Exploring: My bookcase (part 4)

The Tasmanian Babes Fiasco is the sequel (of sorts) to that cult classic of share house literature, He Died With a Felafel in his Hand by John Birmingham. Where Felafel (great book, horrible-point-missing film) was a collection of true stories from a range of people, Fiasco seeks to weave these stories together (plus some new ones) into a more coherent single flowing narrative.

This works pretty well - there are plenty of LOL moments in the book and the return of many fave characters from Felafel.

This is the publicity blurb

When JB and his flatmates took in the new guy they had their doubts. The Celine Dion albums, the fluffy hordes of stuffed animals and the plastic-covered floral-pattern love seat should have set their threat detectors singing. But nobody was paying attention.

Within days their house had become a swirling maelstrom of death metal junkies and Drug War narcs, stolen goods and hired goons, Tasmanian Babes, karate dykes, evil yuppies, dopey greens and the Sandmen of the Terror Data.

Now the flatmates have one week to sober up, find two thousand dollars and catch the runaway new guy before Pauline Hanson, the federal government, cops, crims, their landlord and some very angry lesbians tear their house down and stomp them to jelly.

Can a bunch of hapless losers hope to defeat such an unholy alliance?

The Felafel/Fiasco duo was largely what prompted me to buy Weapons of Choice - World War 2.1, also by John Birmingham. While I do like a bit of sci-fi and am definitely interested in what-if style speculative fiction, I wouldn't generally head towards war focussed books in general.

This one (the first part of a trilogy) tells an interesting tale though of a modern multinational military fleet in 2021 (20 years into the War on Terror) who are accidentally (of course) sent back right into the middle of an American naval fleet smack dab in the middle of World War 2. The introduction of modern/futuristic and far superior technology as well as knowledge of the outcome of the war, in addition to culture clashes between the old and new generations offer some very interesting ideas.

At points it gets a little Tom (Hunt for Red October) Clancy technothriller-ish for me and there is a War and Peace style cast of 1000s but Birmingham does put together a cracking read which gets better through the series.

I mentioned The White Earth previously while talking about Andrew McGahan's Last Drinks in the previous bookcase post so I'll just say that it's a good story well told - a little more farmer family melodrama than is to my general tastes though.

Lullaby by Chuck (Fight Club) Palahniuk is easily one of my favourite books - he manages to cram in so many out-there ideas about life and little odd spots of trivia while at the same time telling a great "what-would-you-do-in-this-situation?" story.

In essence, a journalist discovers a culling song - an ancient poem that painlessly kills anyone that you say it to - in an obscure book of children's rhymes from around the world. Issues of media saturation - the endless unceasingly noisy world in which we live mix with the world of magic in a gripping story told with Palahniuk's dark and slicing wit.

This is a classic modern Australian tale that picks up from where Praise left off. Gordon, the central figure (you wouldn't exactly say hero) of Praise takes off to the top end of the country to work on an isolated weather station for a year while sorting himself out. Not a lot happens but that's the sort of guy he is and yet the writing really captures a mood and keeps you truly engaged.

Michael Moore has fallen out of favour a little in recent years for his opinionated (yet well researched and generally very accurate) dissection of modern Western (ok, mostly American) political issues. Personally I think he's tops and hilarious to boot.

Sure he can overplay things and doesn't aim for balance but given the lies and rhetoric of the rich and powerful that he tends to go after, I don't blame him in the least for playing by their rules.

This book, released midway through George Dubya Bush's first term lays out in painstaking (and yet hilarious) fashion all the painful truths about Dubya that it took a lot of other people 3 or 4 more years to work out. He also looks at a range of other social issues that really are too stupid to still be existing in this century.

Remember when everything was looking up? When the government was running at a surplus, pollution was disappearing, peace was breaking out in the Middle East and Northern Ireland, and the Bridge to the Twenty-First Century was strung with high-speed Internet cable and paved with 401K gold? Well, so much for the future. Whether he's calling for United Nations action to overthrow the Bush Family Junta, calling on African-Americans to place whites only signs over the entrances of unfriendly businesses, or praying that Jesse Helms will get kissed by a man, Michael Moore is out to cure the world of a plague of stupid white men.

John Ralston Saul is kind of the flip side to Michael Moore. He has also identified a number of things with the way the world is being run that desparately need to be changed but he applies a devastating intellect to the problem.

This book addresses the rule of the technocrat in modern politics and the over-emphasis on so-called rational approaches to society that always just seem to end up benefitting a privileged few.

This is what Wikipedia says about him (which is much better than my initial description :)

As an essayist Saul is particularly known for his commentaries on the nature of individualism, citizenship and the public good; the failures of manager-, or more precisely technocrat-, led societies; the confusion between leadership and managerialism; military strategy, in particular irregular warfare; the role of freedom of speech and culture; and his critique of contemporary economic arguments.

The guy is pretty well my intellectual/philosophical hero - I only wish I was smart enough to grasp everything that he has to say sometimes. :)

I've tried to plug away at script writing for years now - a few things have been made, some have turned out reasonably well and others less so - but I can't say that this book really had anything much to do with it either way.

I buy a lot of books like this with great intentions when I'm wanting to get stuck into projects but don't really know how to start. There is (from memory) a fair bit of useful structural stuff for telling stories the way movie producers want them to be told (before they hand over their cash). He's come in for a degree of criticism for this because of the importance producers have come to attach to his structures when assessing the scripts that come before them. (In fairness, he himself says that his structures should be seen as much more flexible than this)

Interestingly, he doesn't actually seem to have written anything himself beyond a handful of tv episodes and has consulted (according to Wikipedia) on a total of 3 movies in the early 90s.

I've always had a fascination with the media and the way they shape our ideas (and therefore our society) and the work of Canada's Media Foundation and their culture jamming magazine Adbusters.

Kalle Lasn helped found this non-profit anti-consumerist organisation in 1989 and has a number of interesting things to say in this book in particular about how we as citizens (rather than "consumers") can work to change the balance. At times though it gets a little preachy but there is still plenty of interesting information and ideas to make the book worthwhile.

Definitely check out Adbusters though. They run cool events like Buy Nothing Day and TV Turn-off week.

Also on the shelf there you can see a Camomile and Spearmint teabag - my preferred herbal tea of an evening (though this isn't such a regular thing). There's also a bent paperclip - might have been for rebooting the computer but most likely it's there because I can be a bit of a compulsive fiddler. Not sure why the coin is there and the A on the right hand side broke off the zipper of a fleecy jacket I have. I could have thrown it away but I guess somewhere I thought it might come in handy for something.