China flashback: metalheads and mohawks

I recently read about a John Cage composition for organ called As Slow As Possible, a piece of music that is currently being played live in a church in Germany. The performance began in 2001 (though the first actual chord wasn’t struck until 17 months later) and will take 639 years to finish. The next scheduled change of note is in October this year.

And I thought: that’s about as slow as my book on China is coming along. Continue reading

Reflecting on 2012 (or: Nope, not quite famous yet)

Hang on. What happened? Or rather, what didn’t happen?

I didn’t get famous, that’s what. I can’t understand it. I wrote a book and it got published. I thought the logical progression from that point was to lie back, let the shower of riches begin, and enjoy a life of fame and fortune. Sicily, It’s Not Quite Tuscany has been out for nine months. NINE MONTHS! I should have been relaxing on a Majorca beach way back in August.

It gets worse. Look what I discovered the other day when I plugged my name into the search facility of a website: Continue reading

Outstanding! Hurrah! Thanks in your sweat!

Bad book review got you down? I suggest you start a blog. In no time at all, you’ll be on the receiving end of a whole bunch of relentlessly cheerful and laudatory spam messages. These messages are bound to lift your spirits, singling you out for your brilliant writing skills and giving you a great big virtual slap on the back. Sure, the English is stilted – even nonsensical at times – but the sentiment is clear. And here’s the great thing: no matter how vigilant you are about deleting these messages, they just keep stacking up, day after day, night after night. I’m told that this phenomenon is referred to in the industry as Black Hat SEO, but hey, whatever. It’s awesome! Hurrah!! Here, then, is just a small sample of the hundreds of exclamation-mark-laden eulogies I’ve received in recent weeks (because, you know, I deserved them): Continue reading

I came, I saw, I festivalled

So, I’m just back from a festival in Byron Bay. No, not Splendour in the Grass, though as a former regular attendee of Splendour, I’m sorry I missed that one – even with the three feet of diatomaceous ooze that apparently covered the site as a result of rain, mud, spilt beer and dunnies.

I’m talking instead of the fantastic Byron Bay Writers’ Festival. This was my first literary festival as one of the participating “artists”, for want of a much more appropriate word. It was a nice coincidence that it was in my home town. I took part in three panels, all of them enjoyable and all with big and appreciative crowds. (Thanks, folks.) Continue reading

How to pretend that you’ve read my book

I know I’ve been promising this for a while, but the photo galleries for Sicily, It’s Not Quite Tuscany are now online for your viewing pleasure. Just click on the “Galleries” tab, above, and choose a chapter from the drop-down menu. (Chapters 11-20 are coming soon!)

The photos cover most of the incidents from the book, so if you’ve not read it yet, you’ll be able to look at the images and pretend you have. Regrettably, there’s no photo of Gill cutting my hair with her infamous “trepanning” technique and none of our Vespa crash or resulting injuries. (What sort of journo am I?) However, you do get some bonus photos of things that don’t appear in the book – such as this awesome pair of Cannibal Power slippers I bought in the Catania markets against my wife’s express wishes. (The bone in the cannibal’s hair even glows in the dark!) Continue reading

The Ballad of Elton John (coda)

If you’ve been reading this blog (you have been reading it, right? Like, slavishly reading it?), you’ll know that my first book, Sicily, It’s Not Quite Tuscany, was released with the surprise addition of 20 or so unwanted typesetting glitches. (For those who don’t know about this minor saga, you can find more details here and in The Sydney Morning Herald, here.) Continue reading

Catania sunrise

Early morning at the Porto di Catania, Sicily. A week later, Mount Etna filled the sky (and our apartment courtyard) with lava and ash following her most explosive flank eruption in a century and a half. The eruption lasted three months. (Hence the subtitle of my book…)

In the press

When I was five, my photo appeared in The Northern Star, Lismore’s daily newspaper. (For those who don’t know Lismore, congratulations! No, I honestly don’t mean that. Lismore is a country town in northern NSW, near Byron Bay; it’s where I went to school.) The photo showed me and my sister Katie clinging to a rope swing on a hot afternoon out at the Lismore Lake. It was on the front page, too, so it must have been a slow news day. (Often the case in Lismore.)

Happily, after a hiatus of many years, I’ve just appeared in the Star again (“Hooked on Books”, 19 April). One of the paper’s journos interviewed me about appearing at the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival in August. Continue reading