Thursday, 30 April 2009

It's Like Bloody 'War & Peace'! In Fact, It Is!

I have a few books to still review, and I'm halfway through reading a book at the moment that's going slow because I'm not that into it, and anyway, I'm lethargic, generally, in my life, right now. I turn 40 soon. I'm getting stressed. I need a girlfriend.

Anyway, after reading The Costello Memoirs on a dare, I was reminded of a time many years ago, I was about 24 I think, living in Athens, Greece, when a mate dared me to read Les Miserables in 48 hours. I accepted the dare, and did it, having only a few hours sleep and a hell of a lot of coffee.

And today I thought to myself, "What happened to that plucky young literary kid?" and the answer was, "He approached 40, discovered hair was starting to grow out of his shoulders, and panicked." But as Dylan Thomas said, I must rage, rage against the dying of the light. Being lead singer of a punk band that does the sex, drugs and rock and roll shit when we play helps, but we're not gigging much right now, so I'm going to get my kicks in my own old way...

I plan to read War & Peace in 48 hours*. Not sure when yet, maybe next weekend, but soon, in any case.

I have it in hardback. It's a tad under 1400 pages and the font is small. You could put my hardback version in a gymnasium and do reps above your head. Like a black man's appendage in 70's porn, I am intimidated by its size.

Anyone want to offer incentives? Back when I did 'Les Miserable', my mate said if I could do it, he'd take me out for a coffee. Yes, I did it for one coffee (I chose a frappe because it was summer in Greece, and for some reason, the Frappes over there are fucking incredible and 1,000,000 times better than anyone else's... so are their tomatoes and mangoes), and it was the lure of the frappe that kept me going at 4am when struggling through one of Victor Hugo's many tangents (like, his 90 page tangent on the history of the Parisian sewerage system, which in fact was more interesting than you'd think).

Any incentive will make this easier for me. Thank you in advance for your sponsorship.

PS: What do you think of my new picture up top?

*I would start on a Friday night after work, and finish Sunday evening or in the wee hours of Monday.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Kingdom Of Fear

By Hunter S. Thompson

He goes on a bit.

Nag, nag, nag.

The dude can write, I'll give him that. He can weave a sentence beautifully, but the paranoia thing gets to me. It's all about 'them' and 'they' and 'the cops' and 'the government' as if they are a coherent and singular entity out to trod on him personally.

This book is a series of anecodtes, vignettes and reminisces, but in the end, all I got from it was that he smoked too much pot and was paranoid. There was some touching moments, some laugh out loud moments, but mostly groan moments as I was forced to enter deep into his paranoid psyche.

I did however find, buried deep on page 289, something that made me think he was aware that perhaps he was largely acting the goat... he wrote about his relationships with 'the cops': "They were probably nice people and so was I - but we were not meant for each other... There is a huge body of evidence to support the notion that me and the police were put on this Earth to do extremely different things and never to mingle professionally with each other..."

That was one of the only moments in the book where he conceded that 'they' might be people as well.

Still, his rebellious nature does make for some fine reading at times, but better to read an article here and there rather than a whole book.

I give it C minus.

(That's two reviews in two days - I have some catching up to do)

Monday, 27 April 2009

The Costello Memoirs

By Peter Costello
Former Treasurer of Australia

Peter Costello to boy:
"I also succeeded in putting in place capital acquisition programs which actually allocated money to specific programs. We discovered, for example, that in listing projects for capital acquisition Defence never allowed for deprectiation or repairs!"

Boy to Peter Costello:
"I got a lollypop."


Here's an anecdote about a time when he was spending a lot of late nights with Finance Minister John Fahey, working on some revenue committee thing and putting in a lot of hours.

Are you ready for this? Alright, here it goes...

"At the end of the process, after months away from home, John said to me one night, 'I haven't seen much of Colleen (his wife) lately. And I guess you haven't seen much of Tanya. In fact, we now spend more time with each other that we spend with our wives...' I cut him off. "I'm getting a little uncomfortable about where this conversation is heading, John!'"

Did you catch it? Did you see it? Because there it was, the only gag in 385 pages of memoirs.

That was it! A kinda gay joke! That was fairdinkum the most funny thing in the whole book, and it wasn't even funny, at all.

Then again, I did laugh a few times in the book, but only at parts I wasn't supposed to be laughing at.


Look, it's easy to bag this book, and Costello himself, and don't worry, I intend to, but, let me start with a few positives, some of them controversial amongst my left leaning friends.

First of all, if anyone was to be the Treasurer during the Howard years, I'm glad it was Costello. For starters, he LOVES taxation law. The most vibrant passages of the book, where his personality seems to come to life and what meagre charm he posseses jumps up from the page, are all to be found when discussing economic mechanics. There were chapters and chapters where he goes to great lengths explaining how the IMF works, what GDP is, and how Treasuries, banks and taxation laws all come together. Like over 100 pages was just explaining how stuff works (obviously to then give merit to the decisions he made - the extract above with the picture is a typical sentence). But really, the only people who would be vaguely interesetd in any of it would be budding Federal Treasurers. For the rest of us, it was stuff that belonged in an appendix. Even so, his enthusiasm was admirable.

But another reason he made a good treasurer was because I don't think he made one economic decision based on politics. Every economic decision he made seems to have been made on an economic level - in that it had economic, not political justification. Whether he made wrong or right economic decisions is neither here nor there, the point is, he left politics out of it somehow and on that level, he was a worthy treasurer. In fact, he even used economics for good instead of evil at one point, when squeezing Indonesia over the East Timor issue. It's a long story, but basically, he helped Indonesia fix some economic problems in return for getting the fuck out of East Timor.. which is more than Keating ever did (I loved Keating, but on East Timor, he failed me).

Costello would also make a fine husband and father. Reliable, devoted, and mentally sound. That comes through in the book too. He seems a nice enough guy, and if he had to pick you up from footy training, he would be there on time. Good on him. Also, he's a Blackburn boy, and I'm originally a Mitcham boy, so, you know, he gets a point for being a boy from down the road, even though he went to a toffee private school and I went to Mitcham 'Igh.

A final positive... his view of Howard is hilarious, unintentionally. He presents Howard (who, by the way, he constantly refers to as 'Howard') as this vague, shadowy figure who sometimes crawls out of his ivory cave to ask how things are going, then crawls back into the cave, leaving the real people alone to do the work. After reading this book you get the impression that Howard never actually made a decision about anything, or ever actually did a day's work. He was just a mouthpiece for Costello and all the other hard-working Ministers who made the decisions and did all the work. But you know what, Costello? I think that's a better system. I don't want my Prime-Minister bogged down until 3am wading through economic data. I want him or her to be fresh in the morning, fresh to lead. And that's one thing Howard could do (rightly or wrongly) and you can't do. Face it Costello - you were the worker, he was the leader, and that system kept the two of youse in power for more than a decade.

The biggest problem with the book (aside from it being boring as batshit) is that it proves that Keating was right when he said Costello was 'all tip, no iceberg'. Try as I did, in 385 pages, I still don't know what this man believes in, aside from God. Which, by the way, grant me this aside. He believes in God too much for my liking and should be prevented from holding office. His wife had a brain problem and nearly died. Costello writes "...medical assistance and, in my view, divine intervention saw her recover..." Divine intervention? You're kidding me? God, as a sole and sentient entity personally healed your wife with the assistance of doctors? Fuck off idiot.

No, aside from God, there's nothing I could find in here. There's a few things he doesn't believe in, like, left wingers, and Brian Harradine (who, by the way, fucked the Libs on the GST by asking for the removal of some gay safe-sex material from a Government publication - Costello thought that meant Harradine would support GST, but he didn't), but there's nothing that I could put my finger on when it came to what he actually wanted in a society, aside from canny taxation law and 'law and order'. Even his dislike of the left is lame, as it was developed in his Monash Uni days when he encountered some extreme-left anti-semites, but jesus, I don't dismiss all conservative-leading policy just because Hitler existed, so I can't see why he refused to acknowledge anything from the left just because of some militant arsewipes he came across at Uni and in the Union movement.

When it got to the Pauline Hanson bit, I thought maybe he'd be able to let loose, but even then it was a pragmatic but gutless response. He backed the decision to "...not attack Hanson personally... (but to)attack her policies in a logical and analytical way." I recall that backfiring even then, but he still supports it. She was using emotional language and she needed to be fought on that level, as well as a 'logical' level. But it came to me then, reading that - that's his whole political life, this Costello man. Take God away, and all he has is 'logical and analytical', and that's the 'no iceberg' quip in a nutshell. That's why he can't lead the country. Not enough heart. Brains and dignity aplenty, but no heart.

I also found him disrespectful to the ALP leaders. He seemd to like Beazley as a man (not as a pollie), and thought Crean had a brain, but from Hawke to Rudd he seems to think anyone on that side of politics was some yobbo buffoon. I know I know, there are plenty of yobbo buffoons on the left, but jeez, what's Wilson Tuckey then? Buffoonery crosses the political divide.

But I digress. Actually, there's not much more to say. He had one shot at this memoir business and he fucked it up. It had no guts, no substance, no balls. Just like Ian Thorpe and Brodie Holland* I ask, "Where's the cock? Where's the cock? Give me some cooooooocccckkkk!" There's just none. This book is a document, not a memoir. It's a timeline. There's not even anecdotes! No bon mots! No gossip! No insight into his feelings or any indication that he can be moved by art, or nature, or anything apart from God and family. Mark my words, this book will be in the $2 bin by now. It has nothing to offer to the world or arts and letters, or hell, even the world of politics or Australian History. Economic historians might take a fleeting interest in it (luckily for Costello I did Economics at Uni so I took a little interest in some of it), but that's it.

Look, maybe there is something to him, and he just thought it was none of our business. If so, he shouldn't have bothered writing memoirs. Either you give it your all, or not bother. There is no audience for this book. It's a waste of paper.

I give it an E.

Divine intervention... FUCK. OFF.

Superstitious idiot.

PS: He mentions me, accidentally. Talking about Ron Walker's influence, he refers to the Commonwealth Games 'flying tram into the centre of the MCG' (landing on a Melway map of Melbourne) which I came up with, proposed to the Government, was rejected, but they did it anyway and someone else got paid for it. I HAVE THE DOCUMENTS TO PROVE THIS! (Note: They were legally entitled to take my idea... it was on the tender contract). Yes, 9 years later it's still a sore point.

* Rumour and innuendo. I'm not saying either are gay, I'm just saying that's what I hear on the grapevine.