IMTAP and the Cheese Man

Last Friday saw the first conference performance of The Cheese Man, not to the adoring General Public, but instead to the hard and steely gaze of the “performance in cultural institutions” big names.  To my credit, I did it without too many hitches, and even managed to spray milk over the girls in the front row.

I was gratified to later find that some were genuinely impressed; even Tubby the Robot said he enjoyed it, and that meant a lot coming from him.

So Cheese Man has legs.  The Science Week experiment may see another revival next Science Week, and hopefully with a drop more funding.  

The conference also saw the official launch of IMTAP: International Museum Theatre Asia Pacific with typical Patric Watt aplomb and fanfare.


Last week’s best ad libitum:

(Scene: 70 year seven kids after lunch listening to Science-Talking Guy (me). There is one Irritating Kid sitting in the front row. You know the guy. Probably went to school with him. Smart-arse twerp who won’t shut up. Science-Talking guy fills a plate with shaving cream from a can.)

Irritating Year Seven Boy: Oh sir! Put some in my hand! Put some in my hand!

Me: Why? Do you have hairy palms?

Boo yeah.


To stay on the theme of comics a-moment: Spider-Man. And I’m only interested in this because I collected Amazing Spider-man comics in my teenaged years, then gave them all away to a girl I had a crush on in Year 12. Dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb.

Fresh after unmasking himself in front of the world, and after the shooting of his Aunt May, Peter Parker bought back a new life for himself by selling to Mephisto (the devil, sort of) his marriage to Mary Jane.

In other words: the editors of Spider-Man comics never liked Peter and MJ being married (Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) Annual #21 (1987)), and the whole “everyone knows who Spiderman is” thing was too restrictive, and over Friday night drinks decided that it would be so much better if the whole thing hadn’t happened in the first place. So in a grand deus ex machina they swept the whole thing away and did a soft-reboot on the Spider-Man franchise.

Peter Parker is no longer married to MJ, and no one remembers who unveiled themselves in front of TV cameras. How amazingly convenient!

To be honest, Spider-man has be going since 1962, and if you want to keep it fresh to keep new buyers coming in, sometimes you’ll need to shake out the storyline and start again.

It reminds me of something Brian K. Vaughan said about his comics: “That’s storytelling, with a beginning, a middle, and an end,” he says. “Something like Spider-Man, a book that never has a third act, that seems crazy.”


The US Navy have shot down a spy satellite that was threatening life on Earth.

Specifically, it had some canisters of hydrazine used for propulsion that would cause ‘harm’. Something had to be done!


If I’m reading this right, a spy satellite that would burn up on reentry was shot down so that it could burn up on reentry.

With this coming (relatively) hot on the heels of China shooting down a weather satellite, it’s hard to read this as anything other than “Anything you can do, we can do better.”

Interestingly, they used a projectile with no warhead. Good ol’ kinetic energy from something moving very fast smacking into something else moving very fast.

And in the “Bad American News Story” file, this CNN feature has (among paranoid New Yorkers expecting a satellite to fall on their heads) a picture of the Hubble Space Telescope as “the satellite”.

Y: The Last Man (Book 1)

I’ve come to Y: The Last Man via Ex Machina. In short, it tells the story of the world when every mammal possessing a Y chromosome, i.e. dudes, suddenly and at the same time keel over. Except for two: a young guy call Yorick and his pet monkey Ampersand (that symbol you get when you press shift-7).

Having read the reviews and had friends recommend it, I want to love this book. But no matter how I cut it, I’m enjoying it but not blown away. At the moment I find Pia Guerra’s pencils competent to the point of being dull The colouring has been done with a very limited palette like someone who has just discovered the paint-can tool in Photoshop. I don’t hate it. I’m just not impressed by it.

But then there’s the writing. In most comics the writing cowers behind tight pencils. In Y, without the art to hide behind, the writing is thrown into relief. It’s good. It’s still finding it voice at the moment, but its fun and at times thrust its tongue into its cheek. I particularly liked the American government having a Democratic majority because of the relatively percentage of female Republican representatives, and a witty discussion about all the male singers and bands that have now disappeared.

But for me, comics is the double-headed Janus that needs the art just as much as the writing. Maybe this will change for Y, if I keep going with it. Mind you, to stop now would be like judging the entire Sandman series on its awkward first book.

Bios, and other histories.

For Scientifica (published later this year) I’m supposed to put together a 50 word bio about myself. Writing about myself, which is selling myself; not one of my strong points.

Frankly, I’m tempted to go down the Good Omens track, where in the third person Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman ask the reader for banana daiquiris and money respectively.

Something that I’ve stood by these past few years is that history of Australia is more interesting than what I was taught: Gold Rush and Explorers. The sum total of Australian history for me was some gold was found, and a bunch of guys got lost in the desert and died.

Luckily, John Howard’s history of Australia went down in flames last November. Every last Don Bradman six of it.

So, I propose a new history of Australia be written: “Australian History: The Bits John Howard Didn’t Want You To See.” Tonight on ABC was a good starting point: Hunt Angels. It told the story of Australian director Rupert Kathner, but the bit that took my imagination was the Sydney of 1920 to 1940. More like Capone’s Chicago.

Job Opportunity at CSIRO Education, Melbourne

It would be remiss of me not to mention this!

CSIRO Education is seeking energetic, motivated people to join its team in Melbourne. The successful applicants will have qualifications in science to a degree level or higher, a strong work ethic and will be keen to develop their communication and education skills. Qualifications in science communication or education would also be an advantage.

And it comes in two exciting flavours: for those with a science background; and for those with a qualification in science to a degree level or higher.

Applications close Sunday 3 February 2008. Get cracking!

Wikipedia: [insert subject] in fiction!

I’ve just been finishing some articles for a science anthology to be published later this year, and been using Wikipedia for some cross checking and fact dipping, and noticed an irritating trend.

In a lot of Wikipedia’s articles there is a heading somewhere toward the end saying “[subject] in fiction.” For instance, Cyborgs in fiction, or Quantum computers in fiction. Most of the time these are the most fiercely debated areas on the article, with editors giving lucid reasons why/why isn’t Darth Vader a cyborg. The nerds of the world know more about where and how the subject crops up in Manga. Meanwhile, the rest of the article crumbles, aching for some real information with proper references.

Personally, I’d snip the offending passages out of the articles and put them in an article of their very own with a link from the original. But, hey, my priorities have changed since turning 30.

Job Opportunity at Bendigo Discovery Centre

Discovery Centre logo

There’s a job going at Bendigo’s Discovery and Technology Centre:

Discovery’s motto is “100% Hands On,” highlighting its philosophy of learning through play. There are over 100 classic interactive exhibits on the floor at any time, including permanent star attractions the Bendigo Planetarium, Australia ‘s first vertical slide, and Kaleidoscope, an exhibition for under 8s, as well as the new laboratory opening in March, 2008.

We are looking for an innovative centre manager with a science education or communication background. In this rewarding role you will have the chance to lead the centre forward by developing exhibitions, science shows and education programs; lead and strengthen the small staff team; and build strong partnerships with other individuals and organisations.

Applications close Friday 8 February 2008.

(Just don’t look at the salary…)