Friday, December 29, 2006

Blah Humbug

I don't like this time of year, not for the usual bah-humbug reasons - although I don't like it for those as well - but because it is so sodding dull. Everything of interest shuts down, everybody with something worthwhile to say stops saying it, and there is nothing to do but sit around drinking and watching bad summer television. (On that, is there a difference between bad summer television and bad winter television? I can't spot it, but maybe that's just because I'm drunk.) It is certainly not conducive to good blogging, hence this rather desperate post.

I suppose I ought to mention Christmas, which once again gave the intellectual giants that constitute my family the opportunity to show off their mad bigot skillz. According to my uncle, Box Hill is "full of Asians". Of course, "it's been like that for ages, but now it's wall-to-wall. You don't see too many Australians there!". Grandma, however, spots a silver lining: "At least they don't seem to create havoc, not like the Mormons." The what? "Oh, you know - the Arabs."

Once the Aryan League meeting wrapped up, Christmas at Sterney's turned out to be much like every other year: too much food, not enough drink, and some pretty decent presents including a new, albeit cheap, DVD player, so I can now watch all my zone one discs, like Citizen Kane, The Triplets of Belleville, and, um, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie. Righteous!

Anyway, the real purpose of this post, which I've kept until last as a kind of "fuck you" to the inverted pyramid - I'm punk like that - is to say thanks to everybody who has read Sterne during 2006. Cowabunga to you all. I'm planning on having a couple of weeks (or days, as it may be) off from blogging, so I'll catch youse all in the new year.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Grinch Who Stole Anonymous Lefty

Somehow, somebody has gained control of Mr Lefty's blogs Anonymous Lefty and Boltwatch, deleted them, then reregistered the blogs under his or her own "MrLefty" user name. Jeremy offers more details here. Meanwhile, the piece of shit blog thief has begun posting at Anonymous Lefty, predictably claiming to be the real Mr Lefty. Pity his Blogger profile shows he (or she) has only been registered since November this year. Dickhead.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Betamax

The new version of Blogger is now out of beta so... so I don't really know what that means. We weren't able to switch during the trial period because Sterne is a multi-contributor blog but now, now, well, now we still can't switch because (according to the highly irritating Blogger Buzz blog) "a ton of people are already switching to the new Blogger, and we only let so many run simultaneously in order to give everyone a good experience". A good experience using Blogger? Whatever next...

The whole "new Blogger" thing is a bit scary. Old Blogger doesn't work half the time, so what are the chances that a new, more complex Blogger will be any better? I guess we'll find out. Anybody who switched during the beta period is welcome to share their horror stories - or soothing tales of smooth transition - in the comments.

Bloody hot, innit?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

My Year In Books

This will probably be monumentally tedious but I’m going to do it anyway. The number of books read in each month appears in brackets following the name of the month, mainly to lend an air of mystery to procedings - what trash am I not telling you about? Links are to my posts related to the book in question.

January (4) started inauspiciously with Bret Easton Ellis’s Lunar Park, the worst Stephen King novel not written by Stephen King that I read all year. Lunar Park is amusing enough for the first hundred-odd pages, but like the books to which it pays homage Ellis’s novel soon turns into a nasty, confusing, and completely unscary mess. Luckily the month ended on a more positive note, with Tom McCarthy’s Remainder. I’m glad I believed the hype, because Remainder is an amazing book. By mid-year it had been snapped up by a major publisher and the original Metronome edition is now sold out. Jon, I hope you’ve still got my copy; it could be worth something one day.

In February (5) I read my first David Foster Wallace, Oblivion, and thought it just ok, although I’m told it is not his most accomplished book. Might be worth another look sometime. More impressive – and significantly shorter, which is always a plus – was Jorge Luis Borges’s Doctor Brodie’s Report. This collection contains at least one masterpiece (“The Gospel According to Mark”) and plenty to like besides. Not so good was Cell, the worst Stephen King book actually written by Stephen King that I read all year. Contra what I said here, I ended up finishing it, and found that it only gets worse.

By the doctor’s reckoning, Belinda and I were meant to be parents by the start of March (8), but Charlotte wasn’t born until the ninth. By then I had already read seven books, mostly crime fiction, with the highlights being Scott Phillips’s The Walkaway, James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity and Tim Willock’s extremely over-the-top Bad City Blues. Later in the month, when I could grab a spare moment, I read Terry Pratchett’s disappointing Thud!.

April (4) was a bit of a wash-out. Vonnegut’s A Man Without a Country didn’t amount to much; the same author’s God Bless You, Mr Rosewater was a weak, heavy-handed satire that I was surprised to learn had been written between the brilliant Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five. Barry Gifford’s The Wild Life of Sailor and Lula - a collection of novellas including Wild at Heart and Purdita Durango - was far more enjoyable.

I got my groove back in May (7). Nick Hornby’s 31 Songs irritated but got me thinking – mostly about how much I dislike Nick Hornby, although since then I've come to dislike him a lot more – while Philip Roth’s Everyman and Don Winslow’s The Power of the Dog were intriguing for very different reasons. After rereading Roth’s Operation Shylock I finally got around to Primo Levi. His books The Drowned and the Saved and If This Is a Man are every bit as extraordinary as their reputations suggest. Inga Clendinnen’s Reading the Holocaust is also a book that I would recommend to anybody wishing to find an approach to the Holocaust.

I did a lot of rereading in June (7): The Third Policeman, Flashman, Lucky Jim for about the eighteenth time. I also read one of my least favourite new books of the year, Tim Parks’s Cleaver. The story of a middle-aged white man (yes, another one) undergoing a crisis (yes, another one), Cleaver was almost as turgid and dreary as this post is turning out to be.

July (13) was all over the place. I read Shakespeare, Bukowski and the first Adrian Mole book, first encountered some eighteen years ago in my primary school’s library with a sticker on the cover that read “Grade Six Only” because in the book Adrian measures his "thing". I read Edward St. Aubyn’s Mother’s Milk, soon to be longlisted for the Booker, and Paul Theroux’s engagingly bitchy Sir Vidia’s Shadow. I also read a lot of crap that I won’t bother mentioning here.

August (10) was Booker month, but after struggling through Peter Carey’s Theft and – dear god – Nadine Gordimer’s Get a Life, I was over it. Finally read Trainspotting and loved it, ditto Ellroy’s American Tabloid, and reread Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition - a brilliant and unremittingly difficult book that is both frightening and funny.

Jon’s been telling me to read Gene Wolfe for what feels like decades, but The Shadow of the Torturer didn’t engage my attention at all. Same goes for Bernard Schlink’s The Reader, a grossly overrated book that I also read in September (10). More to my taste were Nabokov’s Despair, Nicholson Baker’s Room Temperature and Virginia Woolf’s Orlando - why didn’t somebody tell me she was so good?

For everybody’s sake, including my own, I’ll condense the last three months (16 – so far) into one paragraph. Loved Pale Fire, All the Pretty Horses and The Road, didn’t care for Kingdom Come and House of Meetings. Favourite books read during this time were Walter Abish’s How German Is It and Roth’s Zuckerman Bound, which collects the first four Zuckerman novellas. Also read The Fellowship of the Ring for the first time. I found it interesting as a cultural artefact, but give me the films any day.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Will You Kiss It?

If you absolutely had to kiss a bearded man, I think the choice would be pretty obvious.

Ibsen'd probably go all right, too.

Is that a scathing assault on the mores of late 19th century
Europe - or are you just happy to see me?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Graduation and other weekend pursuits

I done got my BA today. Hooray!

Also, it was my work's Christmas party this evening. All was going well until the boss's wife decided to embarrass me in front of the entire staff by mouthing off like the puritanical harridan she is. I responded by making an abrupt, possibly even dramatic, exit. Not so hooray.

Sitting here trying to find something to distract me from my potentially employment-free future, I learned that Club Troppo is seeking nominations for the "best" blog posts of 2006. Not sure I share their enthusiasm for the project, but I can't see it doing any harm. Unlike my work's Christmas party...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

World leaders, geographers, slam Iran denial conference

Hundreds of revisionist geographers from across the globe will attend a controversial conference this week to debate the question: does Iran really exist? The conference, to be held in the small Pacific nation of Twigi, has been criticised by world leaders and mainstream scholars.

Geographer Susan Neatfeet says the conference is a “sham” and “a freak show”.

“Iran denial is completely irrational; it is anti-historic, anti-geographic, and quite simply wrong. Evidence for the existence of Iran, as a long extant civilisation and as a modern nation-state, is extensive and overwhelming. Besides, it's on every fricken map of the region. We don't just make this shit up, you know."

Prominent Iran denier Tiit Ergengargh disagrees.

“Iran is not on every map of the region,” he told Sterne. “It is only present on maps produced by geographist propagandists who wish to perpetuate the lie of Iran’s existence. I have with me maps of the region that simply show a large blank area. Instead of cities and towns, these maps feature enormous red question marks. Now, I ask you, why would there be enormous red question marks on a supposed map of ‘Iran’ if its existence was beyond doubt?”

Owing to its complete lack of a legal system, Twigi has in recent years become a haven for revisionist geographers. In 2004, Australia cut diplomatic ties with Twigi after the leader of its military junta, Mahata Ataham, claimed that Switzerland was actually located in southern Africa. Australian geography denier Professor Fredrick Probin, founder of the anti-geographic Brisbane-based Melbourne Institute, recently sought refuge in Twigi after causing a furore in his home country by claiming that you could see the Eiffel Tower from Mount Isa.

As conference delegates arrived in Twigi yesterday, the chorus of international diplomatic disapproval grew. The US State Department last night issued the following statement:

“The United States opposes anti-geographism in all its forms and condemns the government of Twigi for agreeing to host this vile conference. The denial of Iran must stop. I mean, how are we supposed to make the case for bombing the place off the map when these people are claiming it was never on there?”

Monday, December 11, 2006

Getting Testie

The Herald Sun reports that prospective migrants are to face a quiz to determine their proficiency at speakin' de English and their awareness of and commitment to Australian laws and values. According to the report, the quiz will be delivered online, with successful applicants receiving not only Australian citizenship, but also the html code for a special blog badge to show off their newly-confirmed Aussieness.

Your level of Aussieness is: John Farnham! You are already 99.9% assimilated, possess excellent English language skills, and are only 0.9% likely to be interned in the event of a war with your former country. Welcome to Australia, mate!

Now, rather than simply serve up my opinion of these tests, I thought I'd introduce you to some new friends of mine: the Herald Sun readership. As a demographic, readers of the Hun cop a lot of flak, but the simple fact is that Hun readers are a breed apart, purer of heart than the rest of us, almost child-like in their innocence and simplicity. If you want to get to know the real Australia - and by god you'd better, because there's going to be a test on that, too - look no further than the reader's comments at the Hun's spiffy website.

Your level of Aussieness is: John So! You still look and sound different and therefore can expect to face daily ridicule, but as long as you project benign self-deprecation you should be able to inspire a certain grudging respect in all but the most bigoted of your new compatriots. Welcome to Australia, cobber!

Naturally, the news that migrants will have to take a citizenship test has warmed the cockles of many a western heart. Embarrassed Aussie of Melbourne writes: "For too long too many migrants have come to the shores of Australia purely to find a better place to live. No thought of assimilating or enbracing our way of life. " And if migrants won't "enbrace" our way of life, what then? Riots, that's what! "The Cronulla riots started because the different cultures represented in this country are not assimilated, we as a country are not one." Embarrassed also has a suggestion for those taking shots at the PM over Iraq: "mature up". I agree. All that debate and holding elected officials to account is kid's stuff - it's time to mature up, Australia, before it's too late!

Your level of Aussieness is: Richard Wilkins! Although superficially "one of us", you are destined to remain an outsider. In times of crisis you may be used as a scapegoat, especially if you get around wearing an eye patch. Welcome to Australia, champ.

Others, however, see a flaw at the heart of the test. George writes: "my main problem is how do you prove that these migrants will abide and respect Australian values. They will just tick the Yes box knowing to say No would mean they would not be accepted. " Yes, they are a wily lot those immigrants, and that's just the kind of shifty ruse they might employ to gain access to this, the brownest of brown lands where they might wreak who knows what kind of chaos. green and gold of Melbourne seconds that emotion: "How hard is it to impersonate somone on the Internet, most of these people who don't assimilate buy driver's licence and anything else they need from their community supplier - what a joke!" Well, I for one am not laughing. Obviously prospective migrants need to prove their allegiance by undergoing torture on the rack - it's the only way we'll know for sure.

Your level of Aussieness is: David Hicks! Sorry, you have failed in your bid to become an Australian citizen. You are the wrong size/shape/religion/etc, and just look at you with that bazooka! Even if you were an Australian citizen we wouldn't want you. Please piss off quietly.

mary of melbourne sums the debate up nicely: "I'm Bloody Pround to be an Born and Bred Aussie. If your not Happy here, then move". Damn right. If you're not "pround" of being an Aussie before you become one, we won't let you be one, so you'll never find out just how pround you might have been. Mate.

NaNoThingamajiggo

This is the best idea I've heard all hour.
...because, well, I'm not a novelist, I've decided that I'm going to declare February SoTShoStoWriMo. So February, the shortest of months, will be all about the short story around here. Not only am I going to be reading and discussing short stories, but I'm going to sit down and write one. I haven't given myself a word count yet. Still sketching out the details.
It's no NaNoWriDec, but it still could have legs, as people in the table industry like to say.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Saturday Time Killers

This'll fill in an hour or so of this absurdly hot day: the top 50 music videos of 2006, as selected by DoCopenhagen. It's mostly indie stuff, but there are some nice selections.

Meanwhile over at Sarsaparilla, Georg wants to hear about all the good stuff you've been reading this year.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Lady With Lap Dance and other stories

According to this post at the Guardian's books blog, short stories are back, bigger and badder than ever. Well, probably not bigger, for obvious reasons, but definitely badder. (Note to readers over the age of thirty: in this context, "badder" means "gooder" in much the same way "cool" can mean "hot" or "Paris" mean "slut". I know, I know: those crazy kids!)

I don't read many short stories, mainly because when I do I am often disappointed. Strangely, this disappointment is qualitatively different to that experienced when I read a poor or indifferent novel. Perhaps it's because I am experienced enough at reading novels to be able to articulate, if only to myself, what I like or dislike about a particular example. With short stories, as with poetry, I'm on less certain ground, which leads to frustration not only with the work, but with my own critical response. Then again, Borges is one of my favourite writers, and his fiction is all short stories, so maybe it's just that most other short story writers are shit. Yeah, that'd be it. (This is just the kind of flippant, ill-thought-out post that riles certain stuffed-shirt critics. I AM IN UR INTERNET RUINING UR CULTURAL DISCOURZE!)

It's a little early for New Year's resolutions, and I don't make them anyway because they're stupid, but if it was time for New Year's resolutions, and if I made them, then I might resolve to read more short stories. I might even resolve to read a short story each day, like this blogger, whom you'll note has only to read 165 short stories over the next twenty-four days to reach his goal.

And now, to round off this utterly pointless post in an utterly lazy way, I'm going to say hey, reader, why don't you tell me about your favourite short story/ies in the comments? And you're not allowed to say "Because it will encourage you to end more slapdash posts with ridiculous reader questions."

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Roar Of The Masses Could Be Farts

Check out this bollocks from Labor MP Lindsay Tanner. A sample:
I have never read Peter Carey, but I've read plenty of Peter Corris. Does this make me a bad person? Are my intellectual credentials fraudulent? I am the proud owner of all 79 Agatha Christie books. My Christie habit started when I was about 12 and I've never quite grown out of it. Should I be ashamed of myself? I find J.R.R. Tolkien way too complex and contrived, but I love the simplicity and moral force of the C.S. Lewis classics. Should I seek counselling?
Counselling? Well, maybe for the Lewis...

Tanner goes on to detail at some length his preference for detective novels and thrillers over "boring fiction", because when "you read at every available spare moment, as I tend to, you can't afford snobbery".

"Snobbery", of course, is the only reason why anybody would read anything that doesn't come with a cover blurb from Ian Rankin. Take Salman Rushdie's The Moor's Last Sigh - please! "I'm afraid for me it's just pretentious drivel. Any sentence that has 22 punctuation marks in it deserves to die." Thus and therefore and thatwot, Rushdie's readers must also be pretentious. Probably vote Greens, too, when they're not sipping soy lattes and trying to steal Christmas.

When it comes to Australian writing, Tanner digs Peters Temple and Corris, but can't get along with Tim Winton's Cloudstreet. "It's embarrassing, I know, but I have to admit it." It's embarrassing, you see, because Australia's elite overlords have decided that Cloudstreet is a novel everybody must read or else be shunned - and Lindsay Tanner hasn't read it! Outrageous! But he's ready to "admit" his deficiencies because he knows, deep down in his non-bleeding heart, that ordinary Australians agree with him and are pining for somebody brave enough to step forward and confess to their crimes against high culture.

But who are these mysterious elites who demand Lindsay Tanner discard his Dennis Wheatley novels and instead spend his precious spare time immersed in the Mammoth Book of Paragraph-Free Eastern European Prose? Tanner doesn't say. Could it be that Tanner is merely indulging in a lazy strawman argument to propagate the myth of a monolithic, authoritarian cultural elite? Goodness, I believe it could! Be!

But wait, Tanner "is not a total philistine. I have read everything Tolstoy wrote, and I still consider War and Peace the best work of fiction I've ever read." Tolstoy? Wasn't he that Russian dude who wrote those big freakin' books about weighty topics like war and, uh, peace? Oh, Lindsay, you wanker.

Crossposted at Sarsaparilla

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

OOHeaven

Our father, who art in dinner jacket, swilling a martini while fondling a buxom Euro-babe with an unlikely name, rapelling down a sheer cliff onto the deck of a hovercraft there to face the novelty-weapon-wielding minions of a grotesque criminal genius hell bent on world domination, ably assisted by a fluffy white cat and a lesbian flying instructor named Pussy Galore, hallowed be thy name.

More Google Filler

It's stupid, I know, but I just love this stuff. Over the past week, unsuspecting perverts and other assorted crazy folk have been directed to Sterne via the following Google searches:

can u die if u spit from the eiffell tower, rubbing pussy against bicycle seat, harry potter forced to eat snape's cock, gnome knitting patterns, swollen pudenda, is it morally reprehensible to kill androids, heady exciting smell of cunts on heat, what does it mean to wig out, dwarf penis, vigilantism + pros and cons, how to put a curse on noisy neighbours, sex with a nerd, mum fucks her sons, how to make a real ouija board soaked in goats blood, donkey boy jism freak, my nazi tattoo, IS THE ANTICHRIST HERE IN 2006 WAS HE BORN ON JUNE 2006, ingrown hair in bum, sex with “slimy beast” cartoon, minge sucking

There is also a lot of interest in "britney's pudenda". You know what though, it's really not that interesting. However, this week's most disturbing search term has to be "john stamos second coming of messiah". That makes no sense on so many levels.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Bye-Bye Beazley?

This year's summer blockbuster opens today: an adaptation of a sentimental favourite, it revolves around the attempts to save a poor bewildered beast from being slaughtered.



However, one suspects that all the literate spiders in the world won't make a blind bit of difference this time.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

"A demon eel thrashing in his loins..."

The annual Bad Sex Award has been thrust upon Iain Hollingshead for this act of turgidity:
I can feel her breasts against her chest. I cup my hands round her face and start to kiss her properly. She slides one of her slender legs in between mine.

"Oh Jack, she was moaning now, her curves pushed up against me, her crotch taut against my bulging trousers, her hands gripping fistfuls of my hair.

She reaches for my belt. I groan too, in expectation. And then I'm inside her, and everything is pure white as we're lost in a commotion of grunts and squeaks, flashing unconnected images and explosions of a million tiny particles.
Pretty bad, certainly (has Hollingshead ever actually had sex?) but not as snortingly risible as one would hope, and not a patch on my entry (ooh!) from last year. Maybe the standard of sex writing has improved, or maybe it's just that Paul Theroux and Salman Rushdie didn't have new books out this year.

As Jean-Paul Sartre put it...

...hell is other people's musical taste.