Thursday, April 28, 2011


It's raining in Sydney; sunshine and autumn chills in Melbourne. But it's good to be home.

the french toast

A few weeks ago, Emma set me a writing challenge:

Write about someone pretending to be someone they're not, from someone else's perspective. Set it in a cafe, don't write more than 500 words, rely on dialogue just as much as description, and make sure somebody orders the French toast.

I'm on holidays at the moment and thought I'd give it a shot just now. It doesn't strictly stick to the rules. But perhaps Emma can be the judge of that.


They found him face down in the water. Not easy to deal with a body that’s swollen with water. Not easy to look at either. When I was a kid I once put my teddy bear in the bath to see what happened. He swelled up something chronic. Under the water he looked fine, but as soon as you took him out, he sagged with the weight of it, the water, kind of like a man caught in sin.

He squinted at me, inquiring into the state of my own soul with little more than a glace. Let the dead bury the dead, I thought.

The percolater dripped. I tried again -

Sorry, sir, would you like the French toast or the baked beans?

What kind of beans are they? I only like Texan beans. None of this out of a can-slapped-on-a-plate business. Gimme them hot.

You know Jeff Buckley was the kind of guy who wouldn’t have eaten out much. I know this, cos you hear a lot about people in this business. People open up to you. It’s like they expect you know em just cos you’ve seen em dead.

My take is he was a bit of a lay about. He woulda eaten beans out of the can. White bread for lunch and dinner. Not bothered with food altogether, really.

When I got him ready, they didn’t want no fuss. There isn’t much you could do anyway, after autopsy’s been done.

Sir –

I’ll take the French toast.

Absoutely. The French toast it is. Can I get you anything else? Perhaps some coffee?

He squinted again.

You know his Dad died young and careless too. Heroin. That makes two teddy bears sunk in the bath.

Would you like some drip coffee? Sugar? I need to serve some other customers.

Coffee? Sure. I’ll drink to Jeff. You never forget em, the young ones. Not in this business. And I'll take the French toast. Did I tell you that?

Yes, you did. The French toast. And the coffee. Cetainly, sir.

To Jeff.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Six Types of Reading

...with Ben Myers from the blog Faith and Theology.

I like how twee he comes across. I also like his taste in books.

What I don't like is how pathetically unread I feel right now!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

this is Love

"There is no justice in love, no proportion in it, and there need not be, because in any specific instance it is only a glimpse or parable of an embracing, incomprehensible reality. It makes no sense at all because it is the eternal breaking in on the temporal. So how could it subordinate itself to cause or consequence?" - Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4: 9-10

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I couldn't say it to your face

I can't stop playing this Arthur Russell song at the moment. I was looking it up on youtube when I came across the song set to this beautiful montage of old films.

I love the little blonde girl in the pink dress. What a character. I wonder what she's like these days?

My family has a big collection of silent films just like this that Mum really wants to get put onto DVD. When she does, I'd love to make something similar.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

a scene from brown owls

the ladies deep in stitch...

writers on writing

I enjoy reading writers on writing. The pleasure is multiplied when it's a writer I admire. And when their writing about writing is good enough to write about, I almost implode.

And so we come to Penny Modra, who was recently interviewed on The Design Files (one of my most favourite blogs if you haven't noticed by now).

She writes for the weekly newsletter and website Three Thousand. According to Lucy from the Design Files, subscribing to Three Thousand apparently makes me one of "20,000 super cool young Melburnians". Not so sure about that. It probably makes me a try-hard hipster more than anything, but I'll take it, along with my double ristretto, thank you.

But back to Penny. I laughed out loud at the description of her working day, because a) I think we can all relate to her love-hate relationship with email, b) the reference to staggering and wheezing around Princes Park which is right near where I live (and where I too stagger and wheeze), and c) the reference to ignoring the siren call of McNulty from the Wire to try and do some work.

But mostly I loved her advice to budding writers and publishers. How refreshing is it to have someone remind you to just be you? Here's an excerpt:
To be a good culture writer, you need to write like yourself. It’s very difficult, because most magazines you read will have a discernable tone – Vice is a good example of this – and it’s tempting to emulate that in order to try to fit in. But ‘try’ is the key word here. Don’t be a try-hard.  Being a try-hard myself, I struggle with this every day (and I know we don’t always get it right on ThreeThousand either), but good writing boils down to one thing: telling the truth. Even in fiction. Good fiction is good because it reads like the truth. I cannot believe I am about to quote Roger Ailes right now (a. because he’s the president of Fox News and b. because he’s a fat, rich old white bastard) but, “It’s always more interesting watching people be who they are than it is watching people try to be who they are not.” Write it like you’d say it to a friend. Don’t write it from a stage, because the moment you put yourself on a stage you’re volunteering to do a stand-up comedy routine or a dramatic monologue – and most people are pretty bad at both of those things. Besides which, you’re turning your readers into potential hecklers. It introduces a weird, unnecessary barrier. Also, two things: don’t use food metaphors in anything other than food writing, and don’t use the word ‘Tweeps’.
So I'm inspired. I'm trying to think of a writing project for myself at the moment, but can only think of photography projects. The only writing project I can think of is externalising all the thoughts I've had about different places I've been to in Melbourne. And at the moment I can't quite see the point, because that's what ThreeThousand is for...

Like here's where I had a coffee today. Penny's already written it up. Done it. Like a pro (albeit a good four years ago)...

So, someone set me a writing challenge. Please.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Battle of the nomenclature

I've decided that Melbournites do not like their metaphors. Descriptions of every day things seem very literal.

Here's my list so far of NSW vs. VIC descriptions.

1. Council clean-up = Down in Victoria we call it hard rubbish, because it's hard and it's rubbish: "I love my new sofa. It was hard rubbish."

2. Laser Zone = It's dark and in a zone, so we call it Dark Zone: "Let's take the kiddies to Dark Zone."

3. Small chips/$2.00 worth of chips = It's the minimum amount. So we will call it "Minimum Chips": "I'll have minimum chips with my fish please."

4. Potato scallop = It's not a sea creature, so we will call it what it is, a potato Cake. "Two potato cakes with my minimum chips please!"

I laughed uncontrollably the other day when my friend ordered "minimum chips". I thought that was just the description on the menu, not what you actually order. Now I've decided it's the perfect name for a pop/punk band.

And today a few of us argued over what you call a poppa/juicebox/prima. What would you call it?

Any other extremely literal expressions I should know?