Tuesday, 26 October 2004

the good doctor

Thompson, like Vonnegut, isn't much of a Bush/Cheney fan, saying he'd vote for Nixon over Bush, because:
He was a crook and a creep and a gin-sot, but on some nights, when he would get hammered and wander around in the streets, he was fun to hang out with.

I realise that I can quote left-wingers until I'm blue in the face, and it won't make a lick of difference to any Republican, let alone to the election, but it makes me feel like I'm socially aware and stuff, so what the hell.

more and more and more on reading

I got around my Ulysses block again. I went to the American library on Saturday morning and grabbed Count Zero, another Gibson, which I polished off on Saturday afternoon/evening, and Vonnegut's Jailbird, which I got through Sunday. The Gibson was a result of limited choice in the SF section; just popcorn. I'd been looking for some Vonnegut, and was really looking more for Slaughterhouse 5 or Breakfast of Champions, but I took what I could get. I enjoyed it, too. He's a better writer than Thompson, and although less vitriolic, probably as perceptive, although not so much Steinbeck. Actually, the book owes a certain amount of its heritage, in terms of its feint but important background in American labour disputes, to The Grapes of Wrath, although that's by the by. It didn't excite me overly, but enough that I'll try to find his earlier stuff.

Wednesday, 20 October 2004

on reading

This from mum, in turn from the Weekend Australian magazine, in turn from Groucho Marx:
Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.

continued consumption

Ulysses has surfaced at the top of my reading list. That doesn't mean I've read it. In fact, I started it a few months ago, and failed, and have just recently started again. This is a difficult book to read, and I think I'm making it tougher on myself trying to read it on my laptop.

Land Of Plenty

I cannot be stopped. After a week's break, 2 more films. The second was Wim Wenders' Land Of Plenty.

This is very clearly a statement about certain aspects of American culture. It will be perceived in many circles to be anti-Bush, but it's not. By comparison with Michael Moore, it bears significant comparison to Bowling For Columbine, but none to Fahrenheit 9/11. There are real questions here about the culture of fear in the US, and the personal, rather than collective or military reaction to the September 11 bombings. I was really into the film for probably 90% of the storyline, and only started losing interest towards the end, and particularly in the denouement which, like so many, just didn't resonate with me, and felt forced.

In hindsight, there are probably more problems with this film than are evident in the dark of the cinema. The Michelle Williams character, which I though was fairly well acted, is really not very developed, and lacks a certain reality. Yes, she's very religious but also, one suspects, liberal and, nominally, world-aware, but she really expresses very little opinions in the film. Sure, this is partly her role, the unpainted canvas carrying less baggage than her uncle, who is really the subject of the film. I can appreciate that she's supposed to be the future and all that, to be coloured by the times and the people around her, but I don't buy that a 20-year old can be that.

Anyway, despite that, its a good little flick for the vast majority of its running length, particularly, I guess, if you have comparable beliefs to Wenders, as I suspect I do. My complaints about the denouement may be better ignored - I don't like many :-)

Tuesday, 19 October 2004


I'm not a religious manga zealot (Jules doesn't read this, I don't think, but hi anyway), but I like the genre, and have probably seen my fair share. About a month ago I read an article (can't find the link now, sorry) that this would potentially be a big year for manga, with 3 of the biggest directors having new films; Hayao Miyazaki (too many to list), Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell, and Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira). Akira didn't flick my switch overly, but I like my movies in series, and Steamboy was first here.

I said I like the genre, but it sure ain't for originality of story ideas. Introduce hero, introduce villain, well meaning but constructing large structure not in human-kind's best interest, climax with hero destroying big structure. OK, not all of them, but it happens over and over again. Mononoke, Akira (kind of), Metropolis, Steamboy. Oh, there you go, I gave it away.

Anyway, if you're going to see this, you don't care about the plot. You just want sweet animation, and you'll get it. Actually, the Koreanime flick that I saw a couple of weeks ago was probably prettier, but this is still good candy.

flight risk

Warning, continued unnecessary self-analysis follows.

I'm a flight risk. I seem to have a tendency to leave the scene of a social situation at the smallest provocation. It doesn't happen as much now, but I'm pretty sure that's more tied to a reduced frequency of social interactions than any behavioural change. After a basketball game on Saturday afternoon, I left without saying hello to Liz as I usually do, and I don't know why.

Later that night, even, I got into the wrong lift in the metro station and was pretty shocked to be hearing two Australian girls speaking. We chatted for a while - one of them is a student at Villejean - but I barked some half-arsed excuse about needing to be on the other platform and left. I didn't even get their names, for crying out loud, let alone some sort of contact, which I regretted the minute I left. It's no wonder I don't have much of a social circle over here.

Its epidemic, and doesn't help me one little bit.

Friday, 15 October 2004

Tim Bray on US politics

I never thought I'd link Tim Bray in my personal blog, but his thoughts on the US election are interesting. They present a different approach to the decision, and one that I'd agree with, being in a similar position as an outsider. Certainly, I have and have seen a similar view of Bush as he suggests. Of course, an Australian grad student in France is probably an even less interesting source for an American swing voter than a Canadian computer programmer.

His view probably also applies for outsiders (albeit perhaps more south-east Asian outsiders than others) looking in on the Australian election. Frankly, if they hold it against us, more power to them; perhaps we deserve a good kick up the ass for "reelecting that #*!^!% #$*!%* &*@!$%!".


One of the plants I bought on the weekend is a chamaecyparis (can't recall off-hand which member of the family, but I suspect Lawsoniana), which I'm now reading is probably more a tree than a plant. So, either I bought a bonsai, or I've gone and got myself a tree, which probably won't really work in my apartment. I'm betting on the former, based on the moss gathered around the base but also in the hope that I won't have to jettison/kill the damn thing once it gets big. Given that my recent history with minding bonsais for a colleague involved a survival rate of 25% (the life signs of the lost were, to be fair, faint or nonexistent before I took delivery), there is more than a drop of irony in this. I've been keeping it at home, because it brightens up my room, but there is a safety net of other people at work, which might prove valuable down the road. In any case, I need to learn how to trim it, too.

Wednesday, 13 October 2004

Voting places where I've lived. East Innisfail and Mareeba West, in Kennedy, both voted for Mad Bob, who I respect but disagree with. St Lucia and Toowong voted Lib, as did Indooroopilly West, in Ryan. What's going on, all of my old haunts voted conservative. This doesn't surprise me in the north, but in Ryan, I don't get it. It should be full of the liberal elites from whom Howard supposedly profits by bagging.

Tuesday, 12 October 2004


That's Emily on the left, I'm sure of it. There may or may not also be a Lee in the second photo.


The next 3 years could be pretty lean for good-news ABC stories, so lets get in while the going is good. BTN is coming back, which is good to hear. I watched it and enjoyed it when I was in primary school at East Innisfail. Engaging children in news and current affairs at an early age is important for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is grass-roots development of a actively critical and diverse media, something perhaps lacking now.


In what, by recent standards, would count as a productive day, I've spent the last 2 hours or so reading papers that I haven't enjoyed, making detailed critiques as to why the contained approaches are flawed. I even read a Pegamento paper that I didn't like, although for reasons of lack of substance rather than any disagreement with rationale. I can't remember the last paper I liked, excluding ancient stuff like 1980s typing papers, which I view from a rather less informed and thus less critical perspective.

Add to that the fact that I still don't have a coherent topic for my thesis, after 9 months of trying to find one, and the fact that "middle Australia" chose to re-elect John Howard with an increased majority, and I'm feeling pretty miserable. Oh, and I still don't have my student card, which I need to renew my provisional residency permit, which I have to do tomorrow. Moan bloody moan.


On Friday night I went with Jacques, Sophie and Estelle, a friend of Sophie's, to see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which was excellent. In fact, although I may regret this later, I would rate it as perhaps the best (and incidentally least formulaic) romantic comedy that I've ever seen, perhaps overtaking High Fidelity.

My intention of Saturday morning was to go buy a bike, return my overdue library books, and go into IRISA around lunch to check the election results. It rained, so all this got reordered and delayed a bit, but I got it all done eventually. Unfortunately, this resulted in an election-induced malaise that still lingers.

After the bad news, I went on a consumerist rampage with the previous night's team, to Conforama, Leroy Merlin and LeClerc, picking up curtains, plants and various other accoutrements that I probably don't need. Sunday was thus reduced to installing said superfluous purchases into my now generously deported appartment, followed by despondently regarding first my shiny new bike and then the light drizzle falling outside.

Saturday, 9 October 2004


It would appear that Howard has been returned with an increased majority. I don't understand. I just don't understand. Disillusioned doesn't begin to cover it.

Friday, 8 October 2004

crunch time

With the election tomorrow, I'm beginning to think that I'll come in to work in the morning to check out the result. Crikey had a very good editorial today on their hopes for the result. Their last call, for a more robust media, regrettably, is less likely than their desired electoral result.

Thursday, 7 October 2004

the worm turns

I read an article the other day, I think perhaps in the New York Times, that it had been a very long time since there was an American president who sported a moustache or other facial hair. I got to thinking, and I reckon it might be even longer for Australia. This page, via the PM's site, seems to suggest that its not since Billy Hughes left in 1923 that an Aussie PM has sported growth. Also interesting is that until that point, every PM except Barton, the first, had in fact had either a 'mo or a full beard. How the worm turns!

Wednesday, 6 October 2004

and again...

While we're on the election, here is another article from the same site, albeit not by the same author. In fact, this is a letter from Richard Davey to his (and my) local member, Liberal Party candidate Michael Johnston, outlining why he will not vote liberal. My most significant gripe with his letter is probably his claim that he has never previously been politically engaged, which he contradicts by an apparent, acute and ongoing awareness of political issues going back a number of years. Again, there are number of issues that resonate with me, not only the anti-government sentiments, but also things like the historical sympathy with the ideas behind a GST.

more election stuff

News from my dear sisters overnight including some of their thoughts surrounding the election. In particular, Lee forwarded this article by Margo Kingston, discussing the choice for some voters between the Dems and Greens. Whether you respect her opinions or not, this article represents a pretty fair scan of a number of the issues I tossed up in making up my mind for the senate ballot. Of course, other things, like my perceptions of the candidates' qualification/readiness to do the job, also came into it.

So, for the election, Em is cooking trout and bread, and Lee is taking a very Zen approach to the whole thing:
Whoever wins, I still play my first cricket game of the season on Sunday.
That's the attitude.

Tuesday, 5 October 2004


Well, I've filled in my ballots, and I even found an Australian to witness my postal vote envelope. Hopefully I'll mail the envelope either on my way home tonight or, if I'm not sure about postage, tomorrow morning on my way to uni.

I've already done a rundown of my house candidates (for Ryan), and this afternoon I did a whole lot of scouring for information on the web on the independents and more obscure parties running for the senate.

These were the notes I gathered, first for independents, then for parties. "????" indicates that I couldn't find any information on the candidates or their policies. The lack of comment about the policies of the major parties means that they seemed clear to me. Other factors I took into account were the preference listings from the ABC web site (far, far, far and away the best aggregate site for electoral information).

Note: these are my opinions, are neither impartial, objective, nor complete, and I only really expect them to be useful to people who know my politics and can use that knowledge as a subjective filter. You need to determine for yourself which way you should vote. If you take issue with a characterisation, email or comment and correct me; I don't consider myself an authority by any means.

terry rushton
- ????
- preferences to libs, nats, ffp, one nation
eamon coll
- CQU??
- preferences to libs, nats, ffp, one nation
selwyn johnston
- http://www.johnston-independent.com
- expensive water scheme
- zero net immigration
- anti-republic
- very conservative
susan harvey
- ????
gail duncan
- ????
- strange preferencing
kim mcintosh
- ????
- strange preferencing
pauline hanson
- if you're voting, you know who she is and what she stands for
- see enough rope interview
judy smith
- hanson's sister, running mate
hetty johnson
- single issue, child abuse activist
diana scott
- appears to be press contact for hetty johnston
darryl angus mcarthur
- ????
hassan ghulam
- immigrant (esp afghans @ nauru) activist and spokesman

non-custodial parents party
- as the name suggests
- largely single-issue, social conservatives
- "lying rodent" brandis is a career politician, trood seems better
citizens electoral council
- protectionists
- 2 good candidates (esp mclucas), the other sounds like bill ludwig's son
socialist alliance
- to the left what FFP are to the right
liberals for forests
- single issue moderate environmentalists
one nation
- ultraconservative
family first
- religious right
- new country seems more in the spirit of the country party
fishing party
- single-issue recreational fishing group
- the drew-ids, difficult to find bios for 2nd and 3rd candidates
- activists, not legislators
- single issue, marijuana prohitibion
great australians
- policy-less nostalgic conservatives?
new country party
- as the name suggests
- not enamoured of NP relationship with Libs
- fairly conservative, but still basically centralist
australian progressive alliance
- the democrats without the baggage?
- newman seems a good candidate, the other is a kid
- candidates seem reasonable
- shame about current state of the party

Monday, 4 October 2004

books and movies

"To A God Unknown", the latest in my Steinbeck cycle, is another strong book. A little like the Korean films I saw this weekend, it doesn't have a very strong story, but the writing is beautiful, and he really loves the characters, and he really loves the land, and that's enough. So, while it isn't in the same class as The Grapes of Wrath, or Of Mice And Men, its still very, very good reading.

Interestingly, a quick glance at my sidebar reveals 23 films for the year, and 30 books (The Making of the Atomic bomb was last year, and the dictionary doesn't count). The former is perhaps slightly down on recent years (in turn well down from the mad years of Hollywood slavery), but the latter is way, way, way out of proportion with even my prolific early teens. Films are probably still in the majority, though, when I consider the DVDs I've seen (recently wrapped up a tour of the local Kubrick collection).


So, two films on Sunday, something of a return to what I was doing in March/April, just wandering down the road (20 minutes or so) to the TNB to catch pretty much whatever was showing.

The first I saw was Wonderful Days, a manga film, but coming out of Korea, which I think is less common. I think that having had a break from animé for a while might have emphasised it, but the film had a beautiful look. The progressive integration of 3D elements into manga films is great, and although they still show at times, the seams between the styles of animation are better and better managed every time (Titan AE was another that mixed styles, if I remember correctly). Also, the end, often a problem for me with Animé films, was pretty good in this case, analogous though it was to so many manga endings (world ending, everything exploding: Akira, bad example, Metropolis, better example).

The second film was "Printemps, été, automne, hiver, ... et printemps", another Asian (also Korean, I think) film, very buddhist in structure and message. In fact, it had only a lightweight plot, and relied much more heavily on its imagery and sound (both effects and music) for effect, an approach that certainly worked for me; I felt very calm walking home. The director, who I think is Korean (Kim Ki-Duk) has another film at Arvor this month, so I might have to check that out, too.

Its worth noting, perhaps, that, since TNB is a proper cinema, both these films were presented in original version (in these cases, Korean) with French subtitles. This was a small problem early in the first film, when they were setting things up, but in truth neither film was really dialogue-driven, so it wasn't much of a drama. My reading is better than when I watched the Romanian film in March, but I still lack for vocabulary.

electoral stuff

My voting kit arrived on Friday, so I hope to fill it out and mail it off this evening. 50 senate candidates :)

In other electoral stuff, this (via Stefan), is bloody outrageous. Chatting on Friday, French debates are very, very unstructured, with candidates able to interject while the other is speaking. They found it restrictive that it might be otherwise, but I think its necessary. Otherwise it would turn into Question Time. Still, the American contract is idiocy.

weekend happenings

On Friday Franck, Valentine and I helped Jacques and Sophie move, from Louvigne-de-bais (quite a long way from Rennes) to Acigné (a fair way from Rennes). Since they were moving from a house, they had a fair bit of stuff, and consequently the truck they rented was enormous. I also scored a wardrobe and a desk that were surplus to requirements.

Saturday morning I rearranged my appartment into the only configuration that adequately accomodates the new furniture, unfortunately finishing too late to run my library books back into town, meaning that they are now more than a week overdue. In the afternoon I read the first half of "To A God Unknown", another Steinbeck, before heading in to watch the basketball in the evening. Avenir got up, courtesy of some excellent seals in the post leading to easy layups. This was despite the other team having a very well organised motion offense, which got them open jump shots all night long. Liz had a tough time of it early with fouls, but hit a few key buckets in the final quarter.

Sunday I did washing and finished off my novel, then went into TNB to watch "Wonderful Days". Walked back afterwards, grabbed dinner and, having read everything on my shelves, walked back in for the last screening of "Printemps, été, automne, hiver, ... et printemps" (Spring, summer, autumn, winter, ... and spring").