The Unimaginable

It’s hard, perhaps, for non-Americans to realise how significant New Orleans is to the American psyche. This isn’t some minor midwestern city, but one of the cultural touchstones of America: the home of jazz, of voodoo, of chilli-laced gumbo and Southern gothic horror. Like San Francisco, it’s a city that has attracted artists and bohemians partly because of its precarious physical situation, with the ever-present threat that it could all end tomorrow encouraging its never-ending party atmosphere.

Read More · 31 August 2005 · · Events

Final Fringe

The Edinburgh Fringe has ended—by 9.30 yesterday, all trace of it was gone from the Royal Mile—but I thought I’d add a couple of final reviews to round it off. I was sorry not to get to Perrier-winner Laura Solon’s show; I tried to after she was nominated, but of course it was sold out for the duration. And to think I’d walked past her “small out-of-the-way venue” every day...

Read More · 31 August 2005 · Comedy

One of Bill’s friends reports that the water has “reached the curbtops and is rising” in the French Quarter, the highest part of the city. It’s hard to conceive of New Orleans simply not existing, but could it possibly be economical to drain and rebuild an entire city that size?

“We have whitecaps on Canal Street.” Katrina may not have been the direct hit that everyone feared, but the news is still catastrophic: Lake Pontchartrain is flooding into New Orleans through a levee breach two blocks wide. According to some reports, the French Quarter is underwater. It looks like this really is the worst-case scenario. [Update: Not sure about the French Quarter; some reports say it’s okay. I guess it depends whether they can plug the leak.]

First-Name Basis

A local boy was found dead a week and a half ago, and for days I’ve been haunted by doppelganger newspaper headlines: TRAGIC RORY’S BULLY HELL; RORY POLICE LAUNCH MURDER INQUIRY. When an adult is killed, the papers use surnames, but whenever it’s a child it’s first names all the way. Now I know how every Holly and Jessica in the country felt in 2002.

Still, it can’t be as bad as every Katrina must be feeling right now.

Read More · 29 August 2005 · · Events

Fickle 2 Fingerz

More reviewz from the hip and hoppenin’ Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Stars are out of five, no halves.

Read More · 24 August 2005 · Comedy

That’s enough Editing. Ed. “Think for a moment of another kind of culture, where nothing is edited. A culture where we’re all so logorrheaic we haven’t time for each other’s words or books or blogs, where everything goes into the ether—and there’s no sign that anyone reads it all. A culture that doesn’t care about editing is a culture that doesn’t care about writing. And that has to be bad.”


Walking back from the train station I feel that sense of voyeuristic detachment, that stepping outside of oneself, that makes me think of Milan Kundera’s famous novel—more specifically its famous title, because I’ve never read the book, although I have seen the film. The story attached to it has weighty themes about life under communism, but you could cast them all off and lose nothing that mattered; you could throw away a lifetime’s writing if the five words you kept were as pithy and lasting as those.

If only they didn’t work best as a title; then he wouldn’t have had to write a novel around them. He could just have walked to and from the train station, saying to his neighbours, when they asked him why he had that odd look on his face—that one you get when you become overwhelmingly aware that you’re alive and physically present in the world right here and now, hovering between tears of happiness and complete emotional collapse: “Oh, you know. Lightness of being. Unbearable, really.”

16 August 2005 · · Whatever

Elvis the Robot Cat. First Pinky, now this. It's the Year of the Cat.

The Fickle Finger of Fringe

I know I said I wouldn’t do any Fringe reviews here this year, but that’s because I was hoping to be doing them elsewhere... which hasn’t panned out. So let’s say instead that I won’t do many here. For the benefit of my loyal hordes of Edinburgh or Edinburgh-bound readers, here are a few highlights from the dozen shows I saw in the first week. Stars are out of five, no halves.

Read More · 14 August 2005 · · Comedy

“The west Siberian bog alone contains some 70 billion tonnes of methane, a quarter of all the methane stored on the land surface worldwide. ... In May this year, Katey Walter of the University of Alaska Fairbanks told a meeting ... that she had found methane hotspots in eastern Siberia, where the gas was bubbling from thawing permafrost so fast it was preventing the surface from freezing, even in the midst of winter.”

A Rocket to Nowhere. I loved the shuttle when I was a kid, but everything I’ve read about it as an adult confirms this. [Via The Null Device.]


When I was in my teens, some new neighbours moved into the small weatherboard house next to the bottom of our property and proceeded to cut down every fruit tree that had been planted around it by the retired couple who had lived there before them. When they’d finished desertifying their own land they turned their attention to ours, and to the huge Golden Plum in the corner of the chookyard that overshadowed their back lawn.

By any sensible benchmark, this tree was the best thing their house had going for it (apart from the ones they’d already cut down). It wasn’t on their side of the fence, but it graced their garden and all around it. It had probably been planted at the same time as their house was built—back when it had been part of the same larger property as ours.

But never mind all that: it had leaves, and they wanted it gone.

Read More · 4 August 2005 · · Journal

Adam Cadre. A MeFi thread about the 2005 Bulwer-Lytton winners pointed to his Lyttle Lytton contest, and I ended up exploring the entire site. Finding a good personal site with multiple sections and a few years’ worth of archives is a rare pleasure. Cadre’s reviews branch off in all sorts of interesting directions (see, for example, his long string of reviews of the complete works of Mark Twain), and it’s not just reviews: his letter to a young artist is as good an explanation of the value of creating for small audiences as any, and the Girl Guide badges are great. I’m also sorely tempted to rip off the layout of his calendar page for the next incarnation of Speedysnail...

Free music from the NME. Free music from You Am I. A free single from Sing-Sing, offshoot of ’90s shoegazers Lush.

July 2005