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I just finished reading The Sirens Of Titan, my virginal Vonnegut book, which I expected to be some kind of life-changing experience. Perhaps I was expecting too much from it.

Sirens Of Titan

It’s a good book, certainly, but not the greatest book I’ve ever read, nor a book that changed my outlook on anything. Maybe it’s the kind of book that takes a while for the message to sink in. I’ve heard that people need to read Vonnegut books several times before they grasp the beauty of them, and I hope that’s true. With any luck I’ll read this post again in a few years time and think, “You ignorant fool!”

I did particularly like the final line, though. It must be very hard to write something that’s simultaneously touching and depressing.

Resistance: Fall Of Man has the best video game cover ever:

Look closely.

After the relentless tsunami of bleakly brown World War II games that have been the lifeblood of the video game industry for the last few years, this image gives a subtle twist to the typical “netted helmet/bombed out buildings/everything is grey and brown” cover image that we usually see. And I really like it. It’s clever and creative, as opposed to the usual SHOW SOLDIER OR CAR covers that we usually see.

The game itself is actually quite mediocre, but you can’t have everything. I’m writing about this partly because Chris got a PS3 for his 18th and I spent a good four and a half hours sitting in front of it today, and partly to experiment with how images work on WordPress. Truly a monumental post.

Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy has always been one of my favourite novels categorised in the dubious genre of “young adult”, right up there with Harry Potter and Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines series. It takes place in an alternate universe, using the adventures of a young girl as a device for the discussion of atheism. Sort of an anti-Narnia, if you can imagine such a land. The movie comes out in December. James Bond is in it. Anyway, in this alternate world, people’s souls are manifested on the outside of their body as a “daemon”, an animal spirit. As a child the daemon can take any form, but when you become a teenager it gradually settles on a single animal reflective of your personality, as this wise old sailor in the first book explains:

“Why do daemons have to settle?” Lyra said. “I want Pantalaimon to be able to change forever. So does he.”
“Ah, they always have settled, and they always will. That’s part of growing up. There’ll come a time when you’ll be tired of his changing about, and you’ll want a settled kind of form for him.”
“I never will!”
“Oh, you will. You’ll want to grow up like all the other girls. Anyway, there’s compensations for a settled form.”
“What are they?”
“Knowing what kind of person you are. Take old Belisaria. She’s a seagull, and that means I’m a kind of seagull too. I’m not grand and splendid nor beautiful, but I’m a tough old thing and I can survive anywhere and always find a bit of food and company. That’s worth knowing, that is. And when your demon settles, you’ll know the sort of person you are.”
“But suppose your daemon settles in a shape you don’t like?”
“Well then your discontented, en’t you? There’s plenty of folk as’d like to have a lion as a daemon and they end up with a poodle. And till they learn to be satisfied with what they are, they’re going to be fretful about it. Waste of feeling, that is.”

Like any other reader, I always wondered what my own daemon would be. And now, thanks to the wonder of viral marketing, I’ve found out!

edit: It won’t show up, so I’m reduced to using a simple hypertext link. Like a fucking savage.

You should really read the books. On thematic and philosophical merit, Pullman is far better than Rowling or Reeve, though Reeve certainly has him beat on swashbuckling adventure – which, as we all know, is the only true indicator of literary genius. Pullman’s armoured polar bears and sea gypsies are strong contenders, but simply can’t compete with Reeve’s flying cities, Himalayan mountain fortresses, desert raiders and airship battles. Two men enter, one man leaves.

Maybe I’ll elaborate a little further.

I’m halfway through a 3-year degree in Communications & Cultural Studies at Curtin University, purely because when I graduated high school I was still trying to fend off the real world, much like a man in a small cave with a stick, listening to the lions growling outside. I have no expectation of a job at the end of my course, but that’s all comfortably in the future. Oh, and I’ll also owe the government something like $10,000 by the end of my course, which I essentially consider a free loan because without a good job how am I going to pay it back, suckers?

Instead of securing my financial situation (I challenge you to come up with a more boring phrase), I hope to go backpacking with my friend Chris, using the money we’ve scraped together. Chris currently leads by several grand. Starting sometime in early 2009, we don’t plan to return to Australia until our funds run out. Ireland, the USA, Nepal, Egypt, China, Russia, Japan, Tanzania, Brazil, Peru and several others all have darts in them on my mental world map.

What happens when we come back? I don’t know. The idea of a career is pleasantly faraway in the future for me. My one and only talent in this world is writing, in any form. Barring poetry, because y’know, that’s for girls. The pipe dream is to become a successful novelist and spend my time sleeping on a pile of money, having sex with Miss Universe, and jetting back and forth between LA and New York and Sydney and London on my private jet (which will be extravagantly luxurious).

In the meantime, I’m a poor-ass university student living on $13.00 an hour from the local supermarket, procrastinating endlessly about assignments, and writing a cheesy post-apocalyptic online novel that’s marginally improved itself in my eyes by transforming into an epic swashbuckling adventure. What better way to squander the precious little time we all have before death?

Picking a title for a blog is hard.

I considered quite a few. Names that suggested a writing theme (such as “Inkwell” or “Fountain Pen”) were invariably reserved. Names that suggested literary pretension (such as “The Den” or “The Library”) didn’t sound quite right. At one point I decided to simply name it “Hack” – probably after listening to Triple J – but of course, such a simple name was already taken. Looking information up on trusty ol’ Wikipedia, I followed a few links and found a name that seemed perfectly suitable: Grub Street. To paraphrase from the article:

Until the early 1800s, Grub Street was the name of a street in London’s impoverished Moorfields district. In the 1700s and 1800s, the street was famous for its concentration of mediocre, impoverished ‘hack writers’, aspiring poets, and low-end publishers and booksellers, who existed on the margins of the journalistic and literary scene. Grub Street’s bohemian, impoverished literary scene was set amidst the poor neighbourhood’s low-rent flophouses, brothels, and coffeehouses.

Perfect. I’m an aspiring writer who will probably amount to nothing more than a hack, and the name certainly has a ring to it. Unfortunately some asshole, who hasn’t updated in over a year, already took the name. I considered naming the blog after some obscure location where Maria Edgeworth once lived and wrote, considering I may very well be a descendant of hers, but alas – she lived in exceedingly boring places. I also tried looking for a place where James Joyce once lived (surely Dublin would have interesting names?) but unfortunately he suffered from the same problem as Maria, and in any case I thought it might be just a little too pretentious to name my hosted website of frivolous scribbles after a literary great whom I’ve never read.

So I went crawling back to Grub Street, affixed the word “hack” to the end of the username and here we are. I could do better, probably, but I’ll only end up abandoning this after a few posts anyway.

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