You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2011.

Alva City (Cowboy Bebop)

Bolt City (Copper)

City 17 (Half-life 2)

Dark City (Dark City)

Emerald City (The Wizard of Oz)

Fisherman’s Horizon (Final Fantasy VIII)

Gotham City (Batman)

Hortown (Tales from Earthsea)

Imperial City (The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion)

Junon (Final Fantasy VII)

Koriko (Kiki’s Delivery Service)

Lindblum (Final Fantasy IX)

Mos Eisley (Star Wars)

New Crobuzon (Perdido Street Station)

Osgiliath (The Lord of the Rings)

Port Blacksand (Fighting Fantasy)

Qo’nos (Star Trek)

Rapture (Bioshock)

The Sprawl (Neuromancer)

Tar Valon (The Wheel of Time)

Undertown (The Edge Chronicles)

Vivec (The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind)

Waterfall City (Dinotopia)

Xanadu (Kubla Khan)

Yarimura (Fabled Lands)

Zanarkand (Final Fantasy X)

Predator’s Gold by Philip Reeve (2003) 316 p.

Predator’s Gold picks up two years where Mortal Engines left off, with Tom and Hester having “sort of inherited” Anna Fang’s airship the Jenny Haniver, making a living for themselves as cargo traders. The novel opens in the flying city of Airhaven, as Tom and Hester take on the famed adventurer Professor Nimrod Pennyroyal as a passenger – before being chased into the Arctic by agents of the Green Storm, a splinter group of the Anti-Traction League attempting to recover the Jenny Haniver. They escape their pursuers but are left damaged, wounded and limping, eventually finding safe haven in the small traction city of Anchorage. Decimated by plague and desperate to survive, Anchorage has set a course for America, the Dead Continent. The city’s young margravine Freya is delighted to find Pennyroyal aboard her city, as he had previously boasted about discovering fresh tracts of green land in nuclear-devastated North America in one of his best-selling books. Pennyroyal (a character who owes much to J.K. Rowling’s Gilderoy Lockhart) uneasily accepts a position as the city’s chief navigator, and with the Jenny Haniver undergoing extensive repairs, Tom and Hester find themselves swept up in a new adventure.

Predator’s Gold takes the action of Mortal Engines to the polar icefields, and Reeve continues the creative flair he showed in his first novel; the pages abound with mercenaries and pirate lairs and horrible scientific experiments and a secret city of thieves and betrayals and deceptions and daring rescues and frantic battles. As I have said before, these books are the very definition of swashbuckling; and yet so much more than that, because of their literary merit and excellent characterisation and, most of all, Reeve’s sterling ability to paint a visual picture with words. It really is the best of both worlds.

Predator’s Gold is slightly less epic than Mortal Engines, with less at stake and not as much globe-trotting, but the character’s story arcs – and the development of the overall series plot – is much deeper. A love triangle develops with Freya, and Hester’s jealous actions greatly alter the results of their lives. Reading this series for the second time (and knowing that the next book jumps a good seventeen years or so into the future) it’s impressive to note just how much of what happens later is a direct consequence of earlier actions. This sounds like a self-evident observation – that is, of course, how real life works – but it’s a refreshing change from so much YA fiction and hack fantasy, where the story is told through a series of coincidences and random happenings and deus ex machina. Tom and Hester’s lives are irrevocably altered by only a handful of things – some of them big, some of them small, some of them their fault, some of them beyond their control. As one example, Hester and Tom’s “inheritance” of the Jenny Haniver in Mortal Engines – an act which seemed to exist merely to service the climax of that novel – has significant repercussions in Predator’s Gold.

The character development is also excellent. Tom mostly remains a cardboard cut-out, the everyman swept up in wild adventures, but Hester is a fine creation, an morally dubious gargoyle serving as the linchpin of the series. In Mortal Engines she was merely a genre-subverting ugly heroine, rugged and capable and driven by a single-minded urge. Predator’s Gold develops her, believably and consistently, into a ruthless character capable of terrible violence. This begins with the chapter ominously titled “The Knife Drawer” and continues down darker paths in the next two books.

Tom touched her mouth. “I know it feels awful, those men you had to kill. I still feel guilty about killing Shrike, and Pewsey and Gench. But you had to do it. You had no choice.”

“Yes,” she said, and smiled at how un-alike they were, because when she thought of the deaths of [spoilers], she felt no guilt at all, just a sort of satisfaction, and a glad amazement that she had got away with it.

Here Hester kills to protect those she loves – in the future she will not have that justification. Pennyroyal also has a darker side, revealing himself in a shocking scene to be capable of worse things than simply lies and selfishness, delivered while nonetheless being cheerful and polite.

There is, in fact, quite a lot of violence in Predator’s Gold, including a child being beaten and strung up to die, cold-blooded murder and limbs being cut off. I have no problem with kids reading this, in context, though it does seem rather incongruous with the fact that the one hint at sex in the book is so subtle you might miss it entirely.

Re-reading the series, I’m having my recollections confirmed: these are excellent YA adventure novels, the best of their kind, and while there are clear differences between them, I find it hard to say which one I prefer. I do recall A Darkling Plain, the final book, having some flaws – but it was three times the length of the others, and to my teenage mind that compensated for it. We’ll see when we get there. Next up is Infernal Devices.

Predator’s Gold at The Book Depository

I quite enjoyed this article on e-readers in Publisher’s Weekly, and by enjoyed I mean I had a good chuckle at its stupid assertions. The publishing industry is, of course, still full of laughable people who sail boldly into the future secure in their knowledge that e-readers are just a fad that will die off, and that good old-fashioned paper books will continue to be read forever.

It’s easy to see why these kinds of people are involved in publishing rather than actually writing. They have a lack of imagination. They cannot look at our society, observe the progress of technology over the last half century, and use that data to make a reasonable prediction of trends over the next half century. Does anyone seriously believe that most of the developed world will still be reading physical books and newspapers in 2050? Compare 1950 with 2000. Compare the way we lived, worked and played, and note the vast technological differences – in computing, in entertainment, in communications, in virtually every aspect of our lives. It does not take a clairvoyant to figure out that 2050 will likewise be a very different place from 2000, or 2011.

I don’t read e-books, and I dearly love printed books. I like the smell and the presence of them. I like books as objects, not just as a means to an end. I like a room better with a few overflowing bookshelves in it. And I have no doubt that there will remain a market for printed books, even five hundred years in the future when we’re all living in dome cities on Mars, and there are just a couple of specialist antiquarian stores on the planet. None of that means I can’t tell which way the wind is blowing, and the publishing industry figures who are clucking their tongues and stroking their beards and just generally failing to learn from the mistakes of the music industry remind me of the same people who deny global warming based largely on their own love of the status quo rather than any actual evidence.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume I by Alan Moore (1999) 176 p.

A case of deja vu. Just as the last book I read, Count Zero, was quite good but didn’t live up to its groundbreaking predecessor Neuromancer, Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is an excellent comic which (understandably) fails to match his groundbreaking Watchmen.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is probably shoulder-to-shoulder with V for Vendetta as Alan Moore’s most famous creation after Watchmen. The concept is essentially a “Justice League for Victorian England,” operating on the premise that famous works of 19th century fiction were real, and their heroes are recruited into the titular League to protect the British Empire. Beginning with Mina Harker from Dracula and Captain Nemo from 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, the League soon enlists Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man, and Allan Quatermain from King Solomon’s Mines. Many of the supporting characters, and even minor background figures, are also from famous works of fiction, and spotting them is half the fun. Sherlock Holmes and the Artful Dodger are impossible to miss, but I feel like dozens went right over my head.

The artwork is quite different from Dave Gibbons’ in Watchmen; sort of scratchy and cartoony, with as much emphasis and exaggeration as possible without actually breaking the boundaries of realistic illustration. The League of Extraordinary Gentleman takes place in an alternate universe in more ways than one, with the British Empire being far more industrially advanced than it really was at the time. One early full-page image shows a gargantuan half-completed bridge stretching across the English Channel, and the cityscape of London swarms with cranes, airships, bridges, tunnels and towers.

The premise is excellent, but the plot is a standard adventure story, with villains and infiltrations and fights and narrow escapes and nothing particularly original. Moore clearly enjoys poking fun at the tropes of the Victorian era – particularly with villainous foreign stereotypes – but this doesn’t even begin to compare to Watchmen‘s masterful deconstruction of the superhero genre.

The League of Extraordinary Gentleman is nonetheless a good, solid graphic novel, which I enjoyed reading, and I didn’t hesitate to order the second volume. Just don’t expect it to be on par with Moore’s much greater Watchmen.

Terry Lane has an article in the recent Australian Book Review about freedom of speech in this country, which is something I’ve been thinking about lately.

There is no guarantee of freedom of speech in our constitution. In some cases the High Court has found an implied protection, ruling that as the constitution envisages the nation as a democracy, and as democracy cannot function if political argument is impeded, then the drafters of the constitution must have taken freedom of speech for granted. This is convenient eyewash.

The Australian constitution is derived, in part, from that of the United States. The American constitution says, in its first amendment, adopted in 1791, that: ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.’ Our constitution includes the prohibition of the establishment of a religion, so why did the drafting convention not take the first amendment in its entirety? Clearly they thought it was a revolutionary concept best left out.

Australia is, I am fairly certain, alone amongst Western nations in not having a bill of rights that outlines basic rights such as freedom of speech. Explaining this to foreigners is not just embarassing, like explaining why the Union Jack is on our flag – it’s downright dangerous. Lane outlines several minor but disturbing incidents:

Zanny Begg, an artist, had her outdoor exhibition Checkpoint for Weapons of Mass Distraction (2004), hosted by the University of Western Sydney and the Blacktown Arts Centre, shut down because some zealous minor council official, backed by the mayor, took exception to her anti-war message. This was much like the removal of the burned and tattered flag created by Melbourne artist Azlan McLennan, which he exhibited with the label Proudly UnAustralian (2006). When an unknown person complained, the police removed the offending item from the gallery.

And the most frustrating part is the attitude of most Australians about the issue. On the subject of flag-burning:

Jennifer says: ‘They should be stopped from doing it in a public place with children around … and have their own little flag-burning ceremonies [in] backyards. If it was to happen in a public place then they should be charged and made to apologise to the people they have offended … ’ There is something profoundly, obsequiously, stupidly Australian in that single sentence. You can say whatever you like about anything you like as long as no one can hear you and you don’t block the traffic. I am grateful to Gelber for confirming what I have long suspected.

Beyond that is the idea held by many Australians that it really doesn’t matter – that as long as the government isn’t hauling you off the street in a black van, that as long as we’re better than China or North Korea, then you shouldn’t be whining about having your art installation removed from a gallery. This is related to a wider apathy about all things political (“why should I care if it doesn’t affect me?”) which annoys me immensely. The same people who say this would be outraged if it did affect them, and even more outraged if nobody else cared. Freedom is generally an abstract concept to people until they are deprived of it, no matter how minor that deprivation may be.

Glenn Greenwald explains why freedom of speech is important better than I can:

The whole point of the First Amendment is that one is free to express the most marginalized, repellent, provocative and offensive ideas. Those are the views that are always targeted for suppression. Mainstream orthodoxies, harmless ideas, and inoffensive platitudes require no protection as they are not, by definition, vulnerable to censorship. But as has been repeatedly seen in history, ideas that are despised and marginalized are often proven right, while ideas that enjoy the status of orthodoxy prove to be deeply erroneous or even evil. That’s why no rational person trusts the state — or even themselves — to create lists of Prohibited Ideas. And those who endorse the notion that ideas they hate should be forcibly suppressed inevitably — and deservedly — will have their own ideas eventually targeted by the same repressive instruments.

If you don’t believe in freedom of speech – if you believe that the government should be permitted and even encouraged to stifle views that you find offensive – then you don’t believe in freedom at all. Criminalising the expression of viewpoints is, morally, equivalent to criminalising thoughts and ideas. And the reason that many Australians don’t particularly care is reason enough to have this right encoded in law, rather than relying upon convention.

Count Zero by William Gibson (1986) 246 p.

Given that Neuromancer is one of my favourite books – one of many people’s favourite books, in fact, and one of the best books of the last thirty years – I’m surprised it’s taken me so long to read the rest of Gibson’s Sprawl series. Perhaps it’s because I suspected that he would never be able to live up to the outrageous standard of excellence set by Neuromancer. I was correct in that suspicion, although that certainly doesn’t mean that Count Zero is a bad book.

Neuromancer followed a single character as he was recruited by a shadowy figure assembling a team for the ultimate heist; Count Zero follows the familiar literary trope of separate, seemingly unrelated stories that merge together at the climax. Turner, a corporate mercenary, is sent to Arizona to aid in the defection of a senior scientist from one powerful corporation to another; Marly, a French gallery owner, is hired by the a man of great wealth to track down the creator of a series of art pieces; and Bobby, an amateur cowboy who styles himself Count Zero, is rescued by a mysterious woman while in the death-vice of cyberspace counter-intrusive measures. Once again present from both Neuromancer and Gibson’s much more recent novel Pattern Recognition is the theme of ordinary losers coming into the orbit of extremely powerful and influential people.

The world of Count Zero seems less fully realised, futuristic, and bleakly depressing than Neuromancer‘s. The settings in Europe, especially, seem barely dystopian at all; I don’t recall Neuromancer‘s brief Paris chapters much, but here I really noticed the discrepancy between Paris and the Sprawl. The Sprawl is painted as bleak, ugly and Ballardian, wracked with crime and poverty; Paris still seems to retain that Old World charm, as though Gibson couldn’t help but think of Europe as a place of beauty and dignity granted by age. Do Americans feel that same New World insecurity that Australians do – that lack of heritage, of venerable architecture?

For some reason I also noticed his failure to perfectly predict the future a lot more – Japan is a major world player but China gets barely a mention, there are no cell phones, the United States no longer exists but the Soviet Union still does… that’s an unfair standard to judge any science fiction writer on, of course, but the fact that I barely noticed these faulty predictions in Neuromancer, while I did in Count Zero, says something about how engrossing the respective stories are.

Count Zero does not precisely fail to live up to the world created by Neuromancer, but it does lack the same punch; not only does it feel like a mere variation on a theme, but it lacks the same urgency, excitement, and sense of epic importance that Neuromancer had. The characters are less likeable and memorable, the three-way plot effectively makes for regular interruptions to the stories, and the climax seemed quite rushed. According to Wikipedia it was apparently a serial before being published as a novel, which might help explain some of its flaws. As I said earlier, it’s not a bad book, and I still intend to finish reading the trilogy, but it doesn’t even begin to compare to Neuromancer.

A side-note: Count Zero fatures two Australian characters, both of whom, with weary predictablity, spout out “mate” and “bloody” and “bugger” a lot. (Oh, fine, only one of them does – but that’s one too many. The only other nation I can think of whose citizens must go about with such exhausting stereotypical albatrosses around their necks is Mongolia.

Another side-note: Surely there is no author who suffers a wider difference between the quality of his writing and the quality of his covers than William Gibson?

Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth (1992) 630 p.

Sacred Hunger shared the 1992 Booker Prize with Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient, and I decided to read it after reading this blog article and feeling sorry for it. It’s a historical novel set in the 18th century and based around the Atlantic slave trade, following two main characters: Erasmus Kemp, the son of a wealthy Liverpool merchant who has just launched a new ship, and Matthew Paris, his cousin, who is assigned as the ship’s surgeon on her maiden voyage.punished

Paris is one of those characters in historical fiction who is a Good Man, conveniently decrying the brutality around him which 18th century society believes is perfectly normal and ordinary. He is recently released from prison, having been sent there for writing scientific treatises contradicting the Bible, and due to his wife’s death (partly his fault) he is depressed and nihilistic. The voyage stirs him back into discovering the beauty and purpose of life by subjecting him to even further brutality: the sadism of the ship’s captain, the fever and sickness he and the crew must contend with in Africa, and the appalling horror of kidnapping human beings by the hundreds, forcing them into disgusting conditions and hauling them across the ocean. Paris’ doubts and misgivings are reflected amongst the crew, many of whom were press-ganged in Liverpool and are thus slaves themselves, and as the ship approaches Jamaica, this conflict erupts – leading into the final third of the book, which I found a tad unbelievable.

The overall theme of the book is a condemnation of capitalism, the “sacred hunger” that drives the English to buy and sell slaves, and turn the African natives onto ultimately useless manufactured goods so that they will be eager to trade with the English and thus do all the dirty work in actually capturing and producing slaves. This is repeated later in the book with Native Americans.

I enjoyed Sacred Hunger quite a lot for a book of its page count and literary magnitude – I didn’t love it, but I was never reluctant to read it either. If I have an issue with it, it’s in the lack of subtlety. There are quite a few scenes which are shining with contrived symbolism; it’s sort of the literary version of Oscar bait. As I said earlier, I also found the circumstances surrounding the final third to be a bit much, and the character of Paris – while an excellent one – was a bit too conveniently liberal, even for a learned gentleman. On the whole, though, this was a pretty decent book.

Early sunsets
(Credit Will Watt)

I’ve been in Melbourne for about six weeks now. When we first arrived we stayed a few nights at Jamie’s temporary place of residence – a lovely old colonial cottage in Brunswick that was completely refurbished on the inside. It was a one million dollar piece of property belonging to his former boss, who was on vacation in the Philippines until March 9th – serendipitously the same date Kristie and Susie’s rental in Essendon became available. Unfortunately, Jamie’s host said he wasn’t comfortable with us sleeping on his couches until then, so we had to find somewhere else to stay for the two weeks until we could freeload off Kristie and Susie. It was quite a blow – I can of course totally understand somone not being comfortable with strangers staying in their house for two weeks, but after just a few days, we’d grown quite accustomed to a certain standard of living, similar to our Beijing days.

Tram Tracks on LaTrobe St
(Credit Chaddles)

I jokingly pointed out to Chris that it would be cheaper for us to fly back to Perth on a budget airline for a few hundred dollars and stay with our families than it would be for us to stay in Melbourrne for that time. He promptly went ahead and did that. I, on the other hand, didn’t just make a big symbolic ride across the country only to fly right back for fiscal convenience.

Black Cat cafe bicycle
(Credit Andrew Robinson)

Fortunately Kristie and Susie also needed to find short term accommodation, since they were arriving in a few days, and we ended up splitting a cheap triple room at a shitty hotel in the city centre. Even after backpacking across Asia this was probably the worst value place I have ever stayed, run by a couple of deadbeats who answered questions with surly grunts and half-replies. I wrote a bad review on Tripadvisor after we left, and a few days later realised I’d left behind my motocycle road atlas and rang up to see if they had it. After telling them my name and room number, the manager identified me as the writer of the review and reacted angrily. I hung up in surprise, and a few moments later my phone rang again. Kristie urged me to answer it, saying he probably just had my atlas, but I told her not to bother because thirty seconds of speaking to him had made it clear that he was not a reasonable man. She answered it instead, and I was right – he spent about twenty minutes raving about lies and defamation, claiming that one of the conditions of staying there was that you wouldn’t write a bad review, insulting me, threatening to take money out of my account with my credit card details etc. It boggles my mind how ill-equipped this man was to simply function in normal society and interact with other human beings, let alone run a fucking hotel. He was like Basil Fawlty mixed with Scrooge.

Melbourne laneways
(Credit mfield)

Anyway, we’re in a nice two-bedroom place in Essendon now. I was only supposed to be here for a few days, since Jamie’s house was supposed to be available on the 13th of March. Instead it was delayed… and then delayed again… and then delayed again. Now, buying a house is a very complicated process involving a real estate agent, the former owner, and something called a “conveyancer.” I have no idea what a conveyancer does, but it is this figure that has been holding Jamie up at every turn, giving him wrong dates, avoiding his calls, and even lying to him and saying that the owner was in Europe when Jamie had in fact seen him at the house just yesterday. Eventually Jamie called him a cunt and got a new one, but it’s now March 30 and we’re still waiting to see when we can move in – two possible dates of April 15 or March 22.

Jamie feels like he’s overstaying his welcome at his former boss’ house and is keen to move in ASAP, and Chris is still stewing away in Perth with no job and no vehicle – which makes transport impossible on that wretched suburban steppe. I, meanwhile, am OK with hanging out in Essendon a while longer. Since my parents divorced I spent eight years living with my mothering Mum, then seven years living with my neat and tidy Dad, then when Chris and I were in Berlin we were living with two girls, and I’m now again living with two girls who keep a well-ordered house and cook dinner most nights. I expect moving into a pure bachelor pad to be a shock to the senses. Jamie seems to survive on beer and cigarettes alone.

breeadge
(Credit mugley)

It’s also out in the suburb of Sunshine, which we might, if we were being very polite, call “socio-economically disadvantaged.” A few weeks ago I was on the phone to Jamie and he said “Hey, have you read the paper today?”

“No.”

“Good. Don’t.”

I’m going to do what my father does and invest in a nice baseball bat to keep by the bed.

The other downfall of Sunshine is that it’s about as far away from the city centre as the place I was living in Perth was. Of course, I came to Melbourne because I wasn’t ready to move to London alone. I’d rather be living in suburbia with friends than in a city centre alone.

stranded in fitzroy II
(Credit Toshihiro Oshima)

And Melbourne accomplishes suburban living slightly better than Perth does. I’m in Essendon right now, for example, which is about eight k’s out of the city centre, but still has shops and trams and nightlife and medium-density housing. In Perth, travelling eight k’s out of the city centre will very easily plant you in featureless dormitory suburbs with nothing but houses, and maybe a shopping centre or two. (Which, mind you, is probably what Sunshine is like.)

It is, of course, still quite suburban and still unmistakeably Australian. I was discussing cities with Jamie the other night, who said that Sydney is more like New York and Melbourne is more like a European city. “Yeah…” I said, “But Sydney isn’t quite as good as New York and Melbourne isn’t quite as good as a European city.”

wanker lane, in the rain
(Credit Mugley)

I don’t think Australia is ultimately for me. Melbourne is a good place to be for a few years, I think, as I begin – um, I mean finish – the transition from helpless child to responsible adult, build up a resume, save my money again etc. But there’s still travelling I want to do, and I’d still like to live in the USA or Canada for a while, and I’m fairly resolved to live in Europe eventually.

None of which is to say that Melbourne is not a fine city. Despite being younger than Perth it’s retained far more of its heritage buildings, which Perth would prefer to bulldoze to make way for monstrous McMansions, and a walk around the city centre is very pleasing to the eye. There are more cathedrals, and parks, and old theatres, and so on. Trams are awesome, although not really that useful except for short journeys. There are cool places like Sydney Road or Brunswick Road that are lined from beginning to end with shops and bars and cafes. Bats flap around at night. The weather is colder, by which I mean “not brutally hot.” It’s overcast a lot of days, like in Europe, which makes you appreciate the days of fine weather so much more.

Royal Exhibition Building - Melbourne
(Credit Dean-Melbourne)

Melbourne also has the best juxtaposition in the entire world between the best and the worst architecture humans are capable of. It takes place at the intersection of Flinders Street and St. Kilda Road, which could fairly be nominated as the very centre of Melbourne. On one side of St. Kilda Road, we have Flinders Street Station – a beautiful building in the French Renaissance style.

Flinders Street Station
(Credit Michael Grant)

On the other side of St. Kilda Road, we have Federation Square, a horrific fractal nightmare. It looks like a photograph of a gigantic geometry set taken half a second after it started to explode.

Federation Square
(Credit Edwin Lee)

It’s hilarious. I challenge anybody to find me a single square kilometre of the planet’s surface which contains a greater architectural contrast than this one right here.

Melbourne also has somewhat confusing traffic, at least for a provincial lad like me. Near Kristie’s house is Essendon’s central roundabout, the bane of my existence: an utterly horrendous six-street valve which also features a tram stop, pedestrian crossings, and traffic lights. Even after escaping this deathtrap every morning on my way to work, I have to contend with the panoply of lines and lights and signs and markings that I simply don’t understand. On our first full day here Jamie took me and Chris for a bike ride through the CBD and I had no idea what the fuck was going on. I still get honked at a lot, and generally assume it’s my fault.

Chinatown at Night
(Credit Toby Corkindale)

I have a job again, for the first time in nearly a year. After applying for several marketing and writing positions, I also applied for a bookstore job which I easily received. I already sort of feel like I’m wasting my time, still working in retail at 22, but I needed money and there are far worse jobs I could have during this transitionary period. I’ve always wanted to work in a bookstore, and it has proved to be pretty neat. Occasionally I get sent up to man the newsagency kiosk in the business lounge, where I can read TIME and the New Yorker and National Geographic cover to cover, and meet (read: serve) celebrities – so far Tom Gleeson, Andy Lee, Bert Newton and Chopper Read. I also walked past Charley Boorman, one of my personal idols, as he was exiting the terminal and I was entering. I wish I’d said something to him, but when you see a famous person it always takes at least five seconds for your brain to recover, and by then he was gone. Hopefully before long I’ll meet Sam Neill, which has become an obsession of mine since everyone else I know seems to have met him.

So on the whole this job is pretty neat, apart from the occasional 5 am starts. Which aren’t really that bad – getting up at 5.30 am is awful, but getting up at 3.30 am is so far beyond the pale that my brain can’t actually comprehend what’s going on, so it passes by fairly quickly and I have the afternoon off, even if I do feel like shit and fall asleep again when I get home. The worst part is riding down the Tullamarine Freeway before dawn when it’s 11 degrees – and it’s only autumn, and so far I haven’t even been rained on. Come winter I may have to invest in a cheap car.

Carlton Architecture
(Credit Dean-Melbourne)

Speaking of transport and motorbikes, Chris’ was stolen about a week or two ago. He posted it online because he intended to sell it, and left it with Jamie when he flew back to Perth. Jamie rang me one evening after returning home from work and asked if I’d come and taken Chris’ bike, to which I replied, “No, why would I?” and he said “Shit.” He’s going to lose a thousand dollars on excess, which sucks. Also just the general frustration of having something stolen. I like my bike well enough – I wouldn’t say I love it – but it’s still my fucking bike and if someone stole it from me I’d be well pissed, insurance regardless. I was furious enough when I thought someone had nabbed $400 from my bank account last year.

I’ve hung out with my old work friend Alex a few times, who moved here last year after returning from Russia. She and all her friends are from Perth; when I went to a party she threw last week with Kristie and Jamie, one of her housemates turned out to know Jamie. All of Jamie’s other friends are from Perth, as are Kristie’s, which of course makes sense – it’s a snowball effect, and one of the reasons I’m here myself – but when even random people I flag down on the street for directions say they were originally from Perth, it starts to feel like I’m in a city full of Western Australian refugees.

Which reminds me that I should be appreciating Melbourne more. I wrote this up and adorned it with swiped Flickr photos after leafing through some Melbourne travel books at work today, and remembering that I have in fact moved to a new city, one far more vibrant than my last. I should get out and explore it some more.

Beautiful Melbourne Skyline from St Kilda
(Credit Dean-Melbourne)

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