Cape Flattery


Stormy day in Lyttelton, New Zealand.

Named, apparently, after George Lyttelton:


Shackleton left from Lyttelton on his first Antarctic expedition:


On this day, there was a ship in the harbor called Cape Flattery:


I had to look up where Cape Flattery is:

Cape Flattery

Cape Flattery is the northwesternmost point of the contiguous United States.

Cape Flattery is the oldest permanently named feature in Washington state, being described and named by James Cook on March 22, 1778. Cook wrote: “… there appeared to be a small opening which flattered us with the hopes of finding an harbour … On this account I called the point of land to the north of it Cape Flattery.

I learn that beloved 1930s movie characters Ma and Pa Kettle live on Cape Flattery:


Ma (Phoebe Kettle, played by Marjorie Main) is a robust and raucous country woman with a potato sack figure.

Wikipedia helpfully links to the article on potato sack:



Bureau of American Ethnology


The picture on the Wikipedia page for the Bureau of American Ethnology is perfect at conveying what exactly was the deal with the Bureau of American Ethnology.

Further Investigations into New Zealand politics

Max Key 1

I was interviewed on the phone with someone from this great website in New Zealand.  (A stressful interview because I was late to meet Nick Wegener at Callendar’s, let’s hope I didn’t embarrass myself!)  I mentioned I’d been reading up on New Zealand’s prime minister John Key.  She suggested I look into John Key’s son, who is a DJ who drives around in a Ferrari apparently.

Max Key.

Max Key.

Here are some photos of him, and here is his song:

Twenty Greatest Australian Artistic Accomplishments of All Time

Let’s see if I can make an absolutely definitive list:

The Thorn Birds

20) The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

This book is like nine hundred pages long and it sounds sexy, there were worn paperback copies at every library book sale of my youth so it must’ve hit home.  Haven’t read it, but I think it’s an achievement, it makes the cut.

True History

19) True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey

I myself didn’t finish it but it definitely seemed like an achievement.

18)  The movie Oscar and Lucinda.

This movie is weird and great.  Ralph Fiennes can’t stop gambling.  A real achievement.

fatal shore

17) The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes.

Enormous, ambitious, compelling, tremendous work of historical storytelling.  Some excerpts give a sense of the style:

“At the lower end [of poor London circa 1788] were occupations now not only lost but barely recorded: that of the “Pure-finders,” for instance, old women who collected dog-turds which they sold to tanneries for a few pence a bucket.”

of the first night the convicts were allowed on land in Australia: “as the couples rutted between the rocks, guts burning form the harsh Brazilian aguardiente, their clothes slimy with red clay, the sexual history of colonial Australia may fairly be said to have begun.”

“Davey marked his arrival in Hobart Town in February of 1813 by lurching to the ship’s gangway, casting an owlish look at his new domain and emptying a bottle of port over his wife’s hat.”

16) The song “Waltzing Matilda”

Give it up, this is catchy song.

Flinders Street Station

15) Flinders Street Station

Australian architecture has to be represented.  You can’t give it to the Sydney Opera House though, designed by a Dane.  The Royal Melbourne Exhibition Hall gets a lot of attention, but I think Flinders Street Station is the more unique and impressive building and thus the greater achievement.

Wunnummurra Gorge paintings

14) Wandjina Rock Art of the Kimberly. 

Spooky, mesmerizing, and 4000 years later (judging by pictures, never seen it, would love to) it still holds up.

13) The Bee Gees, To Love Somebody

Not sure if the BeeGees should be included, they weren’t born in Australia, but feel like they make the cut.  Corny?  Maybe, but sometimes putting it all out there heart-wise is the way to go.  Don’t agree?  Take it up with with Beyoncé:

The Bee Gees were an early inspiration for me, Kelly Rowland and Michelle. We loved their songwriting and beautiful harmonies.

12) The song “Tomorrow” by Silverchair

Just a slam dunk of ’90s rock.  These guys were 18 when they recorded this.

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 2.13.45 PM

11) Paintings of Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri 

Wild, original, great.  Previously covered here.

10) The movie The Proposition

Intense, gripping, cool.  The soundtrack alone almost got its own entry.

Heath Ledger

Russell Crowe in The Insider

9) Heath Ledger’s performance in Brokeback Mountain / Russell Crowe’s performance in The Insider (tie)

Wasn’t sure how to place individual acting achievements in non-Australian movies, but felt like they should be represented.  Heath Ledger is so good in this movie, he walks such a dangerous line, it’s tense all the way through.  Crowe in The Insider is, imo, his best and most human performance in an incredible career.

8) AC/DC’s song “You Shook Me All Night Long”

Indisputable party rock classic.  It’s true, maybe “Highway To Hell” or another AC/DC tune could go here, but I think “Shook” is the more dramatic achievement, standing out from the crowd of AC/DC songs.


7) The movie Gallipoli

Young Mel Gibson, deeply moving movie about running, buds, war.  What an intense journey this film takes you on.

6) Tame Impala’s album Currents

Why are some songs on this list and some whole albums?  Because it’s my list, I can do what I want.

Kevin Parker of Tame Impala has said that listening to the Bee Gees after taking mushrooms inspired him to change the sound of the music he was making in his latest album Currents.[94]

5) The movie Walkabout

Why are Australians so good at making dreamy movies?  Great kid performances.  One of Warburton’s top seven!

4) Cait Blanchett in I’m Not There

What a masterful performance.  Amazing achievement.

3) The movie Picnic At Hanging Rock

Is there another movie with such a special combo of creepy, trippy, mysterious?  Peter Weir crushing it.

2) The Mad Max epic. 

Ride chrome into Valhalla.  When you put all three movies together, it’s a wonder this didn’t come in first.

1) The Avalanches album Since I Left You

Number one by a mile.  Name a better album by Mozart.  You can’t.

Honorable mention:

  • This painting of a platypus by John Lewin


  • Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn
  • Summer Heights High (respect, I just never got too into it)
  • Rebel Wilson’s performance in Bridesmaids and Pitch Perfect
  • One of Patrick White works  (“The Ham Funeral”?).  Dude won the Nobel Prize, but I have not read them and can’t include them here.
  • Priscilla Queen Of The Desert (seems admirable)
  • Kath & Kim
  • The Slap TV drama
  • Nicole Kidman’s performance in Moulin Rouge

Moulin rouge

you might’ve thought Nicole Kidman would’ve made it into the top 20 but the fact is she didn’t!

  • INXS, “The Devil Inside”

a strong case can be made for INXS – my countercase is why didn’t I remember them until Boyle suggested them when I told him about this list?

  • Joseph Reed’s interior for the State Library of Victoria


  • Brett Whiteley’s Summer at Carcour:


I welcome your arguments in the comments.

How much imagination do cats have?


from a Wall Street Journal article about what cats are up to, mentally:

There is little evidence that cats (or dogs, for that matter) have much in the way of an imagination, so cats that have never been allowed outside probably don’t miss the fresh air they’ve never breathed.


Shorter History Of Australia

Black-eyed Sue

Trying to learn a bit more about the history of Australia, a frequent topic here.  Barcelona Jim directed me to:


This book is fantastic, just what the doctor ordered, highly readable, interesting on every page.  It’s so hard to get good condensed history but Prof. Blainey just crushes it.  Some highlights:

aus 5

A nepenthes rowaniae of North Queensland

(A nepenthes rowaniae of North Queensland from

How about the Aranda nighttime divisions?

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Delicious trepang:

auz 7

Photo: Gail Ngalwungirr harvesting trepang on South Goulburn Island (NT Department of Fisheries)

Photo: Gail Ngalwungirr harvesting trepang on South Goulburn Island (NT Department of Fisheries)

The last convicts:




mystery of a handsome cab

from Wiki:

t eventually became the best selling mystery novel of the Victorian era, author John Sutherland terming it the “most sensationally popular crime and detective novel of the century”. This novel inspired Arthur Conan Doyle to write A Study in Scarlet, which introduced the character Sherlock Holmes. Doyle remarked, “Hansom Cab was a slight tale, mostly sold by ‘puffing’.”

Shearing as serious sports:

aus 1

Shearing the rams

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Thursday Island:

Looks like a nice place to chill.  How about the Flying Pieman?:

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New pasttimes:
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Readers’ gallery



Looks like this lucky fellow got an advance paperback galley

Looks like this lucky fellow got an advance paperback galley

can I haz informative entertainmentz?

I can haz informative entertainmentz?



this guy gets it


class story in a classy town


I see the baby went right to the pictures — fair



elegant staging — is that the Australian edition?


at the Strand? Nice.

is that TV's Alex Borstein?!

is that TV’s Alex Borstein?!

Ice cream and books?!  You kiddin me?!

Ice cream and books?! You kiddin me?!

Damn, featured in the newsletter?  Damn.

Damn, featured in the newsletter? Damn.

I think I recognize that thumb as belonging to Matt Goldich!

I think I recognize that thumb as belonging to Matt Goldich!

look at this cool as hell post-feminist Australian dad

look at this cool as hell post-feminist Australian dad



Send me yours to helphely at

Sassy Trump is so good

Insurance on this Peter Serafinowicz brilliance a co-worker called to our attention.

More on his Twitter.  So wonderful.

Brushing up on New Zealand politics


John KeyJohn Key is the prime minister:

In November 2012, Key told students at St Hilda’s Collegiate in Dunedin that football star David Beckham was “thick as batshit”. The comments were picked up by UK papers The Daily Mirror and The Sun. On the same day, there was controversy over Key’s comments to a radio host that his shirt was “gay”. “You’re munted mate, you’re never gonna make it, you’ve got that gay red top on there”, he told host Jamie Mackay on RadioSport’s Farming Show. The following day, Lord of the Rings actor Sir Ian McKellen said in a blog entry that Key should “watch his language”.

It would appear from a brief scan that Key’s nemesis is internet pirate king Kim Dotcom:

The event causing perhaps[original research?] the most embarrassment to John Key was the arrest of Kim Dotcom and the subsequent revelations that the New Zealand Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) had illegally spied on Dotcom.

Richard Price

Into The Night Of, reading this Richard Price interview in Paris Review online.

Damon Winter/The New York Times

Damon Winter/The New York Times

Just the first question and answer:


What started you writing?


Well, my grandfather wrote poetry. He came from Russia. He worked in a factory, but he had also worked in Yiddish theater on the Lower East Side of New York as a stagehand. He read all the great Russian novelists and he yearned to say something. He would sit in his living-room chair and make declarations in this heavy European accent like, When the black man finally realizes what was done to him in this country . . . I don’t wanna be here. Or, If the bride isn’t a virgin, at some point in the marriage there’s gonna be a fight, things will be said . . . and there’s gonna be no way to fix the words.

How about this?


Do you want to keep writing both novels and screenplays?


Every screenwriter loves to trash screenwriting. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. They trash the calculatedness, the cynicism, the idiocy, the pandering. But if they’re really honest, they’ll also admit they love the action, the interaction. Depending on whom you’re working with, screenwriting is fun up to a point. And movies have such an impact on people. Thomas Kenealy once told me about a time he was with the guerrillas in Eritrea during the civil war in Ethiopia. They were sitting on the cusp of the desert under the moon. They all had their muskets; they were about to attack some place. Wanting to chill out before they mobilized, they watched The Color of Money on video. So every once in a while the hugeness of Hollywood gets to you—the number of people who see a movie compared to the number of people who read a book. So as a screenwriter you keep hoping against hope—just because they screwed me the last time doesn’t mean they’re going to screw me this time. Well, of course they will. They’re just going to screw you in a way you haven’t been screwed before.

The first draft is the most creative, the most like real writing because it’s just you and the story. The minute they get a hold of that first draft it ceases to be fun because it’s all about making everybody happy. Raymond Chandler said that the danger of Hollywood for a writer is that you learn to put everything you’ve got into your first draft and then you steel yourself not to care what happens because you know you’re going to be powerless after that. If you do that time and time again, the heart goes out of you.


Virginia Thrasher

Virginia Thrasher

First US gold medalist at Rio and fashion inspiration.

Screen Shot 2016-08-06 at 11.04.13 AM

Miles Franklin

Miles Franklin

Brushing up on my Australian history and culture in advance of a trip there to promote my book.  Australia’s premier literary prize is the Miles Franklin Award.  Miles Franklin, seen above, nailed it with her titles alone:

  • My Brilliant Career
  • All That Swagger
  • Old Blastus of Bandicoot
  • Bring The Monkey
  • My Career Goes Bung

If you are in that part of the world, I’ll be at the

WORD Festival in Christchurch, NZ on Aug. 26-27

Avid Reader bookshop in Brisbane on Aug 30

and the Melbourne Writers Festival Sept. 2-4.

Come on out!