Category Archives: Reading & Surfing

Lower Class Warfare – Joe Bageants’ Working Poor Vs. Things Bogans Like

Over the Xmas period, when time allowed in our hectic schedule, I read several books, notably, Joe Bageants’ ‘Deer Hunting With Jesus – Dispatches from America’s Class War’, and then backed it up with ‘Things Bogans Like’ by… well, I’m not too sure who the author is, because they didn’t appear too keen to put their name on the book; and after reading it, I now know why.

   

Joe returned to his hometown, Winchester, in rural Virginia, and wrote about the struggle of the working poor there, and their history in the region.  For the most part he paints a bleak picture.  Lack of health care, expensive real estate, loan shark scams, and brutal industrial relations policies have literally beggared the working classes, not only in Winchester, but throughout America.  The Haves, have roundly beaten down the Have Nots. 

And here in Oz, they’ve found someone else happy to ‘sink the boot’ into the downtrodden. 

  Feeling the need for some light relief, I opened the pages of ‘What Bogans Like’, and after finishing it, felt a little disgusted.  The very people Joe described in Deer Hunting, were being held up again for ridicule by another elitist who sneers down on the chattering classes.   

Joe says, if you must look down on someone, then instead of looking on them in disgust and fear, try helping them up instead.  Ignorance is a deadly trap.  Particularly for the Redneck / Bogan, who  can see all this stuff happening around them, but you don’t know why, and when they try to find out, are lied to, mislead, or betrayed.  Often, the first plane flight for the lower classes is the one taking them to Iraq or Afghanistan (or anywhere else their rulers want to ship them to fight their dirty wars). 

Maybe I was wrong, perhaps Bogans is actually a cheeky guide on how to avoid the many traps set in front of the poor, gullible, uneducated and desperate by the numerous sharks, corporations, and dodgy businesses, determined to keep milking the Bogan cash cows.  If it was written with that aim in mind, then they’ve missed their target by miles.

Both books dealt with people in the lower economic, educational & social stratas, but while one offered a helping hand, the other did nothing but make fun of an already humiliated and over exploited group.  

In the next few weeks, I’ll do what many Bogans do, reach for the remote control, some fatty snack foods, and probably a little alcohol to self medicate my frustration and lighten up a little.  Old Caesar was right, give the prols Bread and Circuses to keep them from thinking, getting upset, and toying with revolution.  

Nothing has changed really 🙂

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Ugly Dave Gray & Charlie Pickering – A Blast from the Past Collides with the Present

This week I read, in fits and starts, Ugly Dave Grays’ autobiography.  Dave is a born entertainer, someone used to doing things ‘his’ way, because his way gets results.  But, as is the case with a lot of stars, and sportsfolk, they are really only good at one thing, and Dave’s is making people laugh.  He used to make me laugh as a boy, and later when he was doing those ads for shonky nasal spray ‘medication’ for impotent chaps. 

Sadly, what Dave is not, is a writer.  The book, ‘It’s Funny Being Ugly’ is a glaring testimony to this, and another case for people to stick to what they are best at, and hire others to do the heavy lifting on the other projects.  I can’t help but think that a half decent ghost writer would have made a big difference to sales of this book, and possibly reinvigorated Dave’s aging career.

Another example from a similar time was Lee Iaccocca’s biography.  Lee’s first book, written by an unknown ghostwriter with real talent and skill as a wordsmith, was a runaway success.  Lee’s second book, written by himself, possibly to save money, was a flop.  A real stinker that read like a snotty teens’ journal.

On the other hand, a comedian turned writer who does have some writing talent is the 7PM Projects’, Charlie Pickering. 

I actually did Laugh Out Loud (quite often) reading his book, Impractical Jokes, a rollicking yarn involving young Charlie, his father, and his fathers’ best friend engaged in a funny suburban vendetta of topping eachothers’ practical jokes.  It was witty, insightful, immature, unbelievably funny, and I can’t recommend it highly enough!

But back to Ugly Dave Gray, who is from a generation that learned to make do with whatever came their way, and survive, and succeed.  Honestly, how many of today’s comedic stars could hold their own in the brutal world of clubs and corporate gigs year after year.  Dave’s tenacity, coupled with talent, and a hell of a lot of hard work made him successful first in England, then here in Oz. 

Whereas Charlies’ generation is made up of people who want the big time without putting in the necessary grind to earn it.  It must piss Dave off quite a lot to see that they are getting exactly that!  I couldn’t imagine Charlie working 5 nights a week on his TV show for $75 per episode like Ugly Dave did for two years on Blankety Blanks.  Even factoring in inflation rates, Dave’s earnings were pitiful by comparison.  Still, it put his name up there, and that got him work. 

Those meagre earnings were probably why he couldn’t afford a good ghostwriter… which begs the question, perhaps it’s best to not write at all?

For those of you reading this, who have made a bit of a name for yourselves, and are considering scribbling your life story, I offer the following advice: 

Call me… and I’ll help you find someone who can write it  🙂

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Adrian Mole The Prostate Years – The Saga Continues

I’ve been following Adrians’ adventures since the early ‘eighties’, from age 13 and three quarters, to his alleged adulthood.  My mother bought the book, read it, then gave it to me and said, “This is you!”  I read it and thought, “JESUS!  This isn’t me?!  I’m not like this!” 

But there is more Adrian about me than I’ll admit.

Ado and I are approximately the same age, we share a love of reading, a slightly distorted view of reality, and an inbuilt sense of duty, which means we ‘do the right thing’ even though we grumble about it.  Add to the list, total self absorption, selfishness, poor dress sense, and an almost pathalogical self belief/optimism regarding our writing abilities.  So, reading his diaries is sometimes a little too close to the bone.

Sue Townsend, Adrians’ creator, has said that she based the books on her own son, Sean, the poor bugger…

Anyway, I along with the rest of the planet, believed Sue had finally written Adrian a happy ending at the end of “‘Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction”.  He had married a beautiful woman, lived in a converted pigsty, had a great job at a small bookshop, and was, possibly for the first time in his life, Happy. 

So, you can imagine my surprise last week while shambling through the library, I came across “Adrian Mole – The Prostate Years”.  I took it home, and devoured the next chapter of Adrians’ life in less than a day.  The poor bugger has once again been struck by the Fickle Finger of Fate and the extremely Dirty Digit of Destiny.  Ado has prostate cancer.  His marriage is on the rocks, the bookshop is in trouble, he is still being hounded for back taxes, and his son is still at war, this time in Afghanistan. 

I won’t tell you how it ends, but it looks as if this won’t be the last Adrian Mole book.  Unless, of course, Sue is forced to stop writing.  Recently, her son Sean, the one who Adrian is alleged to be based on, gave his mother one of his kidneys, so Sue, at the age of 65, may not have much time left to produce another Adrian title.  It’s a sure bet she won’t be around long enough to put him into a retirement home!

For those of you interested in seeing what Adrian looks like, here’s a pic:

  I look nothing like this… I don’t even own a woolly cardie!

 

 

 

 

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Les Norton is back, High Noon in Nimbim

Just finished reading the latest Les Norton yarn, High Noon in Nimbin.  Not a bad read, everything you’d want from Robert G. Barretts hero.  Fun, travel, adventure, sex, violence, and restaraunt reviews.  Les finds himself up to his ears in trouble again, and as usual, finds a unique way to save the day, make a few bucks, belt the daylights out of some idiots, and takes some time out to ‘throw a few ladies up in the air’. 

Just your typical Aussie holiday  🙂

I was first introduced to Les in the early 90’s, it was a defining moment, an old workmate surprised me by announcing, “I’ve just read a book!”  This from a bloke who didn’t even read papers!  He’s one of many people I know who haven’t read a book since highschool, but have since become life long readers thanks to Robert G. Barrett.  Bob gets told this quite a lot.  And good on him.  If more people are reading because of his writing, then that’s a remarkable legacy to leave the world.     

Anyway, I was intrigued, so I slipped down to the local library and borrowed ‘The Day of The Gecko’.  It was a roaring yarn, and I instantly fell under the spell of the big redheaded Queenslanders’ charm.  Les, is a bit of an outsider.  A country boy earning a living in Sydney as a bouncer at an illegal casino.  He’s witty, got more than a touch of luck, likes a laugh, is popular with the ladies, and always finding trouble and dealing with it in his own ‘special way’. 

I’ve been hooked ever since.  And when I put my father onto Bobs’ books he rang me up and said, “Hey, you met some of these blokes in these yarns!” 

“Yeah?  Who?”

“Well, the casino owner,” explained Dad, “Price Galese, is Perce Galea.  He lived down the road from your Aunt in Sydney.  He used to wash his big yank tank in front of her house.  He once said to me, ‘Hey mate, I reckon I could fit your VW into my boot,’ and I told him he’d have to take all the bodies out first!” 

Dad continued rattling off a few more yarns, and I marvelled at how bloody small this country is.  Then, back in the mid-90’s we all flew to Cairns for my sisters’ wedding.  Guess who else was in town, yep Bob.  He was doing book signings, and some research for his next novel.  Try as we might, do you think we could find the bastard?!  Our fate, it seemed, was to arrive at destinations he’d visited the day before.  We did it without even trying.  It seemed that everywhere we went in Far North Qld, people were raving about the ‘Orfer feller, who rites them funny, dirty, fighting stories, who wuz here yestiday.’ 

So, when I read Goodoo Goodoo, it was like reading a travel brochure on the trip we had taken up North… minus the fighting, sex, and scary monster.

Then a little while back, we drove down the coast of NSW, and guess who had just finished a tour around the joint?  Yep.  Bob.  I’m thinking of writing to him and asking him where he’s headed next year, just to give me an idea of where we’ll be going down the track 🙂

Anyway, High Noon isn’t a bad yarn, and while it didn’t knock my favourite Les Norton story from 1st place, it didn’t disappoint either.  My opinion of Nimbin matched Bobs, I was singularly unimpressed with the joint.  Pretty, but seedy.  Some genuinely nice folk, but a lot of bad buggers about too.  I may take the family there one day… but then again.

Anyway, I’ve included a link here, about Bob http://www.robertgbarrett.com.au/about%20bob/bio.htm  he’s like a lot of blokes I’ve met in heavy industry, funny, wry, and incisive.  He’s full of bull, but at the same time a straight up and down sort of person.  And one day I’ll meet him, shake his hand, buy him a beer… or let him buy me one, and have a few laughs.  If I can find him in time that is 🙂

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American Journeys by Don Watson

I bought Don’s book in Maleny last year, and slotted it into the pile in the drawers next to my bed.  On impulse I picked it up last week and started to read where Don began his journey around America, by train, car, and train, starting off at New Orleans. 

It’s an eye-opening read, and by the end of the book I was left with a feeling of unease about our ‘Bigger Brother’.  Americans’ blind faith in religion and the shonky preachers who demand dollars from the faithful, the rise of the right wing nut cases with blanket coverage on TV and radio, the growing number of hate groups, the desperate plight of the working poor battling to literally survive in an unofficial class war.  The brutality of ruthless corporations.  The futility of their government.  Free speech vs. the right to own a gun and shoot anyone who speaks freely.  So open minded yet so restrictive.  The horrors of their rapidly expanding prison system… 

America appears to be a place of wonder, fun, adventure, and hope, but at the same time desperation, terror, futility, ruthlessness and arrogance.  I put the book down and thanked Odin that I live in Oz 🙂  But it was Dons’ words that bought me back to earth: 

When anti-American feelings sneak up on you, when you think the democracy is a bit of a sham, the people are ruled by ignorance and fear and no good can come of the place – think of the music. 

No people on earth make music like the Americans – no one else comes close. 

And he’s right.  In spite of all the things that may concern us about America, they’ve certainly nailed the music!  God bless ’em.

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My Favourite Australian Writers

The follow up to my earlier post, this is the list, by no means comprehensive, of my fave Australian writers / books. 

Norman Lindsay – Age of Consent.  Old Norman was a dirty sod.  But he could paint, and as this book bears out, he was a scribbler of some talent.   

Ion Idriess – most of his scribblings.  The language is getting dated, but he tells a good yarn.

Colin Bowles – Adventures of a flying doctor in north western Australia.  Very enjoyable read.   

Tom Cole – Hell West and Crooked.  Buffalo and crocodile hunting, along with some fascinating insights to Australia’s pioneering days.  His follow up book, The Last Paradise, details his work in Papua New Guinea after the war, tea planting, and shooting some monster crocs.  Very gutsy bloke.  But not as gutsy as the natives who used to leap into the water to catch the shot crocs before they sank! 

John O’Grady –  if there’s a bad J O’G book then I’m yet to read it!

Frank Hardy – I’ve read most of Franks’ stuff, Power Without Glory, Retreat Australia Fair, Billy Borker Yarns, and other selected novels, (Outcasts of Foolgarah) and collections of short stories.

Hugh Lunn – Over the Top with Jim.  Behind the Banana Curtain.

Hector Holthouse – impeccable research, good yarn spinner.

Robert G. Barrett – The Les Norton books are a favourite, and have proven very popular with workmates who haven’t read a novel since their school days.  Bob’s laconic, humorous, and down to earth writing style appeals to a wide range of readers.  Very popular up here as it’s always good to read about a Queenslander belting the living daylights out of New South Welshmen.

Simon Haynes – Hal Spacejock was the first e-novel I read.  Well written, captivating and rollicking yarn.  It’s available as a free download from here: http://www.spacejock.com.au/  

Mike Hayes –  Mike’s Prickle Farm books had me laughing out loud, and I’m very sorry I loaned them to a mate who never returned them.

Kenneth Cook –  Attack of the Killer Koala, Frilled Neck Frenzy and other humorous short stories.  Ken used to write a weekly column for People magazine (back when it wasn’t a porn mag), and I used to quite look forward to his barely believable, but extremely funny yarns.  Again, lent my complete collection to another mate who has disappeared off the face of the earth. 

AB Facey – A Fortunate Life.  Not very fortunate.  Bloody hard going actually.  But still a good read. 

Peter Watt – Cry of the Curlew is the first of several novels that tell a roaring yarn about the early days of the Australia.  Peter has style very similar to Wilbur Smith, and each book is a page turner from start to finish.  Highly recommended. 

Bill ‘Swampy’ Marsh – found Looking for Dad in my local library years ago and became an instant fan.  Bill was one of the first authors I emailed many years ago, and I received a very well written, humorous response the next day.  Unfortunately I lost the damned email, because it was great source of motivation for me.  His collection of Australiana yarns are well worth a read. 

Poetry

Henry Lawson – I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for Harry.  I like Banjo’s poetry, but Henry will always top him.  Faces in the Street, Andy’s Gone with Cattle, and selected short stories, some funny, some tragic. 

Banjo Paterson – The Man from Snowy River still brings a chill down the back of my neck.   

Creeve Rowe (Victor Daley) – Ballad of Eureka.  Brings tears to my eyes every time I read it: “… but the river of St. Lawrence he would never see again…”    

Many of the above writings I’ve got stashed away here at home, and I re-read them from time to time.  With a bit of luck, one of my children will get as much enjoyment from them as I have over the years. 

Feel free to contact me with your favourites, because I’m always looking for new authors to add to my list.

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Popular Australian Books… I don’t like

My earliest memories of enjoying Aussie scribbling would be a collection of works of Henry Lawsons poems which I discovered in Grade 4 as a student in Innisfail State School.  Actually, now that I think about it, what sort of freak kid likes to read poetry?  Me I suppose…

Like most kids I loved short stories, comic books, and tales of adventure, and when the wonderful librarian at my school pointed me towards Oz writers, it was Colin Thiele who stood out.  There is a generation of us who can’t look at a pelican without thinking, “Mr Percival!”  Around this time I can also remember chuckling away at the adventures of Captain Midnite (the outbacks’ worst bushranger) by Randolph Stow. 

But for the most part, my reading was made up mostly of English writers, with a smattering of American titles (Minibike Hero springs to mind).  But it was the story, Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson which stood out above the pack.

At 13 I discovered Tolkien.  I think I read The Hobbit twice in one weekend, only taking time out to eat and sleep, sparingly 🙂  Imagine my delight at discovering that our hero’s story continued in The Lord of the Rings

A host of other authors followed, but recently I decided to start adding the works of some of the more popular Australian writers to my list of books conquered.  I grabbed a list from my local library and dug in. 

Let me just say, that I really, really wanted to like these books, but if you haven’t got my attention, piqued my interest, or hooked me by page 150, then I’m not going to make it to the end of the yarn.  So, in no particular order, here are a list of books I won’t be reading again:    

Nick Earls Zig Zag Street.  

Tim Winton: Cloudstreet & Open Swimmer.  I’d heard nothing but rave reviews for Cloudstreet, and for the writings of Tim Winton.  Radio National announcers love his work, and aren’t afraid of letting you know about it either, but, here in Central Qld, one reader was a tad disappointed to discover that he was bored witless by page 50, and ended up speed reading it to the inevitable dismal conclusion.  I gave Open Swimmer a whirl, and somewhere about a third of the way through the book I put it down with a weary sigh and closed the cover.     

Peter Carey: The Tax Inspector.  I did finish this one, and was sorry I did.  It was disjointed, and the ending seemed tacked on.  The next title The Illywhacker I opened in the aisle of the library, read the first chapter and put it back on the shelf.  My hand hovered over The True History of the Kelly Gang, but I gave it a miss.  My father gave it the thumbs up, so I may make the effort one day.   

I started to read two of Di Morrissey’s books, The Bay and The Reef, but failed to connect with the characters.  Ok, I’m probably not in Di’s target readership, but I prefer the works of other female authors… some of them write for Mills and Boon (don’t ask me how I know this). 

Bryce Courtenay: The Potato Factory and Tommo and Hawk.  Didn’t finish either of them, and wouldn’t even if someone paid me. 

For the Term of His Natural Life by Marcus Clarke.  The ‘prison misery’ genre is not one I particularly enjoy.  Papillon and The Shawshank Redemption are undoubtedly fine movies, but I’m not going to back up and watch them again either.  I did get to the end of this one, but it was not a particularly enjoyable experience. 

And that is the key.  I like fun, hope, adventure, and escapism.  The books above appeal to many other readers, and they have legions of fans who gush over the titles, unfortunately they just don’t do ‘it’ for me. 

But it’s a good thing that there are others out there who do!  Stay tuned folks to see which Oz writers press my buttons 🙂

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