Another whitewash

A HUNDRED demons were slain at the Wanderers as the Australian tail-enders took their side to the verge of victory and then completed the task.The wisdom of Peter Roebuck

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We beat South Africa 3-zip in the greatest form of cricket. I got home just in time to catch the last days of the third test. Wow! It was fabulous, evenly poised throughout. Is there anything better than a test match when either side can win right down to the very last ball? No, there is not.

Some men don’t deserve to finish on the losing side. But that is the nature of sport. Indeed, it was the message of this match. Although sport has its heroes and its victims, both live to fight another day.further wisdom of Mr Roebuck

I’m all for Australia beating all comers and yet, it woulda been nice if South Africa had won this one; if Makhaya Ntini had won it. With ten wickets he so deserved this win. And it sure seemed like most of the dodgy decisions went against South Africa. On the other hand it was one of ours boys what got sconned.

Now no test cricket until we play Bangladesh. Call me cynical, but I doubt anything there’ll come within cooee of the test at the Wanderers. But at least Mr Roebuck will be able to drag out all his minnows and David and Goliath metaphors . . .

Ask Dr* Justine

I know I’m a teeny bit obsessed with search terms that lead to my website (especially when deadlines loom), but today’s list was a truly bumper crop. Here are my faves:

Q: does euphoria mean something bad?

Dr Justine says: It can. It really really can. Over-the-top happiness can lead to all sorts of injuries. I broke my toe that way once.

Q: where does andrew symonds lives 2006?

A: Ya know, I have a feeling it’s prolly better that you don’t find out. Leave the poor bastard alone. He’s injured and in South Africa. Stalk someone else!

Q: what genre do first time novelists publish easiest?

A: What now?! There is no answer to this question. There is no magic path to publication. Write the best book you can in the genre you know best. Even then publication is not guaranteed. (Though, actually, I hear mainstream domestic novels like The Ice Storm are a complete doddle to write. No research, don’t you know . . . And highbrow domestic novels are always in high demand.)

Q: similies and metaphors for counselling?

A: Umm. Kind as a sweet-tempered viper?

Q: justine in hippie goddess?

A: Not to my knowledge.

*Yes, I am a real doctor. No, not that kind of a doctor. The same kind of doctor as Dr Kim, Dr E and Dr Jenny.

All Around the World . . .

Looks like 2006 is going to be the year of jetlag travelling for me and Mr Westerfeld. I just updated our appearances pages and it was quite a shock. Brisbane! Bologna! New Orleans! Barely two weeks goes by without us chooffing off somewhere and that’s with only the rock-solid confirmed events listed.

Not that I’m complaining, it’s fantabuloso being asked to do so many different events. And I’ve never been to New Orleans before. How fascinating is that going to be? Very.

In other news: I continue to be very very glad that I am in Sydney, not New York City.

Hiroko Masuike for The New York Times

And Australia thrashes Sri Lanka in the second final. Andrew Symonds gets his first ODI century in Australia and put a lock on his status as biggest Australian yob hero since Boonie. Well, except for Shane Warne, and, oh, never mind. We loves you, Symonds!

Here’s hoping the third final will be a lot closer and not merely a matter of who wins the toss and elects to bat. Oh, how I miss the test cricket . . .

The ODI series gets interesting

How about that Dilshan, eh? I love me some runout action.

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And how fabbie is it that the ODI finals are turning into an actual contest? I’m so very relieved that the explosive Sri Lankans made it rather than the dour South Africans. Plus Bandara is the dead spit of Theo Black. It’s eerie. (Though the resemblance isn’t as clear from photos. If onlly I could get the Blacks to come to Sydney and see Bandara on the tellie. I swear he even moves like Theo.)

Swiped from here

Also, what Peter Roebuck said about Murali.

Oh, and how about that Tuffers? He funny. Ponting? Not so much. You should really worry, Mr Ponting, when our humourless prime minister is on your side on the question of whether something is funny or not.

So, who else has signed up to be part of the Australian Cricket Family? Me, I was there in a flash. There’s little I won’t do to get tickets to the Ashes and jeer noisily at the bloody Poms. Bless ’em!

Hating Cities

I will never understand all the Melbournites who despise Sydney, some of them folks who’ve never even been here. Seriously, I’ve met Melbournites who sneer with disdain at the mere thought of stepping foot in Sydney. The horror they say!

Me, I’m from Sydney. I love it, but I also have a whole lot of time for Melbourne. Melbourne has better licensing laws and thus better bars than Sydney, a better art and live music scene, and (mostly) better clothes shopping. Melbourne has trams. And what is not to love about trams? But Melbourne has little of Sydney’s breath-taking physical beauty, doesn’t have her beaches, or national parks, or fairies, er, I mean ferries, actually I mean both. It doesn’t have the wonderful bike path all the way from Newtown to the beach. Melbourne is, well, kind of dreary looking and its winter is unendurable. Nor does it have many of my favourite restaurants in the world the way Sydney does but, hey, the food is plenty fine in Melbourne too. And, please, do not give me the sacred MCG thing. There’s only one truly beautiful test-hosting cricket oval in Australia and it’s in Adelaide. And anyways my heart belongs to the SCG.

But who am I kidding? I was born here. I’ve spent the majority of my life here. I am completely biased about Sydney.

I’m not asking Melbournites to start loving Sydney. I’m just asking them to be a little reasonable about their over-the-top hatred. There are other cities out there that are actually worth hating (like, you know, um, another Oz city that I will not name because I have friends who live there what will be offended). Sydney ain’t one of them. And while I’m at it, Adelaiders, quit hating Melbourne, okay? You’re just being silly and why hate them when their MCG is ugly and your Adelaide Oval beautimous? You should pity them.

For me to work up a real forth of city hating, it has to be either a) a city I spent a miserable few years of my childhood in, or b) a city where you can’t get around if you don’t drive. Where the public transport and pedestrian access sucks. For this reason I perfectly understand why so many folks in the US of A loathe Los Angeles. Without a car in L.A. you are totally buggered. You have to beg rides from all your friends and are reduced to the status of a helpless child. But you know what? That’s true of almost every city in the USA, which is one of the reason I love NYC and San Francisco so much, they’re perfectly navigable by public transport and in Manhattan you can go wherever you want by shank’s pony. Plus, you know, there are so many places in both cities you’d want to go.

I used to hate London, because every time I’d visited the food was vile and expensive, it was gray, cold and raining (even in “summer”), and the people were obnoxious and rude. On my most recent trip the food was still expensive but it was excellent, the weather was endurable, and I only had one rude encounter, so now London’s in my good books. It certainly passes with flying colours the good public transport and pedestrian getaroundability rule. (Thanks to Niki, Lauren and Andrew for showing me the non-sucky London.)

Cities are who you know. The people who take you in and show you their town. I’ve had wonderful times in Dallas and Austin, Texas neither of them pedestrian friendly. I adore Toronto and it sure ain’t pretty. I’ve enjoyed Brisbane, Rome, Madrid, Bangkok, Jakarta, Dunedin, San Miguel de Allende, Davis and Lisbon—all of them because the people there were amazing and went out of their way to show their town to me. I imagine that even L.A. with the right people in the right light could be kind of okay. And now that my sister‘s moved there I guess I’m going to find out.

Or maybe not. There’s still that bloody car thing.

Done and away and over and off and like that (Updated)

I just pressed the send button, and now Magic! Magic! Magic! Oi! Oi! Oi! is winging its way across the Pacific, and then across mainland USA, all the way to Hudson Street in New York City. Except that, you know, technology, being what it is, my baby is already there. Freaky, eh?

I can now watch the Sri Lanka v South Africa One Day International in good conscience. Who am I barracking for? Sri Lanka, natch. But it would prolly be more interesting for the competition if South Africa won. But, frankly, without Makhaya Ntini South Africa just ain’t that interesting. Even if Sean Pollock does look uncannily like my husband.

Sean Pollock aka Scott Westerfeld (original source)

Can I just say that I love the extreme slow mos? Beautiful.

I have now worked way more than 20 days straight on finishing MorM 3. In that time I also achieved the following:

    wrote the first 500 to 1,000 words of three other novels.

    exchanged many many whingey emails with Holly Black moaning about our novels-in-progress.

    was waited on hand and foot by my most excellent husband.

    resisted reading the second Temeraire book which Naomi Novik so kindly sent me (so. very. difficult.).

    was given a first edition hardcover copy of Steve Waugh’s autobiography by my wonderful Australian publisher, Laura Harris (Something else to resist reading).

    chewed my finger nails way beyond the quick (ewwww! Do you know how many times I’ve sworn I would stop that? Aarrghh!)

    read the last five chapters of my novel to Scott at least three times. Fortunately for him, each time they were completely different!

    wrote five different endings to the novel (two of them so shockingly bad I didn’t read them to Scott).

    watched the first ten episodes of the second series of Battlestar Galactica. Thank you Sean Williams! Thank you Cat Sparks and Rob Hood!

    watched all of Ultraviolet. More thanks to Cat & Rob!

    completely failed to arrange accommodation in Bologna.

    realised that there is no sport on earth remotely as wonderful as cricket.

And now I fall asleep on the couch watching Sri Lanka defeat South Africa. Yea verily, this is the life!

Update: South Africa won! Wowzer.

First novel? Second novel?

There’s a lovely little article by Malcom Knox1 that appeared in last Thursday’s Sydney Morning Herald (I discovered it by way of the lovely Maud Newton). In it he discusses second-novel syndrome (SNS). The inability to write a second novel that can set in after your first novel’s been a success.

Of course, as Knox points out,

true SNS can only exist where the first novel has been hugely successful. All writers know that if you haven’t had a big bestseller, it’s harder to get published next time, no matter what you write; and if you have had a big bestseller, you will be published, no matter what you write.

And there’s the tricky matter of whether a first novel is truly a first novel:

Many novelists’ first published work is actually the third, fourth, seventh or 10th novel they have written. Another Australian author, Venero Armanno, estimated he had written a million words in unpublished novels before his “first book”.

The second published novel is often one that was started and even finished before the first. What the critic praises as the brilliant first book, long in gestation, inspired and innocent, may well be novel No. 8 by that writer; and the condemned second book, “pumped out too quickly”, “too conscious of an audience”, “a disappointing follow-up”, is in fact novel No. 4 that took several years longer. Unless you know the novelist’s working method intimately, you can’t make assumptions.

My first published novel, Magic or Madness, was my third written novel. My fourth, Magic Lessons, which will be my second published novel, was finished before Magic or Madness came out. So whatever (moderate) success MorM has had in no way affected the writing of its sequel. Got that? No, me neither.

Many of the published novelists I know had written more than one novel before they sold one. They kept on writing until the publishing gods at long last smiled. And then they were in the excellent position of having inventory (don’t you love that word? they’re not trunk novels, they’re inventory). Too many unpublished writers obsess about getting their first novel accepted and are so wounded by the failure of their beloved that they forget to write a second or a third one.

In the end Knox decides that if you’re suffering from second-novel syndrome you’re dead lucky—it means you’re a success. And if you’re not suffering from second-novel syndrome than it also means you’re dead lucky cause you’re not suffering from over-inflated expectations—you can work in peace. (It could also mean you’re not a novelist—in which case how smart are you? Very!) It’s all good.

  1. I first came across Knox’s writing when he was cricket correspondent for the SMH. He was excellent, not just smart about the game, but smart about its history, people and politics. (I miss him!) Recently, I read his second novel, A Private Man. Okay, when I say I read it, I’m kind of lying. it was more skimming than reading. One of my many failing is that I’m completely unable to concentrate on the non-cricket bits of a book if I know there’s going to be cricket in it. I wound up skipping all the non-cricket chapters. I can report that the cricket bits were really, really excellent. []

I feel bad for South Africa

They worked so hard and then the weather robbed them of any chance of winning. The declaration was brave. Some would say loopy. It felt like they deserved the win, and yet their bowlers were just too thin on. Get well soon, Mr Ntini.

And how bout that Ponting? No way he’s not getting the Allen Border medal. Two centuries in his 100th test? You bewdy!

Merry, Merry, Happy, Happy

I hope everyone who celebrates today or any of the cluster of days around it—or who’s just enjoying the days off work or school—has a most excellent end of the year. I plan to.

I’d like to adopt the USian custom of giving thanks (yeah, yeah, I know they do it on a different day—whatever!). Here’s what I’m thankful for:

    That I’m home in Sydney living in the best place ever: Flying foxes at dusk! Huge decks! Huge bath tub! Views! Amazing pubs, cafes & restaurants within spitting distance! Southerly breezes!

    That I’m home in the land of continuous cricket coverage! Of beautiful beaches! And the best avocadoes (yes, Mely, you need to move here, not smelly California) and mangosteens and mangoes and all the other yummy fruit and veg my heart pines for!

    Rediscovering all my CDs what have been in storage since forever. Most especially Sepharad: Songs of the Spanish Jews by Sarband. Best CD ever!

    The books beside my bed: The Tale of Genji—started it, but am intimidated by its enormousness, though I really want to take part in this amazing discussion; Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince—started it; Shaman’s Crossing by Robin Hobb; The Fencing Master by Arturo Pérez-Reverte—finished it, loved it!; The Big Ship: Warwick Armstrong and the Making of Modern Cricket by Gideon Haigh—started it; Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm—started it.

    My writing career, and that I can type those words without cacking myself. Yes, I really do have a writing career!

    My family and friends. Especially my family: Jan, John, Niki and Scott, with whom I’m about to do the whole yummy food and wine, pressies, playing-lots-of-games thing! Bring it on!

Hope most everything is wonderful with you lot as well.

Things I Don’t Understand

1. Why the exact same brand toothpaste has radically different packaging in different countries.

2. Why everyone thinks King Kong is the best movie ever.

3. Why no one told me that Lost is excellent genre TV.

4. Why whenever you buy chips in an Oz pub they always come served in a plastic fake-wood bowl.

5. Why cricket isn’t the dominant sport in every country in the world.

6. How anyone could wear gold sandals and not be ironic.

Settling in

Slowly, very, very slowly, and not that surely, I’m settling back into life in Sydney. I have some bookshelves, though no where near enough to cope with all my many, many books. But for the first time in almost three years I can sit and gaze at my first editions of Geek Love, Wide Sargasso Sea, Fireworks, Black Glass and The King Hereafter and all my other beloveds and try to figure out which to re-read first. I’m very, very tempted to start with the Lymond books.

Right now a whole bunch of LJers are reading The Tale of Genji. Having just unearthed my never-read copy I’m very tempted to read along with them. So very tempted . . .

Sadly, the third Magic or Madness book is due scary soon and I’m not exactly on top of it. I have fifty thousand words. Remember? Pretty much the same fifty thousand words I had at the end of my San Miguel sojourn. Not good. But maybe The Tale of Genji will be inspiring . . .

Whoa, Black Caps!

One of the best onedayers I’ve seen in ages. Last over: Black Caps had one wicket left, one run a ball needed, and then two runouts in the last over. I was thinking NZ were absolutely no chance! But they got so very close. What a match!

Is it just me or have ODIs gotten a lot more interesting in the last couple of years? And how about the Brett Lee reversal of fortune? 3/5 in the last match; 1 for a million in this one. How about that Symmo? And Vincent? And Cairns? And Vettori? And Clarke? And Lewis?

And how happy am I that I can watch the baggy greens v the black caps in NZ; Pakistan v England in Pakistan (yay Shoab Akhtar!); and soon Australia v South Africa here in the land of Oz? Very, very: tis glorious to be home with TV access to cricket all over the world.

Quick this and thating

Still no interwebby thing in our new home (I’m at my parents), but at least we can watch the cricket!

There’ve been some comments from actual editors on the gender balance question thing I posted about a while back. Confirming once again that there is no vast conspiracy—it’s all much more complicated than that.

I’m loving our new neighbourhood, Surry Hills, but am less than thrilled about the whole unpacking, organising, cleaning, not finding necessary things etc. Turns out that our flat while fab, lacks certain essentials. There’s hardly any storage, making unpacking really hard cause there’s no where to put anything. And a lack of hooks and railings for the hanging of towels in the bathroom is driving me nuts. Hanging the hand towel from one of the drawers is not the best solution. Also what is it with modern built-in wardrobes being narrower than most coathangers? I mean how did anyone think that was going to work out?! Aren’t wardrobes meant to protect clothes, not squish them?

I’m in love with Dwayne Bravo. What a miracle worker he is. And how much better has this third test been than the first two? So very good to be home in the land of cricket and wry understatment and really really good Thai food. Green mango salad . . .

Move along, people

There are no pictures of Daniel Vettori posted on this blog, with or without his shirt on. So all you folks googling “Daniel Vettori no shirt” or “Daniel Vettori sexy” can just move along to say here. And really, people, Daniel Vettori is not sexy. Michael Holding or Keith Miller now that’s sexy.

ball go fast

One of the freebie books I picked up in Atlantic City is The Believer Book of Writers Talking to Writers. In the intro it mentions that one of the interviews was conducted at a cricket match. So what did I do next? I leafed through every interview until I found that one, which turned out to be Adam Thirlwell talking to Tom Stoppard. But, here’s what a cricket tragic am I—once I got to the interview I skimmed impatiently through discussions of how Stoppard conceives and writes his plays, of Ionesco and Sappho and 9/11 and blah blah bloody blah, trying to find where they talk about the cricket being played in front of them.

I was beginning to think very poorly of Thirlwell and Stoppard. Very poorly indeed. How could you be at a match and discuss all sorts of arty farty blather, but not the actual cricket? How is that possible? For the love of Keith Miller!

Fortunately after pages of blather they finally get to the point, Stoppard applauds—“Oh that’s a just beautiful shot”—but then, horrifyingly fast, they reveal themselves as non-Cricket tragics. Thirlwell fails to discuss said cover drive and Stoppard says that:

Cricket seemed more or less pointless to me if you weren’t actually a wicket-keeper . . . It’s partly to do with the fact that every ball is frightening, if you’re keeping wicket, because there’s a good chance that you’ll have to deal with it if the batsman doesn’t. And, as you know, when it comes to catches being offered, probably three out of five go to the wicket-keeper, generally. So you feel that there’s a lot of responsibility on you, and one is constantly frightened of publicly shaming oneself—by dropping an easy catch or missing an easy stumping—which of course happened to me all the time, but nevertheless that’s what I liked doing.

While I, too, am fascinated by the wicketkeeper, I’m shocked that anyone could disparage all other fielders. I mean to say! What about the slips cordon? Silly mid on? Long leg? I’m not sure I feel quite the same way about Tom Stoppard now . . .

I heart Peter Roebuck

I’m not sure I’ve mentioned how much I adore cricket writer, Peter Roebuck. Mostly it’s cause his over-the-top metaphors and similies crack me up. He funny (and I can never tell whether it’s on purpose or not).

I’m frequently asked why I love the game of cricket so much. It’s a hard question to answer because there are so many answers. One of them has to do with the complex and fascinating history of the game and the countries it’s played in, which Mr Roebuck sums up in his latest piece for the Sydney Morning Herald in a satisfyingly overblown way:

In many respects, cricket is the most unruly of games. Consider its component parts. Ten teams play Test cricket. Two of them have been at loggerheads and sometimes war for 50 years. Two have suffered massacres ignored by the rest of the world, the victims being Ndebele and Tamil. One nation has been bankrupted by a wicked Stalinist, another is ruled by a military dictator. One country is emerging from centuries of racist rule, another lives on the breadline. The West Indies does not even exist. Endlessly frightened Australia is fighting an illegal war and passing disturbing legislation. England is torn between Europe and isolation. Until last week, New Zealand was a haven of sanity.


Oh, and if anyone can tell me why New Zealand is no longer a “haven of sanity”—I’m all ears. Bonus points for anyone who can identify all of the countries mentioned.


So, last night we got to hang out with the smartest group of folks I’ve hung out with in an age (and I hang with much smartness, let me tell you). At the Teen section of Elizabeth Library, New Jersey, we read a little bit, we told anecdotes, got asked very smart and very funny questions, I got to talk Spanish, and afterwards we got to eat great pasta and drink good wine and enjoy more ace conversation.

I read from my great Australian cricket mangosteen Elvis fairy novel, which I feared would tank with the seventeen-year-olds, but they laughed harder than the Brooklyn audience. Yay! I finally wrote something that cracks people up. And some of them knew about cricket. One guy plays it with his Pakistani neighbours. How cool is that? And many loved basketball and knew about the WNBA, not just the NBA! Heaven.

Scott read from Pretties which kind of tanked, and then from Peeps, which went over huge guns. He read about toxoplasma and there was much speculation about who has the parasite and who doesn’t. (Don’t know what I’m talking about? Then you’ll have to read the book, won’t you?) So many of them had read at least one of Scott’s books. One had read all of them and was full of smart questions. I made Scott do his Donald Duck voice and it slayed them best of all (he can harmonise with himself—next time you see him, just ask—he loves to perform on command). There was a queue of people wanting to have their photo taken with Scott. How fab is that?

And at the end, the library gave everyone a copy of one of my books (they had a choice of Magic or Madness or Magic Lessons—yup, Penguin genorously gave them a whole stack of galleys) and one of Scott’s many books. Though some tried sneakily to take two of Scott’s books. The competition over copies of Peeps was intense. We signed for all of them and thus got to talk one on one to everyone. Great idea, no? It was fabulous fun and I want to do it again.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love libraries? And librarians? And people who love libraries and librarians? No? Well, I really, really, really do.

Back in the US of A (briefly)

After a month of no motorised transport there was a vast deal today. Cars, planes, taxis. We went from San Miguel to Mexico City to New York City. We are tired. Tomorrow there will be trains: to Brooklyn and back (see previous post). The day after that buses to Atlantic City. It’ll be broom broom broom all the time. I will pine for walks on cobble-stoned streets.

Since I promised Cherie that I’d blog every day once I left Mexico. I’m blogging at this late hour despite fatigue. How good am I? Say thank you, Cherie. Also tomorrow seems to be too chockers for blogging so I thought I’d sneak it in early.

Things that i achieved in San Miguel:

photos of hummingbirds
grew actual fingernails
50 thousand words of final Magic or Madness book
Scott and me arranged mercy killing of one tiny, tiny, very hungry, very lame kitten (I’d tell you more but I’d start crying)

Things that have happened in the world in my absence that aren’t horrible and tear-inducing:

Australia thrashed the World XI in one-day fixtures and look well placed in one-off six-day test, mostly on account of the glories of the spin twins Warne and MacGill

My sister had her time working on King Kong extended—Yay!!!

I’m sure there were other things but I’m too tired to think.

Sleep now.

Cake, Champagne, Pamplonada

Still having fun, still writing up a storm. I believe I’m now a third of the way into Magic or Madness III (and, yes, I have my fingers crossed that, finally, one of the trilogy will have the preferred title: Magic! Magic! Magic! Oi! Oi! Oi!). Being a third in works out well as we’re now a third of the way into our stay here. How bout that?

Was me birthday last week and Luz’s lovely sister baked me a cake:

It was dead good. Champagne was drunk. Poker was played. Excellent presents were received. Not to mention all the wonderful birthday calls. And I wrote a bunch of words. Yay, me.

Also, just to add to the birthday celebrations ’twas the week of Pamplonada, the Mexican running of the bulls. This meant even more rockets going off than usual as well as lots of wealthy (and a few not so wealthy) folk from all over Mexico descending on San Miguel for three or four days of drinking, fornicating, bull taunting, and, in some cases, broken bones and concussions. Imagine a slightly older schoolies week with bulls (for you Usian-types think spring break, Fort Lauderdale and bulls). The average age seemed to be early twenties.

Many of the newcomers were from Mexico City, invoking a mixture of awe and disgust in the locals as only wealthy, young, glossy folk from the big city can. I overheard one young local lass, saying to her friends,

“I do, too, have friends from Mexico [City]! Lots of them. You’ll see.”

“Who cares?” replied her friend. “They’re all [rough translation] unpleasant people.”

The uniform for the girls was tight jeans, high heel boots, shirt and cowboy hat. For the boys: jeans, boots, white shirt/T-shirt with red kerchief and cowboy hat. It’s amazing how such a simple look can speaks volumes as to class and wealth.

The Pamplonada, itself, was not at all what I was expecting. I’d been imagining a large amount of bulls let out at once and blokes in front running like buggery. In San Miguel they let one bull out at a time, the huge crowd parts, while all the bravest, cockiest and stupidest blokes do their best to provoke the bull into going them, waving tiny red kerchiefs, or big, full-on matador cape thingies, or pulling the bull’s tale. The bull, increasingly irritated by this behaviour, will then oblige by tossing one or more of them into the air, or kicking the fool standing behind him. One of the bulls was so annoyed by one particular bloke he threw him in the air, then tried to pick him up again several times, finally trampling him. Score many for the bull.

Eventually the bull will get bored or start to run off around the circuit. They then release the second bull and so on, until there are eight bulls being provoked, getting shitty and sending the occasional bloke into the nearby ambulances. Most of the bulls emerged fulling prepared to go anyone remotely near them. This usually turned out to be the blokes who’d let them out of their enclosure.

It was impossible not to barrack for the bulls. Fortunately, they seemed to aquit themselves well. Yay, bulls!

P.S. Thanks everyone for all the wonderful birthday messages! Touched me heart, it did. When I’m online for more than a few hours every three or four days I’ll reply.


The follow on has been enforced. England cricket fans are in transports of delights. Clearly they’ve forgotten 1981 Headingley—a test match can be won by the side what has had the follow on enforced on their arses. Taint over!

Do I begrudge the English their gloating? Well, of course, I do! They’re England. The enemy! I shall have to lie back and think of cricket and wait for the reasons for their gloat to dissipate. The sound of Australia getting their batting shit together is helping a great deal!

What a cool day of cricket it’s been thus far! Many wickets fallen, many runs scored. If only, only, only I could be seeing it on the tellie and not just listening to the BBC!

I Successfully Predict the Future

A month back I confidently announced that the New York Liberty would make the 2005 WNBA playoff season. This has now come to pass. The Liberty are on a five-game winning streak despite having lost Anne Wauters, one of their top performers this year. Now it’s just a battle to see whether we get homecourt advantage or not. Here’s to our winning streak going on and on all the way to the WNBA finals.

I also predicted that Australia will win the Ashes and like Michael Slater I’m sticking to that prediction. Nor do I have any of his “healthy” doubt. It’ll be tough but we will do it.

Thursday sees the beginning of the fourth test at Trent Bridge and the Liberty have their final home game of the season. I’m feeling good about both.

Only Ten More Days

I’m suffering from post-Third Test malaise, especially as I just realised that there are only ten more days of the best Ashes series of all time left. Only ten days! And if it rains (not that that would ever happen in England) or either Test comes to a precipitious close, then it could be less than ten days.


In the meantime there’s plenty of cricket reading to be doing. Much of it on Australia’s inability to figure out the mysteries of reverse swing. Here’s hoping that they find their zen master of Irish. Maybe Imran Khan’s available?

We Did It!!!

Australia has saved the third test and grabbed the draw. It was unbelieveable. I’ve never seen (actually heard) anything like it. There is no game like test cricket. Nothing compares. This is one of the most incredible Test series of all time.

Should you wish (though I can’t think why you would) you can read a somewhat overexcited exchange about it between Niki, Jonathan and me here.

I’m going to go take a cold shower. I’m all aquiver, I am.

What I Learned Today

Miyazaki’s Spirited Away is, and I quote, “too scary! too scary! too scary!” for two year olds.

At first Marlowe was enchanted. Then it got dark, the parents turned into pigs, and demons started appearing out of nowhere. And that was the end of Spirited Away for Marlowe. “Too scary! Too scary! Too scary!”

Never give up on the Liberty. They always come back in the second half. (Unless they don’t.) Um, Coach Coyle? How come Erin Thorne got more minutes than Shameka Christon?

Never give up on the Australian men’s cricket team (not that I didn’t already know that). Yeah, yeah, England have declared. Yeah, yeah it would be a miracle to get four hundred on the final day of a test. But I have not given up! Just a flesh wound. The merest of grazes!

Rosé is the only thing to drink on a hot summer day. That and young coconut water. Or, you know, actual water. Or champagne. Or whatever drink you happen to like . . .

Thunderstorms rule! (Yeah, I already knew that one too.)

Crowds = Good

Watched the New York Liberty beat the Charlotte Sting in double overtime last night. Wonderful close fought game, which you wouldn’t expect given that Charlotte have only won four games this season and are already out of playoff contention. But they’ve got a new coach—the glorious Muggsy Bogues (whose height is anywhere between 4ft 11 and 5ft 3 depending on who you ask—whatever—for an ex-NBA player he ain’t tall)—and many amazing players: Sheri Sam, Helen Darling, Tangela Smith, Tammy Sutton-Brown.

I think I know one of the reasons the Sting have been having such a rotten run. There was almost no crowd. The arena in Charlotte was echoingly empty. Surely having almost no-one yelling for you must make it hard to play your best. The Liberty often surpass themselves at home. I’ve seen them fall apart and then pick themselves up because we in the crowd were screaming our hearts out for them. If there’s no-one watching you, there’s no-one there to egg you on, to abuse the refs for you, there’s just silence.

Most published writers know how that feels. I don’t know a single one who hasn’t experienced the audience of none or one. Who hasn’t sat there ready to sign for no-one, staring off into space, looking depressed and forlorn. Just the expression to not attract any impulse purchasers who might have bought your book if you were sitting there looking cool and interesting. That’s why you should always do events with someone else, so that even if you both attract no-one you can at least natter away to one another with insouciance, elan and charisma, or, you know, something just like.

As Fred Dagg used to say, “I’ll get out of your way now.”

Bloody Rain (update)

Just as the follow-on was avoided and Warne was cruising towards a century the skies open up again. Bloody England with its bloody rain.

Update: The emaciated fourteen-over day is over and Warne finished on 78, including 6 fours and a six. Gallant Gillespie screamed along to 7. Well blocked, lad, well blocked! Australia is now only 180 runs and three wickets behind. No rain predicted for tomorrow or Monday. We can still win this! We can!

Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi! Warnie! Warnie! Warnie! Oi! Oi! Oi!

I love Shane Warne (even if he’s not as cute as Daniel Vettori*)

First one ever to bag 600 wickets, top scored for Australia, and hasn’t trodden on his stumps this test, nor has there been any new scandal in the past few days!! What is not to love about Our Shane?

From the BBC site

* For the record I do not have a crush on Daniel Vettori, but a friend of mine is going to marry him when she grows up. I haven’t had a crush on a cricketer since Michael Holding. Sigh.

A Proper Con Report

I’ve been receiving some mail that is a little, um, miffed that my so-called con report doesn’t talk about any of the panels and readings I attended, or people I hung out with (not true: I mentioned Russ, Darren, Fiona and Richard), or give any sense of what the con was actually like.

a) That’s what my con was like: a cricketfest.

b) Sorry.

Here are people I hung out with who did write reports: Gwenda, Jed, Lauren, Scalzi.

Other than the cricket and catching up with my friends, my highlight was getting to hang out and gossip with Connie Willis—yes, I’m a pathetic fan girl—and you know what? As good a writer as she is I think I prefer listening to her telling stories. And I don’t care about what. She’s the best ranconteur I’ve ever met. And I know from ranconies.


Look, I know it was supposed to be all about science fiction blah blah blah, but I spent the five days of Glasgow’s WorldCon thinking, talking, breathing, and whenever possible (sadly not nearly enough) watching the cricket. Blissful. And I even had the luxury of being able to talk about it with actual Australians! Thanks to Russ and Darren and Fiona and the rest of the many Aussies I wasn’t stuck talking about it with gloating poms preening about their victory barely snatched from the jaws of defeat. (Though to be honest my best cricket convos were with Justina‘s fabulous and very English husband, Richard.)

Almost as good, I got to read about it in actual offline newspapers. There are some good things to say about the New York Times but the coverage of cricket is shockingly inadequate. Not quite as bad as their coverage of the women’s basketball, but bad. The Guardian on the other hand. Ah, what a great great newspaper. Pages and pages and pages all about Freddie and Shane and Messers Ponting and Strauss and the rest of them. Some of it writ by the incomparable Gideon Haigh (bless him).

The second test was unbeliveably exciting: Australia and England in their different ways managed to make a dog’s and an angel’s breakfast of it. In the end I’m glad England won.

Yup, you heard me.

England has gone cricket mad. Sales of cricket gear is through the roof, littlies are signing up to play cricket at their local clubs in record numbers, pubs are full to overflowing of people piling in to follow the day’s play. A dying sport has been revitalised. I’ve said it before I’ll support the baggy greens with my dying breath, but I love cricket above all.

Just Quickly

We’re in Glasgow. It’s gorgeous and fun and you just can’t get bored by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Trip so far:

London: great (though bloody expensive) food (Niki and Lauren & Andrew have been most excellent guides), brilliant markets, cheap clothes (bought the most gorgeous 15 pound skirt). It’s not the city I remember, though I did get some awe-inspiring rudeness—so it hasn’t completely changed. Best restaurant was David Thompson’s Thai one in Soho (I forget the name). Thompson’s Australia’s guru of Thai food. Was wonderful watching Lauren and Andrew’s delight in finally trying decent Thai food. I also gave them their very first mangosteens. Heavenly!

Glasgow: gorgeous, love all the Rennie Mackintosh everywhere. Had the most brilliant black pud and organic cider at Cafe Gandolfi. Cider in the UK is the best I’ve had in my entire life. Superb.

And tonight WorldCon begins. In the meantime the second test is on the tellie and Warne is bowling beautiful.

This is the life.

(Internet access continues very intermittent.)

(Oh and the time date for this is NYC time. Couldn’t be arsed changing it. Time here is 2:34PM.)

My World Science Fiction Convention Schedule

Yes, like everyone else in the entire sf world, I will be jetting over to Glasgow to partake of science fictiony thingies for several days at the World Science Fiction Convention. I’ll hang out with me mates, meet new people, and spend a lot of time in the bar watching England being destroyed by Australia in the second test at Edgbaston. Can’t wait. (I’m just sad that it won’t be in an English bar. Fortunately there’ll be enough English sf fans around that my gloating enjoyment of their team’s destruction will have an audience. In fact I’m going to greet every new person by asking if they’re English or not. And if they are, I’ll say, “Cricket. Ashes. Ha ha ha!”)

Friday 2:30pm Reading

I’ll read some stuff. Maybe from Magic or Madness, or Magic Lessons (the sequel to Magic or Madness—the reading will contain no spoilers), or I could read from my brand new novel which no one knows nuthink about and I’ve never read out loud to anyone but me spousal. Dunno. I’ve got half an hour, but that’s ridiculously long. I don’t like to read for more than 15 minutes, that way me and me audience (both of us) can go to the bar and watch England being destroyed in the second test.

Saturday 12:00 noon Feminism as Setting

Trudi Canavan
Anne K. Gay (M)
Jon Courtenay Grimwood
Mari Kotani
Justine Larbalestier
Ruth Nestvold

Description: Feminism is no longer the story, instead it’s the setting—what has this meant for feminist writers?

My take: Huh? I don’t agree with the premise. Feminism can be both setting and story, these are not contradictory terms. Plus it will be tricky to work a discussion of the cricket in.

Sunday 11:00am The 1950s, 50 Years On

Gail Dana
Irma HirsjSrvi
Justine Larbalestier
Greg Pickersgill
Mark Rich (M)

Description: The 1950s saw the Golden Era of Science Fiction film and the blossoming of writers such as Asimov, Sturgeon, Dick, Farmer, Walter M. Miller and Poul Anderson. What do we think of them now?

My Take: How could you list the best of the 1950s sf writers and not include Alfred Bester? Or Theodore Sturgeon? Or Margaret St. Clair? I’ll argue that sf writing in the 1950s was indeed a golden age, the period when sf turned its attention to the social sciences and examined social issues more than ever before. It’s often argued that that didn’t start happening until the 1960s which is crap. Also the 1950s saw some of Keith Miller‘s finest batting and bowling.

See you in Glasgow.

A Most Excellent Sunday

Yes, this is more about sport. Look, I know many of you can’t stand sport, but I don’t care (feel free to stop telling me about your lack of interest). Sport—and I’m talking watching it, not doing it—has been keeping me from burning down buildings since I was a wee thing. I’ve a sports brain. I am obsessed. Come the Olympics and I can barely leave the house. (Yes, I like to play some sports too: tennis mostly and not very well. I have a long legacy of sports played and abandoned—largely through injury.) I love following a particular team, knowing its history, the players, the management, the gossip. I love knowing the ins and outs of a particular sport, rule changes, how it’s reported (or not reported a la The New York Times and its total lack of interest in the New York Liberty), fluctuations in popularity et cetera, et cetera.

The Liberty just won their third straight game! And it was on the road. In a low scoring, very very very defensive game, the Liberty held off the Minnesota Lynx (who peed all over us in our last encounter). We even out rebounded them! They’re much bigger than us and yet we outdid them on the boards. It was the most incredibly pleasing victory, even better than our effort against Sacramento because we were tough and gritty and fought. Yay, the New York Liberty!

Between that and today’s slaughter of England and the end of the Tour this was a most excellent sporting Sunday.

That is all.

La La La (updated)

Stupid English weather with it’s stupid rain. The fourth day of the first Ashes test has yet to begin. And Australia with only 5 wickets to bag. Most annoying. Better not rain tomorrow. Better not end in a draw. Bloody English weather!

Getty Images

Especially as Scott after much diligent googling found a bar in NYC that shows the cricket! Thus earning my eternal gratitude and undying devotion (not that he didn’t have it already, mind). That’s right, yesterday we watched the last hour of play at Eight Mile Creek in Soho surrounded by Aussies. Most excellent. They’ll be showing all of the Ashes—every day of every test—from the 5AM start till the end of the day’s play around 1PM. Bonza! Strewth! Bewdy, mate!

Last day of the tour! Who will wear the green? Please, please, please let it be Stuart O’Grady! And please let there not be any horrible prangs. Will Rasmussen be happy with being king of the mountain after yesterday’s disaster? I hope so. Poor baby. Twas horrible to watch.

And there’ll be much jokeying around in the last few places of the top 10. There’s only seconds between the fifth, sixth, seventh and eight places. Vinokourov just grabbed himself extra seconds to draw (almost) even with Levi Leipheimer in fifth place. My boy, Cadel Evans, is in eighth spot. Be lovely if he could move up. But you know what? A top ten finish in your first Tour is pretty bloody awesome.

And Lance, of course, will take the yellow in his last tour. He’s had an incredible career and proved himself to be without doubt the best on the tour. I fell in love with the Tour during the Miguel Indurain era, he of the mighty lungs, at the time everyone said we would never see his like again. And then along came Lance.

And how about next year? Who’s gonna win once Lance is gone? Who will be the next Tour god? I’m kind of hoping it will be more in the nature of an intense two or three or more way rivalry between several amazing riders with a different one winning every year. I cannot wait!

Update: yup, Lance got the yellow, Cadel Evans kept his 8th spot, Thor Husvold got the green, with Stuart O’Grady second.

Cricket resumed and Australia won by 239 runs. Not saying anything more. Gloating is in very poor taste.

Going Out on a Limb

The New York Liberty are gonna make the playoffs. There, that’s my money on the table. My team is gonna figure in the postseason.

They’re looking absolutely bloody amazing at the moment. Elena Baranova has come good, blocking, rebounding, being incredible in defence, hell, even Erin Thorne looked good last night. The Liberty just won two games back to back on the road, and last night against the Sacramento Monarchs they were magnificent, never looking like they were going to do anything but win (we’ll just ignore the last two shambolic minutes).

On a good day my team can beat any other team in the league; and, yeah, on a bad day they can lose to any one too. That’s the glory of the Liberty.

How to Do Your Head in (updated)

Watch the Tour on the tellie while following the cricket through the BBC’s online radio and exchanging emails about it with your sister. Apparently I don’t multitask well. My head hurts. Thankfully the Tour is finished for the morning and I can concentrate on the cricket.

Am really enjoying the cricket right now. McGrath is bowling like a demon. He’s already gotten fivefer. Ha ha! I knew that Australia getting out for 190 was all about the wicket, not about the bowling. Of course now that Australia is in it’s all about the bowling not the wicket. No, I am not one-eyed.

Oh my, I’d forgotten about the BBC commentator—Blofeld’s appallingly plummy accent. It is to gag. Ack. Ack. Ack.

Update: 17 wickets taken in one day! Australia all out for 190; England 7/92 and only one real batsman left. McGrath gets his 500th test scalp with unbelievably brilliant bowling. As Merv Hughes said “Fair dinkum that was a good day’s play.” I reckon!

Australians: One and Two

Today’s Stage ended in an all out sprint with two Aussies coming out on top. I’m happy, even if I was hoping they’d come in the other way around—Stuart O’Grady, and then Robbie McEwen. And it’s always sad to see a breakaway mowed down within sight of the finish line. It’s gonna be a tight race for the green jersey. Fingers crossed that it winds up on O’Grady’s shoulders and stays there till the end. But with McEwen’s current form, well, sigh.

Bibs and Bobs

Working hard thus am not so bloggery as usual. Other than the novel I’m writing here’s what’s up in Justineland:

Daphne Lee has posted the unedited (and illustrated) version of her interview with me where I persist in getting the name of Samantha from Bewitched‘s grandmother wrong (got all that?). Daphne reports that Magic or Madness sold out in Kuala Lumpur the week the interview appeared in The Star. How stupendous is that?

Last night the New York Liberty beat the Houston Comets in overtime in Houston. Scott and me, we was screaming at the television like you wouldn’t believe. So happy! And as usual when the Liberty win everybody played their part. They are so teamy and ball-sharey and good. And now they’re better than 500 for the season. Being a Liberty fan is all about the ups and the downs. Thankfully they’re a bit more uppy at the moment. Next live game is Friday. Can’t wait! Season tickets make me happy.

The last two days of the Tour have been heart-stoppingly good. I don’t ever want it to end.

Many of my Oz sf friends are in Melbourne having a really good time. I am not even slightly jealous. Honest.

Write now. Many words.

I Hate Rest Days

The Tour is taking a rest day today. What’s that about? Rest day! What about me and other viewers like me? What are we supposed to do while the riders are slacking, luxuriating in bubble baths and drinking champagne and generally not riding their bikes and cat and mousing one another? It’s an outrage! There should be no rest days on the tour. None! Lazy slackers!

If you put the missing rest days back in then the Tour would be closer to 4 weeks long than 3. Imagine it! A whole month of the Tour de France. July truly would be the Tour month, every day of it. How fabulous would that be?

But would it be enough? How about all of the (Northern) summer? And have all the epic races of June July August merge into one big Tour de Europe? Or even better: why not have it last all year long? A Tour de World with races on board cruise ships as the cyclists are transported from one continent to the next. And with no rest days ever. In fact “rest day” would become a euphamism for dropping out of the race (permanently). Winners would be announced on a daily, weekly, seasonally and yearly basis with all the existing races (yellow, green, polka dot etc) in place but extra categories like a running silver jersey for the racer who’d been in the race for the longest and . . .

I can’t stand rest days! Why do I have to wait almost twenty-four hours for the next stage?! Especially now that Armstrong isn’t in yellow! Aaaaarrrggghhh!!!!!!!!!!