Books and stuff

After seeing a bloke on the train yesterday morning reading a Superman comic, I won’t feel ashamed for watching the kids’Thunderbirds DVDs anymore. Speaking of which, I discovered the other day that episode 6 of this series "The Mighty Atom" features a nuclear accident in Australia, and for a time it looks as though Melbourne will have to be evacuated. Thankfully favourable weather conditions prevail, the nuclear cloud is blown elsewhere, and the "Melbourne Herald" (which was a real newspaper until about 1990) trumpets "Melbourne Saved!" So that’s something of a relief, I can tell you.

Any other Thunderbirds devotees might want to snap up the DVDs now that they’re available for less than $10 each at places like JB’s. The remixed sound of Thunderbirds one and two taking off is particularly impressive if you pump up the volume.

[Ben Elton - Gridlock]
Ben Elton’s Gridlock – a bible for public transport advocates

A week or two back in a conversation the topic turned to authors of note. Someone
talked about Jonathan Franzen
, and I spent a minute or two silently listening to others’ comments, as to pipe in on a discussion about an author I know nothing about would be to declare my ignorance to the world. Or at least, the people in the room. Sounds like I’ve been missing out. From what I’ve heard, it would be well worth my while to dip into some of his stuff. It sounds terribly… well, intelligent.

And then I was asked: Who did I look up to in the literary (or otherwise creative) world? Brain, quick, into gear, who fits the bill? Think of someone, anyone! All I could come up with was Ben Elton. I’ve long admired Ben’s work, from his early TV such as The Young Ones, to his stand-up (which frequently causes me to bust a gut) to his oh-so-close-to-home novels.

His books really are incredible insights into modern society.

Gridlock is something of a bible for public transport advocates. In one section he writes about a transport minister’s media stunt on a bicycle:

Corker had specifically asked the press office to invite some cameras, in order that her first bustling day as Minister for Transport might be duly recorded… Just around the corner from the Ministry, Corker had her driver stop the car and remove from the boot a collapsible bicycle. "Have you got the yellow reflector sash?" Corker whispered. "Yes, Madam, here you are." The driver handed it over and Corker pushed off. "Ching ching," went her bell. "Shifto you chaps, I’ve a department to run," she shouted cheerily, wobbling towards the hack pack on her unaccustomed steed.
— Ben Elton "Gridlock", 1991

Pah, you claim. Sure, it’s funny, but how unlikely!

…the Premier had farewelled dull care to cycle across an Eltham Rugby pitch in close formation with the Lycra-clad Minister for Transport. The bike helmets came off for the benefit of the assembled press, revealing Mr Batchelor’s well-elevated hat hair and the Premier’s usual impreccably plastered astroturf. There was no shortness of breath as the policy statements were delivered, but don’t be too impressed. The government car with the bike rack had parked just across the oval.
— Jonathon Green reporting in The Age, 22/11/2002

Similarly, it’s becoming more apparent with every week of Big Brother 3 thatDead Famous is a stunningly accurate portrayal of the genre.

Elton is clever, no doubt. But is he in the same intellectual league as Franzen? Dunno. Perhaps I’ll give Franzen a go and judge for myself, though also vying for my literary attention at the moment are a pile of David Koch books my dad has offered to lend me. Knowing dad they’re probably personally signed by the author, but I’ll give them a look – while they may notinclude any familiar characters like Year Of Living Dangerously, they will surely give me an additional topic of conversation when chatting to dad, something that would definitely be a help at the moment.

11pm. I got home tonight to find to my surprise that most of my block of flats was painted while I was out today, to a kind of sandy colour.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.