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!