Thursday, April 29, 2004

Heart Palpitations

An e-mail exchange between a lawyer writing a thesis on containing weapons of mass destruction by interdicting ships in international waters and his supervisor:

Dear Supervisor

I submitted my thesis on Tuesday, and of course by Thursday morning the Security Council has passed a new resolution on domestic measures to contain the proliferation of WMD.

I don't see that anything in the resolution touches directly on interdiction in international waters, and I imagine it would have been a one-sentence issue. (Unless I'm deluding myself.)

Am just faintly worried that my examiners might expect a reference to it, given its appearence before the final submission deadline.

Is it best not to worry - or should I see if it is possible to retrieve a submitted thesis?

Regards

Douglas

The instantaneous reply:
don't worry - the examiners certainly won't think that you should have
added new material at this stage! No need to retrieve the thesis!


Thank the sweet merciful gods of international law is all I can say.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

When you try to exercise and the universe answers “Boy, who you tryin’ to kid?”

So I turned in my thesis today. Three days early, even after having had the ring-binding prised open by the lovely people at Ryman’s stationers to change the bibliography for something … more consistent.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this felt a bit anticlimactic.

Perhaps surprisingly I decided the answer was exercise.

Especially as I’d already cycled from “the wrong side of the tracks” to the Law School and back again.

It being close to the end of the calendar month, my reserves of local currency are running a little low. Going to yoga was going to involve: finding a “cash point” (ATM) that dispenses five pound notes; going to my bank and making a manual withdrawal; or going to a supermarket and buying items up to the value of 2.45 and getting five pounds “cash back” (EFTPOS).

Given that British Banks should just have done with it and take down their individual logos and post a nice, accurate “abandon all hope ye who enter here and despair” sign, I was kind of hoping for the cash-point solution to come up trumps. No such luck.

As I didn’t feel like going through the farce of buying something I only just needed at the supermarket, and really didn’t have the kind of camping gear and gritty determination needed for a bank queue, I did what any lateral thinker would do.

I counted my change and decided to go to the pool instead.

Invariably my mid-afternoon plans of swimming (on no less than four occasions now) have been greeted with “I’m sorry sir, we’re closed, but if you consult your almanac, the position of the stars and the speaking clock you’d discover its really much better to come back some other time.”

As a rule, they’re open ‘till seven at night. It’s just that I always arrive during an exception, it seems. And today was no exception to the rule that a Doug who tries to hit the pool at five will meet not water, but polite English indifference.

So I cycled back home again, went to the supermarket, bought 1.25 of sandwich ham and drew out my five pounds.

It takes at least twenty minutes to cycle through peak-hour traffic to Wolfson College for yoga at 6 pm on a Tuesday. After the supermarket stop-off I was close for time.

I struggled with might and main, I veered around roundabouts signalling with gay abandon and laughing devil-may-care into the grills of Range Rovers. I cackled with the superiority of a cyclist skirting the stationary lines of cars backed up twenty deep at lights. I nodded sagely to the cows by the cycle path.

I arrived, panting, to find myself on time and my yoga venue full of “Open University” exam equipment. To wit, desks and papers and “Silence! And Begone! Exams Progresseth!” kind of signs.

Consulting the Porters (as is done in times of crisis) I found yoga had been set back an hour. What does one do to kill such an hour?

One goes and watches “Friends” at the flat of … um … mates … who live in Grange Road. One has tea and Easter eggs and chats and stays to watch the news, slowly abandoning all thought of exercise.

Other than cycling home through the gathering mists.

Damn the locals. They were right. It has got cold and windy again.

Sunday, April 25, 2004


(Punts at the Anchor, click for more riverside frolics.)


Running barefoot over the grass ...


Yesterday was simply too lovely to stay indoors and study.

Fortunately, I had rehearsals as an excuse to get out into the open (and take photos, filed under "Spring Sun") – and we even managed to spend half the day in the gardens where the show will be staged in May week.

Now I’m off to spend ANZAC day evening out by the river, having sent this invitation out by e-mail:

My fellow Australians

Sunday is Anzac day, a day for patriots.

Some will go to a dawn service, but the true blue will rise late the better that they may raise a glass at a pub - and have a beer or octeen.*

Some will cry, "But Doug - there are exams to study for!"

To which I can only answer, is that the spirit that allowed our victorious fallen to overwhelm Attaturk, seize the Dardanelles, strangle Axis shipping and liberate Poland all before tea-time?**

So, The Granta, 6.30, Sunday. Be there.

Cheers

Doug


*A number having a value only in beer maths. Extensive research has only been able to establish it is a number greater than three.

**Sacrifices to historical accuracy and spelling may have been made.



Anything is better than wrapping my head around exceptions to multi-lateral discipline under WTO trading arrangements.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Law in the fourth city - a micro-fiction
(Insomulin part 2, and an apology to those who might have expected Naylor)


If you asked most citizen-subjects of the Fourth City, they would tell you that law was a set of rules. If broken, there were penalties. That was all. The more reflective might laugh and say: “Law is just a word to describe what lawyers do.”

He knew this was wrong. Jonathon Tallow, an advocate to the Court of the First Ward, knew what all lawyers know: law is language used to change the world, to changes lives. The house is sold, the child taken, the convict executed. It even changed the past, annulling contracts, marriages, decisions of the Governor, making them things that had never been.

If law were simply rules, it would not take study to become a lawyer, the law would be open to anyone who could read. But when a lawyer said “innocent”, “reasonable”, “intent” or “equal” it has a meaning the untrained mind cannot divine. Yet, all subjects were deemed by the law to know the law, and more than one man had died for failing to guess what he could never conceive.

Rules, too, would be fixed. They would not be something that could be changed by the mere act of a judge observing them. Law was not a clockwork machine, it was a living thing, formed by the minds of lawyers but existing outside them. It was its a mystery, even to initiates.

This is what Tallow had learned in long training, and he had had the best. He had studied at the College of the Child-in-the-Fields, spacious buildings from the Fourth City’s earliest days (once a free hospital and asylum, and thus called by its detractors “New Bedlam”). He had reached the matter-of-fact realisation that law was, simply, a form of alchemy. By words and ritual it allowed its initiates to change reality. What other word described that?

But no citizen of the Fourth City would call it magic. They were entirely used to it, even if they held the legal profession in awe and suspicion. Even when the Court of First Ward raised a judgement against a fugitive and sent its shadow into the lawless places, this was unremarkable. When a contract was ratified in the shadow of the Court, when literally standing in the looming shadow of the Fist, and the man who later broke it was struck blind, this too was simply the way things were.

But Tallow had studied the Constitution. Not the Governor’s paper authority, but the true basis of the settlement. It could be seen on the face of the Fourth City. First Ward was the area crossed on the longest summer’s day by the moving shadow of an enormous wind-scarred basalt-black plinth, the Fist. Indeed, in the right light it did look like the clenched, defiant hand of a buried giant. Which is what it was.

The Fourth City was an accident. A collision of young history with an old inhabited place. A mislaid colony, and not the first here as any little archaeology could uncover. The giants here were not dead and ossified, nor even truly sleeping; but for them, time was not as it was for short-lived humanity. Yet a pact had been made, a compromise between the colony’s law and the substance-shadow of the giants’ dreaming-lives. Three Cities had preceded them, and each had not survived its pact with these original powers. Tallow, as an initiated lawyer and graduate of New Bedlam knew this, and it troubled him even as he solemnised his first oath-contracts, and saw a judgement raised from the Fist’s shadow stalk out across the City.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

The best line from a dinner party on Sunday

The South African flatmate surveyed a table of Canadians, Australians a Yank and herself and declared (in this Brit-free, English-speaking, post-colonial environment): “It’s so great to be among people who know the meaning of the word pants.”

The rest of the evening is lost not so much in the mists of time as the mists of a pint of Guiness, a gin and tonic, indeterminate quantities of red and white wine and mead.

There is much to be said for slowly drinking two litres of lemonade on ones own before bedtime.

The exam timetable is out, and so is Paris

Against all expectations (but not unfortunately against actionable legitimate expectations of due process) my law exams start one week earlier than they have in previous years. So the little yellow slip in my college pigeon hole informed me on Saturday.

This means I would no longer be returning from Paris around 1 am on Friday 21 May with at least three more days to swot up.

It means I would be returning around 1 am on the 21st with about 8 hours to locate my material, grab a nap and drag my sorry behind to an examination room.

Not entirely happy Jan, but not entirely dismayed either. My exams are in a neat little cluster and all over in a week. Shame they commence one month today.

At least, contrary to the impression blogging only the interesting(ish) bits of my may generate, I’ve been working …

"Look at moiye, look at moiye, Kimmoiye, look at moiye ploi-se"

Kath & Kim is now making a big splash as a cult cable show in the UK.

Meanwhile I've been giggling every ride to and from the law school at passing a local wok-noodle takeaway joint called, no word of a lie guv'nor, "Kym-moi".

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Forget-me-not

So, I have by and large rather embarrassingly forgotten everyone's birthday while I've been in the UK. Well, not parents or sister, but everyone else.

So someone mentioned a free web service where once registered you can e-mail your friends and get them to enter their birthdays for you. The website then sends you a reminder three days in advance so you can get your act together in time. Efficient, if slightly impersonal.

I was embarrassed enough to sign up to one of these things, send out four invite e-mails and then promptly forget the whole project.

Until yesterday morning, when I got this e-mail:

Happy Birthday.com Reminder:

Don't forget, it's Vladimir Illyich Lenin's birthday on 4/22!

Gift Suggestions:

Singing Birthday Cards
Imagine their surprise when they hear Happy Birthday being sung to them, and a personalized message from you being spoken by one of our narrators!!

How about tickets to a concert or a sporting event?
Get Front Row Seats - Click here

Does he like gadgets? Get 10% off all gadgets now!
Buy Gadgets here

Thanks again for using HappyBirthday.com!

Sincerely,
Your friends at HappyBirthday.com


I imagine that not only old Vlad, but I too, would be pretty surprised if I managed to send him a singing birthday card.

Though it would earn serious cred, I'd imagine, to get front row seats for an opening night event with old Vlad in tow: "Yup, the tickets are on me you old embalmed, commie dog, you. Birthday treat! My your knees do look a little stiff there, don't they? Here, let me just prop you at an angle with your head on the back of the chair and you feet in that lady's handbag."

I have no idea, however, if he was into gadgets. Though a rotating bow-tie with lights could have livened up proceedings at the Congress of People's Deputies no end.

All I can say is, guys ... thanks for taking my cross-continental pain, anguish and confusion so seriously. And don't believe that I don't know who you are ... or at least that I can't narrow it to a choice of two.


(Which from a field of four, I would admit, shows no great deductive skill ... )

Monday, April 19, 2004

How may I procrastinate? Let me count the ways.

With final exams approaching like the comet that wiped out the unsuspecting, un-revising dinosaurs (who really should have started studying earlier to be worth any sympathy), and the English Spring unfolding beyond the cucumber-frame shell of the law library, a young man’s thoughts turn to procrastination.

This weekend I managed to help a friend assemble a bookcase at her new flat, grab a few drinks, attend a play rehearsal and take photos of the budding season of cricket, beer gardens and … um … exams.

Over the Easter long-weekend I managed to take a day trip to the Goth-filled Camden markets where a small consumerist frenzy saw me acquire:

a doe-skin waistcoat (the spitting twin of one I wore as an undergrad I wore ‘til it grew thread-bare and moth-chomped),

a chocolate coloured velvet jacket missing but half-a-button and

the most amazing double-breasted herringbone, calf-length green tweed overcoat with belt.

Yes, I have spent all too much time of late wearing them in various combinations.

After my haul was distributed among various bags, I and the South African flatmate repaired to the World’s End for a pint of Guiness and a gin and tonic (respectively, not each), thus spending the money we saved on lunch through my packing us a lunchbox. After hitting the second-hand book market under Waterloo Bridge, we returned home.

I then went to a dinner, deposited my new overcoat in the hostesses chocolate cake (don’t ask) and managed to deposit the red wine I didn’t drink on my jeans and the carpet. Aye, me.

The weekend before was a movie marathon camped before our large-ish teev for a veritable free-to-air cinematic extravaganza. Saturday was a “girls night in” with one of the flatmates, red wine and ice-cream to watch that most natural of double-bills “American Beauty” and “American Werewolf in Paris”.

A wonderful thematic twinning: both featuring the word “American” in the title, and a kinda sorta militaristic, racial supremacist villain.

Okay, it’s a stretch.

“American Beauty” was sparklingly good on a re-watching. Utterly unsurprising that the writer, Alan Ball, went on to “Six Feet Under”. Still, out of so much that impressed me (especially the visual composition), Kevin Spacey’s performance is a stand-out. His transition from self-created victim to self-obsessed nouveau adolescent, to the gently compassionate man his family actually needs is an extraordinary metamorphosis.

Sunday saw me hoover up: “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (swords, revenge, subtitles!), “Shadow of the Vampire” (John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe, post-modern interrogations of authorship and narrative, weirdness!) and “Night of the Living Dead” (sixties suits, bad hair, bad plans, zombies!).

And now I’ve started watching Invader Zim on my laptop (“The pants command me!”), but at least I can sing the doom song on the way to my exam-like … doom.

Sunday, April 18, 2004


Spring in Cambridge
(… and the photos to prove it are up under “New and Old”)


The blossom is out on the trees, and gusting in little white flurries across the roads. The garden beds edging the college courts are gutters of colour, orange, yellow and ochre. The first shorts-wearers and sun-dresses have been sighted. Pallid floppy-haired Englishmen can be seen cycling in light linen jackets and, rather lamentably, checked pink shirts. More sensible women are still wearing the winter-season’s coats of phone-box red. Sun dapples the riverside beer gardens by the river with sprays of shadow and new-minted coins of light, as late as eight each evening. The air is tense with the expectation of that first thunder-crack snap of leather on willow.

By sheer force of contrast, after the washed out bleak dreariness of the English winter I’m beginning to understand the stature of Spring in English literature. That said, randomly rising and falling winds and variable durations of sunshine mean one can plausibly wear anything from a t-shirt and three quarter pants to an overcoat and jeans without looking out of place.

It seems too dreadful for words to be indoors studying.

(Though of course, since writing this, it has helpfully started to rain.)

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Enforced religious observance? (Or, “keeping it bracing”)

Something mysterious has happened to our hot water service over the Easter long weekend. As a matter of Murphy’s law, I wouldn’t be surprised if it had just died. But no, it alternates between providing only cold showers, and providing (if the hot tap is jammed fully open) just bearably tepid showers.

So, being a good graduate student I checked the circuit breakers (all fuses were intact), I checked the hot water service (still warm and clearly still working in some fashion) and I glanced at its electronic control panel (“override”, “extra hour”, “set heating”, “run program”) and then promptly gave up. Being a diligent collection of graduate students, no-one has reported this to college.

I thought we were victims of our own negligence, until at a dinner party last night, someone else told me at their house the hot water was almost off and the electronic timer was in a cupboard locked against their interfering with it.

The conclusion? College logic: “The undergraduates have gone home for Easter, who needs to waste electricity on hot water?”

Um, grad students? Maybe? Foreigners, trapped in Cambridge for the break? No?

We could, of course, monkey with the control panel ourselves. How many degrees could it take to fix an electronic timer? Unfortunately, given my fundamental theory of home maintenance (the more degrees, the more helpless) I think we have more chance of turning it into a light-water fusion reactor.

Anyway, cold showers are certainly proving bracing.

Leading me to a short history of the word “bracing” in my recent life. Rob (also known in these pages as “Mad Rob”, “Madness Boy” or “that awesome flatmate from Coogee”) was something of a man-seal. It was never too soon in the season for him to get down to Coogee Beach and fling himself in Syndey’s still minty Antarctic-fresh early-Spring currents.

He once lured me out on one such quick dip. I retreated (possibly hours ahead of him) to the comparatively warm sand once I’d lost all feeling in my toes and fingers, and the pink flesh under my nails had turned a convincing blue.

“How’d you like them apples?” said Rob, eventually returning from the surf.

(This was nothing unusual. Our conversation slowly accreted enough weird phrases to become its own inter-flatmate patois.)

“It was certainly bracing.”

Bracing?” snorted Rob, possibly launching into a “The Fast Show” sketch.

Some days later, in the kitchen (why are my weirdest flatmate discussions always in the kitchen?) I found Rob going through one of his muesli-eating phases. Rob could subsist weeks seemingly on a single food type – sometimes salad, sometimes jelly snakes, that week, muesli.

“That high-bran content keeping you regular?” I asked.

Bracingly so,” he replied.

Bracingly regular? Wow. Really? Think we should we install a bar-grip in the toilet?”

And then we descended helplessly into giggles at the mention of “bracing” ever after. Ah, potty humour.

But then this was the flat where the weird stuff I said eventually went up on “Doug’s wall of quotes”, including the superbly out-of-context: “If I had any more caffeine today you’d come home to find me naked, licking the wallpaper.”

Actually, I don’t now recall if that had any context, but the talk of muesli and coffee may mean it’s time for breakfast. It is noon, after all.

PS The landlord has been round. Apparently it was a valve all along ...

PPS Naylor is up, for devotees of crime fiction.

Friday, April 9, 2004

Attrition warfare

It's me in the trenches with my laptop, on the other side - doing its best to hem me in with some fairly heavy shelling - is the word limit of my thesis.

I will win, though, dammit.

Of course, my efforts are not necessarily aided by my performance at a vacation formal hall at Emma (Emmanuel College) last night which may also not have assisted my liver, but may have contributed to my reputation as being: (a) an Australian; and (b) amusing.

Note to self: there is only so much red wine a dinner of salmon and vegetables will absorb.

At least I was home in time for "Six Feet Under" ...

Photos are over here.

Wednesday, April 7, 2004


(From The Age's "My Melbourne" series. Click for more.)


Another reason it's impossible to speak common-sense to lawyers

A girlfriend's mother once wisely said to me that when she studied a law unit in a mangement course, for the first time she realised law was not a body of knowledge but its own system of reasoning - a philosophy.

A Cambridge Professor of International Law agrees:

“To learn the law is not to learn law, but to learn to be a lawyer. To be a lawyer is to live through a particular looking-glass, inside a law-world with its own law-mind and its own law-reality.”

P. Allot, The Health of Nations, 2002, p. 38

This is so recognisable, especially when he speaks of law as a “private language” evolving in parallel to ordinary English, using ordinary English words (such as innocent, purpose, intention, reasonable) in a particular way, making it impossible for a non-lawyer to join the debate by using the words in their ordinary meaning.

It's scary, 'cause it's true ...


Tuesday, April 6, 2004

Pub talk at the Eagle: summer shorts and really Eel-y, dangerously hip Ely.

Me: “I liked your e-mail recruiting for the cricket team. It almost made me wish I could throw a ball. The wind is beginning to lose its sting, and the gaps between rainstorms are getting gradually longer - yes, the English summer is on its way. Along with imported strawberries and inappropriate shorts, cricket is one of those things without which summer would not be complete.

While some may chose to spend that season lazing beside rivers and quaffing champagne, the more discerning amongst us elect for the greensward and the thrill of clattering wickets. To feed this passion there exists the Trinity Hall MCR cricket team. This august collective has a long and proud history of sending players boldly into competition, to be thrashed soundly by the other team.

You too could be part of that tradition.

Him: “There are always some pretty dire and wrong shorts come the summer.”

Her: “My father doesn’t own any shorts. He doesn’t even own any casual clothing. Everything he owns is a suit.”

Me: “Well, it’s the one thing almost all men look good in I suppose. And it saves a lot of thinking. Not much good in an Australian summer, though. ‘Just popping down to the beach in my casual suit’.”

Him: “Yes, it’s a plan that works well until you get a few days of really hot weather. Or get on the London tube in Summer.

“Then it can only go horribly wrong.”

Me: “Well in an act of gross optimism I bought two pairs of shorts with me …”

Noise of Britons snickering into their beer.

“ … which of course I haven’t worn at all. But rather stupidly, I managed to have them sent after me – so I arrived in Italy in September at the end of Europe’s worst heat wave for a hundred years.”

Her: “In that situation I think I’d just rip the legs off my jeans, you know, into those fashionable little shorts?”

Him: “Are those fashionable?”

Her: “In that, ‘the 80s are back way’. Y’know, retro.”

Him: “Yes, 80s retro, 90s retro, 15 minutes ago retro. It’s hard to keep up.”

Me (looking at a magazine): “Hello, we’re living in the wrong town. Apparently Ely is growing in population and sophistication and is in serious danger of becoming hip.”

Him: “What’s Ely got Cambridge hasn’t? A Cathedral?”

Me: “That is the first thing they mention, yes.”

Him: “What’s the second?”

Me (reading from said Magazine): “A Woolworths on the High Street. As everyone knows Cambridge know longer has a Woolworths on the High Street, or anywhere else.”

General silence.

Me: “Ely. Is it pronounced E-lie, or Eel-ee?”

Him: “Eel-ee. From their historical origins.”

Her: “What origins? Undrained swamp?”

Me (still looking at magazine): “Third thing they have we don’t - hills.”

Him: “They have a hill, yes. With the town on it. Before the fens were drained you had to row out to it.”

Her: “So that’s the reason for their name? Isle-ee, because they used to be an island?”

Him: “No. It’s Eel-ee, because they used to have a lot of eels.”

Me: “You can’t be serious.”

Him: “Deadly.”

Sunday, April 4, 2004


(My Berlin photos are finally up, click on the headline for the latest)


The Berlin Experience (or “Birds of a Feather Flock Together” an entry for )

After doing Dublin as a solo tourist it was great to go with a flatmate to Berlin. Also, as the flatmate in question is Italian, my pig-ignorant English-speaker status was not an undue encumbrance as his friends were used to speaking to him in English. Two non-German speaking flatmates stranded together in a foreign capital. Excelllent.

But what a group of friends! S. the Italian sociologist spent a summer in Berlin recently and met a really eclectic group of people. I met a correspondent photographer straight back from assignment in Haiti (having seen his Iraq photos on S’s laptop), a fashion designer in her third year of getting an original label off the ground, a medical intern and S himself was staying with a record company promotions officer who routinely sends him batches of free CDs. (Also, in true college-life style, a woman we knew from the grads at college was a native and was able to hang out with us a bit.)

S’s artsy friends seemed pretty much the scene in Mitte, the central district of the old East Berlin, artsy and based around internal migration (most people were not from Berlin, but had moved there because it was cool). It had, for want of a better analogy, terribly Brunswick Street.

Top things about Berlin (for an Australian most comfortable in Canberra and Melbourne): for Western Europe, it’s dirt cheap (ie Australian prices), I had a fabulous hostel http://www.circus-berlin.de/_private/start_ho_e.htm, there’s a very lively bar scene – and they have trams!

Actually, the main thing I enjoyed after a English winter was three days continuous sunlight.

Berlin has a really interesting character. I tried as much as possible to exempt myself from the obligation to be a comprehensive tourist and just hang out with S and the locals where I could (though I did take in the Jewish Museum, the Checkpoint Charlie Museum and the old National Gallery. In a moment of spectacular incompetence and irony I could not actually find the secret police museum at the old Stasi headquarters.) What did I notice, other than the reassuringly familiar metallic whale-song of tram brakes?

Berlin seems a perpetual construction site. Communism imposed an architectural time-bubble on the East, resulting in a lot of buildings with facades like grated chocolate bars, and redevelopment and restoration proceeds at a frightening pace. Also, there are a lot of vacant lots with rubble (the legacy of bombing?), converted to community uses like kids’ playgrounds. The light has a chalky quality, the sky white with dust and the centre is intensely modernist and concretey. It’s one of the first places in Europe I’ve seen park-corners thoroughly trampled, Australian-style, into hard, messy packed earth and dusty plants.

But it has a vitality I really like: not enough trees to alleviate the raw building, but a real zest and relaxed pace of life. As S said to me, you suspect no-one in East Berlin has a full-time job, any time of day the caf├ęs are crowded.

I liked it, and I liked getting behind the scenes. The first night we dined in a local pizzeria in Christburg (where the pizzas were seriously wider than the narrow tables, two easily feeding five people) while the photographer-friend regaled us with tales of Haiti and somehow drew me into an impassioned discussion on the rule of law and merits of international law.

A great three days, which would not have been the same without a flatmate tour-guide.


PS Naylor: a new instalment of Elliot's adventure went up Friday, which even features a handy summary of the plot so far (more or less) and something of a revelation for our amateur detective.

Friday, April 2, 2004


Movies from Heck

Doug: “Hey Lyn, it’s me!”

Lyn: “ … ?”

Doug: “Doug. The one in Cambridge. University friend? Misspent evenings in Canberra featuring red wine and pizza?”

Lyn: “Right. Yeah. Doug. What time is it?”

Doug: “Here or there? Look I figured in the time difference, daylight savings, your office job and how long it must take to get from Balmain to the city, shower, get breakfast …”

Lyn: “And this led you to believe I wake up about five, right?”

Doug: “Well, it seemed sensible.”

Lyn: “It’s really been too long since you had an office job. You sound a bit jittery, too. What’s your coffee count today? Because I’m guessing your waaaaaay over your limit. I know you're a student again, but there's food groups other than caffiene, y’know?”

Doug: “Look, sorry, forgot you’re not a morning person. But there’s something I had to tell you, given your brilliant movie site and all.”

Lyn: “Oooookay.”

Doug: “Well, the Hellboy movie opened it the states today. The New York Times is raving about it. The director, Guillermo del Toro, even turned down a Harry Potter contract to finish it.”

Lyn: “Hellboy?”

Doug: Yeah, the huge red demon-hunting … um … demon from the Mike Mignola comics.”

Lyn: “Yeah, I know. Great art. Incredible use of shadow, high-gothic atmosphere and steam-powered looking machinery at least a mile high. And lots of references to that horror-writer you and the other boys are so obsessed with.”

Doug: “H. P. Lovecraft. You forgot to mention Mignola’s really gratuitous use of both Nazis and Bavarian castles. Anyway, I’ve spent all morning looking at trailers on the movie site. It looks so cool. Think Raiders of the Lost Ark meets City of Lost Children. I was pretty unimpressed by the New York scenes, but once they get inside a decent Nazi Bavarian castle it actually begins to look like Mignola’s work – and the combination of action and Hellboy wry humour seems spot on.”

Lyn: “Didn’t you just have adventures of your own in Germany you should be blogging about, instead? I know Big George as Batman traumatised you a little ...”

Doug: “Well, we’ll have to see if Christian Bale makes up for it in “Batman Begins”, but the only official thing up on the movie site so far is pictures of some Bat-tank with monster-truck tires bogged in a field. Anyway, I just had to tell you who’s playing Hellboy. Ron Perlman. One in The City of Lost Children. A soft-centred strongman with a sort of tender, gritty charm and humour. That Perlman.”

Lyn: “Oh, wow.”

Doug: “Exactly. In a weird twist, the new Halle Berry Catwoman film is being directed by Pitof, the digital effects supervisor from Lost Children, but I don’t think that’s going to save it somehow. It looks like being a travesty beyond comprehension. Berry’s a mystically empowered revenger who brings down an evil cosmetics company that has a sinister secret behind its new anti-aging products.”

Lyn: “Let me guess. Tested on babies?”

Doug: “Much worse. Marketed by Sharon Stone.”

Lyn: “Ouch.”