Beyond the soft palate

Category: BOOKS


Andrew Bolt, the Herald-Sun’s resident expert on Andrew Bolt hath “written” a screed. Its title is “Worth Fighting For” and it will be produced by Wilkinson Publishing – “Great books from the people you can trust” – responsible for such “great books” as “Face Secrets”, “Fast, Fresh and Natural Smoothies and Juices”, three books about Justin Bieber, “Kochie’s Best Jokes – Volume 5”, six books about One Direction, and “Stain Busters”, to name but a few.

During the course of this month, Mr. Bolt has been tireless in his efforts to inform his “readers” of his forthcoming literary masterwork …

May 17, 2016

I have a new book coming out in July, just in time to console you over the election result. From the publisher’s blurb:

Andrew Bolt is Australia’s most prominent and controversial commentator. In this second book of columns and reflections, Bolt is again in the front lines of our most urgent political and social debates, from Islam and immigration to the green movement and the rise of the slacktivist. But he also reveals his more personal side – the experiences that have shaped his values and love for this country.

For some this book is ammunition. For others it’s fair warning. But for everyone it’s a test of their own values – and the reasons they hold them.

The book doesn’t just contain what I think are my best columns since my last collection, but also diaries I wrote for Spectator Australia, blog items and reflections written just for this edition.

May 18, 2016

The book contains not just my favorite columns since my last collection (a reprint out soon), but also diaries I wrote for Spectator Australia, blog items, an essay on my favourite books and many reflections written just for this edition – on what worked, what failed, my set-backs, my satisfactions and my hopes..

To pre-order your copy of Worth Fighting For with free delivery and a later special Bolt Bulletin update go here.

May 19, 2016

The book contains not just my favorite columns since my last collection (a reprint out soon), but also diaries I wrote for Spectator Australia, blog items, an essay on my favourite books and many reflections written just for this edition – on what worked, what failed, my set-backs, my satisfactions and my hopes..

To pre-order your copy of Worth Fighting For with free delivery and a later special Bolt Bulletin update go here.

May 20, 2016

The book contains not just my favorite columns since my last collection (a reprint will also be out soon), but also diaries I wrote for Spectator Australia, blog items, an essay on my favourite books and many reflections written just for this edition – on what worked, what failed, my set-backs, my satisfactions and my hopes.

To pre-order your copy of Worth Fighting For with free delivery and also – as a bonus – a Bolt Bulletin update of special material to be mailed out later go here.

May 21, 2016

The book contains not just my favorite columns since my last collection, but also diaries I wrote for Spectator Australia, blog items, an essay on my favourite books and many reflections written just for this edition.

To pre-order your copy of Worth Fighting For with free delivery and also – as a bonus – a Bolt Bulletin update of special material to be mailed out later go here.

May 24, 2016

Quadrant Online adds links to a column from my book, out next month. You may find them useful, but it is better I don’t comment. Sad, but our laws against free speech are dangerously and absurdly broad, as I know only too well.

To pre-order the book, plus a Bolt Bulletin update, go here.

The book contains not just my favorite columns since my last collection, but also diaries I wrote for Spectator Australia, blog items, an essay on my favourite books and many reflections written just for this edition.

May 24, 2016

More on the new morality in my latest book:

To pre-order the book, plus a Bolt Bulletin update, go here.

The book contains not just my favorite columns since my last collection, but also diaries I wrote for Spectator Australia, blog items, an essay on my favourite books and many reflections written just for this edition.

May 25, 2016

More on the new morality in my latest book:

To pre-order the book, plus a Bolt Bulletin update, go here.

The book contains not just my favorite columns since my last collection, but also diaries I wrote for Spectator Australia, blog items, an essay on my favourite books and many reflections written just for this edition.

May 27, 2016

My latest book will now be available from next month. It will be launched at events in Sydney and Melbourne in July (and possibly in other states, too).

Readers who pre-order will get Bolt Bulletin updates which will give them, among other things, priority booking for the launches. Details to follow.

But about the book:

To pre-order the book, plus a Bolt Bulletin update, go here.

The book contains not just my favorite columns since my last collection, but also diaries I wrote for Spectator Australia, blog items, an essay on my favourite books and many reflections written just for this edition.

I have nothing further to add but this …

Onanism – Hypochondriasis, hysteria, chorea, epilepsy, apoplexy, and palsy, constitute part of the list of dire maladies induced or immediately excited, by onanism and immoderate or ill-timed coition. The memory and intellectual faculties, in general, are enfeebled, and there are instances of complete idiocy, brought on by early and continued onanism, and of insanity from similar excesses later in life. — The Eclectic Journal of Medicine. Vol 3, No 4. Nov 1894.

Or, from Urban Dictionary

to wank,
to tame the one eyed monster,
to make the cyclops cry,
man’s favourite outlet,
a date with mrs palm and her five lovely daughters,
toss yourself off,
etc, etc.

For example – “now on the subject of onanism…we don’t want to find you hunched double on the sofa bed pumping your fist”

Please feel free to draw your own conclusions.



“The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly and with unflagging attention. It must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over. Here, as so often in this world, persistence is the first and most important requirement for success.”


Andrew Bolt is Australia’s most prominent and controversial commentator. In this second book of columns and reflections, Bolt is again in the front lines of our most urgent political and social debates, from Islam and immigration to the green movement and the rise of the slacktivist. But he also reveals his more personal side – the experiences that have shaped his values and love for this country.”

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.

“Macbeth” (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17-28), William Shakespeare.


“Catch-22” by Joseph Heller

Major Major Major Major

The squadron commander of the base in Pianosa, who was named Major Major Major by his father as a joke and was later made a Major by an IBM machine with a sense of humor similar to his father’s. He is disliked by most of the enlisted men in Pianosa because he was promoted so suddenly and he chooses to remain isolated from the other people at the base, letting Sergeant Towser handle the operations of the base. He doesn’t allow people to see him in his office while he is in his office, they can only see him when he isn’t there …

The Guardian

The immigration minister, Scott Morrison, is coming under increasing pressure to confirm or deny reports that the Australian navy has recently turned back one or more asylum seeker boats towards Indonesian waters.

The ABC reports that Indonesian police said two asylum seeker boats had been turned back by Australian forces since December.

But Morrison said in a statement that he would not “disclose, confirm or otherwise comment on reports of on-water activities”.


“With a little ingenuity and vision, he had made it all but impossible for anyone in the squadron to talk to him, which was just fine with everyone, he noticed, since no one wanted to talk to him anyway”, Chapter 9, Catch-22, Joseph Heller


“On Offence” Richard King (2013)

“The Year My Politics Broke” Jonathan Green (2013)

Here is SA Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi getting his rabid little rattle on

“Given the increasing number of ‘non-traditional’ families there is a temptation to equate all family structures as being equal or relative,” he says.

“Why then the levels of criminality among boys and promiscuity among girls who are brought up in single-parent families, more often than not headed by a single mother?

“It is perfectly reasonable and rational, therefore, for the state, if it is to have a role in social policy and the affairs of marriage, to reinforce and entrench those aspects of traditional marriage that work, not undermine them and promote ‘alternatives’ which have led to social chaos.

“Competent social policy should be drafted by those who understand the primacy of natural law and who are able to see patterns in society.”

That would be Mr. Bernardi, one takes it.

There’s a curiously Aryan quality to Bernardi’s bouncy thought-bubbles of ideological fantasy and tidy social order – The “State” subjugating women to be child-bearing wives and mothers by its – or His – divine decree and executive order, whilst shunning “alternatives”, as he puts it, off to socio-economic and moral ghettoes of government-endorsed disapproval. The “faggots” and the “whores”, the “intellectual elite” no doubt (I have no fucking idea who these people are, the “intellectual elite”). The Muslims …

Sally Neighbour in The Monthly

“While he seems to be sincere in his convictions, the foundations of Bernardi’s ‘philosophy’ appear shallow. He claims to be widely read but admits his favourite fare is airport novels, especially the late Dick Francis’ formulaic thrillers. His recommended reading list includes a book called Confrontational Politics by a retired US senator, HL Richardson, published by the Gun Owners Foundation. The author’s credo is “pro-life, pro-gun, pro-God” and he was once voted ‘Chauvinist of the Year’ by the National Organization for Women. His book is a crude polemic that rails against homosexuals, tree-huggers, humanists, pagans and abortionists, whom he likens to Hitler. It calls evolution a “scientific justification” for rejecting God, and argues for “the necessity to limit the power of man and government” as the Holy Bible should be the basis for human law (a proposition starkly similar to that advanced by the Islamists Bernardi condemns). Bernardi liked the book so much he bought 100 copies to hand out.”

There you go. The man is a total dribbly fucking idiot, but like most idiots he thinks he’s The Smartest Guy in The Room, bless’d by Divinity, in possession of all the answers to life, love and liberty, and he’ll keep shouting and shouting at people and shouting and shouting and shouting until someone either hits him and tells him to fuck off or threatens to call the police.

After which, he’ll probably creep back later in the night to blow up your bloody house.

In extracts of Bernardi’s new book, reported on by the ABC, he argues some women use abortion as “an abhorrent form of birth control” and he finds it “horrendous and unacceptable” that the abortion “death industry despatches 80,000 to 100,000 unborn children [in Australia] every year”.

In a televised interview, Bernardi said he did not want to ban abortion, but “there is a right to life issue we should be exploring” and he believed life began at conception. He also brushed off queries about the accuracy of his abortion figures, saying the practice happened “a lot” and he did not know anyone who wanted to see more abortions.”

“A lot”.

Argument lost right fucking there.

From The Monthly again …

“He wants to be some sort of conservative warrior but he’s not up to it intellectually,” says a Liberal associate. “In reality he’s like the kid in the playground who pulls his pants down so everyone will look at him, but he has no idea how he’s embarrassing himself in the process. He’s basically kryptonite for any serious person in the party because he’s a complete embarrassment.”

There is little point in being “offended” by anything Bernardi has to say, or has said in the past, or calling for his immediate resignation, or calling him a disgrace, or some form of censure to be imposed upon him, because what he has to “say” could be slapped down in an instant by “facts”, by actual “research” if any so-called “journalist” bothered to bone up and actually do some, and this is the central idea behind Richard King’s book “On Offence”, that in frantically flapping about in a huffy snit, the actual debate, the real things people should be talking about gets lost in an hysterical muddle of exclamation points and capital letters and shrilly confected outrage, sans much punctuation.

It’s also a point made in Jonathan Green’s “The Year My Politics Broke”, where a commercial (and public) media, hungry for an everlasting bowl of quick and instant tasty headlines, stops to question and confront politicians and public figures when they talk complete shit and call them on it by asking them to back up their shit with some evidence and substantiated fact. Or go out and find some themselves.

Barack Obama, 2012 “You are entitled to your opinion, but not your own facts” .

Green looks back on the last few unhinged years of Australian politics and political reporting and believes both are broken, and I cannot help but agree with him. I have not met a single person in life, actual life, whether they be friends, or through work, but in life, who ever said a word to me (or me to them) about the travails of MP’s Peter Slipper or Craig Thomson or what former PM Julia Gillard may or may not have done twenty years ago, simply because no one in real life gave a fuck. Nor do they now.

Yet, that is what our media gave us over that particular and very peculiar period of time. That, and endless polls, and gossip about rumours, rumours about gossip, speculation about rumours of gossip, gotcha photographs, gotcha gaffes, and lots and lots and lots of opinion about things such as these from people I couldn’t give a fuck about either.

I’m expected to pay money to read this shit?

I’ll take my news with actual news in it, thank you very much, not the self-righteous, self-obsessed pseudo-puritanical ramblings and reflections of these packs of crusty old fuckwits from the olden-day Jurassic Parks of Print and their now all-too obvious penchant for writing crap about nothing that actually matters, and nothing about the things that do, because it’s easier for them.

“Journalism”, my arse.

Cory Bernardi’s mind doesn’t stretch too far from that of Anders Behring Breivik in many respects, but if one were to make that comparison and present it to him in public – even dare write it or speak it – Poor Cory would probably  go all squirrelly in the head with outrage, demand all manner of apologies, talk about his right to “freedom of speech” being oppressed by Commies and Queers, Lesbian Nazis from the Dark Side of the Moon even, and his supporters and pimps and promoters in the press would squeal with offended indignation on his behalf until everybody forgot what started it off in the first place. Just as Richard King illustrates time and time again in his book.

Rather than being “offended” by Bernardi, he needs to proven the idiot he is by being pummelled with facts, none of which he would be in the least likely to accept as fact, but, as Jonathan Green points out, our media seem far too timid to confront politicians and public figures talking batshit-crazy bullshit because they’re far too busy burrowing for political Christmas party gossip or speculation that, more often than not, turns out to be no more substantive than smoke rings, leaving nought but a bad smell in the air, and ash on the carpet.

Politics? Broken.

The Media? Pissweak. Trivialities. Tits.

Cory Bernardi?

“I believe Europe should strive for: A cultural conservative approach where monoculturalism, moral, the nuclear family, a free market, support for Israel and our Christian cousins of the east, law and order and Christendom itself must be central aspects (unlike now).” – Anders Behring Breivik, his “manifesto”, p. 650.

PS – Here are some “reviews” of Cory’s book, “The Conservative Revolution” from Amazon.


Gillard smallDamien Murphy in The Sydney Morning Herald, July 3, 2013

Rob Oakeshott, the independent MP who kept Labor in power for three years, believes the [Kevin] Rudd ascendancy has exposed a large number of Australians as policy-free zones. ”That there is a 16 per cent change for no other reason than a personality change should be a mirror on all Australians,” he said.

”In just four days, the polls showed a personality change can be a game changer, not policy. What does it say about the place of policy in Australia? There’s now apparently little place for policy. Something fundamental may have occurred in the way Australia does its politics.”

Graham Winter, SMH again …

… [H]e can sell the message that Kevin is here to fix all the problems. Of course, he can’t fix most of them but he can paper them over and the 24/7 media likes papering, particularly if it’s colourful, such as a warning of war with Indonesia.

Finally, and probably most worrying for the Liberals, is that he can provide a palatable alternative. For all his failings and failures, Rudd is only a divisive figure to those who are close to him. “He’s like an iceberg,” suggested a colleague who has worked closely with him, “All white, bright and clean in public but totally different under the surface when cameras and journalists aren’t around.”

James Wolcott in Vanity Fair, December 2009 …

“In the voyeurism of Reality TV, the viewer’s passivity is kept intact, pampered and massaged and force-fed Chicken McNuggets of carefully edited snippets that permit him or her to sit in easy judgment and feel superior at watching familiar strangers make fools of themselves. Reality TV looks in only one direction: down.”

Flick the switch to vaudeville, the monkeys are dancing, and the clowns play on.

The Drug of a Nation.

The Audience voted. They tweeted, text’d, phoned and they SMS’d, “We want our boy back in the house, or we ain’t playin’ no more!”

So Second-Chance Charlie is back, with a nod and a wink from the judges, the final elimination round, and a shot at redemption – last time he leapt for risotto, and we wound up with porridge, so he won’t be making that mistake again, he tells us; nowadays, he’s changed, more a team player type of guy, ready to take advice, ready to roll with the rules …

… Back in the house, all the other contestants think he’s just a self-involved, wanking creep, nothin’ but front; they hear him at 2 a.m. through the walls, speaking at himself, rehearsing his funky little aphorisms and homilies for the mums and the dads and the little ones at home; gotta zip, folks, and start cooking with gas

“I don’t like that woman. She talks funny and she walks like a duck. I hope she loses.” – Appalled of Tumbleweed Fats, Qld.

Clap hands, folks, here comes Charlie …

Kevin Rudd may have emerged (briefly, it seems) as the biggest potential stumbling block to Tony Abbott’s presumed easy waltz  to the Lodge, but I’m not much inclined to join in the parade and start cheering quite just yet, as there lingers a foul taste in my mouth, and a fetid stench in my nostrils about the political shenanigans of the last year or two and a general sense of discomfit all ‘round at the way this game was played out, mostly from under the barrel, megaphones a-blaring …

Mark Latham from the Financial Review

“[Kerry-Anne Walsh’s new book, The Stalking of Julia Gillard] lists scores of examples in which reporters assisted Rudd’s destabilisation campaign against Gillard. They published inaccurate information from off-the-record briefings, giving greater priority to the creation of headlines than the truthfulness of their work. Then, having attended Rudd’s press conferences, at which he declared his loyalty to Gillard, they turned a blind eye to the deceitfulness of his position; a case of journalists allowing lies to stand on the public record.”

Rob Oakeshott again …

“I have been shocked, frankly, over the last three years, to meet ugly Australia and just to see the width and depth of ugly Australia.”

Should’ve kicked that bitch to death. Should’ve had her throat slit. Should’ve been dragged out to sea and drowned. Nothin’ but meat for men to feed on …

… Rudd skulking about in the shadows, a brooding brat denied what he feels his rightful billing as the star of the show, so he sets about sabotaging all the props he can by way of revenge, just pulling up short of setting the curtains afire …

No, thanks.

I’ve never involved myself in politics or political activity beyond voting every few years, and the last couple times I only did that to avoid the fine, but all this bullshit, this base, fangs-bared, face-scratching, bitch-slapping catfight of epic banality that has so consumed and inflamed the oxygen around every so-called debate, discussion, proposal and personality; so poisoned the public discourse with imagery and allusions best left in torture p0rn, where Julia Gillard’s every step, action or announcement became cause for violently unhinged condemnation leaves me more than a little embarrassed identifying as an Australian, for it would seem the definition of “Australian” now is “hysterically squealing, violently ignorant fuck-nugget”.

No, thanks.

Kerry-Anne Walsh’s book about the stalking of Gillard is no sober, measured assessment of these times, more a shoot-from-the-hip as-it-happened diary of the events, shot through with anger, contempt and disbelief: anger at the political engineers of all the rumours and the bullshit (TeamRudd); contempt for the so-called journalists and commentators who thought they were players in the game and gave the bullshit credence; and disbelief that all this bullshit seemed to go down a treat for some reason in the land of the long white sock, where the pokies trill all of the day and all of the night, and Murdoch’s “The Daily Telegraph” is the pamphlet of choice …

… On page one, a headline will try scaring the living shit out of you, page three will make some shit up about someone that will run on page one tomorrow, and page five will run a few hundred words on all this made-up shit under the banner of “opinion” by some lumpen-arsed dickferret that will probably amount to little more than a laundry list of perceived character flaws and personality faults of whoever the shit’s been made up about, political reporting bought to by TMZ-style, your local newspaper may have lots or none …

No, thanks.

… Kevin Rudd does not come off well in Walsh’s book – a Milky Bar bitterball of tightly wound neuroses and petty resentments, empty of ideas, head puffed full of venom; he’s Walter Mitty if Walter Mitty were reimagined by David Lynch, a pencil-sharpening bureaucrat with pockets full of pens down there in the basement stabbing holes in cardboard boxes in the dark, waiting for his day to come where he’ll show ‘em all and then they’ll be sor-ry

Pretty much what I’d always thought of the guy, from day one.

Call it a hunch.

If Tony Abbott’s the five year old bully who likes to smash everyone’s Lego and throw sticks at girls, Rudd’s the seeming picture of innocence who secretly cheats at exams and sucks up to all the teachers, not a one of whom can stand a bar of the little cunt.

I didn’t vote for Kevin Rudd when he was elected PM over John Howard – I voted against John Howard.

I didn’t vote for Julia Gillard when she stood against Abbott in 2010 – I voted against Tony Abbott.

But this time …

I wouldn’t vote for Tony Abbott with a gun to my head, but thinking of all this shit over the last couple years, and the events of the past few weeks, I can’t bring myself to vote for Rudd just to oppose Abbott.

So that’ll be a tick for The Greens, then.

Lots of comments regarding ”popularism not policy” in Thursday’s letters. We had a prime minister who was all about policy, but the gender didn’t sit right with Australian men, and women criticised her clothing, hair, hobby and marital status. A record number of policies were passed during Julia Gillard’s tenure. I doubt whether those commenting would know 25 per cent of the policies passed under her leadership.

We now have an Opposition Leader who never fronts the media unless a senior member of caucus is looking over his shoulder waiting to step in when he falters and a Prime Minister who is tweaking policies that were introduced by Gillard. Australians deserve what they get at the next election.” – Lyne Dobson, Waterview Heights


From Knob Creek Metal Arts in Kentucky …

They have 67 different types.

Now, I’m jes’ sure someone ’round these parts was askin’ me recently what I maht lahk for Christmas …

(via Colossal, where you can lose a few days if you’re not careful)


Whilst working the front desk of The Village Voice in the 1970’s, James Wolcott had occasion to dip into the “slush pile”, a mound of unsolicited manuscripts in which he fantasised there may just lurk some major undiscovered talent or even a rough few diamonds of untold promise waiting for the kind eyes and receptive ears of a sympathetic editor.

Far from it, but he did learn a few things, things that I have certainly been guilty of many times over the years, and things I shall try not to be guilty of again …

“Sifting through the slush pile served the useful purpose of pointing me in the direction of what not to do as I tried to break into print from inside the building. Avoid parody, which slides too easily into facetiousness. Avoid political satire, which has the shelf life of a sneeze. Avoid preamble – flip the on switch in the first sentence. Find a focal point for your nervous energy, assume a forward offensive stance, and drive to the finish line, even if it’s only a five-hundred-word slot: no matter how short a piece there has to be a sense of momentum and travel, rather than just allotted space being texted in. A number of “Voice” regulars with their own weekly beats had lapsed into a chummy informality with beer suds at the top and not much below, an anecdotal approach that struck me as a drought waiting to happen, and not just because I had so few anecdotes to call my own. Writing that was too talky lacked the third rail below the surface that suggested untapped power reserves, an extra store of ammo. [Norman] Mailer’s writing could be verbose, but he never relaxed his knuckles; it never devolved into chat.”

From “Lucking Out”.


From “Lucking Out”, his memoir of 1970’s New York, James Wolcott describes seeing Talking Heads at CBGB’s …

“Seeing them for the first time is transfixing: [Chris] Frantz is so far back on the drums that it sounds as if he’s playing in the next room; [Tina] Weymouth, who could pass for Suzi Quatro’s sorority sister, stands rooted to the floor, her head doing an oscillating-fan swivel; the object of her swivel is David Byrne, who has a little-boy-lost-at-the-zoo voice and the demeanor of someone who’s spent the last half hour whirling around in the spin drier. When his eyes start ping-ponging in his head, he looks like a cartoon of a chipmunk from Mars.”

I read that eating lunch in the pub and almost choked to death on a mouthful of peas from laughing.


“I have to dust the shelves”, he says into the phone.

“How about Sun – ?”, comes the reply.

“No, I have to dust the shelves.”

“And when will you be done dusti – ?”

“Maybe next week. Week after.”

“Where are you know?”


“Where do you end?”




“That’s a lot – ”

“Yes. They’re small. At the end.”

“I guess. So. Next – ”


“In two weeks?”


“But, you said – ”

“I have to dust the shelves.”


“Yes. Because it takes two weeks.”

“Every …?”

“Yes. The children come in here. They climb. They shake their hair. On the shelves.”



“How are the kids, by th – ”

“Fuck the kids. They need to be punished.”

“Ha-ha … “Redrum! Redrum!”

“No. I was thinking the utilities closet at the end of the hall would be fine.”


Here is a masterclass in screen acting.

John Lithgow as “The Trinity Killer” from season four of “Dexter” takes his second victim in the series, Tarla Grant (Suzanne Cryer).

Lithgow’s performance is wonderfully underplayed and paced, and he is not an actor I typically think of as one inclined to understatement*.  

And Cryer, with only these few scant minutes of screen time available to her does something quite magical with her tiny handful of lines – she makes us care about a character we don’t even know. The adage “There are no small parts, only small actors” immediately springs to mind in this instance.**

The first time I saw this scene, it gave me the creeping abdabs.

That is not an easy thing to do.

And it’s all done with dialogue …


*“Cliffhanger”, for example. Lithgow currently has a memoir out on his early years in theatre and education which I’ve not read, but plan to.

**Actually, this adage is bullshit. There are small parts. And small actors. I should know, I was very small in most of mine. Besides, if your small part comprises the line, “I’ll just see if he’s in”, and nothing else and you try to do something “interesting” with it, the director will be perfectly justified to call you a flaming dickhead, complain to your agent and send you the fuck home.


From “Lateline”, February 17th, 2012  …

Christopher Pyne, Opposition Education Spokesman: “The Government is throwing money at education through things like school halls and laptop computers, that’s where the extra spending has come. What they haven’t done is focused on what really matters, which is traditional methods of teaching” (my italics).

I do not know what this means.

I work for a publisher, a book publisher. Most of what we do is for the secondary and tertiary education markets.

I’m not in any way involved in the content or the marketing or production of what we publish, I’m more “middle-middle-meh management” over there in the corner, adding things up and such.

Around the middle of the last decade, a secondary school textbook would typically comprise a hardcopy book and a CD-Rom that was either stuck on the cover or one of the inside flaps.

I haven’t seen a CD-Rom in years.

What happens now, I believe, is that the high-school student goes to a website, and then types in an address, and then types in a registration code or whatnot to log-in, and the student does all this via a computer, a not unusual device to encounter in this day of modern marvels not powered by steam, think modern refrigeration and the bagless vacuum cleaner or the fax. The student will then have access to all manner of educational material and exercises, interactive this-and-that, links to here-and-there, resources to explore and studies to study, and all of this is accompanied by a book made of paper as well. With words and pictures in it.

This is how the kiddies learn their “readin’, writin’, ‘n’ ‘rithmatic” nowadays.

Yes, this is “how our children is learnin’”.

Once they’re done with learnin’ ‘emselves how to make chicken scratches on ruled sheets of paper with pens and pencils, write their names, add some, and wipe their arses and wash their hands, they set about other subjects, more complex things requiring substantially more complex thought, and in the learnin’ of all this confoundin’ complexity, tools need to be employed on a regular basis, tools that can only be employed on a computer, one of which each and every school student needs in order to be (at least) a half-clever bastard of some worth.

This is how we work now. How we learn. How we do business. How we find stuff out. How we communicate.

Computers. Computing things. Giving us answers to questions.

It is the “traditional method of teaching”.

Not sitting about in a dusty recreation of a classroom from 1964, on a too-small rickety wooden chair at a too-small rickety wooden desk with a hole for an inkwell, a frayed and ratty textbook from 1954 in front of you. “Read chapters 15 and 16 and keep quiet”, says teacher, and you look down at the textbook and some student from two generations before you has scribbled penis’s across the photograph of African tribesmen on page 137.

Back in the days, those glory days, when children lived out their sweetly innocent and uncomplicated lives in a Ginger Meggs world, making billy-carts from orange crates on weekends, back in those days of “traditional methods of teaching”, when you took your own saucepans to the local Chinese for takeaway and milk came in fucking bottles.

That’s bollocks, all that.


What happens in bookstores overnight? …

From the hard-working folk at Type Books in Toronto, this is pure magic. Original music by Grayson Matthews



Last time I was in Sydney I popped into Galaxy bookshop for a quick look-see. I don’t read much in the way of science fiction or fantasy or fiction in general these days but occasionally the mood takes me and something will grab my attention. But this time I noticed that Galaxy had devoted about fifteen, twenty feet wide of wall space to a genre they were calling “Paranormal Romance” …

… I had an old man moment, a moment of  “Jesus Christ, what’s the world coming to?” and hurriedly scurried past all this purply prosed pimply darkness to get to the hard stuff.

The darkly handsome, broody vampire as romantic interest has been getting a right proper flogging of recent and you can hardly look at a newspaper or a website without seeing some chisel cheeked boofhead with big hair baring his nicely manicured choppers and perfectly flossed gums back at you.

 And as much as I love “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and was tickled pink by the first season of “True Blood”, sometimes we need to remind ourselves of something very, very basic when it comes to the subject of vampires …

Vampires are the undead who feed on human blood to survive and burst into flames in sunlight.

It’s a fact.

I redz it on the internets!

If you were to take an unscientific straw-poll around the office and ask a random bunch of women, “Would your definition of a hot date be humping an animated corpse who feeds on human blood and sleeps in a coffin and who can’t hop down the shops for a carton of milk on a Saturday afternoon when you’ve run out and feel like whipping up a cake or something because he’ll blow up?”, I doubt you’d get much in the way of enthusiasm response-wise.

So when del Toro announced that he and Chuck Hogan were writing a vampire trilogy eschewing the eyeliner and hair gel for some good old-fashioned blood-sucking, jugular-spurtin’ mayhem, my fistful of dollars was as good as spent.

What happens when you get “turned” in del Toro and Hogan’s world is this …

You’re infected by a parasite which renders your body host and begins to alter its biology. The parasite needs only blood to survive, so the rest of your organs shut down and shrivel up. A growth begins to develop under your tongue, a growth that houses a stinger that can shoot out quite a distance to latch onto the necks of potential victims and drain them of blood. No teeth. Also, as vampires only breed by infection, there’s no need for genitalia anymore, so these drop off or crust over.

Therefore, gettin’ your end in ceases to be an option if you ain’t got an end to be puttin’ somewheres.

And when you’re draining a victim of its blood, because your body can’t cope with and doesn’t need anything other than pure blood to survive, you shit all the other stuff at the same time you’re feeding.

Now I’ve never been out to dinner with someone who ate and shat at the same time, but I doubt it’d be the kind of behaviour to put me in an amorous frame of mind, I don’t care how good your cheekbones are … “Mum, meet the new girlfriend. For God’s sake don’t feed her anything or you’ll be wiping off the curtains for a month”.

So there’s no romantic goings on with any of the nasty sucking fuckers in this book, I can tell you that straight up. These are the defiantly unfuckable dead and you ain’t nothing but a Slushee in a flesh suit as far as they’re concerned.

Essentially though, what you have with “The Strain” is just a better class of airport novel. It’s very entertaining, moves along at a right clip, keeps you turning the pages, and ticks all the usual boxes in the character “type” department … The wise old man carrying the weighty knowledge of the ancients, the two driven and dedicated professionals (friends with benefits) trying to save the world (well, New York, at least for now), a merry band of three hard up against it. There’s an aged and shadowy figure of industrial intrigue present pulling dark and devious strings … you get the picture, a “cast of characters”.

Fair enough.

Two things, though …

From what I’ve been able to glean, Chuck Hogan, a writer I’m otherwise unfamiliar with, is responsible for all the CSI-styled, HAZMAT tech-speak gobbledygook which, for the first 50, 60 pages or so of “The Strain” had me thinking I was stuck in Tom Clancyworld, you know the thing, “such and such an aircraft has such and such a capacity for blah and blah and if you wang the red doodle on the left panel just-so during a monkey-fight, genies with calculators will appear and build you a spaceship”.

I can barely hook a basic stereo system together without an instruction manual, so this type of stuff means fuck all to me and is pretty much a waste of my time and I’m probably not alone in this. I realise that del Toro and Hogan are attempting an anti-“Twilight” exercise with this trilogy and as such, perhaps they’ve been tempted to think that this Boys’ Big Book of Vampires should flaunt some hardware, some technical blah to satisfy the ham radio geek that purportedly lurks in the heart and soul of all men.

I have no such geek within and I hope they knock it off next time. I prefer my vampires less the shades of David Caruso thanks very much, no pun intended.

The other thing – on the one hand, the infection is given as purely a biological thing, a parasite, yet on the other hand, the authors reference various bits of supernatural mumbo jumbo that are supposed to affect the behaviour of the things, such as their inability to travel over water without human assistance. Far as I’m concerned, it’s got to be either one thing or the other thing, either biological or occult, it just doesn’t make sense to have it being some of this thing with some of that other thing thrown in “just because”.

But these are minor quibbles. This isn’t a Dan Brown book. The writers can actually write scenes and dialogue that aren’t entirely risible, and del Toro’s fierce visual imagination is given full reign here to suitably impressive effect. And I’m grateful that someone has decided to put the freaks up front again and have them behaving very, very badly instead of swanning around some fucking academy or whatever getting sappy with goo-goo eyes.

Of course, the real payoff with this series won’t be with the third and final installment. It will be the film (or films) that follow. And with del Toro at the helm (why would he not direct the film of his own book?), if it’s anything like the promo clips that have been put together for the novel …

Bring Huggies.