Saturday, May 30

Sol vs. Australia

Sol Trujillo to Australia: "You are a racist backwater."

Australia, all whipped up into a frenzy, replies: "Who are you to call us racist you Mexican bastard!"

While it's hard to summarize a few days of national dialogue, I think that is a fair take on how Australia responded to Trujillo's comments.

Between Rudd's characteristically pathetic "Adios" comment, the repeated "three amigo" references, the radio stations playing the Mexican hat dance at the mention of Trujillo's name, and even the Age's tasteless headline, I'd say Trujillo (who was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming, to a Mexican-American family) is on pretty solid ground. Crickey collected a number of examples. Once again, Rudd shows he has read and understood the John Howard guide for getting ahead in Australian politics: be as mundane as possible, treat outsiders with contempt and stoke existing prejudices.

Tuesday, May 19


“Raymond Carver used to describe himself as a cigarette with a body attached to it.”

“How did that work out for him?”

“He died of lung cancer.”

“Well then, I guess Raymond Carver is just a cigarette now.”

“Maybe he’s this cigarette,” I suggested, holding out my durrie.

Kat laughed. “You’re smoking the world’s greatest ever short story writer. I hope you’re enjoying him.”

I carefully inspected the cigarette for evidence that it might somehow be Raymond Carver in the afterlife. But I didn’t find anything conclusive, so I continued smoking. When I’d finished sucking the dregs, I gave the possible Raymond Carver a sombre burial in a pot plant and we headed inside.

Wednesday, May 6

Not An Onion Headline

Afghanistan's Only Pig Quarantined In Flu Fear

For those that are not on Facebook (where my 'status update' on this drew a lot of comments), I'm heading to Mexico on June 9-14 - swine flu discount! There are cases of swine flu in the Bay Area but none in the Mexican state I'm headed to (Sayulita in Nayarit) so I'm not at all concerned. Looking forward to surfing some warm water waves and drinking beer on the beach.

Friday, May 1


It's been getting very strong reviews and had been highly recommended to me by friends (even the President is reading it). But I didn't like Netherland by Joseph O'Neill.

I had high hopes for the book after its brilliant opening scene -- a cricket match on Staten Island where the umpire (the supposedly Gatsby-esque
Chuck Ramkissoon) confronts a gun wielding player. But Netherland slowly lost my interest over the rest of its 250 pages. Nothing much happens. I feel like I have a pretty high tolerance for books (and music for that matter) where nothing much happens (for example, I like Joseph Heller's second novel, the ironically named Something Happened). But I was irritated this time.

Netherland is narrated in the first person by Hans van den Broek, a Dutch oil analyst living in New York. Although a lot of reviewers have compared it to The Great Gatsby, any "echoes" of Gatsby (as the New York Times put it) seemed pretty faint to me. The central story of the book is the breakup of Hans' marriage. The Chuck Ramkissoon character often seemed tacked onto the rest of the book. And many of the allusions to Gatsby, such as the manner of Chuck's death, seemed forced to me (I'm not giving away much here, the death is foreshadowed very early).

I also found that Hans' baroque narration did not fit with his very plain personality. I guess since O'Neill is a barrister who's also a novelist he finds it easy to imagine an oil analyst with such a flowery inner life - but I found it incongruous given Hans' behavior.

My biggest complaint with Netherland might be fairly unique to me - and could suggest a strength. After his wife leaves him, Hans' life in New York (that of a single, overworked somewhat isolated expatriot urban professional) was so much like my own that I found reading it to be excruciatingly mundane. One of the pleasures of reading a good novel is when it takes you inside a new and unfamiliar world. Netherland simply brought me back into my own world -- a world I wasn't particularly enjoying at the time (I read Netherland slowly because I was preparing for trial and had no free time to read other than my commute).

Perhaps other readers will find Hans' life interesting. I hope Obama enjoys it.