Monday, July 31, 2006

The Public Transport Diaries: Day 7

This is the last entry in ‘The Public Transport Diaries’. I’m not even sure if I can properly claim there was any public transport taken today. Does someone coming to pick you up so you can see a Chinese ‘Ritual Street Opera in Seven Parts’ together count as car-pooling? Does car-pooling count as public transport? It’s certainly a hassle-free way to travel, even amid the traffic congestion created by yet another football match at the Stadium—it was League this time. It’s a lot of fun to revel with someone else in your shared ignorance of contact sports and head off to see Moon Spirit Feasting or Yue Ling Jie.

Parking in the Valley on a Sunday was a snap, since the loading zone restrictions only apply Monday to Saturday. From the loading zone, it was only a matter of crossing the street and entering The Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts. Past the foyer of the Centre, there was a shrine set up with various offerings to the Gods, while on a balcony, off the main room, massive sticks of incense were creating a storm of smoke outside the windows, its smell permeating the room. In the introduction to the performance we were told that the shrine was one of fertility and it had worked its effects very convincingly on the performers of Elision, who between them had borne 12 children in the past six years of performing the Opera.

I am no judge of opera, and especially Chinese opera. Was it in Raise the Red Lantern that one of the concubines was a former opera singer? She used to haunt the roof-top of her prison, singing haunted and tortured songs. When I used to work in a building off the China Town Mall, I used to hear Chinese opera while walking through it during my meal breaks. But these are my only brushes with the form. While I was watching this less than traditional Chinese opera, I wondered if I knew more about the traditional incarnation of the form, whether that would alter my experience of it. Undoubtedly.

Nevertheless, I liked it. It was challenging and mesmerising. I’m beginning to think I have a thing for experimental non-Western music. Between the music of Drawing Restraint 9 and now, the music of Elision, composed by Liza Lim, there’s something about the voices and breathing, as well as the sounds and instruments, of these pieces that commands my attention. I can listen to them again and again.

There’s also something fascinating about the demon women that inhabit so many Chinese myths. The moon-goddess was first a greedy woman who stole the Herb of Immortality from her husband. He pursued her to get it back and she fled to the moon, where, in fright, she coughed up the herb, at which point she was transformed into a rabbit. Later she gets turned into a toad by a demon goddess, the Queen Mother of the West. While the toad and rabbit are both symbols of female fertility, apparently the moon-goddess, Chang-O symbolises coldness, loneliness and beauty. She is a ‘figure of psychic nightmare’ and ‘a wish-granting heavenly creature (associated with fertility)’.

The journey home was decidedly hassle-free, for which I was thankful, after a week which seemed over-shadowed by petty irritations.

The tally of the various journeys is thus:
Bus: 9 Return: 7
Taxi: 1
Walk: 2 Return: 3
Car Pool: 2

Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Public Transport Diaries: Day 6

I caught a bus into the city today to meet Dr H so we could see The Libertine. If you weren’t going to see this film anyway—are there people who don’t see every film that Johnny Depp stars in?—I recommend that you do. It is wonderful on every level, from the very first grainy frame. Even John Malkovich rises above, well, being John Malkovich for the first time in a long time.

On the way home, I’m reminded of the Bledisloe Cup between Australia and New Zealand being held at the local Stadium tonight. There’s a taxi on the road beside the bus with a man sitting on the frame of its back door window. His body is half out of the car. He is gesticulating and yelling—god knows what—at people in the taxi next to his, as well as others passing on the street, who are dressed to mark their team loyalties. Is it wrong to wish that he’d fall out of the taxi and onto the road?

It’s at times like this that I find my misanthropic tendencies rise to the fore. As the bus turns into Caxton Street, I can see that the bars are already crammed with jersey-wearing drinkers. A series of photocopied signs outside one bar warns its patrons that they shouldn’t take their drinks beyond the partitions that have been set up. It would be nice if that happened, but it’s not likely. The patrons will, as is their usual practice on these evenings, carry their drinks to every street, side-walk, domestic garden and public park in the surrounding area, where they will leave the glasses and bottles to pollute the environment for weeks and months to come. For good measure they’ll urinate in any convenient alcove.

Maybe no-one will be raped.

Already people are wandering aimlessly onto the roads, and the congested traffic is signalling its impatience. The streets will close later on to ensure the safety of the crowd when it departs the stadium en masse. Meanwhile, the dull roar of inter-Tasman rivalries rises and engulfs Suncorp’s neighbours hiding in their sleepy Queensland homes.

At 1.45 on Sunday morning, I was woken by a scream and some crying. I listened and listened, then heard some soothing, competent voices.

At 7.30 on Sunday morning, a car was parked on the easement driveway outside my gate, blocking access to three other properties. A parking infringement officer had placed a ticket under the car’s windscreen wiper.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Public Transport Diaries: Day 5

It was pouring with rain when I left home this morning. Hmmm, rain and public transport... You do the maths. You already know, that irrespective of the farmers and drought-stricken people everywhere (hello Toowoomba!), I am going to bitch and moan. I suppose the good folk who maintain the buses had become so used to the lack of rain that any attempt to waterproof their vehicles had long become part of their history, a kind of mystical past that no-one need worry about too much now. This is a very feeble and self-indulgent (no!) attempt to inject some humour into relating the moment when I realised that many of the seats on the bus I caught were wet, not because anyone had forgotten to close the windows, but because there were obviously holes in the bus’s seams.

I still had my errands from yesterday to run, so I went into the city first. It was too early for the film festival again, but I sorted out the prescription debacle. You will all be pleased to know that henceforth there will be no sudden bursts of irrationality from me [insert evil laugh here].

I caught the Rocket to the University. Traffic was a nightmare. Wasn’t sure if it was on account of the wet-weather craziness or if an accident had happened. It was impossible to tell because the windows on the bus had fogged up completely. I became concerned at one point because the driver made no attempt to clear the window she was looking through. I wondered how she could see. Eventually, she succumbed. She made me nervous again when she diverted from the usual route to the University. I suppose on a Rocket it doesn’t matter how we get to our destination, but I don’t find it much fun when they take the roller coaster route in the rain. Have I mentioned the extreme hills in this part of the world before?

After a day of rain leaking into their interiors, the old buses reeked of mildew on the way home.

I finally got my BIFF pass on my way through the city. When I was on the bus, I became aware that I was really hungry; it was after 5.30 and I had last eaten at 11.30—three pieces of overpriced sushi (bring on the effects of VSU. Yeah. Woo. Hoo.) My stomach was grumbling and I was wet and cold, so I indulged in some hot chips in one of the city’s food courts.

I simply must report to you on the culinary habits of a girl I observed eating across the way from me. She was eating a bowl of soupy noodles, using chopsticks, while in the other hand she held a half eaten ice-cream. Every now and then, she put aside her chopsticks to take either a bite of sushi, or some pieces of fruit salad. Now, I see nothing at all wrong with any of these choices individually. I’ll concede there is a perfectly logical match between the noodles and the sushi, and the fruit and the ice-cream. But ice-cream and noodle soup? Ice-cream and sushi? Is this some culinary match—like strawberries, basil and balsamic vinegar—that makes no sense to the ear or the eye, but works its hitherto hidden magic on the tongue? I was aghast and fascinated. I had difficulty refraining from staring.

I made my way to the bus stop for home and found I had 15 minutes to wait. I thought I would wait, but then a man wearing a jacket with the logo of a company whose call centre I used to work in came and stood far too close to me. He looked at me a lot, so perhaps he recognised me—although he wasn’t familiar to me—but he didn’t say anything. Either way, I feel sick when I see that smug logo. All that, ‘How do you know if you’re ...’ makes my stomach turn. I tell you how you know, because the person on the other end of the fancy phone from you is working for pittance in an environment that sanctions your abusive phone manner and your sense of entitlement to be that way.

I decided to spend the waiting time window shopping. I returned with time to catch the bus, but it was late, no doubt due to the weather-induced traffic chaos. There were two teenage girls, who had expected the bus to be on time, indeed, whose timetable for getting where they were going was contingent on the bus being scrupulously on time. They did not cope well with the delay, thereby ensuring that I did not cope well with delay. They started almost hyperventilating with hysteria and kept saying in their high-pitched teenage girl voices ‘Oh my God!’ and every third or fourth word was ‘like’. It would have been wrong to scream ‘Shut the f*** up!’ They managed to attract the attention of a dubiously avuncular older man, who took it upon himself to offer them advice. Ewww. At that point I began to make sure he wasn’t being too creepy towards them. Then I got off at my stop, I hope the other passengers were looking out for them.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Public Transport Diaries: Day 4

Caught bus from home to city with the intention of doing two things before heading to the University: secure a discount pass to the film festival, and fill a prescription. The BIFF office hadn't opened for the day and I brought the wrong prescription with me (I know! I'm a regular walking pharmacy.)

On the way to the University bus stop, I was asked how I felt about the environment by a Greenpeace marketer. How are you supposed to reply to that question? I just smiled and kept walking. Whenever I encounter charity marketers these days, I think of the Lenny Henry sketch, where the character only signs up to donate because if he gets past the first marketer, he's certainly not going to get past the scrum of others waiting to accost him further along on the footpath. On that train of thought, I recall a whole host of hilarious sketches and characters by Henry, including the old man who runs the convenience store, and the pirate radio announcer who broadcasts from her kitchen table, speaking a mile a minute and improvising her own sound effects and jingles. Hahahahaha.

Of course, I care about the environment, but I can only contribute to one charity on any kind of regular basis.

Help Protect Cape York

I managed to board a Rocket bus and, lo and behold, it filled up. I don't have to be concerned about the well-being of the Express passengers stranded at their stops en route to the University, at least not on account of the bus driver not doing the right thing. I almost feel warm and fuzzy, but that could be due to the close proximity of the person sitting next to me, combined with sleep deprivation.

It’s actually raining when I leave in the evening, after yet another Georgina Born presentation. I’m not sure if she’s tired, but I think my iron deficiency is catching up with me. The rain is all well and good for the drought situation, but my newly purchased book is getting wet.

What is it with those people who can’t organise themselves to buy discount tickets, so everyone can board the bus as quickly as possible? While the rest of us cool our heels in inclement weather, they search, apparently fruitlessly, through their bags and pockets for their student IDs to show to the bus driver, and so justify the concession ticket they’ve asked for—all the while blocking the passage of fellow travellers onto the bus.

When I get on the bus and show the driver my monthly ticket, conveniently displayed in a small plastic folder along with my student ID, the driver grins at me and says, ‘Thanks, Lovey’. Heh. Lovey. I had a friend who used to call me that. It always made me laugh.

Another woman disembarks, along with me, at my bus stop. It’s unusual for another person to get off the same bus stop and also walk practically the same way home as me. It’s kind of reassuring; we’re sort of each other’s company in the dark. I can see from her body language that she’s taking as much care to be aware of her environment as I generally do. She goes into a house that is not too far from my own.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Public Transport Diaries: Day 3

Caught an early bus this morning. I’m totally pumped by the prospect of today’s masterclass. Haven’t had my usual 8 hours of sleep since I was up to the wee hours reading Professor Born’s work and the articles of the three attendees who will be presenting their work. As I walked to the river I could feel the coolness of the air on my neck, left bare by my decision to secure it within an inch of its life up on my head with a hair grip and bobby pins. It’s probably not the most flattering look for me, but it suited my sense of purpose about the day.

I wasn’t too sure about attending this masterclass. While I did a kind of made up ethnography in my work on zines in Australia, I didn’t apply initially because I thought I would be lingering in my previous work and so distracting from my current project. But now, after engaging with Professor Born’s work on the BBC and the importance of looking at agency in cultural production in tandem with the aesthetic and institutional mediations, I’m enthused about the opportunity it presents for a politically and philosophically informed approach to the aesthetics of television.

I have to thank M. profusely for sending an email to the reading group, urging us all to make a late application. It’s so nice to feel all effervescent, yet mindful and convinced of the importance of my work. It’s nice to be reminded about why I’m pursuing this career.

It’s spitting slightly. People are standing up on the bus, even though there are seats available. And now, I’ve just arrived at the University.

Left the University at 9pm after restoring my tired mind with pizza, beer and a casual debriefing of the jam packed events of the day with other masterclass attendees. Surprised by the number of people still around, but there seems to be a Dance Club function for O-Week going on.

Before getting on the bus, I struck up a conversation with an international student who resembled Martin Freeman from The Office and Hardware. He had recently arrived from Tennessee via Argentina, where he had begun a master’s on the leftist governments of South America. It’s a long story, but now he’s relocated to Australia, which he seemed quite pleased about, even if he has to reconfigure his project a bit to take advantage of the new geography in which he finds himself. He was jetlagged and still coming to terms with the whole ‘other side of the road’ thing. He asked my assistance for getting on and off the right bus at the right time. In ten short minutes he managed to extract from me explanations on the topics of both my MPhil and PhD. He commended me on coming up with a project that allowed me to watch The Sopranos, for study purposes, of course. Then we laughed about the South American fondness for melodramatic soap operas, which I gathered he’d had the advantage of actually watching. He was also interested in the percentage of US product on Australian television. I guessed about 60%.

We shook hands and wished each other luck before he disembarked at the shopping centre. I alighted at my usual stop and walked home without any event.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Public Transport Diaries: Day 2

I walked to the river to catch the bus to the University from there. The cross-country service arrives at the stop the same time that I do. I rather like the circuitous route this bus takes, past some architecturally interesting homes—there are no McMansions or Boxes in this part of town.


Left my office at 5.40 to catch a bus home. The City Express isn’t able to pull into its usual departure stop because a bus, going only as far as the shopping centre, is loading passengers. The Express stops at the Rocket stop instead, where there is a queue, almost back to the main building of the campus. Those who would have taken the Rocket board the Express. I am at the usual stop and see no point in trying to get on my preferred bus since I would have to queue jump to even occupy standing room. The Rocket arrives after the Express—it leaves with ten passengers, at most.

I check the timetables and notice that there are at least 15 minutes until the next bus I can catch. All at once, approximately 300 people arrive at the bus stop, soon followed by what must be another 200 more (I’m not exaggerating. Perhaps the numbers will die down as the semester progresses and people skip classes). Another Rocket arrives. A bus to the shopping centre arrives. Both are in the process of being stuffed to the gills, when an Express arrives. The Express pulls in behind the bus to the shopping centre and blocks the departure of the Rocket. Much beeping of horns ensues as the driver of the Express tries to indicate to the driver of the bus to the shopping centre that it’s time to close his doors and move away.

Now, it’s after Six. Finally, I get on the bus. I receive a text message that asks if I’m ready for a masterclass I’m attending tomorrow. No, I have so much reading to do. While the bus is loading, I start to read one of the papers that will be presented at the class. The bus closes its doors and the light I was reading by is gone. Sigh. A girl eyes the half-seat beside me, but then she recognises me as a former tutor (or at least I recognise her as a former student of mine), so she remains standing.

I decide to listen to the music I put on my phone before I left home this morning. When will someone invent a pair of bud headphones that don’t constantly tangle without the slightest provocation? It’s dark and I can’t see precisely where to insert the headphones. At the same time, my eyes hurt from the brightness of the display on my phone. I press play and can’t hear anything. WTF. I turn the volume up, but can only hear the faintest of noises. Then I realise, from the body language of my former student, that I haven’t plugged my headphones in properly, thereby treating the bus to Natalie Merchant singing a rendition of ‘Birds and Ships’. ‘Sorry everybody’. I give up trying to soothe my irritation.

The bus stops at four stops before reaching the shopping centre. Again, would-be passengers are left stranded. The driver allows only one person on at each of the stops, replacing those who have disembarked. At the stop just before the shopping centre, the first person in line declines the driver’s offer, since he is waiting with the four other people.

I sort out the bad headphone connection while people get off at the shopping centre. The bus reaches my stop during ‘California Stars’. I think about taking my headphones out. It’s not that safe walking in the dark without listening to your surroundings. I leave my headphones in. Looking around constantly, I make sure I’m aware of my environment on a visual level.

Slowly, Jeff Tweedy’s voice begins to relax my brain. When I hear ‘Hesitating Beauty’, I can feel the tension in my face loosen and joy bubbles up in me. I’m on the verge of singing out loud:

Well I know that you are itching to get married,
Nora Lee
And I know I that I am twitching for the same thing,
Nora Lee
By the stars and clouds above, we can spend our lives in love
You’re a hesitating beauty, Nora Lee

I make it home halfway through ‘Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key’. I keep the ear buds in until the song finishes. Irrespective of any neighbours, who might be home to hear me, I sing, at the top of my lungs, in a terrible Billy Bragg/Natalie Merchant impression:

Ain’t nobody that can sing like me,
Ain’t nobody that can sing like me.

The Public Transport Diaries: Day 1

Walked thirty seconds from home up to the bus stop only to see a bus pulling into the stop to let a passenger off. Started to run, hoping the driver would see me in the side rear vision mirror, but the doors closed… Then they opened again. He must have seen me! When I got on the bus the driver said, ‘good timing’. I said, ‘I think I got lucky. Thank you’. I sat down next to someone who was doing their make-up. A girl sitting in front of me had very high heels on with a faux snake skin and suede design. I reflected that I have never worn shoes with high heels on any kind of regular basis (outside of the court shoe fashions of my sixteenth year), and that I would unlikely be able to walk in such shoes.

In the city, I made my way to the University bus stop after buying a blueberry bran muffin for breakfast. Began to walk quickly to the waiting Rocket service (no stops to the University). Saw a girl run up to its door, only to have it close in her face. The bus was only one third full. Boarded the City Express service (selected stops to the University), also waiting, and noted that it was nearly full. The driver of the Rocket service requires a smack. S/he obviously turned up at the last minute—people had already boarded the slower bus—then had taken off with no regard for the passengers that would be left behind on the way to the University because the slower service was too full with people who could have caught the Rocket.

I think that being rostered to drive on a Rocket service should be a privilege for bus drivers, since there is little work involved in filling a bus with University students who have pre-paid tickets. Where do they get these drivers who don’t want to do anything, even when they have to do very little? Why don’t they care about their colleagues who have to deal with the consequences of their laziness? As for those drivers who close the door in your face—quite deliberately—they should imagine they’re leaving their own children or other loved ones stranded on the sidewalks, running late for classes and appointments, all because they couldn’t be bothered.

Decided to leave the University at 5.00pm to go shopping. I am in desperate need of groceries at home. I should have left earlier to avoid the rush, but got caught up in searching recalcitrant databases and figuring out the less dubious uses of content analysis as a methodology.

Squashed onto a bus with 99 other people. I sat up the front of the bus in a seat that’s too big for one, but not enough for two and personal space as well. I have no clue why I continue to choose this particular seat to sit in. I always feel guilty—and fat—because another person can’t fit beside me. If someone sits on the seat, but with their legs in the aisle, then another seat is created. That’s what a girl with stylish glasses and beautiful skin did today. She asked, ‘You don’t mind if I sit here?’

The bus was so full it had to sail past four lots of open-mouthed would-be passengers on the side of the road, before reaching the shopping centre where the majority of passengers disgorged to catch a connecting train. I disembarked there.

I finished shopping just in time to miss a bus home. Instead of waiting for the next one, I decided to catch a taxi. I had bought a very fine specimen of cauliflower and, combined with the weight of potatoes, three tins of tomatoes, two varieties of pasta and more, I wasn’t sure I could maintain a good mood on the walk from the bus stop to my home (10 minutes further away than the 30 second distance of this morning).

The taxi driver put the meter on before he got out of his car to open the boot and stand there while I heaved my bags into it. Then when I said ‘The third street on the left’, he promptly took the first. He asked me if I wanted help getting my groceries out. I let him off the hook, for which he seemed extremely grateful—even managing a polite ‘thank you’ when I said ‘Just pop the boot; I’ll be fine’.

Friday, July 21, 2006

This Life on Earth

Who’d be a penguin? And even if you believed in re-incarnation, could you choose to be a penguin over, say, the privilege of being a human being or the curse of being a bug relegated to the undergrowth? Hmmm. Just what is the hierarchy of sentient beings according to Buddhist teachings?

I’ve been vaguely wondering who’d be a penguin, ever since I saw March of the Penguins at the cinema. They lead such harsh lives, especially during their breeding season. How do they survive as a species, I wonder? Between the arduous trek to the heart of the Antarctic, the standing around in the snow and wind, the perilous and often fatal transfer of the egg from the female to the male, the standing around in the snow and wind, the near starvation, the threat of predators, the standing around in the snow and wind… life doesn’t look all that good for a penguin. Maybe it’s better to be a bug; at least if you get eaten by a predator, the end is bloodless—unlike the unenviable fate of sea lions when they’re tossed into the air and mauled to death by killer whales

Recently I’ve been reminded of my concern for penguins while watching the first episode of the BBC documentary Planet Earth. Again, I learnt about the male penguins nursing their eggs on their feet. In this instance, they didn’t mention that the females, after the exertion of having just laid the eggs, had to return to the sea to get some food, either that or turn into popsicles through lack of nourishment. Always the male penguins get the praise for looking after the embryos. Still, after watching the second episode now, I’m enjoying the David Attenborough narrated documentary. While I might wonder about the future of penguins, it’s no surprise that pandas are a dying breed. Can’t they find something else to eat, other than the nutritionally poor bamboo?

adopt your own virtual pet!

Anyway, with the magic of the Internets I’ve taken a penguin under my arm. Her name is Gwyneth—Gwen for short, and alliterative reasons. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any pandas to adopt.

Saturday, July 15, 2006


So, right now I’m thinking that when Robbie Williams comes to town in December, I will be able to sell tickets for a seat at my dining room table, because so far this afternoon I’ve been treated to some very clear choral renditions of Advance Australia Fair and Waltzing Matilda from Suncorp Stadium, as it prepares for an international Rugby Union match later tonight. The mp3 player on my newly acquired mobile phone would be proud to achieve that kind of sound quality.

Before Robbie arrives to entertain us though, I’m looking forward to the Brisbane International Film Festival (BIFF) next month. I’ve just been perusing the schedule and there are many decisions, or rather eliminations, to be made. I never feel compelled to go along to the opening or closing night films—admission to those requires parting with larger sums of money than for the usual screenings and I’m frightened by the thought of socialising with film industry types and their entourages in the after-parties that always follow. Besides, you can always be certain that the films shown on those occasions will have no trouble finding distributors, indeed they probably have deals already.

I didn’t go to the festival last year, so I’m not sure if the ‘Showcase’ event was introduced then, but it seems to be another kind of cinema event involving a party afterwards. It’s less expensive than the Opening Night, but more expensive that the Closing Night. Again, while I would be very interested to see Thank You for Smoking, 48 Shades and Like Minds, all of them will be released more broadly, even the Australian films. It would be good to see the film-makers talk about their work, which they seem to be doing as a part of these Showcases, but the whole party-afterwards puts me off. I prefer the straight forward question and answer sessions with film-makers that you get at the regular sessions where the director or an actor, sometimes a producer, are there as a guest of the festival.

After the films that are followed by parties are crossed off my list, I tend to draw a line through anything from the USA, the UK or France. Again, my reasoning here is that even if they won’t be at Hoyts or South Bank, they will show at the Palace or Dendy cinemas. To my mind, the only reason to see films from these countries at a film festival is if you must be amongst the first to see things. (If you haven’t guessed already, I tend to be amongst the stragglers in the uptake of any ‘new’ cultural phenomenon—that mp3 player on my phone is my first foray into the technology). Another reason, of course, is if you’re a fan of either the film-maker or the topic of the film. I remember, a couple of years ago at the festival, many of the Metallica fans who were turned away at the ticket counter to Some Kind of Monster seemed very disappointed. I was sympathetic to their plight, but for myself—not an aficionado of metal—I figured I could wait a couple of weeks until it began screening at the Dendy, at which time I thoroughly enjoyed watching those crazy rock stars scream at one another in group therapy.

Another measure I have for narrowing down the range of choices at the BIFF is to see whether the film is funded by SBS or ABC, in which case you can be sure it will appear on those broadcast television networks in the next few months. While ordinarily I prefer to watch a film on a cinema screen, when a television station is a production partner, generally the film has been made for the smaller screen and so little is lost in a visual and aural sense by waiting to watch it at home.

Even after all of these carefully considered eliminations, there is still much more to see than any one person can easily absorb over two short weeks. This year, there’s a major focus on women film-makers and women in film from the Islamic countries of Iran and Turkey. I’ve really enjoyed the Iranian films I’ve seen in recent years. I’m interested in seeing a recently recovered silent film with Rudolph Valentino and Gloria Swanson in it, Beyond the Rocks. It must surely be compulsory to see the first heart throb of cinema in action on a big screen. Since there’s little opportunity to see experimental film, I’m intrigued by the description of Figner, the End of a Silent Century: ‘A homage to the man who has provided the sound of footsteps, door-slams, and fist fights for films in St Petersburg for decades. When Figner (playing himself) takes a train journey, reality, memory and fiction blur as his fellow travellers take the form of characters from films on which he has worked.’ I have very fond memories of The Five Obstructions, a documentary film where Lars Von Trier collaborated with Jorgen Leth, setting limits--an edit every 24 frames, anyone?--to recreate segments of Leth’s 1967 film The Perfect Man. I’m not sure I’ll be able to resist seeing Executive Koala from Japan. It’s the story of an office worker—a giant koala (his boss is a similarly proportioned rabbit)—who becomes a suspect in his girlfriend’s murder. Apparently there are song and dance routines in that one. I also want to see Klimt by Raul Ruiz. And the puppet animation of Kihachiro Kawamoto in The Book of the Dead.

I haven’t even touched on the films in the World and Asia Pacific Cinema pages.

Oh. Decisions, decisions.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Ice Ice Baby

This is a converted ice factory near where I live.

For a while there, it was some kind of production studio. I'm guessing video, television or film production, from the painted images.

I liked the way that, in the conversion, the site's history was incorporated .I remember, when the building was first painted, I thought how stunning the colours and images were.

I was thrilled to have something so visually creative on the street scape.

I watched in wonder as this inverted face emerged from patches of seemingly disconnected colour.

The building is on a corner. This is around the other side.

Soon, according to a newly erected sign, the building will be excavated and an apartment block, known as The Ice Works, will be built.

The current building is quite old, and I'm sure it's not terribly safe. Still, I will miss seeing these wonderful street images. Would the architects and owners of the new building consent to this kind of facade?

The building next door used to be an independent stationers, but I guess it became more difficult to stay in business when an OfficeWorks opened up not far away. Now it's the shopfront for what looks like a staging production company.

Although from the window display, it looks to me as though they do some kind of interior design and lighting work. I don't know if the two businesses are connected.

I love the humour of all of these images. This bluebird flying around the skull and cross-bones tickles my fancy.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Of Mice and Women

I was intending to go to the University today to pick up some books on television that I’m working my way through at the moment. The plan was to work on a couple of blog posts I’ve been writing, while still doing some thesis-related thinking—a perfect combination of assignments for the weekend of someone who thinks they should have gotten to work earlier everyday last week.

The plan began to unravel when I sat at the bus stop for over half an hour, during which two scheduled buses did not appear. Of course three, nearly empty, City Express buses that don’t observe my stop went blithely past, taking no account of my pointed glares at my wristwatch. After I had called the bus service and all of its drivers and managers every new swear word I’ve recently acquired watching the series of Deadwood that Dogpossum has generously loaned me, I was about to make a phone call, in which I might have actually spoken my new vocabulary aloud, when the bus came along. I went to my seat in a foul mood, frustrated that nothing would be achieved by venting to the bus driver, except to make her day terrible as well, if it wasn’t already. Alas, nothing could spare either of us, or indeed the rest of the passengers, the shock of what happened next. A man pulled out of a driveway, without looking, and straight into the bus lane. It’s a good thing that the bus driver had her eyes open and managed to brake in time, narrowly avoiding a collision with the car, if not preventing her passengers from being thrown forward and using expletives they might otherwise have suppressed.

After I ate a lunch of miso soup, sushi and green tea ice-cream, I made my way to another bus stop to commute to the University, thinking a bus would be due to depart in a few minutes. I waited a while before I thought to check the timetable, since I realised I’d been working with the week day timetable in my head. It turned out that I’d just missed one and it would be another half an hour until the next. Meanwhile, of course, two City Express buses returning on the route that had passed me while I was going into the city were going to be departing while I waited for the bus I wanted. At that point I decided to trash my plans. I. Was. Not. Going. To. Wait. Any. Longer. For. Another. Bus. Even. If. My. Sanity. Depended. Upon. It. Especially. When. The. Other. Bus. Route. Had. More. Services. Than. Anyone. Could. Ever. Use.

So, I decided to come home (on another bus) and tell you about all the trivial, insignificant crap that didn’t make it into my previous post, and a bit more that I gathered while killing time waiting for the bus home.

I spent ten minutes, distracting myself from the torture of waiting for the bus home, looking at beauty products in a department store near the bus stop. I’m pretty fussy about the soap and other toiletries I use. I have used products from The Perfect Potion, ever since it was a small shop in the old hippy version of Elizabeth Arcade in Brisbane. Now they’ve gone on to conquer St Kilda, but I remain a loyal customer. Recently, however, I have been seduced by the charms of the Mor range. It began with the purchase of a Pomegranate candle, which smelled divine and was packaged in the most exquisite box, to say nothing of the red glass and gold painted candle holder.

I happened to buy that around mother’s day and it came with a free Cherry Blossom French-milled soap. It also smells quite amazing, and I’ve enjoyed the luxury of a long lasting soap. Yesterday, I came across a half-priced Cherry Blossom candle in the same range. I had to get it because it’s a total indulgence that’s not usually all that cheap—especially not when you reflect that it’s a candle. Today I tested the hand-cream while I waited for the bus. It’s nice too, but I don’t think I’m fully seduced, yet.

I felt better when I made it home. I’m not sure how much of my intolerance for waiting at the bus arises from reasonable annoyance, premenstrual tension or the fact that I’ve not had any thyroid hormone replacement tablets since I ran out of them on Wednesday. I tried to make an appointment with my GP to get a new prescription but she’s on holiday, and I hate seeing someone else. Wouldn’t another GP just have to take my word for it that I need them? Could the endocrinologist, who I haven’t seen for at least 18 months, give me a prescription? Probably not. I’ll admit to being a bit impatient about even needing to get a new prescription for a hormone that I’m going to have to take for the rest of my life. Can’t they just issue me with a card? Give this girl Thyroxin on demand! Then I’d probably just avoid the doctors altogether and they wouldn’t like that. I need monitoring. Maybe they’re worried I’ll start indulging in Thyroxin abuse. This is where people, especially women, I suppose, take too much of the hormone in order to lose weight. They should rest assured that they scared the bejesus out of me when I was first diagnosed with a hyperactive thyroid* about the dangers of too much thyroid hormone—osteoporosis, heart-disease etc, etc. No thanks. Trouble is, these are pretty much the problems of not having enough thyroid hormone as well, that and weight gain and general slumpiness. I really don’t need those either.

Here’s a picture of some Rastoo portions I bought out of curiosity in a clearance sale.

Rastoo is like jam, but very sugary and there’s no pectin to set it either. There are four varieties here: Lilli Pilli, Quandong, Native Lime and Bush Plum. I had the first three on some toast this morning. They all have very unique flavours and I will probably seek these Rastoos out again.

In other news, I went to a dress rehearsal of the Australian Ballet performing The Sleeping Beauty last night. I am friends with someone whose son is in the Australian Ballet so this is the second time I’ve been to a dress rehearsal. It’s pretty much like seeing a regular show, but at the end of each of the acts you have to sit very quietly while they sort out anything that needs reworking. You can only get out of your chair when the house lights come up. There was a disconcerting moment when a man wearing a t-shirt and jeans walked onto the stage to rearrange the children appearing in the final scene. ‘Hey! Red t-shirt man, you don’t match with the whimsical fairies and forest creatures!’ It was really a very lovely performance. The things those people can do with their bodies; they are so graceful while performing such physical feats—in my friend’s words, the Ivans were ‘awesome’. I have to make special mention of the sets and costume design, they conveyed the wholerange of whimsy and menace; the Carabosse Cavaliers’ costumes were positively gargoyle-ish, the Dolls were charming, and the Rats had the best quilted silver coats on.

*I’ve since had radioactive iodine treatment which got rid of part of my thyroid, so naturally, I soon had a hypo- or under-active thyroid and required the hormone replacement.

Mean Streets

Travelling on the bus has been harrowing this week. On two occasions I’ve been slightly concerned for my well-being. The first time I got on the bus and noticed a strange burning chemical smell. The bus driver clearly noticed it too; he got out of his seat and walked up the bus aisle, sniffing the air and his armpits too. ‘What’s that smell? It’s not me, is it? It’s not unbearable is it?’ One passenger didn’t appreciate his humour and said ‘Well, it’s a burning smell. Something’s obviously wrong.’ The driver got off the bus and went, I assume, to inspect the engine. At that point, I thought that the pungency of the aroma intensified and I started to get a bit concerned. The bus driver returned to his seat and announced that he couldn’t find anything wrong, at which point the woman who had not been amused earlier got off the bus, saying she’d wait for the next one. As the bus departed from the stop, the rest of the passengers exchanged a few nervous glances. I thought at that point, ‘What if this bus blows up and I’m killed, all because I couldn’t make the decision to get off the bus?’ It’s the story of my life, indecision decides my fate far too often. I was quite relieved to get off the bus at the University with all my limbs attached.

The second occasion was simply a result of the usual argy-bargy of being on the road. A delivery van travelling in front of the bus was creeping forward while waiting for pedestrians to finish crossing, before turning left. The bus driver probably took the van’s movement as a sign that it was clear to turn, only to have to brake violently when the van stopped instead. Everyone on the bus slid forward suddenly, a chorus of ‘sh—’ and ‘f—k’ punctuated the air, and I banged my knee. Again, I was glad to make it to my destination safely, and you will be too because the second bus incident happened on the day I planned to take some photographs especially to post here.

You may recall a while ago that I revealed my ignorance of the most basic computer imaging effects when I believed my brother’s story that he had encountered an image on the streets of Melbourne somewhere that featured my niece’s face embedded in a number of pink daisies. At the time I offered the excuse that I lived in an area where there was a lot of creative graffiti, so it wasn’t necessarily outside of the realm of possibility that someone had posted the image in question, somewhere in Melbourne. I was probably trying to save face when I came up with that excuse, but I’ve since been pointed and laughed at by my sister-in-law, so I’ve worked through all of my embarrassment at my naïvety, enough to show you some examples of the graffiti images I was referring to. They don’t really explain my gullibility, but that doesn’t take away from the images and words themselves.

I should disclose that I didn’t find these in my neighbourhood, but at the University. Still, I’m convinced it’s the work of the same artist I’ve seen on the footpaths and telephone poles when I’ve walked to buy the paper. Maybe the culprits have moved out of my area, since I haven’t seen any new stencils for a while now. I miss encountering these little homages to, and comments on, pop culture.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


I wrote the following in a comment on a post over at Dogpossum's. She says her thoughts on the Big Brother 'incident' are preliminary, but I think they're some of the most sophisticated thinking on the surrounding issues that I've read. I also rather liked Mark's post over at Larvatus Prodeo .

I posted Helen Noonan's Press Release from July 2nd on the 'incident' over at Sarsaparilla because I couldn't gather my thoughts about the issue in any coherent way, but I wanted to start a discussion, one that didn't involve condemning people for their responses in all the confusion.

I started composing my own blog post which I titled 'Mixed Up Confusion', but I've decided not to go ahead with it on my blog. I hope you don't mind if I have a rant here?

I think Camilla did what young women who find themselves in these frightening situations do every day. She laughed it off, because that's the only way to retain a sense of self and dignity when you've been put in such a humiliating position.

John and Ashley may see it as a joke now (although they were kicked out of the house, so they can't be laughing too hard), when they're under the carefully managed protection of Big Brother and Gretel's scripted interview questions, but that may well change as they get out into the world and feel the force of a somewhat less mediated response to their behaviour. I look at the interview last night as a face saving exercise for all involved. There's an interesting comment over at Sarsaparilla by Jessica who has friends in common with one of the removed housemates.

I've read some things out there in the blogosphere that condemn Krystal for 'trying to negotiate' with Big Brother for the return of John and Ashley. My take on that is that Krystal and everyone else in the house have known John and Ashley as friends, good blokes. Their first response was to the loss of their friends. At that point they didn't know anything of the alleged assault. To my mind the logical conclusion of condemning Krystal, using the most pejorative language and being completely judgemental about her plastic surgery etc, is to dehumanise her in the way that many seem up in arms about when responding to comments about how Camilla 'deserved it'. I think the silences of David and Jamie are telling. What do you do when you discover one of your friends has allegedly assaulted another? David has said in the past that he respected John. Yet we know from his very strong moral stance on a range of other things that he would be completely appalled at John and Ash's behaviour.

The question of BB encouraging this sexually charged behaviour is an interesting one. Some have commented on the task the producers gave Camilla earlier that day, to go around and kiss every housemate. At the same time Ash was charged with having to avoid being kissed. Is there any relationship between the events? Perhaps the challenges weren't thought through enough? Maybe BB didn't give enough credit to the sexual tensions in the house? I certainly don't think the producers would have anticipated the actions, especially in view of their preparation before entering the house (sexual harrassment awareness etc).

The fact that other media outlets--I saw some footage on Channel 7--are showing the footage is insupportable. All of those arguments about the voyeurism and exhibitionism of BB are equally applicable to The Age, Channel 7 etc etc. There is no moral highground. In fact what the other outlets are doing is far worse, because they're couching it as 'news' which allows them to distance themselves from the apparent paucity of taste inherent in a reality programme such as Big Brother. There are questions of genre, judgement and value that need to be explored in the calls by politicians to remove the programme.

I think that woman you refer to is a consultant to the show on these issues, so in that sense she is a particularly appropriate person to comment in this case. Although perhaps not for her feminist credentials.

There's so much more to say. But I'm not being very coherent myself (although you certainly are). To some extent I feel the only way I could be properly coherent would to be work out a reasoned argument. And I can't do that quickly enough for my liking.

Posted by: Galaxy at July 4, 2006 10:04 AM


Click here for the latest Media Release from Helen Coonan.

In addition to making a move to create legislation that will regulate online content, the minister is having the Television Code of Practice reviewed as well. Apparently the public reaction to the presence of Big Brother on our screens has led her to conclude that programme classifications are out of step with community standards. Will BB go MAV?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Gastropod 5

This post is for those of you, who like myself, are unduly influenced by advertising. Now in the case of the suspicions raised about abandoned bags, engendered by the swathe of anti-terrorism commercials, I suggest that we all snap out of it. Pick up your backpacks and move along. In the case of those who dreams are haunted by the vegetable-faced person imploring us to eat 2 ½ cups of vegetables per day, however... Well, there might be some merit in that message.

This post is for those of you, who like myself, can’t get Ms Watermelon Head’s parsnip nose to stop butting in. I find that she is especially annoying after a day when one’s eating habits have gone hopelessly awry, when one has been distracted by the Internets from eating before midday, at which point only coffee and an iced jammy scroll will do to prevent the very real threat of passing out. On day’s like those, the challenge, upon arriving home of an evening, is how to go about consuming all of the recommended daily dose of vegetables in one sitting.

Here are some suggestions for a salad plate to put Ms Mushroom Ears back in her place—the vege. crisper drawer of your fridge, if you didn’t know, but anywhere cold and dark will do:

Tomato Salad
Slice up some tomatoes, then splash with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper.
Hoo Boy! Do I give you hard recipes or what? Please, don’t hesitate to email me if you need further guidance on that one. I can honestly say this one was included for aesthetic purposes only—the whole colour scheme of the plate would not have worked otherwise.

Zucchini Salad
Drop whole zucchinis into just boiling salted water. Poach for a few minutes, until just tender, then slice them on the diagonal. Splash over olive oil, salt and pepper, while still warm.
It’s a good idea if the olive oil you’re using is this lovely grassy green colour:

Potato Salad
Cook 900g of potatoes in their jackets. Peel them when they’re cool enough, or if you’ve got asbestos hands you can start straight away. Add 2 tablespoons of chives or spring onion, some parsley, salt and pepper. While it’s still warm, toss the potatoes in 125ml of French dressing (olive oil, white vinegar, Dijon mustard, garlic, and seasoning). Let the potatoes cool, then add 125ml of mayonnaise.
If it isn’t obvious from the picture above, I followed this recipe very loosely. I didn’t have any chives, spring onions or parsley. Nor could I be bothered, at the time, to make French dressing or home-made mayonnaise—Ms Corn Teeth was breathing down my neck. I just mixed some lemon juice and a clove of garlic into my Heinz Salad Cream. I have made it properly before, and it is worth the effort.

This recipe and all the others suggested here are from Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery Course.

Mushroom and Caramelised Onion Salad

Slice two onions and cook them in olive oil over a low heat until slightly caramelised. That should take about 20mins. Slice 350g of mushrooms and sauté in butter. Add salt, pepper, a squeeze of lemon and a small amount of crushed garlic. Add the cooked onion. Serve at room temperature.
Egg Mayonnaise

Again, I didn’t have all the ingredients for this one. The absence of lettuce probably disqualifies it for inclusion amongst a list of salads, but even Ms. Roma Tomato Cheeks would concede that protein is an essential nutritional element.

Cut some hard boiled eggs in half, lengthways. Scoop out the yolk and mash it up mayonnaise, chopped kalamata olives—mine were of the chilli variety—salt, pepper and chervil or parsley. Place spoonfuls of the yolk mixture back into the egg whites. Serve on a bed of lettuce.
I do hope that after you’ve prepared these delicious salads, Ms Lettuce Hair will leave you be. I have personally bought enough garlic to ward her off, just in case she insists on continuing to bother me.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. No-one would buy this much garlic for consumption only by themselves, would they?

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Gastropod 4

I’ve been cooking a bit over the last three days. This is quite a change from the preceding few weeks, when I somehow managed to slip into a lazy routine of eating tinned soup—albeit a very nice new pasta and pumpkin variety—olives, and ciabatta bread for dinner, and buying food at various eateries at the University for breakfast and lunch. There may have been a tomato consumed in there somewhere.

Now my careless attitude towards keeping track of my everyday spending has caught up with me. I managed to miscalculate the timing of my payday by a week and therefore the payment of my rent as well. For a while there I thought, ‘Where did all this extra money come from?’, only to become aware it wasn’t extra at all. Unfortunately that discovery didn’t occur before I went slightly crazy buying winter knitwear and a stovetop kettle in the end-of-financial-year sales. When I realised my error I quickly pulled in the reins and turned my thoughts towards ensuring I had enough food in the house to take for lunches and have wholesome dinners until next payday.

It doesn’t escape my notice that I actually eat better, in a nutritional sense, when I’m forced to ration my income and food purchases and actually do some cooking. I probably eat better in a taste sense as well—what self-respecting foodie eats tinned-soup, I ask you? Why I bother being lazy, I don’t know. There is no benefit to me, whatsoever; I’m really not time poor at all at the moment. If I bothered to get my act together I could probably have saved enough money to buy a new laptop or travelled overseas or..., or something by now. Instead I spent my money on lazy girl breakfasts and lunches. Sometimes I need a good kick up the pants.

Anyway, enough of my self-flagellation, you came here for the gastropodry, right?

For this first creation I used some organic mushroom orriechette pasta that was going half-price in one of the aforementioned sales. You can use any short pasta you so desire.

Since broccoli seems to be in season at the moment—I’ve been buying it in 750g packs—it’s the perfect opportunity to create one of my favourite pasta sauces; that, and I’m always convinced I don’t eat enough cruciferous vegetables.

This is a Jamie Oliver recipe. If you have his second book, you’ll be learning nothing here, so you might want to skip ahead to the zucchini soup.

Pasta with Broccoli, Anchovies and Chilli

Chop two heads of broccoli (stalks and all). Add some olive oil, to a pan and add a clove of crushed garlic, 2-3 crumbled, dried red chillies, and fifteen anchovies. Throw in the broccoli and put the lid on the pan. Cook for 15 minutes, adding some water, if necessary (I have always needed to do this). Mash up some of the broccoli as it cooks so you get a chunky puree. Season to taste.

Cook your pasta and reserve some of the cooking water. Mix the sauce and the pasta, adding the reserved water to get just the right sauce consistency. Add a handful of lightly toasted pine nuts to serve (or, if you want to be really faithful to the Jamie Oliver style, you can throw them in from a hundred yards away).

The second recipe I have for you, which I just made last night, comes from New Covent Garden Soup Company’s Book of Soups: New, Old & Odd Recipes. I’ve been borrowing this book from my sister for at least three years now. The recipe is in the ‘Plain’ section of the book, which undersells it a bit, because it’s really very tasty. It belongs in the ‘Wonderful’ part. And can you believe it was invented by a twelve year-old? It was!

Jason Stead’s Courgette and Brie Soup

Into a saucepan, place 450g sliced zucchini, 350g peeled and chopped potatoes, 1 finely chopped onion and 1.2 litres of vegetable stock. Season, then cover and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for 15 minutes, or until vegetables are cooked. Add 225g of chopped brie, with its rind removed, to the saucepan, stirring until it melts. Blend the soup until smooth. Adjust seasoning to taste.

You didn’t expect the brie did you? It transforms the soup, and I’m sure that’s why Jason got an A for his home-economics assessment over 10 years ago now. What a prodigy. I wonder if he went on to make a living inventing recipes?

Bon Appétit, mes petits escargots!