How to write a novel in one month

It’s often said that everyone has a novel in them, but it’s probably more accurate to say that everyone fondly imagines that they do. I’ve certainly lost count of how many times I’ve had conversations with people where they talk about how they totally want to write one, and outline some of their plans – and, in the back of their minds, are clearly already walking onto the podium to accept the Booker.

But then their ambition peters out into the same five words we always use to defer non-urgent, hard-seeming things: “If only I had time”.
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A few thoughts on Comrade Whitlam

Gough and Margaret Whitlam, by Timeshift 9 (Creative Commons)

Among the many fine tributes to E. Gough Whitlam delivered in Parliament today, on the day of his death, the Member for Watson in Whitlam’s beloved Western Sydney, Tony Burke, mentioned one thing that brought back a fond memory for me.

Burke said that in Labor circles, it had long been considered a very great honour to be the tall, younger man on whom Whitlam leant for assistance as he left one of the countless Party functions he attended.

I once served as a human walking stick for the former Prime Minister, and I also felt honoured to been able to offer this giant of Australian public life some brief assistance. Not at a Labor Party function, though; but a rather more conservative occasion – an alumni dinner for the Sydney University Law School.

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In the company of men

On Saturday night I went to my high school reunion. Which means it’s been twenty years since we all endured the HSC. Twenty years of noses at the grindstone in many cases, dramatic shifts in careers for others and for others still, escaping the rat race entirely. Twenty years of relationships, marriages, children – even divorces in some cases. And we can no longer claim to be young, even if some of us still act like it. Continue Reading →

Why I’ll never be a backpacker

I visited Australia’s most famous beach the other day, and felt like I was overseas, albeit in an odd country where diamond-shaped kangaroo warning signs and keyrings of little thongs with “Bondi” painted on them seemed to be the major currency.

While maps show it as part of Sydney, the reality is that Bondi belongs to the international community. Like Khao San Rd in Bangkok and Arambol in Goa, it’s been utterly colonised by backpackers and the businesses that sell them cheap phonecards and crappy souvenirs.

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Everybody must watch ‘Justified’. Here’s why.

Television now has an icily contemptuous greeting to match Jerry Seinfeld’s famous “Hello, Newman”, which was always delivered with more malevolence than you’d expect from a mild-mannered, sneaker-clad comedian.

The difference is that when the words “Hello Raylan” are uttered by Boyd Crowder (they all have names like that in rural Kentucky, apparently) to the man with whom he used to mine coal back in the day, there’s every chance they’ll both draw pistols – and quite possibly use them. Continue Reading →

Why I phear phablets

Samsung has copped a lot of criticism, and lawsuits, for the close resemblance that many of its phones and tablets bear to Apple designs.

And I’m not going to call them (or the Android operating system) blatant copies, because I’ve no interest in defending a lawsuit of my own. Besides, I generally enjoy the work of tribute bands.

But there is one innovation that Samsung can rightfully claim for its own: the phone so absurdly large that it makes you look almost as ridiculous holding it up to your ear as Maxwell Smart did with that shoe of his.
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Hopelessly intimidated by Bunnings

If we all have our own personal hell, uniquely and fiendishly customised to our own preferences, mine will be a Bunnings. An endless Bunnings, with aisle after perplexing aisle, stretching out beyond the horizon on either side with cute little handwritten signs that try and pretend that the company isn’t an enormous corporate monolith, and yet no handy sign pointing me to the one thing I’m looking for, or anybody to help me find it.

In other words, it’ll be exactly like an ordinary Bunnings. Except instead of a few snags on the barbie for a community fundraiser, the demons will be holding a sizzle of sinners’ souls.
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How to decorate so people think you’re amazing

A recent survey of the sort that retailers conduct to make us think about the products they sell found that 48% of Australian men have placed items in their bedroom with the explicit intention to impress prospective sexual partners.

This number almost surprised me, because it would suggest that as few as 52% of Australian men are thoughtless boors. Except that this figure is challenged by the additional information that the items left out to try and impress prospective partners included surfboards and medals, both of which are entirely wrong unless your surfboard has been sprayed by Banksy or your medal is displayed for reasons of irony, because you won the medal for Being A Li’l Aussie Trier (Despite No Conspicuous Merit At Anything) in Year Two. It’s probably also okay if you’re a war hero or Olympian. Continue Reading →

Why on earth do people take camping holidays?

There are some people whose idea of a holiday is having to do everything for yourself. These people find it relaxing to go to a place where you have to perform an even more time-consuming version of your everyday domestic chores, with vastly inferior equipment and no dishwasher. And these same people, rather than sinking their tired bodies into a comfy bed or sofa at the end of an arduous bit of travelling, would rather build an annoyingly elaborate shelter for themselves before they can so much as close their eyes for a few moments.

These people are called campers, and they are wrong. Continue Reading →

In defence of the Daggy Friend

Keira+Knightley+Stars+Film+Can+Song+Save+Life+5Q0zf_Oswo7lKeira Knightley sings in her new movie, and is really quite good. No, honestly. And even if they did AutoTune her vocals to bits, I’d have to say that they did a great job. She sounds a lot better than Scarlett Johannsson covering Tom Waits, at least.

The film’s called Begin Again, and it’s deliberately adorable. Keira plays Greta, a shy singer-songwriter who, at the start of the film, is dating her college sweetheart and fellow singer Adam Levine, who’s headed to New York to make it big.

Well, he’s called Dave in the movie, but he’s a twit with an implausibly high voice, so it’s just Adam Levine beneath the tiniest of cinematic fig leafs, really.

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