at random intervals. As a tale of obsessive record-collecting there was plenty for me to identify with, but this was only one of the many levels on which it succeeded: it also had beautifully-drawn characters, sharp dialogue, and a nice line in romantic self-analysis from a male perspective, in a world overrun with formulaic Hollywood chick-flicks. I was worried that they'd go for an obvious romantic ending, but High Fidelity proved to be more subtle than that, and more satisfying for it. One of my favourite movies of the year.

And last on our tour of Rory's Week, we have the Giant Worm at Bass, Victoria, which Jane and I visited last Friday. This tacky tourist feature celebrates the unique giant worms of the area, which grow up to three metres long and 3 cm thick. The edifice itself is a huge concrete monster snaking across a paddock, with a museum and gift shop built inside. Out the back is an animal park featuring 'Wombat World', several fenced enclosures of mounded grey earth, each with its own wombat trying to chew through the chicken-wire to reach the grass on the other side. More like Wombat Westworld, really.

Then there's the usual array of dozing Eastern Grey Kangaroos (the Kangaroo Interpretation Centre scarcely lives up to its promise: just a shed with a couple of posters in it; no Kangaroo Interpreters going 'tch tch tch'), along with emus, dingoes, and those quintessentially Australian alpacas—freshly-shorn. Couple of koalas up a tree. Sam the talking cocky. All for the bargain price of twelve bucks a head. Welcome home, Aussie.

Fortunately, Phillip Island is only a short way down the road, and for twelve dollars less than the Worm you can head to Seal Rocks and the Nobbies, follow a boardwalk across the top of some cliffs past slopes covered in pigface in bloom, and see dozens of fluffy pepper-grey seagull chicks and their full-throated, squawking, head-ducking parents, scattered about in their nests. All with a spectacular view up the coast in the late afternoon sun. Welcome home, Aussie.


Twernt's current front page is a cack (hoot/gas/amusing piece of frippery). Go take a look. I love that sidebar.

Stewart's thoughts on London sum it up well.

And when a weblog post is wholly concerned with discussing other weblog posts, it's time to move on...


Tuesday, November 28, 2000

James has excelled himself in unearthing Hell: Fact or Fiction? Particularly worthwhile is the RealAudio 'Sounds of Hell' clip, which sounds more like the 'Sounds of the Change-Rooms at the Local Pool'. (The narrator sounds pretty hellish at 16 kbps, though.)


Monday, November 27, 2000

Finally finished it. 910 pages of very small type, excluding the appendix. The equivalent of about six regular paperbacks. The kind of book you feel you deserve a diploma for finishing.

But very good. Oh yes. It has a couple of passages that feel a little too sketchy towards the end, as if he was falling over himself to finish writing it, but the ending didn't disappoint, even if I would have liked to read more about one or two of the characters.

Is it Neal Stephenson's best book? With Snow Crash and The Diamond Age competing for that title, that's a tough call. But Cryptonomicon surely stands right alongside them. Every book of his that I've read is the kind you want to press into people's hands and say 'read this'. So... read this, people.


Sunday, November 26, 2000

Owen has confirmed that Canadian coins work in US phones. No doubt someone's writing the business-plan as we speak.

Not much time to post at length right now, so have a look at Paul Ford's Literary Aspirations, Confession of:

After a year, he would quietly stuff the remaining 260 copies into a cardboard box, and store the box with his hopes in a crowded attic, to be uncovered years later by some other soul, dug up after death or divorce, the boxes heaved to the curb for Tuesday pickup, to enter the garbagemen's library.

Such an excellent phrase, 'the garbagemen's library'.

Fans of the best sketch-comedy on Australia television in the past few years (not that there's been much competition lately) might like to take a squizz at this homage to Shaun Micallef (link via Greg Restall). ('Homage' looks like a typo for 'homepage', doesn't it. No? No. You're right. Sorry.)


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