4 Days of Monkey Mayhem

4 Days Till WorldCon.

I went to the Melbourne Writer’s Festival today and yesterday.  As usual, there were an interesting mix of speakers and topics.

Kim Stanley Robinson is a smart and interesting speaker and talked about science and history.

Simon Winchester talked about travel writing and travelling in Asia and how Google had come to his rescue when he’d been stranded in a remote region of China.

Bob Hawke and his former speech writer Graham Freudenberg talked about Freudenberg’s history of Winston Churchill and Australia and writing about the history of politics.  An audience member tried to steer the discussion into more recent history and asked Bob Hawke what he thought Julia Gillard had done wrong.  Hawke laughed and said he didn’t think it was covered in Freudenberg’s book.

I discovered a new writer that I hadn’t heard of before: Tom Jokinen, who has written Curtains, a book about working in the funeral industry.  I love morbid humor and books like Mary Roach’s Stiff.  I picked up a copy of Curtains.  The opening paragraph indicates that I’ll enjoy the book:

Two rules for picking up a body at the hospital, known as “removal”: (1) Make sure it’s the right one.  This business, when you shake it down to first principles, is the burial or cremation of the dead, two relatively irreversible acts.  Mistakes are frowned upon.  Please check the ID carefully; and (2) Never stop for food on the way back to the funeral home when you’re “carrying”, not even at a drive-thru.  It’s bad for the brand, and is apt to put other drive-thru-ers of their doughnuts.

I also went to a session on writing about cities and how cities change over time.  The first speaker immediately lost the audience by unfavorably comparing Melbourne with Sydney, whereas the next speaker went on to say how much he preferred Melbourne to Sydney.  It’s funny how often people can fall into these familiar patterns of disagreement.  At the session on travelling in Asia, one of the first things the Chinese writer did was talk about how bad he thought Japan was.

As someone who has travelled widely and had lots of different experiences in cities, it is pretty clear to me that your opinion of a city is shaped by which parts you see, what happens while you’re there, who you meet, whether you speak the language and what the weather is like.  And this means that people can easily have completely different experiences and opinions of the same city.

I recently came across a post talking about Sudan’s plans to build cities in the shapes of animals.

Via Strange Maps

And for a fix of monkey news, we once again turn to the island nation of Japan.

Wild monkeys go on rampage in Shizuoka Prefecture leaving 43 injured

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