Monday, February 28, 2005

I don't believe it ...

It's taken just over two years of on-line publishing to achieve (and several months of private writing before that), but I've done it. I've finished a first draft of Naylor's Canberra.

It's been a long, long trip and I hope if you've been reading and have made it this far, I hope you've enjoyed it. If you have any comments on this first draft of Naylor please do leave a comment or e-mail me at reallyquiteunlikely AT yahoo DOT com DOT au.

In fact, please leave a comment even if you're just one of the silent, regular readers. It would be great to know how many people the Naylor project has reached.

I'm off to cycle through snow and help deal with theatrical crises now.

PS A shout out and special thanks to Marissa (for support, and setting in motion the train of thought that culminated in Naylor's Canberra), Jason (for regular comments, and equally regular badgering every week I missed) and Dan at quantum meruit (for regular comments, and legal advice when I got rusty).

Sunday, February 27, 2005

I am the logistics king!

Two recent examples of why I manage to top most of my friend's list of "most scarily organised people."

(1) I have managed to organise a group booking of 20 for one of the smaller, but very pleasant, May Balls - thus securing everyone a discount-priced ticket. (Discounts were for groups of 10. Just try imagining the logistics, and potentially the politics, of putting together 2 groups of *exactly* 10.)

I am even doing reasonably well so far at rounding up payment from everyone, thus avoiding footing a 1300 pound bill on my own. (Gulp.)

All this while spending around 13 hours a week rehearsing a play that has led me to, as I've put it, "cancel my life" from 6 pm Thursday gone to 11 pm Saturday coming. (PhD, what PhD?)

(2)Speaking of the play, an emerging issue in "Oh What A Lovely War!" was props management - every character each actor plays (and most have 6+) has different props and hats. Multiply that by a dozen actors in a small space and it's - well, primordial chaos, really.

Anyone would think there was a war on.

I happened to be the first to think of, and give breath to, the blindingly obvious thought: "Wouldn't it be great if everyone brought in a cardboard box to keep all their hats in?"

Result: I am still hailed as a logistical genius.

Small ideas, executed with little fuss. Some days its amazing what will impress people.

Naylor tomorrow, with luck.

But the War commences Tuesday, so maybe not.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Dining all Blade Runner style at the Science Musuem, London. Posted by Hello

A weekend in the Metropolis

It’s been snowing in Cambridge. OK, not in a way Canadians do anything but fleer and scoff at, but since Sunday there have been regular flurries of snow, which mostly just turn to slush.

You know you’ve acclimatised (or had a couple of pints), when at closing time you’re standing outside a pub in nought but a wool jumper and brown velvet jacket (well, and trousers and such obviously) chatting amiably while the snow settles on you. Fortunately, you can usually brush it off before it melts, making it much more convenient than the rain if you’ve forgotten your Gore-Tex.

Anyway, there was also the odd snow-speck while I was in London over the weekend, visiting Jasmine and Peter. The number of guys I know from undergrad in Canberra who are now in Washington, New York, or London/Cambridge/Oxford is getting spooky, but is also rather cool.

The nicest part of the weekend was just staying with old friends and taking it easy. I’ve been a little anxious about Phud progress this term, and hadn’t left my tiny home-law-school-college triangle of Cambridge for a month. Saturday was the least disturbed sleep I’ve had in ages: seven hours, out like a baby. Funny the amount of security old friends can give you when you’re a long way from home in an environment as weirdly transitory as graduate study.

That and it was nice to have a huge hot bath (and brilliant Chinese take-away, mmm … duck pancakes).

Sunday we hit a Café Rouge for breakfast, and tramped ourselves footsore about the Science Museum, which had Stephenson’s Rocket, sunflowers being preserved in something that remained liquid at – 15 degrees centigrade, and the weird Blade-Runner café pictured above. Next door the Natural History Museum was a weird fusion of high-tech multi-media madness, dioramas clearly assembled in amateur taxidermy hour, and elegant Victorian cabinets full of what happens when you let nineteenth century Britons explore foreign lands, “discover” strange new creatures and kill and stuff them.

The Dodos next to a weird combination of sea-dwelling dinosaur skeletons and a cabinet full of stuffed hummingbirds looked exactly like the one in that episode of “The Goodies”. The dinosaur exhibit was also rather cool, the skeleton in the lobby being a special favourite.

The early evening passed in Kensington pub, where I got to catch up with a variety of LLM and undergrad friends, all now lawyers or management consultants in London. Gosh only knows how, but alcohol was consumed and the event horizon of my return to Cambridge kept receding. Yummy bar snacks didn’t help.

Jasmine and Peter eventually got me reunited with my luggage and back to Platform 9¾ at Kings Cross, where I bumped into a college friend just back from skiing in France with his family (as you do). Somehow all four of us managed to stand on the platform trading bad jokes until it was time to find seats for trip back.

A most satisfactory weekend.

Just like the Dodo from The Goodies! Posted by Hello

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

A late Valentine’s day story

Thanks to Nichole for putting me onto this wonderful piece of US constitutional law from Geogia, where a state law criminalizes "obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, or indecent" suggestions made by telephone. County prosecutor Inez Grant had the unrewarding task of defending this rather … Southern … piece of morals legislation in the face of the constitutional protection of free speech before Justice Robert Benham of the Georgia Supreme Court. The judge mused aloud as to whether a salacious Valentine’s day call to your romantic partner could land you in jail.
"You need to know," Grant told Benham later, that a lascivious telephone call to your wife could bring prosecution.” Benham thought a moment and deadpanned, "I'll pick her up and talk to her in person."

This apparently brought the house down. It wasn’t the only spontaneous outburst during the case:
Most of the court members appeared highly skeptical of the law's constitutionality. When Grant first brought up her argument that the state could regulate telephone speech because it regulates telephones, Justice Carol W. Hunstein exclaimed, "What?"

Indeed. This would imply that anything the state could regulate excludes human rights protections … in which case why would you have constitutionally guaranteed rights at all? They’d just be rather pretty little statements that didn’t actually apply to limit State power.

The ruling isn’t out, but I suspect the right to make lascivious phone calls will prevail.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Half-size Naylor, again

This week's Naylor is a bit short once more, due to a weekend in London (of which more later).

We're very, very close to finished now ...

Thursday, February 17, 2005

We’ve done it now

US foreign policy has summoned an “axis of evil” into being, as Iran and Syria, nations without a lot in common – other than marginal status in the world community – have declared a mutual defence pact.

The problem is, you just can’t bully a State into giving up nuclear aspirations, and it’s inevitably going to be counter-productive. Think of it this way, you feel threatened by the US, the world’s largest nuclear power. It has the capacity to nuke you into non-existence and leave your territory glowing for several centuries more or less at will.

Substantial disincentive to acquiring nuclear weapons, no? Well, no. Owning a few nuclear devices and having the capacity to project them as far as a key US ally (read Israel, the UK, Saudi Arabia, etc) is all you need. Mutually assured destruction is never going to be a strategic option for you, but the capacity for limited retribution if a nuclear strike is launched against you might still be all the deterrent edge you need to feel an awful lot safer.

Then it becomes a chicken and egg diplomatic issue. Do you persuade these guys to abandon WMD ambitions by first integrating them into the mainstream of the international community, or do you refuse them that privilege until they agree to dismantle their nuclear programs in a verifiable and irreversible way?

Personally, I’d like to see the EU-3 (Britain, France and Germany) given more time to work on a diplomatic solution with Iran. The best outcome would be if that process was lent an urgency by US intransigence and pressure on the Security Council to impose sanctions. A “look you can talk with us, or stay out in the cold and get beaten with a stick by the other guy” approach.

Unfortunately, they don’t seem to have made much headway yet.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

A remarkably Cambridge kitchen conversation

Sunny Californian flatmate: "Hey, how's the cold?"

Doug: "Mostly better. I've assigned my residual barking cough its own name and personality."

Flatmate: "What've you named it?"

Doug: "Ponzo the trained seal."

Flatmate: "Ponzo? Isn't that from Waiting for Godot?"

Doug: "Very possibly."

Flatmate: "As in Ponzo and Lucky, slave-owner and slave?"

Doug: "Which was the slave-owner again? Ponzo or Lucky?"

Flatmate: "Ponzo, which is totally appropriate in this case."

Doug coughs with a seal-like bark, then asks: "How so?"

Flatmate: "Because the cough totally owns you, not the other way around, my friend."

Monday, February 14, 2005

Father and son, spending quality time Posted by Hello
I blame Lyn (because blaming old friends beats shouldering responsibility)

What if your Dad’s job was saving the world? What if adolescence involved the prospect of not only growing hair in new and interesting places and seeing the opposite sex in a whole new light, but developing super-powers?

Why the hell am I thinking about these issues?

I blame Lyn, of course.

I stayed chez Lyn in Balmain on my way back to Cambridge, part of it on a wet Monday, with the unfortunate consequence that swimming at the Dawn Fraser pool was out, sitting around with Lyn’s comic and magazine collection for the morning was perilously easy.

Lyn’s been responsible for a number of my graphic novel buying relapses. Just when I thought I’d straightened out at uni after several comic-free years, she reintroduced me to “The Sandman”. I then managed to slide back into the comics-for-grown-ups market for some years, but kicked the habit on arrival in the UK as financially perilous for a student.

Then of course, over the break, I managed to wind up seeing “The Incredibles” three times. All of which is by way of saying I’ve made the financially ruinous discovery of “Invincible” – a super-hero comic about 18 months old (scroll down if you click through on the link). Both Invincible and The Incredibles have an interesting take on a newish theme – the super-hero genre as a vehicle for stories about family.

This is actually quite subversive of the genre. When you think about it, most classic super-heroes have absent fathers. Batman’s was murdered, Superman’s left on another planet. Wonder Woman never had a dad (the mysteries of reproduction on the all female Paradise Island never being entirely clarified) and Spider Man’s alter ego, Peter Parker, is largely defined by his relationship with his dead uncle Ben.

By contrast, Bob Parr (Mr Incredible) is a man frustrated by his job but one who, when liberated to resume doing what he does best, realises his self-obsession was damaging his family. He’s a supportive father who learns to stop projecting onto his kids.

Nolan Grayson (Invincible’s dad) is simply cool: a supportive, kind but firm presence who’s always home for dinner (unless he’s trapped in a parallel universe). When Invincible as a series gets interesting is when rebelling against your father means standing up to his plans for taking over the world to save it from itself.

The Incredibles and Invincible also take a delightfully nostalgic view of the super-hero genre before the grim-and-gritty fad of the 80s. Both were prepared to flirt with whimsically stupid names for supporting characters (“Gazerbeam” or “Omni-Man”), and I love that in Invincible one can turn a page and find a gleeful depiction of an alien invasion underway. It doesn’t have to be foreshadowed, or explained, it’s assumed to be just another day at the office for superheroes.

It’s all so geeky, but rather charming. Besides, I’m entitled. I was sick recently.

(Yes, Lyn, I re-read my Sandman collection, too. So there.)

The birthday-present mug, the local movie guide Posted by Hello

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Slouching towards a conclusion

Okay, I may not have gotten much of anything done in the last week of flu (except reading comics ... and OK, dissenting opinions in the Lotus Case ... and watching old episodes of West Wing), but I have kept the Naylor's Canberra crime serial moving towards a conclusion.

Feedback on where I'm taking this is, as ever, most welcome.

Sunday, February 6, 2005

Half-size Naylor

Sorry this week's Naylor is rather short, I'm a bit under the weather.

I'll see if I can add to it later in the week. At the very least, it wraps up a good chunk of the plot.

Only a week or two off finishing now, I think.

Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Honestly, not every day is this indolent

Dateline: Monday.

Wake 6.11 am, involuntarily. Attempt to resume sleep. Admit defeat circa 6.45 and rise to greet the day. When 9 am arrives and all I’ve done is some yoga, shaved and showered, dressed, had breakfast and browsed an article – I suspect my morning routine has become to elaborate.

That or checking my e-mail and on-line papers before breakfast is a bad idea.

Hit the law school shortly before 10 am. Locate the court submissions and transcript for the Lotus case (1927) – realise the whole proceedings were conducted in French. Proceed to read Counsel for France’s submissions – slowly.

Decide to read the (translated) judgement and some contemporary articles. 12.50 and my brain is caving in.

Repair to MCR at College to eat sandwich, assist fellow grads with crossword and realise that as treasurer of a seminar series I owe a someone a cheque for eight pounds that is well overdue.

Return to law school for PhD seminar. Who knew neo-Arisotelean jurisprudence could be so controversial? (No, really?)

4 pm – realise the afternoon is a write off, have coffee with friend. 4.45 pm dash home to change, eat something, collect my ISO standard wine tasting glasses. Text the director I will be up to 30 minutes late for rehearsal.

Cycle to Downing College, attend blind wine tasting (5.30 – 7.15 pm).

Arrive at rehearsals for “Oh What A Lovely War!” 30 minutes late, as scheduled.

Leave rehearsal 9.15, amble up street to the launch party for a literary anthology: the venue is a café in a converted church on Trinity Street.

10.30 pm – cycle home. Chain disengages from bike, despite recent repairs. Curse bike. Arrive at security gates at same time as friends, have them let me in, attend to greasy paws, resist urge to kick bike.

11.27 pm – finish typing blog entry and contemplate bed.

Score at half-time: Lifestyle – 3; PhD – 1.

PS Yes, Tuesday was a guilt fuelled binge of writing, reading and indexing as a result ...