Sunday, December 31, 2006

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Garbage Day

Over the past few months or so, a combination of apathy and self-consciousness on my part has seen me begin to write a number of posts which, either, I have never finished, or decided against posting. In the first instance, I’ve tended to get myself twisted in knots and been unable to continue, because, generally, writing coherently, does not occur all that easily for me and I’ve needed to direct my energy elsewhere. In the second instance, I’ve sometimes thought the partially composed post has become all mopey, and while I have really needed to articulate the thoughts, I’ve decided to spare you, because I don’t need to scare away the people who do actually comment on this blog, never mind those that I wish would, if only because I’ve commented on their blog.

(My excuse for posting this introduction now is that I was kept up all night and woken again in the wee hours by a party at one of my neighbours’ places. I’m tired and emotional and feeling a bit unloved.)

So, rather than waste these posts, or fool myself that I’m ever going to finish them to my satisfaction, I’ve decided to have a garage sale of never-before-loved (as opposed to pre-loved) posts. Actually, the process is probably more akin to a kerb-side collection, since I’m just putting them on the side-walk for anyone to either take or leave. In no particular order, neither chronological nor level of self-indulgence:

Great Expectations

I am interested to know what people expect from a blog.

‘Twas the Week Before Christmas...

It’s probably acceptable by now to admit that I’m winding down for the year, but really I haven’t been in work mode since the beginning of December. If there’s been any sense of purpose about the last couple of weeks, it’s arisen from the guilty awareness that I haven’t been researching my PhD as one who has the benefit of a full scholarship should approach such a task, that is, in the same manner as a full-time occupation. Instead, I’ve been haphazard: turning up late for shifts, calling in sick, lingering too long in the tea room, and going home early.

I’ve convinced myself that the nature of scholarly research is different from other kinds of employment, which, of course, it is. In the Humanities, no-one’s particularly concerned whether you’re in the office at a certain time; for all anyone knows, you could be working at home or you may have stayed up into the wee hours of the morning writing a chapter draft that will change the course of your chosen field as it is known. Heh, if only I had been doing that. No, even though I’ve realised that I can’t expect eight hours of intense intellectual work from myself per day, I’m not even meeting my own far more modest standards of productivity.

Mixed Up Confusion

I sat down to watch Big Brother on Sunday night and was presented by host, Gretel Killeen, addressing the television audience as though we had all heard rumours about the removal of two male housemates, John and Ashley, from the Big Brother house. Before that moment, I had heard no such thing. My consumption of BB is limited to the Daily Show and I occasionally visit the online news pages when my viewing of the Daily Show has fallen behind. Gretel’s announcement was news to me, so I sat and watch the Sunday night version of the Daily Show with great interest and much curiosity.

The rumours, it turns out, were true; John and Ashley had been shown the door due to an alleged sexual assault on fellow housemate, Camilla. Before John and Ashley were removed from the house, Big Brother had asked Camilla if she wanted to discuss the incident. She said that she had initially interpreted her house mates’ behaviour as a joke. When she felt they had gone too far, she asked them to stop, at which point they did. Later, John and Ashley were called to the Diary Room and from that point they were escorted from the house. Afterwards, Big Brother explained to the house mates that John and Ashley had been removed from the house due to an ‘incident’ involving them and Camilla, where they had breached the house rules.

Camilla’s immediate reaction to the removal of John and Ashley was one of guilt. Big Brother assured her she had nothing to feel bad about, that she had ‘done nothing wrong’. Some house mates seemed to find it difficult to believe that their friends, John and Ashley, wouldn’t be returning. Krystal asked if there was any possibility that they might return. Camilla volunteered to reveal what had happened to bring about John and Ashley’s removal, she explained that she hadn’t asked Big Brother to remove them from the house, but admitted that she had found their actions offensive and upsetting. In the edited footage I saw, no one suggested that Camilla was responsible for John and Ashley’s removal, they seemed to recognise that their friends had gone too far. Many hugged Camilla, others responded with silence, as in the case of David, or confusion, in the case of Jamie, who admitted he didn’t know what he was supposed to think.

After the Sunday Daily Show, I didn’t watch the Eviction Show. I really felt unable to enter into the usual pleasure of that programme. I turned over and watched Murder In Rome instead, a programme which I would otherwise have taped.

On Monday morning, I checked my email and found a Media Release from my subscription to the Office of Communication, Information Technology and the Arts. I posted a copy of Senator Coonan’s statement over at Sarsaparilla, not because I wanted to get involved in another circular debate over aspects of Big Brother, but because I thought it was important to draw attention to government intervention in commercial programming. On the topic of the alleged sexual assault itself, I still had much to process before I felt I could make any kind of comment.

I went over to Larvatus Prodeo and read Mark’s assessment. I’ll admit to not reading the comments on that site—I often get overwhelmed by the amount of comments that blog attracts—but I followed the links he provided to other blogs that had commented on the weekend’s events.

Howard is calling for the programme to be cancelled. But what does he know of the programme. Does he watch it on a regular basis and so have some sense of its history as a kind of provocation for the discussion of the issues of everyday lives, including eating disorders, body image, homosexuality, masculinity, femininity, motherhood, fatherhood...

Grey's Anatomy

When Channel 7 starts announcing that Grey's Anatomy is must-see-TV because 20 million North Americans once watched an episode, you know it's time to turn this show off for good. They're not convincing anyone. Producers know, don't they, that they're scraping the bottom of the medical drama barrel when they start introducing apocalyptic scenarios where bombs explode and chiefs of emergency medicine lose their arms in the rotor blades of helicopters?—oops! wrong show.

The Fake Doctor has long expressed his impatience with the medical veracity of Grey's Anatomy (and just re-reading that link, it's clear Australia is only now watching the episodes he was referring to six months ago). When I first read the Fake Doctor's post, I understood his comments in the context of his status as a medical student; that is, while I could appreciate his frustration with the inaccurate depiction of the lives of surgical interns, his concerns seemed not to properly account for the conventions and expectations of the medical drama genre.

There's an article by Gregory Makoul and Limor Peer, 'Dissecting the Doctor Shows', in an edited collection Cultural Sutures: Media and Medicine which, by means of a content analysis of ER and Chicago Hope, concludes that 'the primary mode of framing medicine is for its dramatic effect rather than any apparently accurate portrayal of doctors and their work'. So, in any television drama series, the question of veracity is reasonably secondary to the demands of drama.

Yet More Parallel Universe

In an effort to get my thinking back on track, so I could finish writing about the films I saw at BIFF, I went back and reviewed the previous entries in this ‘Parallel Universe’ series. Re-reading about the ‘Unveiling Islam: Women and Cinema in Iran and Turkey’ programme the festival ran, I was struck by the difference between...

TV Week: Tuesday

I can’t remember why I first began watching Oz. It was probably another one of those programmes that I discovered by scouring the post-10pm section of the TV guide. If there’s anything I’ve learnt in my years of television watching, it’s that if a programme’s scheduled when most 8.30-to-fivers would quite reasonably be heading off to bed, then it’s bound to be excellent television.

It’s in this manner that I discovered I’ll Fly Away about a white civil rights lawyer in the US during the 1960s. The lawyer was played by Sam Waterston, now of Law & Order fame, and the series was one of the first that David Chase worked on, he who is responsible for The Sopranos. I became a fan of 100 Centre Street in this way, and I also discovered the work of Tom Fontana in Homicide: Life on the Streets.

I remember the very first episode I saw of Homicide. It showed the night shift of a police homicide unit in Baltimore, on an evening when there were no murders. I was dumbfounded; what an astonishing way to begin a police drama series, without any action, indeed, without any crime. What was apparent from the first viewing, however—and it was soon confirmed in subsequent episodes—was that this programme would be character-driven.

It was a thrill to listen to the conversations these police detectives had about their everyday lives, and all the while they went about their gruesome jobs. It isn’t that the characters were inured to what they saw on a daily basis, but they were familiar with the routine of arriving at a crime scene, and so they approached without trepidation, still remembering an irritation they encountered travelling to work or the vagaries of rubbish collection, for example.

I have since discovered that Tom Fontana wrote for Hill Street Blues and after first watching Oz, it was no surprise to learn that he was the key creative force behind the series.

‘We Have A Visitor’

It’s always fascinating to discover what brings visitors to one’s humble blog over the millions of other self-published sites that they might have chosen from in the blogosphere. Perusing the list of the referral details gathered by Sitemeter is an exercise that is alternately flattering, rewarding, embarrassing and, sometimes, horrifying. Running your cursor over the referrals to reveal all of the words entered into the Google searches which have led to your blog provokes moments of self-awareness, times of reflection about the responsibility you must take for your rants and meditations, and, on some occasions, longer periods of thinking about the unforeseen uses of what you have posted.

I recently discovered that my thoughts on Smoke, a film written by Paul Auster and directed by Wayne Wang, has been listed on Paul Auster (The Definitive Website) in a drop-down menu of referrals to internet-based writing on that film. In the process of tracing back from the referral detail on Sitemeter, I revisited the website; the labour of one of Auster’s British-based fans, Stuart Pilkington. I read the ‘News’ section of the site and discovered that Auster’s new book, Travels In The Scriptorium, will be released in the UK through Faber & Faber on the 6th of October this year. Since, in Australia, we get the British covers, I’m assuming that means it will also be released here around the same time. Surely we won’t have to wait for the US release date early next year?

While I was reacquainting myself with Paul Auster, I was struck by the effort that Pilkington has put in to create and maintain the website. This is the work of a fan.

White Noise

I find myself sitting awkwardly in these debates. On the one hand I want to join in, because I have an opinion. On the other hand I find it difficult to respond to the debates in the blogosphere, because the comments pages of blogs are primarily an off the cuff medium in which I find it difficult to succinctly and comprehensively articulate a response; it’s more usual for me end up fighting for a position I don’t completely hold because I’ve been drawn in by the parameters of someone else’s framing of the issue.

Spanish Inquisition: Part Five

I am reading Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. In order to keep myself on task and so finish this 940 page tome, I have enlisted the support that your presence will provide to urge me to continue reading. I will post a record of my progress here at irregular intervals, as well as any comments and questions that are provoked by the text along the way.


When I finished the first part of Don Quixote, I put the book aside and didn’t approach it again for about a month. Now I’ve begun the second part and, contrary to my earlier intimation that the continuing adventures of the knight and his squire have been a cure for my insomnia, I have in fact had many reasons to smile since Quixote and Sancho resumed their travels.

I wonder if anyone who has unreservedly enjoyed DQ has been following this reading experience? What have they thought of my criticisms of the first part? Have they refrained from commenting because they knew what was to come in the opening chapters of the second part? Have they hidden their smiles behind their hands, knowing that my concerns about the welfare of Sancho and his wife were his own?

I Hate Football

I hate football. Perhaps that isn’t quite accurate. I have no opinion one way or the other about the actual game in its various incarnations, because I have never seen a live game or even watched it much on television. I should say, I hate the culture around football.

I have much experience of the culture around football because I live a stone’s throw away from Suncorp Stadium. I have written about this before, in a sort of haphazard way, but I’ve long been storing up a well-justified diatribe against the tyranny of this game in Australia’s cultural life.

What I Have Written

I’ve been thinking about autobiographical writing. Mostly, my thoughts have been in the context of what I have lately perceived to be embarrassing public outbursts on my part, where I have come to regret revealing something about myself on this and other blogs. I have cringed with self-consciousness at the thought of those passages where I have been too confessional about the details of my relationships with my family, friends, acquaintances and colleagues.

It would be easy enough to either edit or delete the offending posts and comments—and when I discussed, in general terms, my experience of embarrassment with some acquaintances who blog, they pointed out this possibility—but there’s something in me that resists exercising that option. I feel compelled to retain the integrity of the time line of the blog. I’m not sure why, it seems terribly conservative of me. Imagine the fun, the kind of textual play you could have with a blog if you altered past posts. On the most banal level, you could go back and correct errors of fact and typography, but on a more experimental level, you could retell every story on whim or fancy. Has anyone ever had a blog that has done away with archives altogether and only ever had one post, which is always replaced? Re-visiting such a blog via something like the National Library of Australia’s Pandora Project would be fascinating, in a linear kind of way.

Another reason that I balk at editing or deleting past posts is out of a desire to exercise integrity on a personal level. I’m fairly certain that I don’t always present as the most balanced or ...


Today I read this sentence on Biology
of The Worst Kind:
I can feel the sadness seeping up through the Prozac like slime through floorboards.
And it just triggered something in me, a rush of tears, because that's how I've been feeling for some time now.

98 Reasons For Blogging: 9

9. Every week I check my blog statistics and usually end up feeling more confused than ever. I'm not entirely sure what I'm hoping to find when I comb through the list of Google searches that have brought people to my blog for what is usually a sum total of 0.00 seconds (according to Sitemeter anyway, but something in me wonders if that's even possible.) I suppose I'm looking for some evidence that someone has spent over an hour, thoroughly fascinated with my blog.

Ah, now I can see the floor again.

Re: Volver

I just saw Volver this evening, and I've since been marvelling over the depths of the female characters, and thinking that Penelope Cruz has never been so wonderful as she is in this Almodovar film, and that a film in which I laughed all the way through deserves the highest recommendation.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


I love Christmas shopping. Perhaps I should be cynical about the purported crass commercialism of the entire season, but I just can’t summon the invective; all I can think of is the joy of guilt-free shopping. I have plenty of bile for people who don’t think the seasonal road safety warnings about refraining from speeding, drinking and driving, and driving while tired, don’t apply to them, however, when it comes to searching out the perfect gift for someone, something in me just glows.

In past years, I’ve started my Christmas shopping early to avoid the financial burden of trying to do it all in the last fortnight. That was my intention this year too, and I started off well enough. I bought one of my sisters the most gorgeous necklace from a small jewellery and gift shop just up the road from me.

After I bought it, I decided that I’d purchase all of my Christmas gifts for other people from small businesses in my suburb, rather than give my money to large chain stores.

Then the weeks started to slip by and I hadn’t bought any more gifts. I decided that the necklace would become a birthday present instead—for the same sister—and I reassessed my Christmas budget to reflect my income.

This shift has been less difficult than you might imagine. While I would love to give everyone a gift where money was no object, that delivered to them the pleasure of something they would not have treated themselves to, I have had the most fun seeking out less expensive presents that still manage, I think, to capture an aspect of the intended recipient’s interests.

A case in point is the present I found for my uncle who lives in the UK. I was browsing the shelves of another local shop—this one sells environmentally sustainable produced products—and considering getting him something called Gardener’s Soap, because in his retirement he does some part-time gardening work, maintaining a golf course. Then I came across a packet of golf tees made from corn polymer. One of the problems with golf tees is that they tend to get left on golf greens and because they’re usually made of petroleum-base plastic, they hang around forever. In addition to being biodegradable in the long term, in the shorter term the corn polymer tees last longer than the wood kind, which those concerned with the environment might otherwise buy, to the detriment of usability. So, I found a less expensive and, importantly, a lighter gift to put in the mail, and it’s one that encapsulated a better idea for my uncle, who also likes to play golf.

Some other gifts for various people that I found in the same shop include a crocodile ornament fashioned out of a tin can from Africa and some star-shaped shower timers, which surely everybody needs in these water-use conscious times. In the shop next door, I’ve become particularly fond of a product known as the Swanky Hanky. It’s another excellent idea for sending through the mail. The fabrics of the hankies are of the coolest prints, virtually guaranteeing that when the recipient of the hanky takes it out of her bag, for whatever purpose, she will receive a compliment on her excellent taste from everyone around her. And since I’m of the opinion that one can never receive too many compliments, I like to think that people will garner them when they pause to wipe the sweat from their brows using a Swanky Hanky gifted to them by me.

In my shopping, I haven’t always managed to stick to my promise to buy from small businesses. Even in these cases, however, the chosen gift has seemed just right for the intended recipient. I bought my other sister the Australian Idol Winner’s Journey album, by Damien Leith, which includes a bonus DVD of many of his performances throughout the show. It was on special at Target, but what makes this gift even more appropriate for this particular sister is not just that she liked Damien as a performer, but that she had missed watching the show’s finale. She’d asked me specifically if I’d taped it so she might borrow it, but I hadn’t, so the fact that I’ve been able to give some part of it to her in this way pleases me no end and, hopefully, it will please her too.

Another thing that I’ve taken to in time for Christmas has been origami. I’m sure there will be a more detailed post about it here in the future, but for now, I can’t tell you ,again, how much fun I’m having choosing the right model to create for someone to slip into a Christmas card as an small surprise.

Does all this sound sickeningly joyful? I can see why people get disillusioned by the focus on material things at Christmas time, but giving gifts is about far more than the physical object. It’s a cliché to say ‘it’s the thought that counts’, but if you have considered the impulse or motivation behind the gifts you offer, and present them to your family and friends with sincerity, then there is so much joy and pleasure in the tradition of gift-giving (and receiving*) at this time of year.

Merry Christmas!

*For example, I was delighted to receive a jar of macadamia nuts from a friend who I know had gathered them from a tree in her garden. She dismissed it as a silly present, but for me, while there is the deliciousness of macadamia nuts, her gift recalled a particular conversation we’d had earlier in the year. Her gift revealed to me that she’s a good friend who cares about me because she remembers and honours the finer points of our friendship.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Gastropod: Packet Mix-Up

This is what I ate for dinner tonight. I found the recipe on the back of some 'Spice Sensation' flavoured couscous that I tried.

The pictured couscous is actually a different variety to the one I expected to find in the 'Spice Sensation' packet. I worked out that it was the 'Tomato Tang' variety; obviously there was some mix up at the factory. Anyway, that accounts for why I bought the couscous at the greatly discounted price that I did.

The combination of chicken thighs with apricot, saffron, cinnamon and chilli, with sundried tomato wasn't entirely disasterous, but I think it would have gone better if I'd been able to make the intended match.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


There’s been a lull in the hostilities between myself and Channel Nine this week. It’s true that Channel Nine probably doesn’t know they’re having a war with me and if they did know, I’m not sure they would care.

Eddie McGuire responds to the news that Channel Nine is at war with Galaxy

Anyway, over here at Chez Galaxy, the situation is tenuous at best. This week saw the final episode screen in the sixth season of The Sopranos. This brings to an end yet another season of erratic scheduling by Channel Nine of any programme that doesn’t register in the top ten of the OzTam ratings. For the first two weeks of the season, The Sopranos screened at 10.30pm Wednesdays, then without a word it wasn’t on for one week, then it was rescheduled to show at 5 minutes past midnight on Tuesday mornings—give or take 15 minutes.

The frustration of this approach to scheduling is that, as a viewer, you have a choice between staying up past midnight only to become even more tired, frustrated, and angry when The Sopranos doesn’t begin at the advertised time, or you set your P/D/V(C)R to record with a 20 minute buffer on either side. Clearly Channel Nine doesn’t believe in either the concept of a day job, efficient use of hard drive/disk/cassette capacity, or for that matter any kind of commitment to well-produced television.

Even as I write this there is a sense of bafflement that this week’s episode was even presented as a final, because as every fan of The Sopranos knows, the last season of the programme has 20 episodes instead of the usual thirteen. Quite when the Australian public will be privy to these apparently extra-seasonal episodes isn’t known by me, but perhaps if Nine’s programming executives have a nice Christmas they might deign to share them with the rest of us. (If you can’t tell, I’m really struggling to remain polite here.)

Of course, increasingly, there’s the alternative of by-passing Channel Nine altogether by downloading it, or waiting for the DVD release, as more than one of my colleagues and friends have chosen to do. I will have to do this as well, since I managed to miss at least ¼ of the episodes that were screened, which creates problems when cumulative narratives are at stake: one day Vincent was creeping back in to Jersey, then his head was being taken out of a freezer. I’m guessing something significant happened in between.

As I said, the ceasefire is tenuous, but I’ve been tempted back over the past two weeks, first by Weeds, which stars Mary-Louise Parker—who was just wonderful in Angels In America—as an over-privileged pot-dealing mom, struggling to hold onto the Range Rover after she is widowed. At this point—three or four episodes in; again, who can tell with Channel Nine, they seem to be playing double episodes and presenting them as one, except when they said they were repeating the first episode, at which point it became clear they had initially played two, because they did only repeat the first episode... Okay, I’ve lost the subject of the sentence before the break—that’ll happen in a rant—so I’ll start again: At this point, I like the way the Elizabeth Perkins character is written and performed. She is just horrible to her pre-pubescent daughter, harassing her to be thin and blaming societal norms. My goodness, she swapped her daughter’s chocolate stash for laxatives, which had a suitably disastrous outcome. The moment of her daughter’s revenge was quite brilliant.

I didn’t watch the return of Nip/Tuck last week because it’s a show I’ve only ever watched on DVD, but this week I tuned in. I’m not going to commit to it at this point. I started watching Men In Trees last night, and since I’m really expecting Channel Nine to get the scheduling wrong on that too, just because I like it*, I figure it will be easier to give up on Weeds and Men In Trees than Weeds, Men In Trees and Nip/Tuck.

Oh, Men In Trees takes me back to the pleasures of Northern Exposure. It’s an Alaska thing, a fish out of water thing, a Sex and the City Largest State in the Union thing.

What will I do about Rome though? Looking through the television schedule for this evening, I see Channel Nine has decided to give it another go, again, after unceremoniously pulling it after only two episodes had screened. Now it’s being shown as if there never was any extended break. Again, so much for cumulative narratives and complex characterisation that require your full and ongoing commitment to enjoy.

I have to believe there’s some kind of perfectly logical programme executives reasoning behind all of this inconsistency, however it’s a mindset I just can’t fathom. Surely the imperative of ratings only explains so much, especially when ratings has been about more than total numbers for a long time now. For goodness sake, I’m reading about programming strategies from the 1970s that identified the less populous ‘quality’ demographic—urban-dwelling and educated, so presumed affluent—for whom programmes were fashioned. On the one hand I’m loathe to use the logic of markets to make any argument, but if it means that programmes like The Sopranos, Deadwood and Six Feet Under get made, then I will assert the importance of considering this demographic.

At the moment, Channel Nine’s programming practices just seem arrogant and disrespectful to a sub-section of its viewers. I am tempted to say that they don’t understand the different viewing practices required by these programmes, because it seems to me that as a viewer it’s impossible to settle in to these programmes the way they are currently being pushed around, and often just plain pulled from the schedule. These programmes require more attention and have more of a memory within their narrative structure than some other kinds of programming. After a working day, it’s difficult to concentrate on The Sopranos after midnight. It would be better to watch from 10pm; that’s when the premiere screening occurs in the States. At the same time one of the expectations of television is that you view a programme on a regularly scheduled basis, and Channel Nine just never gives you the opportunity with these programmes. You miss the third episode and then the fifth due to unadvertised changes in the schedule, and then you think, ‘I’ve missed too much, the story doesn’t make sense any more, so I’ll wait for the DVD’.

I am tempted to say all that, but people tell me that programme executives have the same degrees that I do, that they consider scheduling an art and invest a great deal of time and research into that art. I can’t argue with that, which is why there must be some parallel-universe logic going on that I can’t fathom. All I know is that as a viewer Channel Nine have alienated me. I like some of the programmes they put on, but overall I don’t much like them. They’ve got a lot of work to do to regain my good will and so that is why this current truce is fragile. I’ll let you know how the negotiations go.

*I don’t mean to sound self-absorbed, rather, I’m referring to people who share my taste for this US premium cable channel drama, the kind that doesn’t rate sufficiently on network television in Australia.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

There Goes The Neighbourhood

Well, truth be told, the neighbourhood was shot long before anyone thought it was a good idea to hold a rock concert in a residential area; a series of alcohol-fueled sponsored football matches saw to that.

Tonight, the first of the Robbie Williams Brisbane concerts will be held practically across the road from me. I had a preview just before of the noise levels to expect over the next two evenings. Let's just say I will 'feel real love fill the home that I live in'.

Update: It's 10 minutes to 10pm, and I'm feeling the real love, right now. Boy those 50,000 people can sing. Yeah, Rabbie's not too bad, either. Sounds like it's been a bit of a best of Rabbie night. (I can't stop thinking of him as Rabbie, since like that other poet/lyricist, Rabbie (Burns), he has a reputation for lovin' the laydeez)

Another Update: Oh, now it's 10pm and Rabbie is entertaining us all. 'Let me entertain you! Let me entertain you!' Heh. It's quite the sing-along. Join in blogosphere! 'C'mon, c'mon, c'mon, c'mon! C'mon, c'mon, c'mon, c'mon!'

10.13 Update: 'And through it all she offers me protection, loving ...something ... and affection, whether I'm right or wrong ... something, something... Angels ... something, something... wherever it may take me ... I'm loving Angels... something, something'

10.20: 'Jump on board, take a ride, yeah ...' Big wooshing sounds... Lots of cheering ...Some incoherent words from Robbie ... More cheering

10.26: Beep, beep. Beep, beep. Well, those concert goers will insist on wandering out onto the road, irrespective of cars. Clearly, they're high on Rabbie.

10.37: 'Go Robbie! Go Robbie!' High-pitched, hysterical scream

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Point Of View

I was lying back beside a pool, contemplating going for a swim, wondering whether I would sink after eating more than my fair share of rice chips and prawn dip, and then I saw this perfect sky.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

98 Reasons For Blogging: 13

This is a photograph of me and one of my Sarsaparilla colleagues, David, who also has his own blog, Lorraine Crescent. We’re standing inside Soul Under The Moon an installation by Japanese artist,Yayoi Kusama, which is part of the Fifth Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, now showing at the newly opened Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane until May.

I’m the one in the glowing t-shirt. David’s clothes were clearly more appropriate for delivering a conference paper—as he did earlier that day—than rendering him visible amongst the mirrors and glowing moons to your curious gazes.

The Gallery bought the work after the last APT in 2002 and, I’m proud to say, I made a small donation at the time towards its purchase. I love it. You enter the installation through an opaque sliding door, which closes behind you, onto a short catwalk platform surrounded by water. The water forms a reflective surface that works with the mirror-covered ceiling and walls to form the illusion of an infinite space. The various orange and green spheres are lit by the fluorescent purple lights, adding to the sense that you’re hurtling through outer space. You can stare into the distance forever.

Of course, the trick is not to become disoriented and hurtle into the water, a feat made more difficult if you’ve been drinking beforehand as David and I had both been. We were attending the Academic Viewing hosted by the Gallery as part of its programme for the combined opening of APT5 and its new premises. It was the Gallery’s education division that plied us with alcohol and encouraged us to wander amongst the art.

Normally I’d be too rules conscious to take a photo in an art gallery, but there I was, inebriated, teetering on the edge of space, and unduly influenced by David, whose first thought on entering the installation was whether or not a photo could be taken. I had to know too, and that’s how I discovered that at least three could be taken with my phone’s camera. David was also a bad influence on the two other people who were viewing Soul Under The Moon at the time. In the end, we all left the installation giggling like naughty children to the bemusement, I’m sure, of the Gallery staff member presiding over the automatic door.

Here, I should just note that we resisted running through another installation, this one comprised of intricately carved totem-like poles, arranged in a kind of forest. There were signs saying ‘Do Not Touch’, which was difficult, because their carved surfaces were just so inviting. I really wanted to walk amongst them and explore their surfaces with my finger tips. I had to fold my arms and rock from heel to toe, but I did not touch.

I’ll revisit the exhibition and write about it in more detail in another post, but for now, I just wanted to say how excellent it was to meet David and hang out with him for a bit. He’s the first blog person I’ve met that I haven’t already known outside of blogging.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Has anyone else seen thys poster yn the foyer of cynemas lately? I take yt as a sygn of the forthcomyng Apocalypse:

Edyt: Sorry, that should be 'Y take yt as ...'

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Gastropod: The T-shirt

This is not the post I told you I was preparing. No, that one will be much more angst-ridden, if it ever appears. And by posting this one, the whole point of the other one might be rendered moot, which may well be a good thing for all of us.

Anyway, to 'Gastropod: The T-shirt'. This is the t-shirt I wore yesterday as I whiled the day away at home, catching up on taped episodes of Oz and The Sopranos.

From left to right (not necessarily in order of appearance):

1. Home-made pizza sauce (three spots). I wasn't going to be nearly so ambitious, but discovered I had no tomato paste, so I had to make a tomato sauce if I was going to satisfy my pizza craving. I used the last of the pita bread as a base for two small pizzas the first of which was topped with anchovies and kalamata olives. The second had feta cheese and dried chillis and oregano. I didn't have any melting type cheese, but I tend not to really like melted cheese on my pizzas. Drizzling olive oil does the job for my taste.

2. Chicken Thighs Braised with Apricots & Couscous (one large spot). This was
dinner the night before, and you may notice it has meat of the non-fish variety in it. I bought some chicken from the organic shop up the road during one of my infrequent moments of concern about my diagnosed iron deficiency. Not that chicken will do me much good on that score I suppose. Still, it was one of my better efforts at cooking meat after 8 years of veg-aquarianism. I had it for lunch, which is why it made it down the front of my t-shirt.

3. Pomegranate (one large purple spot). Pomegranates are the most visually pleasing fruit in the world, and since I like sweet/sour things, they're also one of the tastiest fruits in the world. Some might consider the seeds annoying, but I love the way they demand you savour each bubble.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Testing, Testing

TV Test Pattern: The Center of Chaos by Cheri Arnold.

I'm working on a new post for Galaxy but meanwhile, I've been venting my spleen over at Sarsaparilla.

Friday, November 10, 2006

I'm Not Super Girl

I've run out of things to say. I'm not sure if this is a long term condition, or merely a temporary phase. If it's the latter, possible causes include being mind-numb from marking an endless pile of essays, where subject-verb agreement seems to have been considered an optional extra that most of the writers declined, or being frightened into inarticulateness by a due date that I'm going to miss.

Now I've realised that I'm not Supergirl (in the picture above I'm the less ready Superhero on the left), I can speak again; I've managed to actually focus on one task rather flitting anxiously between three, and lo and behold, I have progressed, at least on one particular looming task .

On the self-imposed project of blogging, I really feel as though I've lost the energy to write in the vein in which I established this blog. Of course there's no rule that says blogs can't evolve (or devolve) over time, it's just that right now I feel that I have nothing to add to everything else that's being written out there.

This isn't my resignation from the blogging world, it's just how I've been feeling over the past few weeks and right now it seems that the feeling will last for a bit into the future. But you know how Superhero types are; one minute the world is ending and the next, the world is back on its axis.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

98 Reasons For Blogging: 12

Ampersand Duck has led me astray to an excellent site for the procrastinator in everyone called Mr. Picassohead.

I thought I was being clever when I called my effort Thesis Descending Staircase, which I thought would be an homage to a work by Picasso himself (and a suitable comment on the progress of the thesis), but it turns out that before Marcel Duchamp began submitting signed urinals to galleries and daring to call it art, he was a dab hand at Cubism:

Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 (1912)

Friday, November 03, 2006

I Want To Believe

LOVERS of fatty food may be able to have their cake and eat it too, according to striking new research into a special compound found in red wine.

Pass the brie and a glass of red, please.

Do you think the obese one looks perkier for its age? I mean, they're all still alive, aren't they?

Maybe these mice need to adopt the more discerning culinary habits of the Indonesian luwak:

Apparently they're quite fussy about the coffee cherries they ingest. Some ingenious type has taken advantage of the luwak's discernment and proceeded to demonstrate what could be described as a lack of discernment, or even, from another perspective, a kind of hyper-discernment. They have taken to trailing behind the poor creature with a pooper-scooper, gathering the undigested coffee beans, washing them (thoroughly, I hope), and then roasting them lightly before selling them for $1250 per kilo.

According to The Curious Snail, the only cafe in Australia that sells you a cup of coffee (only $50) brewed from these beans is in North Queensland, thereby giving this state the cultural edge over Lygon Street in Melbourne. Depends what you mean by 'culture' I guess. Not sure it's what Raymond Williams had in mind.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

98 Reasons For Blogging: 11

11. And now for a proud sister moment...

The photo on front of this 'Hip Pocket Guide To Melbourne' was taken by my brother. You can go and admire it in a better resolution at his Flickr gallery, along with many more of his beautiful images.

Dear Diary

Dear Diary,

Yesterday I stayed at home in an effort to do some work without being distracted by the people I share my office with. My change of venue was a successful ploy, and I got to do my washing as well. But I am faced with a dilemma. As a rule, I don’t want to work from home. Because I live by myself, I think it’s important to maintain some kind of separation between home and work, otherwise I would never go out. Lately, I have used travelling to and from the University as a way to incorporate some free, regular and (hopefully) effective exercise into my routine. Still, going out is about more than raising my heart rate; it’s also about finding ways to establish a routine, when the arrangement of my day is entirely a matter of self-discipline, and it’s also about collegial and social interaction. In regard to this latter point, dear diary, you might wonder what I’m complaining about when I tell you that I’m spending too much time in distracting conversations with the people I share my office with; isn’t conversation the reason I go to the University? The short answer is yes. I go to the University to attend seminars and reading groups, and I consider going for coffee with someone a priority on most days. When I’m in my office, however, I would like to work, whether that be internet database researching, reading or writing. I don’t like my main activity in that room to be talk. I’m not against all conversation in the office, but there are limits and I’m not quite sure how to set them. Part of the problem is that everyone in the room is at different stages in their theses. I am three months away from confirmation, so I need to start tackling the writing of that document in a concerted way and for that I find it better not to feel compelled to enter into conversation every time I or someone else enters or leaves the room. One of my office mates is near completion, so he is very focussed. I like it when he’s in the room because the others take one look at him with his headphones on, typing intently on his laptop, with books and articles on the floor near his chair, and hustle straight to their desks without a word. Another office mate has just started her thesis and she is new to this country as well, so in addition to her thesis she is concerned with making social connections and improving her English. I am not indifferent to this and have enjoyed many excellent conversations with her, but when my work isn’t going as well as I want it to, I’m afraid that I resent making conversation. Perhaps I should try the headphone tactic. Even if there’s no music playing, it constitutes a clear signal that says ‘I’m not available to talk right now’. I'm worried about being rude and inhospitable and making her feel unwelcome. The last person I share an office with is at an awful time in her thesis. Her scholarship is about to run out and she is far from completion. Her initial supervisor got a job overseas and she has a fraught relationship with her current supervisor. That mix of insecurity, fear and conflict makes for a combination of anger and bitterness that seems to need constant expression. Again, I’m not indifferent. I experienced this same convergence of circumstances and the subsequent cocktail of emotions when I did my Master’s thesis, and I didn’t have the responsibility of a child as she does. Still, even before we shared a room I always found our conversations to be like walking a tightrope; I am exhausted by the effort they require since I feel I can never fully relax. I often feel patronised by her, and again that makes for a level of resentment that lately I just don’t want to hold in. Today, in fact, dear diary, I gave a very brief vent to my resentment and frustration in response to my perception that I was being patronised, but it was also fuelled by feeling constantly diverted from my work by circular and exhausting conversation. And then I left the room to attend a prior commitment and proceeded to avoid her for the rest of the day. Dear diary, I am not proud of myself. I think I need to apologise, but I don’t know how to do it sincerely and address the problem at hand. But I wonder if it’s worth investing the effort into smoothing things over, beyond a functional surface level, with someone who I’m not likely to ever be best friends with. Will discussing my feeling of being patronised merely create unnecessary problems? So you see my dilemma, dear diary. What should I do?

Yours sincerely,

98 Reasons For Blogging: 10

10. As a mother and a blogger... No, this is not another overly confessional, revealing post (I have not had a baby since we last spoke). You've had enough of those from me lately. I just thought if I began this post with 'As a mother and a blogger...' you would be instantly enthralled by whatever I had to say; my moral authority would be unquestionable in a way that it wouldn't be if I began, 'As an aunt and a blogger...' or 'As a daughter and a blogger...', even 'As a sister and a blogger'. What if I said 'As a spinster and a blogger...'? , 'As a woman and a blogger...?', or 'As a single mother and a blogger...'? Well, I couldn't say that last one, but I think it would probably hold even less authority than the spinster one, since we as a society don't like our mothers to err by doing it by themselves, for what ever reason.

Now, I've lead you this far, convinced you of my moral authority, I have to disappoint you. I have nothing to say as either a woman, a spinster, an aunt, a daughter, or a blogger. Here's a comic for stopping by:

Saturday, October 28, 2006

98 Reasons For Blogging: 9

9. This morning I was persuaded to get out of bed by the phone ringing. It was a friend who was checking to see that I was still alive.

Check. All present and acounted for. Proof of life:

Thanks to Dogpossum for the photograph, taken in Tasmania, December 2004 (obviously before my current glamourpuss incarnation. Really).

Friday, October 27, 2006

98 Reasons For Blogging: 8

8. This week I decided to experiment with a different way of getting to and from the university. Instead of catching a bus to the CBD, then catching another one to the university, or even walking to the river, then catching a bus to the university from there, I incorporated a bit more exercise into my journey by continuing to walk along the bike and pedestrian path after I reached the river.

I walk along this path for about thirty minutes up to the Regatta ferry stop, and catch a ferry to the university.

Aside from getting my slumpy self moving, I've found it's a much more pleasant and quiet journey. There's no waiting in queues or crowds for the bus, only to have a crammed, jarring, and so irritating, ride home.

I can be calmed by the water, whether I'm walking alongside it, or skimming over it on the ferry. There's no opportunity for cobwebs to gather while my hair is whipped by the wind created by the movement of the ferry.

I can feel the sun warm my skin and anticipate the full bloom of the flame trees, which are just beginning to flower.

And I can smile at the unauthorised suggestions for ways to travel along the council-maintained bikeway.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Medium Is Not The Message

Pavlov’s Cat has drawn my attention to this shocking event in which a group of school-aged boys assaulted a young woman, recorded their actions and proceeded to distribute evidence of their depravity by making DVD copies and selling them for $5 each.

It’s necessary for me to be absolutely clear that I find the actions of these young men inexcusable. I can’t find words that adequately express the extent of the repugnance and confusion I feel when I think about what these children did to another child, especially one so vulnerable, whose intellectual development has been delayed. That they profited from inflicting such torture is abominable.

While I was reading the report through The Age link that PC provided, however, I noticed another headline in the sidebar: ‘Ban this technology, says expert’ . In that story, a psychologist called for the banning of camera phone technology in Victorian schools:
"There needs to be protection. I do believe kids need to be protected from themselves and from their impulsivity and their lack of risk assessment and lack of prioritisation," Dr Carr-Gregg said.

"I think one way we can do this is by having a blanket ban on all camera-enabled (and) internet-enabled mobile phones in schools.

"I just think we shouldn't allow them. We've seen repeated incidents of happy-slapping, assault, kids shrieking with joy when they caught a particularly vicious assault on camera, and that's at school.''

Dr Carr-Gregg said the issue of bullying had moved beyond the schoolground and into cyberspace.

When I read the psychologist's proposal, I was mystified. The leap from condemning the behaviour of the young men to calling for the policing of the technology that they used seems to be quite illogical. Isn't the problem the criminal assault? It's true that the technology enables the recording and distribution of such actions, which adds insult to injury (and provides condemning evidence in court), but would getting rid of phone cameras stop the behaviour? Isn't the greater problem the extreme lack of empathy or compassion for a fellow human being, which needs to be addressed in a much more substantial and responsible way?

I find it quite alarming that some professional people dedicate their lives to condemning technology. I can understand condemning particular uses of technology, especially in this instance, but it's these teenagers' indifference to others that's surely the source of concern here; after all there are many people, young and older, who use their mobile phone's imaging capabilities everyday with the intent and effect of cultivating and maintaining good mutual relationships with others.

Update: More from Barista, as referenced in Lucy Tartan's comment

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

98 Reasons For Blogging: 7

7. From the "Higher Education" section of The Australian:

The Oxford Street exodus

October 18, 2006

OXFORD Street is the homosexual heart of Sydney. Mardi Gras marches down it, gay clubs and shops have sprung up along it; it's a metaphor for the visible gay community.
I fear I'm slipping into pedantry here, or I would if Brad wasn't just plain wrong. What he describes is a metonym, not a metaphor. He should have said 'Oxford Street is metonymic of the gay community in Sydney', meaning it is one part of the gay community that is read as representative of the whole of the gay community. The gay community cannot take on the qualities of the gay community--which is the signifying process of a metaphor, by way of comparison--because it already is the gay community.

I don't know where to begin with the 'visible' bit. If the metonym had been named correctly then 'visible' would render the sentence a tautology since a part cannot stand for another part of the same thing. This whole first paragraph is nonsensical.

Monday, October 23, 2006

98 Reasons For Blogging: 3 - 6

3. While checking whether I had misspelled ‘impeccable’ in a comment I had already submitted to Laura’s blog, I noticed the word before ‘impeccable’ in The Chambers Dictionary aka ‘The official reference dictionary for Scrabble®’ is ‘impearl’. I learned that it meant ‘to decorate with, or as if with, pearls; to make pearl-like’, which seemed quite lovely. Then I turned my attention to the word before ‘impearl’, which is ‘impeach’. Alas, ‘impeach’ does not mean “to make peach-like”. It would be incorrect to say, “I am going to impeach this cake”, something which would be decidedly good to eat the outcome of, I think. If it meant to ‘decorate with peaches’, that is.

4. ‘Sunday on the Porch’ is a tradition that has been instituted by a friend while she has been house-sitting for three months in a spacious and renovated old Queenslander house. Yesterday was the last ‘Sunday on the Porch’. I wish I had taken my camera so I could show you some pictures of the very fine time we have on such occasions, but I was too busy collecting prawns and Riesling from the shops when my lift arrived, so I ran back down the hill and didn’t go back into my flat. I suppose I could have wielded my camera phone, but then I was too busy consuming at least a week’s ration of chocolate in one sitting. And laughing. And just talking about everything and nothing.

5. I don’t know what went on with Australian Idol last night. Big mistake letting the kids mangle contemporary music with a swing band make-over. That’s not a criticism of swing, more a sense of mystification about why they just wouldn’t just stick with music written especially for all that brass. Maybe the producers got sick of all those excuses along the lines of ‘I don’t know any swing/jazz songs’ and ‘This isn’t my comfort zone’. Oh wait, I think I counted at least five instances of the latter excuse. Will someone audition some musicians for this show please? You know, those people who are curious about genres of music that pre-exist the 1960s.

Now I have to reveal that, last night with the magic of video recording, I much preferred the other singing contest going on in this country at the moment, Operatunity Oz, in which contestants vie to sing in an Opera Australia production of Rigoletto and their very own recording with ABC Classic. Last night we found out that David Parkin, the bass, IT guy won the competition. I am very pleased by this.

When he sang in those low, low tones I swear my body vibrated the entire time. Excellent that Emily Burke is getting an ‘operatunity’ as well.

Here’s a joke from Richard Gill, the conductor of Opera Australia:

Q: How many sopranos does it take to change a light bulb?

A: Ten. One to change the bulb, nine to say they could have done it so much better.

6. ‘You may think that ‘cause you’re so much older than me, you know more about the world. Well, in some cases, that may be. But I read magazines. I watch TV. I know how people are supposed to treat each other’.

--From Northern Exposure: Shelley to Holling, after he abandons her at the altar.

Friday, October 20, 2006

98 Reasons For Blogging: 1-2

1. One Day The Ice Will Reveal All Its Dead arrived in the mail today.

It begins:
Let me tell you about ice. There are a few things you should know: firstly, it's not white. Usually it's blue, almost a turquoise, almost warmly Mediterranean. Sometimes it's not even blue, but yellow or maybe orange. That's when the sun is setting. Sometimes it seems that the sun is always on the point of setting up here. It's not, of course. It's just that often it is so low that all the light is scattered, and for a small while, just a few seconds, it is so beautiful you could forget to breathe. Stupid to forget to breathe, I know, but it happens. You forget to breathe and then you have to take a great mouthful of air and gasp at the coldness of it.

2. Veronica Mars is not on television this evening.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Purple Rain

Brisbane is feeling a bit dazed and confused at the moment. Cracks are showing in the Riverside Freeway--on the Ann Street off-ramp in particular--which is exactly the route the bus to the University travels. Roads have been closed, traffic has been diverted, and people have been encouraged to take public transport, but still the chaos of peak hour in the CBD is quite unbearable.

It's quicker to walk from the CBD to inner city suburbs these days, so this is what people have been doing; there is walking and cycling in droves. It's quite exciting really from an alternative-to-cars transport perspective. It shows what's possible when people believe they have to find other ways to travel to and from work. And although the consequences of global warming may seem less imperative on a day-to-day basis than the prospect of a freeway collapsing and people tragically dying, the environment is perhaps an even more pressing concern because the number of lives affected are exponential.

And look at the beautiful sights you encounter as you walk about Brisbane in October.

The Jacarandas are blooming in full force. They treat everyone like royalty, rolling out purple carpets for all.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


This month Judy Horacek's Cartoon Topic is 'Trials & Tribulations', which seems rather appropriate in view of all the recent reports of disappearing keys, mobile phones and ATM cards. These comics will cheer us all up. We will laugh in the face of over-work, weepiness and disturbing news from Norway.

Friday, October 13, 2006


Every now and again, I find myself channelling dogpossum. I did it in a recent blog post when I imagined you telling me to ‘grow up, baby’, in response to my complaint about the sense of malaise that had me staying at home last Friday. That might make dp sound a bit mean, which is not my intention, since she is far from being so. You need to know how she delivers this directive, not to any specific person as such, but rather in conversation about someone who has tried her patience with just so much nonsense that the time for excuses is over; ‘baby’ is delivered without the usual sing-song that one might infuse it with when speaking to an actual baby, or a loved one, instead the tone is flat and the full force of the connotation of ‘baby’ as a stage in life where one has not developed beyond total immaturity is imparted. I’ve always found dp’s use of ‘baby’ in this sense, in discussion about someone who hasn’t been an actual baby for a long time, completely hilarious.

I’m thinking about it now, because after the afternoon and evening I had Wednesday, I have imagined another of dp’s responses that would be forthcoming if I told her of the rather trying events that occurred. Dp would say something like: ‘That’s a sad story’, and she would mean it in a sympathetic way, but there would be just a slight sense that it wasn’t the end of the world, that you had got yourself a bit worked up over something that didn’t warrant the energy; and best of all you would be prompted to laugh at yourself. So, here’s a sad story.

It began when I arrived home from the University, via the city where I picked up some stinky cheese and olives, only to discover that I didn’t have my keys on me. Anywhere. You know the scenario. You pat all your pockets; tip out every bag you have onto your front doorstep and scrabble through the contents, all to no avail. I called the real estate, which is just up the road from me, to see if I could get hold of a spare key. The person who answered the phone told me she was from sales and the property management staff had gone home half an hour ago. And then she laughed. I’m not sure that was the best thing she could have done at that point. I briefly wondered whether the agents weren’t supposed to be a bit more helpful in such situations, or at least offer some kind of after hours assistance. I always feel as though I’m speaking another language when I try to communicate with real estate people; I find them singularly unhelpful and uncomprehending. I want to get away from them as quickly as possible, which probably doesn’t make me the best communicator in such circumstances.

Anyway, I suppose I wasn’t thinking terribly clearly myself because moments like these always remind me of my relative isolation. I start to think I should have flatmates or a partner who would turn up with their own key and let me into the flat. If such people were in my life, then I would only have to worry about finding or replacing the keys the following day, instead of trying to figure out then and there how to locate my keys, or failing that where I could go until I could organise entry into my own home.

I decided I must have left my keys at the University, so I caught two buses back there and organised for a security guard to let me back into my office. That went well enough. I remained surprisingly calm—when I’ve done this before, I haven’t coped too well. The trouble really began when my keys weren’t in my office. I tried to think what I could possibly have done with them. Did I put them down on the counter at the supermarket when I was putting my groceries into my Stuff-It bag, hurriedly, since I was trying not to hold up the cashier when, unsmilingly, he held my change out to me? Had they fallen out of my pocket on the bus? I had no idea.

I had to think what to do. I knew I couldn’t go home, unless I wanted to pay a fortune for a locksmith, which I didn’t. I tried calling the supermarket, but by this time it was approaching 7pm and they had obviously closed, because there was no answer. I tried calling the transport information line to see if anyone had handed my keys in to lost property. I was told to call the city council, which I did, but they told me to call back on another number the next day after 3.15pm, when the lost property arrived from the depots all around the city. Sigh.

That’s when I called my sister and asked her to rescue me. I explained the situation and asked, ‘So, I was wondering if you would come and rescue me?’ Happily, she agreed. In fact, luckily she was home to agree, because she’s a nurse who does shift work. And luckily I lost my keys this week and not next week, because then she and her husband would have left for the Paris trip she won after entering a competition at a supermarket. She came and picked me up at the University and brought her two dogs with her. I stayed over her place that night, way over on the other side of town.

The next morning I dropped into the supermarket to see if my keys had been handed in. Although my hopes were raised for a moment when I was asked ‘What kind of keys?’, alas they didn’t have them. Nor did the bus service manage to locate them, although they did say that sometimes lost property takes a few days to get to the office (!). One of my office mates was very sympathetic and he suggested a system whereby we would hide his office key in a mutually agreed place, so we could both come and go as we pleased. It worked well, but I knew I’d have to part with $15 to get a new key, sooner rather than later.

Now I’ve replaced all my keys, but my memory stick is gone forever, as is my nifty key-ring complete with a red light that I got from the National Gallery of Victoria. I feel a bit dumb, as well as completely mystified as to the lost keys’ location. Any suggestions for how not to lose one’s keys would be welcome. I have briefly contemplated getting a piercing and attaching my keys to that; in such a scenario, if I absent-mindedly forgot about my keys and let them go, I would feel a searing pain before they became detached from my person, which at least would allow me to relocate them promptly.

< / sad story>

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Gastropod: Okra

A while ago now, ThirdCat put in a request for some okra recipes that didn’t reduce the squat green fingers to the mucousy texture they are renowned for. I hadn’t seen any decent okra about until the other day, when I was reminded of my promise.

Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian* has a substantial section on okra, driven, it would seem, by the author’s own tastes. She writes ‘According to my mother, the two foods I took to most after leaving her breast (at age two) were both mucilaginous—okra was one and urad dal the other’. This doesn’t really bode well for ThirdCat’s proviso, especially when I’m not entirely averse to the slimy manifestations of okra myself. Nevertheless, Jaffrey does offer some great advice for discouraging the mucilage which is really down to the preparation and cooking style you choose.

Before you start cooking though, it’s important to be careful in your selection of okra. I’ve seen okra in Woolworths plenty of times, but the fingers have just been too big, so you know the seeds are going to massive and the taste not terrible nice. Jaffrey advises ‘the smaller pods are more tender’ and I liken the selection process to that of zucchinis; you’re not trying to buy the results of the biggest vegetable competition, you’re buying for texture and taste.

In terms of preparation, Jaffrey treats them like mushrooms, suggesting you wipe them with a damp cloth while they’re whole. If they’ve got lots of brown on them though, she recommends washing them quickly and drying them thoroughly, leaving them to air dry even. This apparently discourages the mucilage. I’m not sure I could be bothered myself. I suppose it depends if you’re going to cook them whole in a stew or soup or slice them up to fry.

If you really hate the slimy manifestations of okra, then frying is the way to go. Jaffrey says that through frying okra ‘all its mucilage disappears entirely’. I’ve done it the easiest way for this post. A recipe isn’t really required, since I just sliced it on the diagonal and pan-fried it on a medium heat until it coloured, then seasoned it with salt and pepper.

Here I just scattered it over a basic chickpea and tomato dish, and served it with couscous.

After I wrote the above section, I took myself off to the Valley to visit the Indian grocers I used to frequent when I worked at the dreaded call centre. I bought some chickpea flour there so I could use the rest of okra I had, and also to offer you something a bit more involved than pan-fried okra. I decided on the okra fritters because I think that maybe even ThirdCat’s kittens might enjoy these.

To begin, cut 225g of okra length-ways into 3mm slices. I figured that meant into thirds so I went with that for ease.

Next you’re supposed to remove the seeds by scraping them away with the tip of the knife. I wasn’t too fussy about this, some got left behind but since the okra was small it didn’t affect the digestibility of the final product in any way.

Measure 115g of chickpea flour into a bowl, slowly add 200ml of cold water, mixing as you go. I had to put down my whisk while I added the water. Whenever I read this kind of instruction, I wonder. I guess there are people in the world who have bowls that stay securely on their benches. You should aim for the consistency of a pancake batter. I can’t really help you if you’ve never made pancakes—on the thin side, I suppose.

Add some salt, cayenne pepper and ground turmeric. I tend to be a bit Jamie Oliver in these measurements, some good hearty pinches. Go lightly on the cayenne pepper if you’re a baby (or a kitten) when it comes to hot things.

Heat up four cm of oil in a deep pan. Set the burner for a low medium heat, because these are quite slow cooking compared to other fried things I think. Add the okra into the batter.

Place individual pieces of the okra into the oil, making sure they don’t touch. The recipe suggests that the okra requires around 17 minutes to cook through properly, but I found 8 to 10 minutes worked well for me. I can’t account for the discrepancy; perhaps it’s best just to keep an eye on it and have a taste/texture test when you think they’re getting near.

After removing the okra from the pan and draining them on absorbent paper, I sprinkled it with sea salt and dipped the fritters in chilli jam.

I liked the chick pea batter a lot. The oil drained away from it really well so the fritters weren’t at all greasy. The okra was soft, with only a hint of viscosity; I don’t think you’ll ever get rid of it entirely, but it’s certainly possible to minimise it.

Bon apétit, mes petits escargots!

* I have a hard-back edition that seems to be a slightly older version to the one linked here.

Friday, October 06, 2006

More Parallel Universe

I’m not feeling terribly well today. Yesterday’s malaise has revealed itself as a precursor to the sniffles. And here I thought it was because I was woken up at around 4am yesterday by a bizarre yet insistent bird call—sort of like a series of extended whistles, interspersed with the trills of other birds. I eventually fell asleep again but didn’t wake again until 11 o’clock, when I remembered I didn’t have any coffee left. I assumed the sharp pain in my eye that I carried around with me for the rest of the day was due to not imbibing caffeine within the crucial hour after waking, but it appears the eye was connected to the nasal and throat passages, which woke me up at 4am when I couldn’t breath adequately, and the ear passages which helped keep me awake because they were hurting me.

Anyway, ‘Boo Hoo! Yawn!’ I hear you say, ‘Take some vitamin C, drink some juice. Baby.’ Alright, I didn’t start this post to bore you with my trivial maladies, perhaps I just needed to justify not going into the University today to myself.

I started this post because I’ve been walking past the film festival tickets and programme I’ve kept for over a month now to remind myself that I had promised to post something here about the films I saw at the BIFF. The ticket on top at the moment is from the silent film I saw Beyond the Rocks.

Every year the BIFF presents a silent film which is screened to the accompaniment of organ music. Whatever film is playing it’s a bit of a special occasion because we just don’t have these kind of cinematic experiences any more; any extra-filmic music is usually courtesy of those miscreants who still haven’t figured out that it’s just plain rude to leave your mobile phone on in the cinema (or haven’t the poor dears figured out the silent mode of their phones, yet?). I always feel like I’m getting two for the price of one, a concert and a film experience (when I see the silent films that is, not when I’m distracted by the ignorant mobile phone owners).

This year the film was one that, until very recently it was thought, had been lost to the annals of decay. Then someone was scavenging through an un-catalogued archive in the Netherlands somewhere and found a near complete copy. It was promptly restored and now you can get it on DVD. People who know about these things were very excited about the discovery of Beyond the Rocks, not only because it’s an old film, but because it was an unusual film for its time since it featured two stars of Hollywood in the one film, Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino. While this kind of double act is fairly common practice now, apparently, at the time, it was not. Gloria Swanson read the move as a slap on the wrist for daring to ask for more money for the films in which she starred; she maintained that putting her in a film with Valentino was a way of reminding her that she was not the star she thought she was. One wonders what kind of atmosphere this knowledge made for while shooting, but any fears that there would be fisticuffs at dawn between Rudy and Gloria as they vied for superior star status were, we learnt, put aside because they really were very good friends. Oh, I love a happy ending.

The film itself was an adaptation of a torrid romance novel, about an ill-timed flirtation between a young woman and an aristocrat, while she’s on her honeymoon with her overweight and, it must be said, not terribly robust, older husband. The poor neglected husband seems to make matters much worse for himself by getting sick in the mountain air and on almost every other occasion. I ended up feeling quite sad and sorry for him.

Still, when the competition is Rudolph Valentino, not too many would stand a chance. I swear, I had to catch my breath and fan my face; I was all aflutter after watching Valentino on screen. The appeal of him as an actor and sex symbol is more than obvious. Dr H. credits Valentino with giving her a crisp white shirt and cuff links fetish, and while the man himself was beautiful in his own right, the fashion of the 1920s and the costumes in the film did him no harm whatsoever.

The costumes served Ms Swanson rather well too, it must be said. Seeing all those twenties outfits made me wish I could see them in full colour. I’m sure the seamstresses amongst you can appreciate the work that has gone in to them more than I ever will, but they were quite glorious.

This is a strange poster; the fashion is completely wrong.

While there were no mobile phones going off in this film, there was a distraction that neither I nor anyone sitting around me could understand. It was only ten minutes into the film when it became obvious that someone had fallen asleep and was snoring! I did my very best to tune the offender out, and I was successful thanks to the appeal of Valentino. Alas others were not so successful, and after I had declared to all and sundry that Valentino was ‘hot’ and managed to regulate my breathing again, the conversation turned to the snoring man. I could elaborate, but really, all I can think about is Rudolph Valentino; the way he holds his hands, the way he leans against a tent pole, the way he fixes Gloria with his gaze... Phew!