Monday, October 23, 2017

Fortnight 19 of the Burns

Fortnight 19 summary

Total wordcount: 14,660 (65% on the novel, 29% essays, 3% on the blog and 3% on poetry)
1st week: 9,251
2nd week: 5,409

That Thursday (19 October)


I woke to news that Gord Downie had passed away.

I wrote about Gord's brain cancer and The Hip most recently in my April Consumption Diary. It's the tip of the iceberg, really. The Tragically Hip have been an obsession of mine for the last 15 years; their music has underwritten so much of my creativity over that time.

One nice thing: Gord managed one last album (a double LP called Introduce Yerself) which comes out on the 27th of October. I'm working on something to accompany the album dropping, and hopefully it'll find a home somewhere online...


The fates (or the editors of the Otago Daily Times) chose that same day for the publication of my profile in the local paper, a full two months after the interview and (very brief) photo shoot.

(I'm so over thinking about my writing (and being written about) in terms of juggling paid employment, family and writing. One of the great things about this year is writing and money have been pretty well merged. But IT IS temporary. So I guess I'll just have to run the risk of looking like a part-timer until I have another book to speak on my behalf.)


In the afternoon, the Sacramento Kings played their first game of the new NBA season. There are zero expectations in terms of winning or the playoffs for the squad this year, but half the roster have one or fewer years experience in the NBA, and it's going to be fascinating how the young guys develop.

Against Houston, they delivered the expected 'L', but the game was great to watch and the young guys who made it onto the court played well. I noted in Fortnight 11 that I was sceptical about D'Aaron Fox, but so far he's proving me wrong.


I went to a talk at 5:15pm on 'Fake Religions, Fake News and the Allure of Fiction', by Carole M Cusack from the Universtiy of Sydney. As I'm writing a book that features a fictional cult (which touches on but is not the sole representation of a kind of alternative spirituality), this was very timely.

After a bit of academic calisthenics, Cusack provided an interesting survey of new religions that have appeared since the 1960s, predominantly those inspired by works of fiction (the Church of All Worlds, Jediism, Matrixism, Dudeism, Bronies, etc).

It was fascinating, if a little superficial (such is the nature of surveying such a proliferation of movements in an hour).

During the Q&A, Cusack mentioned the 4 million Americans who claim to have been abducted by aliens, and how she was looking into ufology: was there something in it, or was it a case of cascading mindsets?

I probably asked questions in about 2% of Q&As I attend - I just don't think of questions, and if I do, they're so niche I feel no one else would benefit from hearing the answer. But in this case, surrounded by a lot of Religious Studies academics and students, the whole talk was probably too niche, so I thought what the hey.

I asked what is it about new age, syncretic religions, like Damanhur in Turin (and now elsewhere), that do a really good job of selecting good aspects from the religious pick'n'mix that's available to them, but then they go and overreach by believing in something like UFOs or, in the case of Damanhur, time travel? Is it that they feel that to be a religion they need something beyond human comprehension? Or is it, more cynically, a marketing thing: to cut through the noise of the other movements, they need something to hang their hat on?

Both were likely, according to Cusack, who also noted that in many countries, in order to be acknowledged as a religion (and thus receive favourable treatment in terms of tax etc) the legal process definitely privileges those with out-there beliefs.


When I got home and switched on the news, Winston had finally made up his mind and went with Labour (and, implicitly, The Greens).

My Twitter bubble was going bananas.

It'll certainly be what 19 October 2017 will be most remembered for around these parts... But my wife told me Downie's passing was on the list of most read articles on earlier in the day, and I'll cling to that.

Tales of Chip Pnini

The week previous, The Spinoff published my piece called: 'Everything wrong with NBA 2K18’s MyCareer mode and one possible solution'. It doesn't cover everything, but it gives you a good idea of my take.

And reader, I'm still playing.

Taieri Gorge Railway

On Saturday, we (wife, two kids and in-laws) went on the Taieri Gorge Railway to Pukerangi, then got a shuttle to Middlemarch, biked the first 5kms of the Central Otago Rail Trail (enough to know it was not enough; but more than enough for the two pre-schoolers).

On Sunday the train ran from Middlemarch, so we caught it back to Dunedin. Another great wee trip. Bless you Otago.

Debris from the flood a couple months back

Last for a reason

How's the novel going? Let's just say I read a takedown of Dan Brown's latest book this morning (as if he hadn't been taken down in all the ways you might approach literature a hundred times over; like, the only reason I read it was to see why anyone would go through that effort in 2017, but I'm still none the wiser) and found myself thinking: shit, a reviewer could say these things about MY NOVEL!! 

I tell myself that, even if that was true about what on the page (or some of the pages) at the moment, the manuscript exists as an incomplete first draft. I can get rid of the Brownisms and make scenes that aren't working work with a bit of elbow grease on the next go round.

But far out. Can I get to the end of this thing already so I can spend my days making it better rather than making it feel worse?!?!?

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