What I do for cash.

 

On the Writer’s Bloc webpage, they have a regular post about what writers will do for cash. I read one the other day about a guy who has to engage in sex work but now he prefers horticulture. I think both make for great literature, but it is pretty atrocious that this is what somebody must do to survive as an artist – telling times indeed.

I think it is a little bit of a stretch for me to attach ‘writer’ to my job description, or my twitter profile, but here is a little expose about what student editors do for cash – or more to the point, for library fines.

I used to have a job working in a cute/grungy little cafe on the south end of King Street but they went broke, so for the last week I’ve had no cash and some massive library fines. If owners of small businesses wrote blogs, they might have a page about what cafe-owners do for cash, but you would have to find that yourself.

I decided I’d do what any respectable writer would do and sell all my excess goods – which of course largely includes books. First stop: the Co-op bookshop. I have all my textbooks, some of which cost up to $80 despite being skinnier than a well written novella and totalling at over $250 at retail price. I got $40.50. This may sound outrageous but I figured I’d get less and I’m pretty happy with this.

Next is the second hand bookshop. I cannot bring myself to go to Gertrude and Alice, my regular place, because selling my books at such a petty price so soon after applying for a job will make me look desperate. Instead I drive through the city and watch as the millions of Western Sydney Wanderers’ fans make their way to the stadium. The roads are choc-full and police are everywhere. It certainly makes a more interesting adventure than heading down to Bondi.

The girl at the counter has one of those edgy-hipster fringes and is apparently an aspiring comic book artist. She tells me that they do not take any fiction that is older than two years old, unless it is by a classic author, Hemingway or Julian Barnes or somebody like that. They also don’t take crime fiction. Most of my books are safe choices for a bookseller, but they decide SF is too close to Crime fiction so Orson Scott Card does not make the cut.

Now, if second hand booksellers ran a blog, they might write about what they do for cash but I doubt it would include buying books from me at a decent price. They go for a dollar each. I find this pretty outrageous and point out that one of the poetry books was shortlisted for the Victorian Premiers Literary Award this year and that another is brand new. She is very un-phased so they get pulled from the pile. Still I take the deal and let go of books worth well over a dollar. I think Moby-Dick is worth less than that and I’m struck with luck that they were foolish enough to take it at such a price.

I have a total of fourteen books that the comic-fringe girl takes away from me. Apparently she amassed huge amounts of library fines too and in a moment of sympathy she gives me fifteen dollars. I gratefully accept her generosity and leave. I still have a fair bit to go but it is Saturday night and I think I’m going to have a drink.

 

Judging a book by the sins of its author – My thoughts on reading Norman Mailer’s Armies of the Night.

Mailer CollageStarting towards the end of the university semester, I have intermittently spent my time dipping into Norman Mailer’s wonderful account of a mass protest in opposition to the war in Vietnam and the various rallies and acts of civil disobedience that surrounded it. More than just a novelist’s account of a historical event, Mailer plays with the concepts and habits of journalism, history making the objectivity that has traditionally been strived for in the genre. To be fair this is an understatement, Mailer as the participant-journalist is the undisputed king in his own story and his competitive habits and personal insecurity lie unmasked in his depiction of the character that surround him. The book begins by telling us of the ‘news of your protagonist (himself)’ before describing himself variably as the Historian, the Novelist and the Participant (yes, he capitalised them too) and he never hesitates to shower himself with praise or belittle those he did not like (i.e. everyone except Robert Lowell). This book pioneered a new genre of journalism alongside other well known novelists of the time such as Hunter S Thompson, Tom Wolfe, and Truman Capote.

I won’t bother worrying much about spoilers as it is peripheral to the text, rather the appeal of the book is in its telling which is laced with dark humour and an attention to peculiar details and characters.  Central to the story is Mailer, who was already a well known writer and public intellectual, he was a prolific journalist, had written numerous successful novels and participated in numerous televised debates. He had also achieved a level of notoriety for his habits of getting into fistfights, his associations with radical New York writers and Beatniks which included being a witness attaining to the artistic merit of William S Boroughs’ book ‘The Naked Lunch’. The last element of his notoriety is not discussed in the book but was one that I stumbled upon in the blogosphere; Mailer was a violent misogynist, having stabbed Adele Morales, the second of his six wives (http://lithub.com/80-books-no-woman-should-read/).

Many authors live lives close to those they write about and likewise many authors face flack from the public who are unable to distinguish the different between them. Some examples of this are Nabokov’s Humbert Humbert in Lolita or Woody Allen in anything he does, but there is a need to separate the two and in some cases it can be done. I really had trouble with this one, because it is actually a story about the author and he clearly benefits from this notoriety just while idealising the masculinity that underpins it.

Mailer’s opinion on women is somewhat confusing, he doesn’t seem to espouse any misogyny in Armies of the night, instead it manifests in another manner; his love of sex, his love of the hyper-masculine and the inability to separate the two. At one point he finds himself at odds with fellow protester Mitch Goodman as both are ‘sexologues’ of a very different nature. Goodman is of that leftist intellectual group that believes that all sex is good, all love is good and that it should be accepted equally. Mailer, on the other hand believes some sex to be abominable, shameful and downright wrong, likewise he recognises the social factor in shaping this disgust and does not want it changed – no, that’s exactly the way he likes it. He likes his sex dirty.

Mailer has a very strong moral compass, and not all of which are based upon rationality but rather very strong feelings on right and wrong. Despite this, he is willing to forgo these feelings in the pursuit of something better; guilty pleasure. For example, he hates drugs but will partake in them when paired with good sex. In a way this sounds very right, very cool and very sexy. To me it brings to mind an article I read about a gay man’s yearning for the days where Oxford Street was a gay community, separate distinct and uninvaded by trendy hetros, all of which is now dissolving as homosexuality becomes more acceptable in the mainstream. I get it, deviance is exciting and sexy – yet all people deserve to feel legitimated in their deep feelings of love irrespective of whether the sex that has been deemed ‘dirty’ by society may be (at times) better that way.

In armies of the night, Mailer is attending an anti-war rally yet the man himself loves violence, loves war and envisions himself as the leader of troops into battle; certainly he is no pacifist. In my internet research on Mailer, I found constant reference to his linking of the two concepts each of which are central to his feelings of masculinity. The young MP who arrests him is terrified by Mailer, who looks like a mad banker with his three piece, pin-striped suit and crazy Jewish curls. The MP fumbles during the arrest and shakes uncontrollably during and after the arrest leading Mailer to question his sexuality and coming to the conclusion that had he been trying he would have demolished the boy. This is somewhat ironic considering Mailer has something of a homoerotic obsession with Robert Lowell throughout the book, wondering about his physical strength, in love with the resonance of his voice and constantly amazed at the man’s complacent confidence before a crowd. Like many men today, it is his own insecurity which he needs to validate through both sex and violence. He has allocated this boundary crossing side of him with an alter-ego, which he calls ‘The Beast’ and he loves The Beast. The Beast is daring and decisive yet when does it become dangerous and when should we stop idealising it?

For me, and in many ways for Mailer, we should stop now. While he states that he loves it, he is clearly more envious and even hateful of Lowell whose quiet strength never had to sink to such lows to feel recognised. I would say that it is all good until someone gets hurt – and today, just like every other day in history, this form of masculinity has been hurting women. While the prevalence of normative masculinity means that we have to tolerate that line is certainly crossed when an individual hurts someone, especially if it involves potentially fatal force. I would be too disgusted to read OJ Simpson’s book on how he (would have) killed his wife and how is this any different? That this book does not detail his feelings on women but does so indulge us with his views on violence is no real difference as they are both interconnected in the mind of his Beast.

So would I recommend you read it? Well that’s really difficult for me to answer, but I hope history does not remember him and that teachers do not recommend him to their classes. I hope that teachers will start replacing the old sexist men are currently read in schools and create a new literary canon that is more egalitarian and gender friendly. With a fair bit of cognitive dissonance I can say that I probably won’t avoid reading him. The level of his work amazes me as does the scope of it; he has written books, made political and artsy films, published poetry and written lucid news articles that incite people to action. At least, I can be somewhat comforted by Roland Barthes in that the author is dead and while I may be taking the old critic out of context, Mailer will certainly not benefit from my purchases and as far as ethics are concerned as long as I and any future reader will be able to separate the authors twisted sense of masculinity and impart their own critique of it, then it is OK by me. Is this unlikely? Can we trust readers to be sensible? Are you confused? So am I.

Adios.

Summer Goals

So it has been a while since I posted anything on this blog, but this summer I intend to change that. I am hoping to use this blog as a space for reflection upon my thoughts and readings – and I have quite an ambitious reading list for the Summer. It’ll also be a good stepping stone to writing reviews (for money!!!) and I will put up a first draft before sending it off to be rejected just like my poetry.
Anyway, last week I borrowed a fat stack of books to be read over my holiday period, unfortunately that stack join my already large stack of books both from the university library and my local. Add to that the large collection of unread books spread about my room and beyond and I am faced with quite a dilemma in deciding what to read and what to abandon to the fate of aging in the sunshine without being loved. One thing in the selection criteria is certain and that is brevity, shorter books, novellas and succinct analyses will be chosen over their tediously long cousins – while TOlstoy may make an appearance it’ll be for ‘The Death of Ivan Ilyich’ rather than ‘War and Peace’.

So while there is no definite list just yet, there are a couple books that are on the high up and I’ll run through them.

First up is Norman Mailer’s ‘Armies of the Night’, a brilliant account of the authors experience protesting the war in Vietnam. Norman Mailer is a somewhat less famous author associated with the ‘new journalism’ movement along with Tom Wolfe and Hunter S Thompson. Thompson’s creation of ‘Gonzo’ journalism has certainly stood the test of time and reference to it can be found amongst filmmakers, journalists and any hipster who like to dream about the fast paced, drug induced world he has blurred with the tools of fiction. Anyway, more about that later – the main reason he is on the list is because I am currently reading him and hope to be done by the end of the week, so expect a post about that soon.

Another book sitting high up there is Daniel Dennett’s  ‘Consciousness Explained’. I wish I could speak more about the book or author but as he has not yet been read I cannot. I’m reading this on the recommendation of my old mate Peter Slezak, a professor of philosophy at USYD and fellow activist on Palestinian rights. It also seems like it will be great for gaining an understanding of myself and my ability to write in a stream-of-consciousness style with greater authority.

There is also Rohinton Mistry’s ‘Swimming Lessons: Tales from Firozsha Baag’, a collection of short stories that revolves around a particular building in Mumbai rather than any central characters. I guess this is not dissimilar from Joyce’s ‘Dubliners’ but who am I to say. It is also a great example of postcolonial literature, having been written by an author who is neither white nor western educated. I feel this is important as typical lists of great writers and must-read books often focus upon a literary canon that is almost exclusively white and male – and there is no way that the talent lies simply with them. So I feel it is important to include such writers whenever looking to fill my mind with the works of the who’s who in the literary world.

This brings me to by next author – Margaret Attwood, I don’t think she needs any introduction and if she does use google. Unfortunately, I cannot remember which book I picked up but let’s just say that is is reasonably short.

I could keep going but listing the would be read books for summer may itself be too ambitious so I will just set down the ground rules:

  1. Books under 200 pages should be read in a single week.
  2. Books over 200 in two weeks.
  3. Academic books to be read in two weeks with some exceptions to be made.
  4. Every third book I will aim to read something outside of comfort zone. For example, genre fiction, commercial and pulpy crap that I would otherwise turn my nose up at, philosophy and maybe even an art book.

I also intend to write a poem every day, a short story a week and a blog post every week. Maybe that is too ambitious as I have already failed to meet the poetry rule since deciding upon it. But we shall see, at least it’s a rule that I can feel bad about breaking (kind of like my persistently lapsing vegetarianism!) anyway, it is there in (computer screen) print for all to see, so maybe that will be a motivating factor in getting it done.
Hopefully I can share it all with you soon.
Cheers.

My Cinematic Education and the New Terror Laws

So about a month back I wrote an article and submitted it to the Grapeshot magazine for publication, the monthly theme of the magazine was pop culture and it was immediately following the newly proposed terror laws. The article got rejected. Right now I am convincing myself that it is because the content was too provocative and they didn’t have the literary kahunas to publish it. This is the version with a couple of the more enjoyable filler elements chopped out in order to fit the word count. As I don’t have a professional editor checking my blog posts before I publish them I should probably revise and edit any errors that I may have glossed in the wee hours that I wrote the article up, however I am way too lazy right now and will instead delegate that role to any readers.

There is a lot of useful stuff that we as individuals within a society learn from movies and film. I’m not just talking about documentaries and those gaudy films substitute teachers used to show you in Year 8, I mean the ones with soppy romances, heads being chopped off and superheroes clad in lycra so tight that even you’re mum would be embarrassed to wear it. These films shape our culture, values and allow us to orient ourselves within a complex society. They tell us what to hold dear and what to fear what to love and even sometimes what to hate.

I, however, got a somewhat different cinematic education because I grew up in an Ultraorthodox Jewish household where TV and movies were banned. I still watched movies, just maybe different ones to the rest of the world and they have given me a particular perspective on the politics of Australian counterterrorism and security today. You may say that it’s a little bleak, exaggerated and dark, but when I hear some of the things said on the news or by our leaders, these ideas pop up in the back of my head.

Growing up in my family, we got our dose of explosions and witty dialogue on film from two sources. First there was my dad, he would trawl through the newspapers and TV guides and record any program that covered the Holocaust. He amassed cabinets of VHS tapes with their titles written and rewritten in permanent marker occasionally being crossed out to be replaced with programs covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Though my brother and I were never allowed to watch them we would often sneak into his office and relish in the explosions and violence with complete detachment from the human suffering that was implied. What I got from these holocaust movies was not just a desensitisation to violence but also a careful ear for the policies and politics of racism, subjugation and demonising the human ‘other’.

The second cinematic influence on my childhood was Star Wars. I saw Return of the Jedi at a friend’s house and was obsessed. There was just no way to keep that out of the house and so we nagged my mum till she had migraines. Star Wars IV, VI and V (that was the order we watched them in) were never really digested with any great understanding of the plot, but when The Phantom Menace came out we watched with trepidation as Obi Wan and Anakin grew and developed, while Palpatine slowly sowed the seeds of their future.  His masterful manipulation of the Intergalactic Senate allowed him to declare the end of the republic and the rise of the empire “for a safe and secure society”. The response, of course, is an overwhelming applause.

OK, snap back to reality. We have recently been experiencing a series of threats to Australian society, terrorists or would be terrorists appear to be making headlines every day. Without dancing around the issue, the blame is being increasingly placed upon Muslim communities rather than individuals.  The Daily Telegraph ran a headline telling us that Man Haron Monis, the Martin Place terrorist, was not even on the top 400 Islamists recognised as posing a terrorist threat in Australia and that ”we now know that there is over a thousand like him lurking amongst us” (23/02/15). We are told to be afraid of an invisible entity within our society that can only be identified by their community, or that the entire community is that entity.

Recently Tony Abbott addressed the Australian public over Youtube, assuring us of his “pledge to keep our country as safe and secure as we humanly can” and promised that we would “promptly take any necessary remedial action”. He did not stop there, but continued to list the instances where he felt the benefit of the doubt should no longer be given: not to those on Centrelink, those on the boats, those applying for residency and “those who got bail but clearly should have got gaol” (very poetic ). In the mind of our Prime Minister these problems are all linked. It is while on the dole that young Australian Muslims are being radicalised and it is by the boats that they arrive.

So what does Tony Abbott intend to do? He intends to keep us as safe as he “humanly can”, if Star Wars taught me anything it is that even with the foresight of the force absolute safety is un maintainable. I however, have absorbed enough of the dark side to foresee some future where it can be minimised. We are, according to the Prime Minister, “considering additional legislature on data retention” and strengthening security agencies. But why stop there? What will we, as citizens be able to do to recognise those who threaten our free country? Maybe we could make them wear armbands? Sew badges onto all their clothes?

In Penrith there is a strong opposition to the establishment of a new Islamic centre with one councillor stating that “I grew up in Auburn and their first mosque in 1979 and now they have three and it is not a safe place to walk around at all (Daily Telegraph 28/10/14).” But why stop there? Why not create designated areas for Muslims to live? You may call them ‘ghettos’ but really it is necessary for our safety and for theirs.

Then there is the would-be-ISIS fanboys (shall we call them Separatists?). They are all sitting at home living off the dole too, that’s when they get radicalised, bloody bludgers.  The government is almost paying for their trip to Syria! So we are going to take away the benefit of the doubt at Centrelink. That’ll show ‘em.  But really, why not make them work? After all “Arbeit Macht Frei”.

Or maybe we should take a moment and think about what sort of society we want to live in. Tony Abbott promised to push through legislation as quickly as possible, but it is very important that this does not happen. Quick legislation often creates long lasting problems. We need to take the time to think out what the implications would be upon our society. Will it protect us? Or will it divide us? None of us have the powers of foresight but after a childhood of watching the worst possible outcome I think we ought to be careful about what we allow governments to do in the name of security, lest we slip over to the Dark Side.

Yehuda.

Michael Chabon and the Formative Moments in the Life of my Blog.

After the critical acclaim of my blogging debut I have returned. As very little has occurred in my day and as Kartia feels that my earlier post read a little too much like a personal journal, which in case you are wondering, is problematic; I have decided to adopt a theme. Kartia recommends that it comments on whatever I am reading, or more simply the books that are in my life. This is a great weight off my chest as most of the books that enter my life never get read. Its not that I don’t want to read them, its just that there’s so much time and I can probably do it tomorrow.

Nonetheless, the acceptance of such a theme will not limit the scope of coverage that I will write about. So, always the rebel, I have chosen begin my lack of adherence to the theme by writing about a film. The film is Wonder Boys (2000) with a star studded cast that includes Michael Douglas, Toby Maquire, Robert Downey jr. and that lady from Fargo with an accent that I can only describe as very annoying. However, to me the most important part is is that it is based upon a novel by Michael Chabon which bears the same name.

God I love Chabon, so much so that yesterday, when the barista-next-door asked me who my favourite author was, I produced his name and proceeded to read aloud from the Wikipedia article on him. This gave me immense nachas (for the goyim out there that is a Jewish form of joy that can only be achieved through the success of your children, preferably when they become doctors and lawyers). He is described as one of the “most celebrated writers of his generation” and his writing as “characterized by complex language, the frequent use of metaphor along with recurring themes, including nostalgia, divorce, abandonment, fatherhood, and most notably issues of Jewish identity”. So I guess there is no surprise that I like him, mostly I feel he is writing solely for a reader like me and that anybody lacking in my particular experiences would not understand him.

Despite this, I still got a surprise when I saw an entire chapter on Wikipedia about his lack of success in Hollywood. It seems that he has pitched a fair bit of writing for comic book movies such as X-men and the Fantastic Four as well as partial credits for Spider Man 2. His attempts at having his original work published has also been knocked back for one reason or another and then one screenplay that was eventually made into a film, was a critical acclaim but a commercial failure. With this in mind I committed myself to watch and review Wonder Boys and decide for myself how the masses could have forsaken such a man. For those of you who may wish to read the novel or watch the film I should include a spoiler alert and advise you not to read any further as well as a statement that I do not really intend to comment much on the acting or actors for while they act wonderfully, to me they are only peripheral to the screenplay and plot.

In Wonder Boys, Chabon’s main character and narrator is an professor of writing, plagued by vice, a broken marriage and an unfinished mammoth of a second novel that would put Herman Melville to shame. For me that sort of comparison is not a positive one, as I found reading Moby Dick was torturous at best, but as I am not reviewing his writing we won’t delve into that subject. The movie begins with a sort of stream of consciousness narration in which he is reading the work of a talented and eccentric student of his to an unimpressed class. The story progresses and the two become entangled in a series of crises, which includes the shooting of his lover’s husband’s dog and the revelation that she is pregnant with his unborn child.The pair are drawn to each other in a charming play on the popular trope of a relationship between the old veteran and promising novice and meanwhile try to resolve their respective misfortunes, or at the very least run away from them.

As a writer, it seems that Chabon is one who writes for a distinct literary class, much like Marcel Duchamp produced art for a similar artistic class. However, it pains me to say that I do not feel like the medium of a feature film allows for the same degree of artistic expressionism as Duchamp’s Fountain or the written word. That is not to say that it cannot contain depth, allegory or a meaningful message but that as a form, the success of the screenplay for feature film is governed by the plot and more specifically a simplicity of plot. It is the plot of the story which I find problematic, to me there is possibly too much, at least for a film. If I was to compare it to other anything else I would say it is a mix up of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas with the Dead Poets Society and the Breakfast Club with a little romance mixed in. There is the romance, dark comedy, and the dramatic interplay of jaded master and soaring apprentice. They each learn so much about each other which until then had been too entangled in lies and deceit for themselves to even realise and it all culminates in an all too cliche ending, where the two of them both publish their respective books and the guy gets the girl (and the other guy gets the guy, or something like that) but not without retracting their confidence-shattering statements about how shit they thought the other was.

Then there is the way it was told. It was a narration, which I must say is almost always the only way in which I can ever conceive a novel becoming a film. As Michael Douglas says in the film, “being a writer is about finding your own voice and following it”. Chabon has his voice and I love it, and it would seem that everybody else does too, maybe thats why it was so difficult to cut it out. To me the narrator in a novel turned film is a little bit stale, it is the sign of the inability to allow the film to show rather than tell it’s story and emerge as a truly separate text with the ability to shine on its own. By cutting out such a feature it would radically alter the audiences experience of the story and its characters, but this is a bold step that I feel writers and filmmakers need to take (while readers are often disappointed about it they need to accept this too!) but frequently do not. There is a necessity to embrace the difference that the change in medium forces upon them, and this is one that I feel Wonder Boys fails to do.

So I am sorry, Mr Chabon, while I will continue to hold your novels in very high regard, I was not as enthralled by the film adaptation. It may seem like I’m being a bit harsh (especially since I am no expert on writing screenplays, novels or creating films) and so I should say that it was ‘not bad’ as a film and I would have certainly enjoyed it more as a novel. It’s setting in a literary environment was refreshing and certainly had me personally more interested than a more conventional veteran spec-ops commander and his sniper recruit, but I am not entirely surprised that it did not break the bank with mainstream audiences. Maybe it was the director, I can only hope that it was as I certainly don’t think it was the actors and I know and believe that your writing skills can produce an amazing film. But until then, I think I will take the safe bet and read the novels first.

P.S. Michael Chabon recently made an appearance by publishing his commentary on Kendrick Lamar’s politically charged record ‘Blacker the Berry’ on the website Genius. It just goes to show how broad and hip the guy is.

P.P.S. While I took to bashing the film adaptation of Wonder Boys I cannot more highly recommend his novel ‘The Yiddish Policemen Union’ which I often force upon friends until they learn to love him. Also, I really wanted to use the word debonair in this article, mainly because it really evokes the casual style and eloquence of his work, but I was too busy being all grumpy and then subsequently lazy I have failed to incorporate it in the blog but substitute it in somewhere or at the very least acknowledge that the word is both wonderful and in my vocabulary.

My day.

Well today turned out to be much more eventful than I intended it to be.  It started out with a lazy sleep in and a read through Dervla Murphy’s ‘In Ethiopia with a Mule’  till about 11 o’clock. After which I postponed my intended Bike ride/training to enroll in my upcoming uni courses. So much decisions had to be made, and I finally ticked that box that indicated my interest in completing my capstone unit in politics and international relation, thereby finishing my drawn out major. Hopefully, this will be my last semester of my B.A. so there is much too look forward to in clicking through those boring pages.

Then unexpectedly, or should I say, to my lack of memory, Kartia turned up asking to use my Bathroom. Apparently we agreed to meet up after her breakfast with Riana. Luckily I was ready to leave right then, Unfortunately, this was due to the fact that my Dad was bugging me about meeting a friend of his. A political friend. I had to meet him. It was an opportunity that I could not miss out and could even result in me GETTING A GOOD JOB. I havent really involved myself in the political realm for a while and cannot say I was over keen, but I was also excited in a way.

So we hurried about through Bondi Junction, where I had two great victories. Firstly, I returned some earphones I had bought right before I had bought myself my first iPod. Yes I know its a bit late and it seems like a bit of a waste as I have had little time to (legally of course) download/torrent large amounts of music to put on it. However, the returning of such a piece of hardware brought a little bit more money into my pocket, something which I am trully happy about as I’m pretty much broke.

Our next stop was the library, where my books were overdue, Although its too late to renew my books and I have already received a fine for them, the lovely librarian lady renewed them for me and put the fine on hold. Yes! truly a great success. I also discovered that I had seven, rather than four books on loan. Hmmm…. so much too read.

Once all that business was done Kartia and I settled down at a cafe where I used to work and ordered coffee. Almost simultaneously, I received a call from my dad telling me he was at home ready to drive me to his client, AKA Mr Politically Hooked Up. After politely declining and attempting to reason with him I gave up and had my order changed to a takeaway cup and abandoned Kartia to the otherwise boring Bondi Junction. I assume she continued reading her book “A Thousand Splendid Suns” which appears to be a continual buildup of tragedy upon tragedy but nonetheless hard to put down.

Mr Politically Hooked Up lives in Vaucluse and has a very nice house. His name is actually John Utting and was not in any way expecting me to arrive with my dad and discuss high politics, philosophy and anything else to display my academic credentials. Instead he was shirtless, with a towel around his waist and about to leave for a meeting in Parramatta. I must say he had a lovely collection of books and proved very fascinating to talk to. My dad informs me that he is a statistician working for a firm closely associated with the ALP.

His affiliations with the Labor Party are easily spotted by the range of books that line his bookshelves, such as Paul Kelly’s ‘The End of Certainty’ and others documenting the Hawke government. He wastes no time in asking where I lie politically, specifically if I am aligned with any particular party.

I told him I am not, as I prefer to remain politically non-partisan for the sake of my journalism aspirations. He tells me that I should join a party, for example the ALP of which he is a member. To his great dismay, I told him that I did not particularly like the ALP, which was something like a slap in the face. His daughter who has just finished her HSC gave him a reassuring pat on the back. Maintaining  his dignity he asked if I was then aligned with the interests of the Libs and still implying that I should join party of some kind. Thankfully, I am not and told him that I am probably more supportive of the Greens and opposed to the notions of a duopoly. He probably thought I was an opinionated and arrogant youth but continued in his advice that I should join their ranks.  Once again, I politely declined, but as an offer of consolation I told him that my younger brother was well integrated in the ALP, whereupon he received much praise and I was told that he is on the right path. Apparently, “Its great to be a spectator but it is truly amazing to be a participant.”

Upon returning home I was very excited to see that Rabbi Zalman Kastel had called me. He needs some assistance with drafting a piece of legislature to target and hopefully integrate school children of monocultural communities into a broader multicultural society. I am truly surprised to have received his call as last time he called upon my help I panicked and never did anything, irresponsibly avoiding any contact and attempting to forget my otherwise steadfast commitment to his noble cause.

I decided to give up all of tomorrow in servitude to his cause, but in the meantime I made my way to my old hangout, the Macquarie Uni Library. Due to holidays still being on they close at the untimely hour of 8 o’clock, which only gave me 40 minutes to trawl through their extensive supply of reading material. I picked up a huge supply of books despite that and stuffed my bag full of them before making my way to the after hours reading ‘rooms’. Once comfortable I looked through them again approvingly, all of them are by big name sorts of authors like Steinbeck, Hesse, Kafka and Stein with the exception of one who appears to write about the Jewish ghetto and poverty, I am excited to read her. But before attempting to do anything else, I finished my chapter of Ethiopia with a Mule and even went a little further.

Then I went through the painful task of sorting through my photos and uploading a handful of them to Flickr for which I had to make an account (I will post the URL on my page once I can find it again). That took me quite a while and I called it a night before having finished all of them. And so began the trip home.

While I had set myself the goal of writing up a blog post i resigned myself to reading my book on the train instead. I quite like the casual style with which it is written. And it’s content seems to be weaving into my everyday conversations all the time. I even convinced (or informed) the young school leaver (her name is Joss and she was rather friendly) at Mr Utting’s home that she should do something akin to it during her gap year. My rambling suggestion was that Myanmar would provide an equal opportunity for travelling through a country of similar uncommercialised beauty. I think she took the suggestion well.

Finally, I walked home but not without stopping to buy cabbages in preparation for my attempt to convince Chur Buger (where I work) to incorporate Sabich, an Israeli breakfast staple into their menu. Meanwhile I prepared myself mentally for the thought of typing up this huge first post. Having achieved such a task, I think I am going to go to bed, and now that it is almost 2 o’clock I am in serious doubt about my aspirations to wake up at 5ish tomorrow morning for an early morning bike ride. We will see if that actually ends up happening. Whether it does or does not happen, I have a big day tomorrow.

Ciao.