Daily Life

Articles from my column on Fairfax’s Daily Life website, which has appeared since the website began in 2012.

Why I’m a fan of Game of Thrones, and not fantasy

I always hated He-Man. An action figure that time has largely forgotten, he – sorry – ‘He’ was the lord of Castle Grayskull, and spent the 1980s battling Skeletor, whom he always defeated, and irrelevancy, which ultimately vanquished him.

The other boys in my primary school collected He-Man much as they collected head-lice, but I always despised his page-boy blonde haircut and bulging muscles. His appearance would have reminded me of Clive James’ famous description of Arnold Schwarzenegger as a ‘condom full of walnuts’ if I’d known what a condom was at the age of eight.

I mention He-Man not just to pat myself on the back for rejecting plasticised machismo early in life, but because that’s where my lifelong antipathy towards fantasy literature began. While many of my sweaty teenage boy classmates spent their lunch hours swapping Magic: The Gathering cards and rolling AD&D dice with an unfeasibly large number of sides, I was never interested.Read More »Why I’m a fan of Game of Thrones, and not fantasy

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We should care more about state politics

Wait, don’t stop reading! Let’s forget I said “state politics”, and instead said “delicious snacks”

We treat state politicians vendors of delicious snacks as though they were mediocre players in an amateur theatre production – the Woop Woop Players doing A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Legislative Assembly, or, given the penchant for bloodshed in politics today, perhaps Hackbeth.

And fair enough, too – in recent years, when they’ve made the news, it’s usually because of some scandal that made state pollies seem dodgy, or hopeless, or in many cases, hopeless at being dodgy.Read More »We should care more about state politics

Of strangers and dogs

Nowadays, people often smile at me when I’m walking down the street. I make an effort to smile back, naturally, because I assume they’re readers, awestruck by the shock of seeing someone they admire so much on the street right in front of them. Or maybe they’re trying to play it cool, and subtly acknowledge that they definitely know who I am even though they don’t want to make a fuss. That’s fine. They know, and I know, and a smile is enough.

Occasionally they’ll say something like “So cute”, which is totally unnecessary, but, hey, that’s their opinion, and of course I’m flattered.

Recently, though, I’ve started to realise that these random expressions of admiration tend to happen only at certain times, and are immediately followed by an admiring look downwards. And while I have excellent taste in footwear, I have to acknowledge that it’s not me. It’s the dog.Read More »Of strangers and dogs

How I failed to celebrate my 38th birthday

smashedcakeThis year, on Australia Day, I celebrated my 38th birthday. Well, I say “celebrated”, but it was a miserable effort. I emailed a few friends two days before to see if they wanted to do anything, only to discover that 90% of them were out of town, either because of the long weekend, or because they wanted to get out of hanging out with me.

In the end, I went to the beach with a few friends, most of whom were planning to be there anyway, and some other friends dropped by my place because they were in the area. I went out to dinner with my family, too, because they’re easier to pin down.

It was a perfectly lovely series of occasions, and if I hadn’t set my expectations absurdly high because it happened to be the day upon which I entered the world back in 1977, I would have viewed the entire proceedings as entirely satisfactory.Read More »How I failed to celebrate my 38th birthday

Some great news about dealing with hair loss

Good news, fellas! (And also for the ladies that love us, amirite?!) Those unsightly chrome domes are a thing of the past! And it’s not just a sportsman paid by a laser-peddling company that’s saying so, but a dermatology professor at a proper hospital.

An even more credible source than Warnie has emerged to help blokes who notice that their hair is receding. Or that their bare scalp is expanding, if they want to be glass-half-full about it.

Read More »Some great news about dealing with hair loss

2014: The Christmas Cracker jokes

crackerEvery year, I sit down to Christmas lunch in the hope that along with the turkey and pudding, I’m about to enjoy a delicious comedy feast when my family pulls apart this year’s crackers and reads out the jokes contained therein.

Every year, sadly, they’re the same old jokes. And I do mean literally the same old jokes. I swear that every Christmas since I was a kid, we’ve had the following, usually multiple times around the table:

What did one wall say to the other wall?
I’ll meet you at the corner!

(I’m going to include exclamation marks after each joke as a form of ‘boom-tish’.)Read More »2014: The Christmas Cracker jokes

A bromance is born: When Tony met Stephen

This week, the Sydney Morning Herald claimed that Tony Abbott is conducting a ‘bromance’ with his Canadian counterpart, Stephen Harper. It’s not the first time the Herald has used that term to describe their relationship, such is the depth of brotherly bonhomie between Australia’s PM and the leader from the land of the maple leaf. Evidently our PM has a depth of affection for his colleagues that he only usually reserves for his wife, his daughters, and dawn triathlons.

The unusual camaraderie between the two leaders extended to hangsies when Harper was here for the G20, and Abbott has gone so far as to praise Harper as “an exemplar of centre-right leadership”. Given the polls, and the recent phenomenon of even Andrew Bolt and Karl Stefanovic taking a swing at him, Tony Abbott must be relieved that somebody in public life besides Peta Credlin really seems to like him.

Bloomberg went even further in its depiction of the Abbott-Harper bond, depicting the two leaders inside a pink love-heart. This probably wouldn’t have thrilled our PM, who has previously admitted to feeling “threatened” by homosexuality. But it’s rather sweet to think of the two of them putting aside the customary formality of international diplomacy and developing a genuine friendship.Read More »A bromance is born: When Tony met Stephen

How to dodge your way through uni without actually cheating

IMG_7898.JPGI was shocked by the report on Wednesday that there’s a thriving business selling university essays. There have always been rumours about this kind of thing happening, so I guess I’d always assumed that some students outsourced help. But the semi-industrial scale of the operation was surprising, to say the least. MyMaster apparently raked in $160,000 last year, which is more than many university teachers make.

Was I the only person who thought the prices seemed competitive, too? After all, a 3000-word bachelor-level essay is only $585. The way university fees are going, it would cost you less to pay someone else to do the degree for you than it would to enrol in the first place.

The other thing about MyMaster that I find truly extraordinary is that they charged different amounts for different grades. We all know that essay marking is somewhat arbitrary – how on earth can they guarantee, say, a credit? I certainly didn’t know how to do that back in my undergraduate days.

Read More »How to dodge your way through uni without actually cheating

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”.
Read More »How to write a novel in one month

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.Read More »In the company of men