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Tuesday, April 20, 2004

CityRail's (unadvertised) "Australia Reads" Program and the Athens Olympics



I just want to put a few words on a some books I've read recently.

Just read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night by Mark Haddon, written from the point of view of an autistic boy in England. I recommend it. It's a quick read, and it's as entertaining as it is insightful. I'm following that with An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks' (who wrote Awakenings made into a similarly titled film which either stared Robin Williams or Robert DeNiro). An Anthropologist on Mars is a series of seven case studies of people with strange brain disorders. The first is about a guy who looses all ability to see colour - and he's a painter. It's much less entertaining than The Curious Incident, but just as full of observations about different ways of looking at the world. It's nice to be reading these non-political things having read just The Joke.

Mum gave me The Joke by Mulan Kundra (sp?) a few months back. He also wrote The Unbearable Lightness of Being which I have not read, nor have I seen the movie (if there is one...). I finished The Joke a couple weeks back.

The Joke is quite roughly about the life of a few people in Czechoslovakia through and after the fall of the socialist state.
I work with a guy whose often heard towing the socialist party line, so I thought it would be a fitting "joke" to turn the book over to him with the understanding that I never owned the book, and he doesn't own the book either, but should read it and pass it on to his other comrades. I'm not sure when the book was actually purchased last, but I may have started a non-private-property life for this particular copy. The book itself belongs only to the author, that is, the ideas belong to him. The book, once purchased from him belongs to "those who will read it". It's a fitting chapter for the life of this particular book, which will be made only the more poetic if at some point someone sells the book again.

How do I find the time to get all this reading done? The train. And it's not just any train, it's Sydney's CityRail. My train is meant to come at 5:17, and it's a 20 min. ride to my station. So, in theory I should get about 40min of reading done per day( and by "in theory" I mean, in reality if I lived in Germany or Japan - places with an efficient rail system). But it turns out I get a great deal more. The train is almost never on time. Sometimes it doesn't come at all, and the 5:36 train (also a little late) takes its place. So in some crazy way CityRail is contributing to the literacy of probably thousands of people every day. Giving them the time they would never give themselves. Finally, the benefits inept corporate governance are coming to light, trickling down to the little people, educating them. Inefficiency and corruption can be a beautiful thing.

Which brings me, in conclusion, to the Athens Olympics. I can't seem to string together an accurate description of my thoughts on the upcoming Olympiad. My feelings go a lot of different ways. I like the Olympics. I mean, I have fond memories of past Olympics. I'm not an Olympics freak, but I do enjoy them. I think lots of people do. And I don't have anything against the Greeks. After all, they gave us the Olympics. So I'm a little surprised at myself for waiting so hungrily for them to fail at something. They've already failed to get a roof on the stadium, but that's pretty much the architect's fault for over committing and over designing. But there's bound at least a few "news of the weird" stories to come out of the Athens games. Is it wrong of me to be looking forward to reading them more than I'm looking forward to the games themselves?

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