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Category: oblong culture

This is an obsession not a fetish

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Hopefully regular readers of oblong have found their way to the new website location, It seemed the word filters of some internet providers were blocking (bet you can’t work out why…), meaning some readers couldn’t access my website. If you want to follow the oblong obsession elsewhere, check out my channels on Instagram, Twitter, and RSS. As always keep calm, and keep your oblong obsession strong.

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Bookseller boss worried by slow post lockdown return to city centre

John Forsyth, chairman of Dymocks Group, one of Australia’s oldest booksellers, is concerned local government isn’t doing enough to rejuvenate Sydney’s CBD, particularly in the wake of recent pandemic imposed lockdowns. He isn’t alone. Businesses in other commercial centres across Greater Sydney are also feeling the pinch. They’re urging municipal councils, many of whom are facing elections in early December, to do more to bring people back into city centres.

But I’m not sure it’s that simple, and other ways to support struggling businesses may need to be considered. Some workers don’t want to return to central business districts. Having been forced to work from home, many are content to stay there. And who can blame them? Working from home means less time lost to commuting, commuting in the first instance, and more time to spend with the family, and on other things they find important. These people are still supporting small businesses, but ones closer to home, rather than in the city.

It’s long been my thought that advances in technology were always going to bring about this sort of shift in work practises eventually, the pandemic simply hastened the inevitable. What happens in the few months will be pivotal. Many organisations are paying rent on buildings that are virtually unoccupied. How will they respond? By instructing workers to return? Or by scaling down office space? But with some workers looking to relocate to rural regions, and renewed talk of four day working weeks, will we ever see the return of city workers to pre-pandemic levels?

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What Ann Patchett learned about writing from Snoopy

I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of Snoopy – the canine comic creation of the late Charles M. Schulz – though I still read the comic strip back in the days when people used to buy the news in print. But Snoopy was no backyard pet. He led what today we’d call a rich inner life, variously imagining himself – among other things – to be a World War I fighter pilot, a member of the Foreign Legion, a Beagle Scouts leader, and a sports star.

Snoopy also saw himself as an author, at least an aspiring author, and his efforts to write and be published – along with the all too frequent rejections – were something that American author Ann Patchett, whose novels include Bel Canto and Commonwealth, took inspiration from:

Snoopy taught me that I would be hurt and I would get over it. He walked me through the publishing process: being thrilled by acceptance, ignoring reviews, and then having the dream of bestseller-dom dashed: “It’s from your publisher,” Charlie Brown tells Snoopy. “They’ve printed one copy of your novel. It says they haven’t been able to sell it. They say they’re sorry. Your book is now out of print.”

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State of the (Writing) Nation 2021

Australian writer Alice Pung presented this year’s State of the (Writing) Nation oration, an initiative of Writers Victoria and the Wheeler Centre. Melbourne based writer Christos Tsiolkas, speaking before the oration, introduced Shu-Ling Chau, an emerging author also based in Melbourne. Pung’s address focussed on the production, promotion, and reception process of the writing process.

William Hazlitt wrote that ‘the smallest pain in our little finger causes us more concern than the destruction of our fellow human beings’. In her address, Pung will consider what kind of writing matters in the face of our small hurts and large griefs, and take an unflinching look at the excessive weight we place on literature to ameliorate our feelings. If you’re only half-grudgingly woke, is it better to just stay asleep? Pung will explore the pitfalls of this self-motivated obsession with using literature to educate, and examine whose expense it comes at.

Pung spoke about the experiences of disadvantaged writers in Australia, be they immigrants, refugees, disabled, indigenous, queer, or poor. This is essential listening for anyone with an interest in Australian literature.

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How to write one hundred thousand words daily

American writer Matthew Plunkett tackles the question of writing one hundred thousand words every day. Put it this way, it’s not for the faint-hearted.

My first blog post appeared online in 2008 when I explained how I attained my top ranking on a popular worldwide online game. Since then, I haven’t stopped writing. If you’re wondering whether this level of output will hinder your relationships with friends and lovers, let me set you straight. Life is about decisions. Either you write 100,000 words a day or you meet people and develop ties of affection. You can’t do both.

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Emerging Poets Mentorship 2022

Applications are open for the Emerging Poets Mentorship, which will be hosted online early in 2022, by the Stella Prize’s Virtual Writer in Residence, afshan d’souza-lodhi.

Run by Stella’s Virtual Writer in Residence, afshan d’souza-lodhi, the mentorship is open to an emerging woman or non-binary poet based in Melbourne, and seeks to support them in developing an unpublished collection of poetry.

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Low quantity harvests in NSW may force coffee prices up

Last month I noted that severe frosts had affected coffee bean harvests in Brazil, which is likely to result in price rises as supply is reduced. Now some Australian coffee producers in northern NSW have run into harvest problems, a lack of available labour being one issue. I’d say this is partly occasioned by COVID lockdowns and travel restrictions, as many farm workers and fruit pickers are backpacking travellers. Long story short, be prepared to pay more for coffee imminently.

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Saving the roof of Jane Austen’s Hampshire cottage

Good news for Jane Austen fans who like, or are one day hoping, to visit the house in the English village of Chawton, Hampshire, where she spent the final eight years of her life, and wrote several of her novels… funds have been raised to repair the roof of her old cottage, which was built in the seventeenth century.

The roof was last refurbished in 1948 before the House opened to the public. Over 70 years on and over a million visitors later, major repairs are required to ensure the watertightness of the building and preserve the museum collection.

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The Metaverse, one step closer to the Holodeck

Last week Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the social network company he co-founded in 2004 will be known as Meta. Later, in his keynote presentation at the company Connect event, he unveiled a raft of technologies in development that have the potential to change the way we live and work.

The Star Trek geek in me could not help but make comparisons to the Holodeck, a room on the Enterprise that allowed the crew to realistically create, or re-create, almost any situation they could imagine. If you have a spare eighty or so minutes, check out Zuckerberg’s keynote. Tech analyst Ben Thompson interviewed the Facebook CEO shortly before the keynote, and if you have another forty-five minutes to spare, it’s a conversation well worth listening to. It’s a fascinating time for those of us with an oblong obsession.

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It’s November 2021, that means it’s NaNoWriMo 2021

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It’s November and that means NaNoWriMo is upon us. NaNoWriMo? It’s an acronym for National Novel Writing Month, an annual writing event established by Chris Baty, a freelance writer, in 1999. And if you think you can knock out a mere fifty thousand (50,000) words by the end of the month, you too can take part. As of 2020, over half a million people worldwide were participating in various NaNoWriMo projects.

Originally held in July of 1999, the event later switched to November, a move intended to take people’s minds off the approaching winter, tricky for people south of the equator though gearing up for summer. But heck, summer arrives in December down-under, so why worry? An impressive collection of NaNoWriMo works have gone on to be published, so it’s something worth checking out if you’re an aspiring author.

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A very SETI Halloween

Happy Halloween for tomorrow. Do you enjoy the prospect of an Alien invasion? Better look the other way at A No-body Problem from SETI then. I’m not sure which is scarier… what happens here, or the chance SETI may find extraterrestrial life. Because, you know, has no one been watching Invasion?

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The Secret Life of Writers podcast with Charlotte Wood

Sydney based Australian author Charlotte Wood speaks to Jemma Birrell, creative director at Tablo Publishing, and host of the Secret Life of Writers podcast. Wood, who is based in Sydney’s bustling inner west, speaks of the quiet she finds on the NSW Central Coast, something conducive to her writing. That I can go for. Fascinating to hear Wood describe her writing journey. She started out wanting to write, but not knowing what to write.

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