12 Things

We’re mid-way through a long weekend here in Oz. This still catches me off-guard, since I’ve spent the majority of my adult life not really paying attention to long weekends, but the acquisition of a dayjob changes your relationship to such things. And so we’ve hit Sunday and I’m mooching around the new house, grooving to a mix of the Hilltop Hoods and the Beastie Boys (RIP, MCA), just kinda…randomly getting things together.

And so, in that spirit, a random grab-bag of twelve things I felt like mentioning.


So my flatmate bought a new home and we moved into it. Most of the last two weeks has been spent getting stuff there, unpacking it, figuring out where it will live for the foreseeable future, and generally waiting for the internet to be turned on.

You know, moving stuff.

There’s a part of me that wants to just kick back and say “yup, we’re done now,” ’cause we’ve basically moved enough that it feels like we’ve moved in and can live a functional life. The truth is there are still all those odds and ends that need to be fixed up, and the room containing my computer/files/desks is littered with boxes of files that should probably be put into the filing cabinet, just as the bedroom closet looks more like a place to store half-full boxes of clothing rather than a bedroom closet.

Although, to be fair, you should see the closet. For a single bloke who owns three pairs of jeans, three jackets, and a seemingly endless supply of t-shirts, it’s one of those spaces that feels slightly epic and impossible to fill.


I’ve never really been big on Hemmingway as a writer. I’ve known people who adored him, but I always leant towards F. Scott. Fitzgerrald as my writer of choice for that particular era of American letters. I mean, seriously, The Great Gatsby. It has its issues as a book, just as Fitzgerald has his issues as a person, but there is something about the sheer amount that book packs into approximately 50,000 words that makes me look at 100k novels and think, really? This is our standard length? Did we miss the levels of awesome that could be achieved at half that?

But we were talking about Hemmingway, who I seem to have started reading in earnest for the first time since I was…shit, eighteen? Nineteen? A really long time. It’s the net result of watching Midnight in Paris, in which Hemmingway shows up as a character, and I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for the reflection of Hemmingway that’s thrown up as a social construct. He’s just such an unremitting bastard, capable of throwing out these moments of sparse beauty, yet so…self-loathing? Or a kind of loathing far more external than that?

In any case, I picked up a small book of writing advice that’s been curated from Hemmingway’s letters and articles, and it’s full of these moments that are both beautiful and angry. My favourite, thus far, is this:

“F. Scott Fitzgerald’s talent was as natural as the pattern that was made by the dust on a butterfly’s wings. At one time he understood it no more than the butterfly did and he did not know when it was brushed or marred. Later he became conscious of his damaged wings and of their construction and he learned to think and he could not fly any more because the love of flight was gone and he could only remember when it had been effortless.” (From A Moveable Feast)

There’s a part of me that thinks, well, yes, that. There is another part of me that thinks, really, Hemmingway? Just ’cause you say it pretty, it doesn’t mean you aren’t a dick.


These showed up my PO Box earlier this week

It’s shiny, in both the metaphorical sense and the literal sense, and the print edition is due out in Mid-June, which means this is one of those rare occasions where I’ve received contributor copies before the book goes on sale.


So as part of my dayjob I curate a bunch of writing and publishing links every Friday for the Speakeasy blog. I have to admit, it’s one of my favourite parts of the dayjob, since it means the vast majority of the stuff that I’m reading on the internet anyway now becomes part of my working day. And since I figure there are probably a couple of writer-types reading this who may be interested, I figured I’d point the way in case you’re inclined to check it out.


One of the random things I’m doing this week? Putting together a new writing plan.

Someone asked me the question “how many stories do you submit a year” at work on Friday. It freaked me out a little, ’cause once upon a time there would have been a pretty steady answer to that, and now there is not. I’ve been living without a writing plan for months now (and, effectively, since life went kaboom back in November of 2010). I have grown weary of the uncertainty, and I figure I’m staying in place for the next twelve months, so I’m going to spend a few hours this evening putting together a plan that’ll allow me to…well, get stuff done.

The problem with writing plans is…well, me. I over-estimate my own abilities a lot, particularly after I’ve let writing lie fallow for a stretch, and it often results in plans where I’m trying to do all the things all the time. This barely worked when I was a marginally employed writer-type with a wealth of free time. It’ll surely fall apart now that I’m regularly employed and trying to fit writing around the edges of things.


I maintain a PO Box that I use for three things: receiving subscriptions, ordering things online, and an address I can put on contracts that doesn’t change every six-to-eighteen months.

A few weeks ago, in the lead-up to the move, I realised that Shifty Silas, my new laptop, was capable of running a bunch of computer games people had recommended to me. I’m usually pretty careful about playing computer games, since I have an addictive kind of personality when it comes to narrative. If I start watching a DVD boxed set of a TV series, for example, I’ll down it in one sleep-deprived sitting rather than space it out. I want, in essence, all the story, all the time.

Also, basically, I like to win things. I mean, I really like to win things. To the extent that, if there are no victory conditions, I’ll invent them simply so I can win.

It’s…well, it’s not a pleasant side of my personality.

These two things, when combined, generally make computer games the equivalent of narrative crack and I’m usually careful to avoid them. But friends raved about Mass Effect and Mass Effect II, and my flatmate had some copies floating around, and it wasn’t like I was doing anything other packing, so I fired Shifty Silas up and played them both. In fact, I played the hell out of them. In, like, rapid succession.  even started replaying the game, this time with an external mouse, ’cause the first time around I wasn’t able to use sniper rifles.

They were exactly the kind of interactive narrative-crack I fear when it comes to computer games.

And because the designers of Mass Effect are evil, you can’t really play those two games and get the end of a story, so I’ve ordered a copy of Mass Effect III. It’s been posted and now it’s sitting in my PO Box, waiting for me to come pick it up.

And when that finally happens, when I pick it up and start playing it, well, I’m going to be good for very little else that week. And I have the self-control of a lemming that’s just been shown a cliff.

Which means I can’t pick up my mail at the moment. And I’m going to avoid it for as long as I possibly can.


If you’re a writer-type, you probably want to come do this.

Basically, the Rabbit Hole is a three-day event where a bunch of writers come together and collectively thumb their noses at, say, NaNoWriMo. Instead of being all 50,000 thousands words in a month, the word-warrior heading down the rabbit hole is chasing 30,000 words in three days. It’s run at the QWC a couple of times, but this year the event is going national as part of the Emerging Writers Festival, with teams gathering in Melbourne (where it’s hosted by Jason Nahrung), Tasmania (hosted by Rachel Edwards), Brisbane (hosted by, well, me), and online (hosted by Patrick O’Duffy).

It takes place between the 1st and the 3rd of June, and it promises to be a weekend of words and smack-talk between the four teams. I may even bring the Spokesbear as a mascot.

You can register for Team Brisbane over the QWC website.


I don’t really review things, ’cause I kinda suck at it. Me and non-fiction, it’s not a thing that works well (and I’ve been reminded of this, quite explicitly, because I’ve been writing a non-fiction article for work and it’s like pulling teeth, dammit).

But I did watch the third season of 30 Rock recently. And, at one point, I may have laughed so hard that I developed tunnel vision and passed out for a few seconds.

Just saying.


So about a month ago I tried to watch the 2011 Conan the Barbarian film with my flatmate. It…wasn’t good. I say this as a person who has a really, really high tolerance for bad movies, especially any kind of fantasy epic. The only way I got through it was jumping on twitter and making fun of the movie as we went, so other people shared my pain.

Halfway through the topic of Hawk the Slayer and whether or not it was worse than Conan 2011 came up.

I’d never seen it before, so my flatmate and I arranged to watch it the following Tuesday. And, since I’d tweeted the first film, I figured…well, why not? I tweeted throughout the second film, and about halfway through people started suggesting films we should watch and make fun of in the future.

And thus the tradition of the Trashy Tuesday Twitter Movie got started. It was an accident, I swear, but somewhere along the line we developed a schedule. If you’re interested in joining in, we generally kick off at 7:30 PM, Brisbane Time, on a Tuesday evening. Next week’s film is RED (Helen Mirren with a Sniper Rifle!), and on the 15th we’re watching Red Dawn. Debate about the hashtag usually starts earlier on a Tuesday, and the results can be found on my twitter feed @petermball

And yes, this is basically what I do when I’m avoiding posting here. I’m sorry blog, but Twitter is my new love.


Actually, that’s not true. I acquired my first smart-phone at the beginning of the year, and it’s instantly become one of my favourite things ever. It’s the promise that SF always offered me – a miniature computer that I can carry around in my pocket and access nearly everywhere. It lets me carry around my email and a collection of books to read and all that stuff.

What I dislike is the way it’s changed my relationship to the internet.

Over the past four months I’ve watched my engagement with things become increasingly passive, largely because I spend the vast majority of my non-dayjob internet surfing on the phone rather than the computer.

I receive my email on the phone, but I dislike the keyboard I’m forced to use there so I don’t respond until I’m sitting at a computer. I can read blogs and my RSS feed, but I don’t comment or come here to write things unless I’m sitting at a keyboard. I can check facebook and twitter, but…well, actually, facebook and twitter are the places where the phone really shines, so it’s not like either of those have suffered.

Basically, I put a lot of things off until I’m sitting at a keyboard, and that never seems to happen ’cause I can check things on my phone.

I’m trying to figure out how to combat this problem, since it really doesn’t sit right with me. Half the reason I love the internet is that it allows me to engage with things, and I’m not really a huge fan of any medium where passivity is the primary mode of engagement.


Last week, in the midst of moving, I took an evening off and went to see The Avengers with a bunch of my co-workers. I freakin’ feared this movie so hard, since I’m a) a huge comic nerd,  b) not a fan of anything Joss Whedon has done that involves armies of villains, c) generally irate about films and not inclined to like them, and d) a huge fan of the Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Hero TV series which delivered everything I want in an Avengers comic in cartoon form instead.

In short, I wanted this to be teh awesomes and figured it wouldn’t quite get there. I certainly didn’t think it’d live up to the cartoon.

What I got was teh awesomes. I may have made high-pitches squealing noises of joy in the theatre.

If I had to deliver a review, I can do it in three words: FUCK YEAH, AVENGERS!


They’re everywhere. You just haven’t noticed them yet.

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