Some silly things

A fire in Springvale, to which the CFA responds. C’mon, Springvale. What is this, 1960? East of Westall Road isn’t paddocks anymore. Surely it’s time to re-draw the MFB/CFA boundaries?

The metro/country taxi boundaries are similar, aren’t they? Time for an update.

Odd. I found a quarterly magazine that retails for $7, but is $44 per year by subscription?!

What’s with those fake Tintin t-shirts? “Tintin in Vietnam”? They’re not even taking the mickey out of the characters, they’re just making stuff up. Why?

Finally… if you get the opportunity to speak to the world, don’t waste it. Use your canvas wisely. Aim to impart great knowledge. Communicate your ideas to make society better. Say something meaningful.
The intellectuals have been busy

Flat Stanley’s visit

I’d completely forgotten about this until Marita reminded me of it last week. For some reason I didn’t blog about it at the time. Better late than never.

A couple of years ago (actually, 2006, when the kids looked much younger than they do now) Flat Stanley (this one from friends in the USA) came to visit us. Rather than just chuck him back in the mail with a postcard, we showed him about the place before sending him home.

Print’s not dead yet

If you’ve wondered how many people read the magazines you see in the newsagent, here’s the figures.

The only magazine I subscribe to, Australian Personal Computer, is sitting at 34,111, down 8% in the last year. Perhaps IT-related mags are more likely to be dropping with competition from online, though what caught my eye was that the one that’s lost the second highest percentage of readers in the past year, the AFL Record, down 25%.

When I was a kid you bought the Record every time you went to the footy. Do people not buy it anymore? Maybe kids don’t try and fill in the stats themselves these days.

Some magazines are gaining readers, which I guess shows that print is not quite dead yet.

And if you were wondering how Woman’s Day and Woman’s Weekly can afford to put all those annoying adverts on the telly, wonder no more — they’ve got the highest readership figures of anything in the list.

And can you believe that 302,000 people read That’s Life?!?

A buncha brief things

Some brief thoughts and half-arsed things that I can’t be bothered developing into fully-fledged blog posts:

Luz station, Sao PaoloLuz Station in Sao Paulo. Looks externally very similar to Melbourne’s Flinders Street Station, well if you don’t look too closely. Coincidence, or is one modelled on the other? Probably the former. I haven’t seen anything that suggests Luz has something similar to the front of FSS. (More pictures).

Thirteen Tonne Theory, Mark Seymour — the story of Hunters and Collectors. Very well written and very funny in parts, for instance the mentions of Boston’s “More Than A Feeling” having the same riff to “Holy Grail”. And interesting too if you’re familiar with the music and want to know the story behind it. (Reviews: Age, ABC).Thumbs up!

American Journeys, Don Watson — great stuff as Watson tours America by bus, car and train. Some interesting characters he meets, and me being me, I found his commentary on Amtrak particularly interesting, and his dealings with their call centre very amusing. (Age review; Interview with author).Thumbs up!

I am Masterchef of my domain.

Aveda manWhy does the Aveda web site have some bald guy making recommendations on hair products?

A while ago I pondered where Doctor John Carnie (Victoria’s Chief Health Officer) is while we’re dealing with a pandemic. Apparently he left to go on holiday just before the crisis blew up. Good timing!

If people think literacy is not a problem in Western countries, they should take a look at some of the comments on Youtube.

The last Tintin

We all did stupid things when we were young.

Tintin: Flight 714I’m ashamed to admit that one of the sillier things I did in my teenage years was to dispose of my Tintin books.

After a while I realised my mistake, and started collecting them again, book by book. (I decided I preferred the full-size versions, not the 3-in-1 small editions.)

It’s taken me a few years, but last week I finally got the last one to complete the collection*: Flight 714.

Actually since I first owned it, they’ve amended the name to Flight 714 To Sydney, to better match the original French title, though I suspect I’ll always know it as just Flight 714.

When I bought it at Dymocks (their end of financial year 20% off sale) I had to ask for it at the Special Orders counter. I asked the lady why this was the case, and she said that Tintin books, apparently more than anything else in the store, let alone the graphic novel section, get stolen a lot.

Who knew? Apparently there’s a trade in stolen Tintin books. They’re probably smuggled inside statues with broken ears.

Re-reading it brought back some happy memories. Though I got the biggest laugh out of a bit I’d forgotten about, with the Proboscis monkey. And I like the mystery of their rescue.

*My collection does not include The Lake Of Sharks. I originally owned it, but it was not actually written by Herge, and the story is pretty naff. And actually, I don’t have Alph-Art, his uncompleted final work, either, and I don’t really want Land of Soviets. I do have a lovely edition of the original version of Congo that my sister gave me, and a number of very good books about Tintin.

Books and TV and movies and stuff

I used to give either thumbs up or thumbs down. I’m switching to thumbs up, thumbs down, or neither.

Microserfs — This is the kind of book I should just lap up, isn’t it? A geek novel? But I didn’t. It dragged.

J-Pod — More enjoyable than Microserfs. Douglas Coupland’s self-referential bits were a bit hard to take, but overall I enjoyed it a lot more.Thumbs up

Torchwood series 2 — Less gratuitious L/S/V, it’s calmed down a bit. The insertion of Martha and more Who references (especially in the penultimate episode) made it all more enjoyable to watch, though I didn’t think there was a stand-out episode this year, not in the same way I enjoyed Random Shoes. The finale was a bit of a let-down, but came up with some surprises. I’m not a hard-core Buffy fan, and don’t know what those that are would have made of Captain Spike. The BBC actually put out a PG-rated version, but I think even that is pretty dark for kids to see. I’d watch it again one day — it wasn’t brilliant, but it had its moments.Thumbs up

Fistful of Quarters: The King of Kong — Great stuff. Not so much about classic video games as about the personalities involved in the world of classic video games — so non-gamers will enjoy this. The people involved are geeks, and know they’re geeks. The trust from the score referees in the messianic Billy Mitchell, and their mistrust to his challenger is particularly interesting. Not surprised Mitchell wasn’t happy with the way the film portrayed him. Definitely thumbs up. (Maybe I should start giving the double-thumbs up where appropriate?)Thumbs up

Next I need to see Chasing Ghosts.

Funniest book I’ve read in ages

Bill Bryson: Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid — I’ve finally read it now it’s out in paperback. I know I was never going to be disappointed, but it was a great book. Hilarious in parts, poignant in others. Mostly hilarious though. The description of the Dick and Jane books and the characters’ robotic dialogue had me laughing out loud. Likewise the high school gym classes, where all the white kids found themselves thoroughly outclassed — even by “a three-hundred-pound spheroid named Tubby Brown” — not only had me guffawing, but re-reading it to Marita one night while waiting for a train had us in gales of uncontrollable laughter.

While Bryson grew up around 20 years before and a hemisphere away from me, I can almost see more similarities between 50′s America and 70′s Australia than 70′s Australia and 2000′s Australia. I could probably write a similar book about my childhood… if only I had the research, the writing skills, the keen eye for humour and the time.

Tramps like us

Tramps Like UsTramps Like Us by Kristen Buckley — Kristen emailed and asked if I’d like to read and review this book, as its Australian launch is coming soon. I’m glad I said yes, it’s smegging hilarious. Kristen’s better known for being a screenwriter for movies that… well, frankly, I wouldn’t go out of my way to see. Thankfully the foreword makes it clear that this is no 102 Dalmations.

The book is Kristen’s memoirs of childhood, growing up in New Jersey in the 70s and early 80s, and as someone a similar age, despite the distant location, it has an air of familiarity about it. We can all identify with having childhood dreams — in this case, she wanted to meet Sting — popularity issues at school, the trials of family.

I know a book is funny if I find myself reading it on the train and laughing out loud — which happened while reading some parts of the book, like the rat infestation and the badly written TV captions. Is it all true? Maybe, maybe not, but it hardly matters. I found it a highly entertaining read. It’s the type of book I’d love to write myself, but I fear that even if I employed gross exaggeration, it would come out nowhere near as funny or interesting. Don’t know when this will get an Australian release, but watch out for it. Recommended.Thumbs up!