Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Other Red Meat

While I was in Melbourne I went to a bookshop I had only previously read about: Books for Cooks. Ever since I first read about this shop on Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, I have known that I could while away an entire day there, perhaps a week if I had nothing else to do. I didn't spend quite that long there, but I did fulfill the other expectations I had for my behaviour: I ran from bookshelf to bookshelf, picking up one book, followed by another, and another, before finally having to sit down, wipe the drool from my chin, and have a deep think about the merits of the books I wanted relative to my budget.

I'll talk about the whole heady experience in more depth when I finally get around to completing the promised Melbourne posts, but for now let me tell you what I'm cooking for dinner tonight. Seasoned Chopped Beef (Picadillo) is a recipe from one of the books I bought at Books for Cooks, The New Complete Book of Mexican Cooking by Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz. It's the filling for Minced Beef Tacos (Taco de Picadillo) I'll be eating.

Ortiz instructs you to use half of the following recipe for Picadillo:

Brown 900g of minced lean beef in a large frying pan. I used that other red meat, kangaroo, because I can't really bring myself to buy beef at the supermarket anymore. I'll eat beef when I'm out, but between what I have access to and what I can afford, kangaroo is a more ethical, environmental, and cost-effective choice for me. Add 2 finely chopped onions and 1 clove of garlic, also chopped. When these are cooked add the following: 2 green cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped; 450g tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped--I made half the recipe and just added a drained tin of tomatoes here; 3 tinned or fresh jalapeno chillies, seeded and chopped--again I went for the tinned; 1/2 cup of seedless raisins; 12 pimiento-stuffed olives, halved--I only had jalapeno stuffed olives, but I figured they weren't out of place in this recipe; 1/4 tsp each of ground cinnamon and cloves--I just threw in a whole clove that I accidentally crunched on later; and finally, salt and pepper to taste.

Simmer over a low heat for 20mins. When this is done you can sprinkle it with 1/4 cup of slivered almonds that you've fried in a bit of oil--I missed this touch since I didn't have any slivered almonds and didn't feel like the trouble of blanching, chopping and frying regular almonds. I'd bother if someone other than me was eating this.

So that's the filling for the tacos.

The Tacos de Picadillo are just a matter of assembly. I used some small, soft tortillas and filled them with the Picadillo, added some Salsa Verde Mexicana Picante, and some shredded ice-berg lettuce that came in this week's organic fruit and vege box. Ortiz recommends guacamole as well, but as I didn't have any avocado, I substituted with some Greek yoghurt--I didn't have any sour cream either.

I should mention that while the recipe book has recipes for both tortillas and the salsa verde I went for the pre-made and tinned varieties. I don't think I'll be too hard on myself for not making tortillas from scratch. As for the salsa verde, it's a case of lack of availability of the key ingredient, tomatillo, the green tomatoes that seem to be used extensively in Mexican cooking. The closest I could find to this ingredient in my, admittedly, rather short search was an enormous tin of them, as big as those Golden Circle juice tins. On that shopping expedition, I went for the much smaller tin of ready made salsa. It seems to be quite simple, consisting of the tomatilloes, serrano chillies, onions, and coriander, to comprise a rather refreshing sauce.

Overall, I found this to be a really tasty meal. I hope I haven't come across as too flaky in my lack of purity about all the substitutions. I used to be really up tight about such things, but ever since the woman at the Indian Grocers advised me that 'you cook with what you have', I've felt a whole lot freer about making substitutions. Maybe what's worrying me is that I used tinned things instead of fresh, but again, needs must.

When I first flicked through the book in Books for Cooks, I thought that the ingredients would be a bit more accessible than they've proved to be so far. Much of my decision to get the book was based upon the use of pineapple and banana and other sub-tropical ingredients readily available in South East Queensland. I was intrigued by the use of fruit throughout--and perhaps it's no surprise that I've since learnt that the used of fruit derives from the Spanish influence on Mexican cuisine via the Moorish influence on Spanish cuisine. Here I like to think that my use of kangaroo adds an Australian influence to Mexican cuisine.

Another reason I bought the book was because there's a fellow post-graduate at uni who is Mexican, and on the subject of Mexican food in Brisbane, Australia even, she is dismissive. 'Tex-Mex' she sniffs when people ask her about Mexican food in restaurants. Her response has long piqued my curiosity because it made me aware that of course all I know of Mexican food is Tex-Mex, exemplified by the 'Mexican' section in the supermarket that consists entirely of Old El Paso products.

I guess at the moment I'm sort of stuck between wanting to know more about Mexican food and being faced with the trouble of getting the ingredients. I don't think I'm ready to give up just yet, because clearly there's a whole lot more to know--about all the varieties of chilli alone. First, I'll be a bit more concerted in my efforts to find suppliers in Brisbane or who deliver to Brisbane.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


This is what I'm listening to right now:

Image by Mandy Ord

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Melbourne Sojourn: Conference Day One

This is the second post in a short series about my trip to Melbourne last week to attend a conference, Television and the National, hosted by La Trobe University at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI).

Conference on Television and the National

Melbourne 19th - 21st November, 2008

What an excellent conference! I'm not sure if I'm channeling novelty factor with this statement, since it's been a long time between conference drinks for me... But, no! I will be assertive: this conference rocked. Sam puts it down to the fact that the Ladeez organised the conference and points particularly to Sue Turnbull who sat in each session generously chortling away (amidst the pain of being mid-ginormous-tattoo application) and offering interesting questions and comments. There is much merit to this argument, there was a spirit of generosity in the air and not more than a little bit of fizzy excitement about being TV nerds together.

If one was inclined to make comparisons, one might say it was a small conference, but from my perspective it made the whole experience far more manageable than the onslaught of people and sessions of much larger conferences I've attended. I think that you could have spoken to everyone in attendance at Television and the National if you put your mind to it and weren't too shy in the face of the rather star heavy composition of the delegates (I wonder what it would be like to be au fait with people quoting you while you sat in the audience?).

The other factor worth mentioning is that the conference had a variety of textures. It wasn't simply one paper after another. It began with a day on comedy, which feeds into the ARC funded work being undertaken by Sue Turnbull and Felicity Collins into the history and role of Australian screen comedy. There were key note speeches, a special guest presentation, a book launch, and plenary sessions that brought all of the delegates together, as well as a number of parallel sessions to round out the three day event.

On the first day I was particularly taken with Sue Turnbull's paper: 'It's like they threw a panther in the air and caught it in embroidery': Australian Television Comedy in Translation. The quote in the title is from Kath & Kim and so Turnbull gave an insightful analysis of the failure of the US version of Kath & Kim. She noted that it wasn't inevitable that the adaptation failed in view of the successful adaptation of The Office by the same creative team. Much of the problem with the US Kath & Kim derives from the bodies of the various performers: Selma Blair just can't push her flat stomach out enough to come anywhere near Gina Riley's embodiment of Kim. As well, much of the joke in the Australian Kath & Kim is down to the fact that this mother and daughter duo are played by women who are around the same age. Someone noted in question time that Australian television comedy draws much more from a theatrical/vaudeville tradition than US television comedy. When thinking about Kath & Kim that argument made sense to me. I also have a theory about the success of the US version of The Office, which wasn't successful straight away. I think, perhaps, that the US version built in popularity because Steve Carrell also appeared in a number of successful film comedies that almost certainly sparked more interest in him: Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and, especially, The 40 year Old Virgin.

Brett Mills presented the first key note of the conference: Comedy/Nation: Which Came First? It focussed on British self-understandings of themselves as funny and sought to interrogate that in view of the quite exclusive set of programs that are deemed British both in the UK and abroad. We were all in fits of laughter as Mills showed excerpts from Welsh comedies that weren't incorporated into the 'British'. Alas the programmes aren't even on YouTube, because you know I would have embedded a bit of Boyd Clack if I could.

The last session on the first day was a bit exciting for me as Robyn Butler of The Librarians gave a presentation and took questions. It wasn't so much her work with The Librarians that interested me so much as the excerpt she showed us from Very Small Business which she also co-wrote and starred in. It was a scene where Don Angel was in a therapy session with a psychologist. I got to ask about the creative reasoning for including the therapy sessions. She really gave me the best answer I could have hoped for: so detailed and thoughtful.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Melbourne Sojourn: Brisbane

This is the first post in a short series about my trip to Melbourne last week to attend a conference, Television and the National, hosted by La Trobe University at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI).

Before getting into the conference proper, I feel the need to talk a bit about what was going on in Brisbane last week too. Then I'll finish off with some things I did in Melbourne, which are not about the conference.

I left for Melbourne last Tuesday morning the 18th of November. Leaving on Tuesday meant that I could go and see Laura's paper which she delivered on Monday evening: 'Warming the imagination with scenes of the past': Time Travel romances about Jane Austen.

It's always a thrill to see someone you know from outside of academe talking about the research they do within academe. You get to see them in full, passionate scholar mode talking about something they really know and care about. I am not especially knowledgeable about the works of Jane Austen, I could only marvel at Laura's command of a whole range of literature, to which she casually referred throughout her presentation. Where I could get some purchase, if you will, was in her discussion of all the time travel fan-fiction that has proliferated around Austen and her works. I enjoyed Laura's identification of this sub-genre of Austen-derived fiction and I appreciated that while some of the novels she discussed are obviously fairly untenable, she takes seriously the phenomenon--and those who participate in it--as an expression of a broader cultural moment.

While I went off to Melbourne, I hoped that Laura would enjoy her first visit to Brisbane. At the beginning of her paper she had mentioned being attacked by a goose at the St Lucia campus of UQ (perhaps it was this one), but who was to know that would be the least of her worries as storms hit Brisbane causing widespread flooding and destruction? On the Sunday before I left for Melbourne a storm had ripped through the suburbs uncomfortably close to me:

On the Friday morning I was away, I was listening to news that reported the suburb I lived in was under water. I got a bit worried, especially when I heard about Ithaca Creek spilling its banks and cars floating down the streets:

I made a call to the property manager and left a message asking for reassurance that I still had a home, but then I had to take a deep breath, accept I could do nothing, and go and give my paper.

Thankfully, miraculously, the only evidence of the storm I could see around my home when I returned was a tree branch on the ground and some mud where the water had flowed through underneath the house. Everything inside was warm and dry.

The view from the bridge I walk across on a daily basis to catch the bus and go shopping tells a more dramatic story:

My street is just on the other side of the right bank there, so you can see why I was worried from afar given the water seems to have come up over the ravine.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


In addition to missing bad tv lately, I've been continuing with my personal television history project where I'm catching up on the television canon as it has been ascribed by television critics and scholars.

In this vein, I've just finished watching both seasons of Lars von Trier's Riget (The Kingdom) a Danish television series from 1994 and 1997. While I have come across a scholarly article about this series, my desire to watch it in full was first sparked when I watched it intermittently at the time it originally screened on SBS. I recall being utterly fascinated by the idea of a kind of horror series where the doctors were evil. (I have since made choices at the Brisbane Film Festival based entirely upon my fascination with Riget). I also recall being somewhat confused about what was going on in Riget--a fact I would like to attribute to the late hour at which it screened.

I experienced a second wave of yearning to watch Riget after seeing Stephen King's much maligned adaptation of the series, Kingdom Hospital. (I actually went out and bought this after the frustration of yet another occasion of haphazard and late night scheduling by Channel Nine).

I liked Kingdom Hospital--quite a lot if you must know. I had no problem with King incorporating his hit-and-run accident into the story. Outside of Barthes-inflected scholarship I would argue that most people search relentlessly, ridiculously, for clues of the author in cultural artefacts. On the one hand I think, why complain when the author appeases such demands, on the other, the addition of this character lends a cohesiveness to the narrative which is completely missing from Riget (Terry Sawyer, in the review I linked to above, obviously didn't watch von Trier's production. Urgh! There's so much to take issue with in that review I don't know where to begin except to say that it's pretty nasty and ignorant).

Plus, I can't complain too much about anything starring Andrew McCarthy.

Anyway, back to Riget. Mostly I just wanted to show you the film clip of the theme song performed by The Shiver which was an extra on the DVD. I felt sure it would be on YouTube and so it was:

'Kingdom', The Shiver

Then I saw how many other clips of scenes I'd particularly enjoyed were also on YouTube.

This is the opening sequence, before the titles, of Riget. It doesn't have subtitles, but I love the atmosphere. You can get a sense of that without knowing the narration, but fyi it basically recounts how the land on which the hospital was built was first occupied by bleachers. The great swathes of hot cloth they handled created a permanent mist. But then the medical profession came along and superstition was repressed. Now the doctors are getting so arrogant, too arrogant, that the walls of the hospital are giving way to all that lies beneath.

The Bleachers

The charge of complacency is leveled at the medical profession throughout Riget (and The Kingdom). Watching Riget, I was reminded of a film by Aleksandr Sokurov, Moloch, which offered a portrait of Hitler as complacent, immature, mercurial, and willfully ignorant of the consequences of his actions. Von Trier presents a similiar portrait of consultant neurosurgeon Helmer and the hospital administration.

The Lodge

Operation Morning Breeze

Danish Scum!

Amidst all of this criticism of the medical profession are of course the spirits that are returning in protest:

Drusse and Bulder

I think the first series of Riget was far better than the second. There was a third series written, but never filmed, since up to 5 of the actors died before it could be made--if it was ever to be made. I wonder if much in the second series relied upon the production of a third series in order to be resolved. There was so much left unanswered, especially about the fate of Hook whom Helmer had turned into a zombie.

Oh well. Riget is definitely worth seeing, if only to glimpse the strangeness of Lars von Trier's imagination. I'll give the last word to the man himself:

Take the Good with the Evil.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Bad TV

These past two weeks, I've been reminded as to why I try to avoid getting too attached to any programme that screens on Channel Nine.

I started watching Fringe, an X-Files-esque show--in the sense that it involves the investigation of unexplained or fringe phenomena--but it disappeared off the schedule and I have no idea where it went. It wasn't especially riveting television, but given that it was science fiction, that it starred Joshua Jackson (Dawson's Creek) and Lance Reddick (The Wire), and that JJ Abrams (Alias, Lost) was one of its creators, I was willing to give it more than a chance to grow on me.

There was something vaguely interesting emerging around the fate of John Scott (Mark Valley, Boston Legal), who we thought died in the first episode but, as we learned in the second, was still alive on some kind of life-support at the behest of an Evil Corporation. As well, Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) was of some tangential interest to my thesis; he had been in a mental institution for years, before he was released into the care of his son, Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson), to offer his insights into the various strange phenomena under investigation by FBI Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv).

While I concede that the word on the IMDb message boards was that Fringe was not so great (although this is contrary to its critical reception summarised at Wikipedia), this still doesn't mitigate my ongoing annoyance at Channel Nine for pulling programmes without sufficient warning or explanation. I would have continued to watch Fringe in the original time slot, but I really can't be bothered to guess where else it might appear in the schedule, if anywhere.

The problem of Channel Nine's mercurial programming practices saw me missing another new show that I've been giving some time to lately: The Mentalist starring Simon Baker (The Guardian). While Channel Nine did broadcast a number of announcements before they shifted this programme from one night to another, I still managed to miss this week's episode because the TV guide that I consult was printed and distributed before the station made its changes.

The thing is, that while I started watching The Mentalist because of Simon Baker, who really is a very fine actor and who I enjoyed so much in The Guardian--

--the character he plays in The Mentalist, Patrick Jane, is not nearly so interesting.

The Mentalist
is in the mould of recent dramas that feature a central male investigator who is maverick and in possession of a singular talent. This character type is usually extremely cocky about his talent, but he is afforded emotional depth by way of a personal tragedy in his past. In The Mentalist, Jane consults for law enforcement in California using acute observational abilities that were honed in a former life where he masqueraded as a television psychic. His wife and child were murdered by a killer who took offence at some comments he made in a television interview.

Other recent programmes in this vein include Life and Burn Notice. In Life the lead character was working as a police detective when he was framed by his partner and wrongfully imprisoned. He has since been vindicated and returned to work for the police, his life made comfortable by the multi-million dollar compensation payout he received in a law suit against the state. While he was in prison he got religion, but Zen Buddhism rather than any denomination of Christianity.

Burn Notice follows a similar trajectory: the central character is an intelligence officer disavowed by the US government; out of a job he applies his talents as an investigator to help others in trouble, all the while seeking to reinstate his good name by finding and punishing those who have worked against him.

I think much of the problem with these shows is that the attempt to invoke an emotional response from the audience for the central characters is done in such a paint-by-numbers fashion. On the one hand the character embodies wise-cracking, laddish masculinity--perhaps to appeal to the male audience--and on the other he is also drawn to have elements of the SNAG or 'new' masculinity--perhaps to appeal to the female audience. The trouble is that rather than achieving any complexity in the characterisation, it simply feels manipulative; shallow, sentimental and unconvincing.

In The Mentalist, for example, the moments of emotion are incongruous amid the innocuous banter and all-knowing arrogance of Patrick Jane. On the one hand Jane knows at the beginning of every murder case on which he consults who the killer is. There seems to be little purpose for any of the law enforcement agents with whom he works, except as a foil for Jane's brilliance of which he is fully aware. Then, when everything is resolved, he goes home to the empty house he once shared in idyll with his wife and child, to sleep on a single mattress placed on the floor beneath the bloody smiley calling card left by his family's killer.

I'm not against emotion in my television viewing. The depth of emotion is what I so enjoyed about The Guardian; Simon Baker's ability to convey the extent of Nick Fallin's deep-seated anger was extraordinary. And I think The Guardian is one of the few programmes to represent anger as the corrosive and silent force that it so often is.

Perhaps that's my difficulty with The Mentalist--and Life and Burn Notice too--is that the range of so-called emotions is so limited or rendered in such a cynical manner that I just don't believe these characters, never mind like them.

And it is in this frame of mind, that the hiccup in Channel Nine's scheduling of The Mentalist is reason enough for me to give up on it, even with a talent like Simon Baker in the starring role.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bone Deep

Apropos of yesterday's post where I suggested I might do a TV diary, I thought I'd write a bit about Bones.

I watched last night's episode this morning over a bit of breakfast because I was too tired to watch TV last night. I had a big day yesterday, so I taped both Bones and Supernatural to watch back today.

I'm yet to watch Supernatural, but I thought I'd talk about Bones because as I sat down to watch it this morning, I thought I'd messed up the recording of it, and I was momentarily, but intensely, disappointed. I'd completely forgotten about it last Monday--it was a busy day last week too--and before I managed to get the episode to play back, I'd thought 'Oh noes! That's two weeks in a row I've missed it!'

At that thought I had a flash of self-awareness about the contradictions in my television viewing tastes.

I think most people who read this blog know that I'm doing a PhD thesis on 'quality' television drama. That means that I'm constantly thinking about the cultural value or lack thereof that is generally attributed to television and its texts.

In this context I know that Bones is not fantastic television. It's television that panders to least offensive programming policies. It's not the edgy, more culturally valued product of HBO and Showtime or even the BBC (if you're after a different measure of quality).

If I scratch the surface of Bones I know there are terrible flaws in the characterisation of its protagonist, forensic anthropologist, Dr. Temperance 'Bones' Brennan. Part of this is that in every episode Bones charts the same arc: she begins as a socially and emotionally inept rational scientist type and, coaxed along by the charming, sensitive and God-fearing FBI agent Seely Booth, she is transformed into someone who learns what it is to be a living, breathing, spiritual human being, as opposed to a mere collection of bones encased in flesh.

Last night's episode 'Baby in the Bough' is a case in point. At the scene of a car accident where the adult female driver dies, Booth and Bones find a baby in a capsule. The capsule was flung free of the car and landed, with the baby unharmed, in the bough of a tree. Booth thinks it's a miracle, while Bones intones that the baby's survival is exactly what such capsules are designed and manufactured to ensure. In a series of events that merely confirm Dr. Brennan's incompetence with real live human beings, the baby, Andy, ends up swallowing a key at the scene of the accident, and since it's a likely clue to help solve the mystery of the woman's death, Booth and Temperance have to look after the child until the key makes its way through his digestive tract. (Did I mention completely ridiculous plot contrivances?) Eventually, of course, Bones warms to Andy, becoming extremely protective of his care and determined to ensure him a secure future.

Another version of this arc happened the week before last, and no doubt if will happen again next week. Bones never really changes. This is television without a memory.

Here, I might be expected to make a claim along the lines of 'it's so bad, it's good', but I can't.

I don't even want to.

The fact is, I like Bones.

If I'm pressed to explain my taste, then it simply comes down to this:

Together, Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz are completely hot.

Monday, October 20, 2008

What's Going On?

If you're interested to know what I've been up to lately, you'll have to look at the Twitter feed over there in the right hand margin. 140 characters at any one time is about the extent of my blog writing capacity at the moment.

If you click through to Twitter proper, you'll learn everything you ever wanted to know about my opinions of Australian Idol, how the Wii Fit experiment is going, my lately acquired propensity to walk into inanimate objects or have them fall on top of me, my disdain for the e-book etc. No doubt I've thrown in a few complaints about public transport too.

Over there in the margins, I've also added another couple of feeds from a third party source which you might be interested in. The feeds are both from Good Reads, a kind of social network book site, similar to LibraryThing, I think. The first feed is a record of what I'm currently reading. In some cases I've made a few preliminary comments. I've included some of the non-fiction, academic reading I'm doing for my thesis as well as a new research assistant contract I've just started.

The second feed is what I've managed to record of books I have read. I've not done too well in creating the back catalogue, and I'm not convinced it's something I'll ever do for reasons of time and memory and, I'll admit, sheer apathy. At the moment you could form the impression that I've read nothing but Andrew McGahan novels.

While you're over there in the right hand margin, you'll see I haven't been to the movies since the film festival a couple of months ago. As a counter-balance, you might note that I've been watching lots of TV instead, broadcast TV, as well as on DVDs and downloads. I need a TV site that works on the same principal as GoodReads, then I could just feed that through to this blog as well.

That was a lot more than 140 characters. I'm done in.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Lush Life

This is the view from the kitchen door this morning:

That is all.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Meow Laughs

I intend to blog about about some low-cholesterol dishes I've been making lately as part of what I have come to think of as the Great Cholesterol Lowering Experiment (you say that in a big booming voice).

One of these meals, which was surprisingly tasty, is a vegetarian lasagne with lentils. While I get my act together I offer you this LOLCat for your amusement:

I've had that LOLCat pinned in my Bloglines for sometime now in anticipation of the lasagne post, but clearly my desire to share it with the two people who don't obsessively refresh their feedreaders for new LOLCat chortles is greater than my impulse to write a post about saturated fat-free food.

Today I came across this LOLCat and it also must be shared. Check out that expression:

Actually this cat reminds me a bit of dogpossum's Squeeze, and it's just the kind of thing he might say too. (That is a compliment, really!)

N.B. There is no significance to be found in the juxtaposition of the lasagne LOLCat and the barfing LOLCat.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

An Australian Hallowe'en

Or more pumpkins and some skulls

The pumpkins just didn't stop at Jimbour. And they seemed to pose just perfectly for as many $5 poster shots as I could muster.

Almost as numerous as the pumpkins were the bones of long dead cattle.

Most especially the skulls.

Old wagon wheels also seemed to vie for supremacy. But in this instance, for me, I don't think these old spokes quite trumped the sight of that leg bone in the foreground.

The old stables had displays inside telling of the history of the property.

This building was the original homestead, and was once a two story structure, but was forcibly remodelled after a fire. (More shades of The White Earth). Then, if I recall correctly, it became the accommodation for the property's workers. You can't really see it in this picture, but the blue stone from which it was built is quite beautiful.

Here's a closer look at the stone, along with a plaque that tells you of the transfers of ownership at Jimbour:

The newer homestead has itself undergone some extensive renovations, which are still in progress. This is the back of the house. That balcony doesn't look particularly safe to walk on.

The house will be even more impressive when it's fully restored. It's still a private residence, just as the property is still a working property, even if the focus is now on wine production, so there probably won't be much opportunity to do a tour of the interior for quite some time.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Garden Retreat

As noted in the last post, there was a fairly impressive herb and vegetable garden at Jimbour, which visitors were encouraged to wander through.

Just flicking through the photos I took, I can see that I don't really have one that takes it in as a whole. This is probably the best I can do, looking back towards the big house:

In spite of the overcast skies, it's obviously still pretty dry in the area. Perhaps the best marker of that is the fairly slim looking bottle tree at the centre of the garden. Here's a closer look:

They tend to get fatter when there's more water to hold in their trunks. Although, maybe it's just a younger tree, since this one, below, which was along the path to the big house, seems to be holding it's shape quite comfortably.

But back to the centre-piece of the enclosed garden. I couldn't resist taking these $5 poster shots of the pumpkins that formed the boundary of the centre-piece.

Brace yourself for even more pumpkins a bit further on. Pumpkin soup was a key feature of the kitchen menu, so it was rather nice to see they were using the local produce.

I think I would characterise these next couple of shots as a bit Sidney Nolan in the sense of looking for figures to put in the landscape. (Did you groan out loud at that? I'm still a bit flushed from going to see Sidney Nolan: A New Retrospective at the Art Gallery yesterday. I hope you'll forgive such a clunky attempt to work that in. More on Sidney Nolan another day. Back to Jimbour).

It seems the garden wasn't so much of a retreat from death in a bygone era as I had anticipated. Still, these photos give you some more sense of the scale of the garden. Beyond the garden there were various stables and old buildings, as well as an aeroplane hanger, because there's a landing strip at Jimbour too.

Perhaps I didn't need to locate figures in the landscape as much as I thought. I think the sight of these vegetable growing is intrinsically of interest:

Don't these vegetables just make your heart glad?

I confess to experiencing beetroot envy when I saw these:

I think this post might be getting a bit long, especially with all the photos. It looks like the tour of the out buildings and even more pumpkins will have to comprise another post. Meanwhile, let me leave all the poultry lovers out there with this lovely vision, tucked away on the outskirts of the garden, which clearly they're not allowed to maraud:

Next: An Australian Hallowe'en

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Haunted Housekeeping

It's been three months since I promised to post photos about the trip back from the Bunya Mountains. The moment may well have passed, and it isn't as if those posts I've linked to elicited any kind of discernible reaction, but since it was such a lovely trip back, via the Jimbour Estate Winery, and I'm not one to waste a mobile phone photo, well I've decided to make a record of it here for myself. (Sometimes I wonder what will happen if Blogger ever goes belly up; they will take these years of my life with them).

Upon arriving at the Jimbour Estate, this is the first building we encountered. I think it's a converted mill tower, but I can't really remember. Anyway, this is where we tasted some wines, and where the kitchen was, from which we ordered lunch.

As we walked down a tree-lined path towards the main house there was this church. I did take some photos inside but it was fairly non-descript in a strictly Protestant way.

This sign pays homage to Ludwig Leichhardt for whom Jimbour Station served as the last outpost of civilisation before he went off on one of his explorations. I thought of Voss when I saw this sign, but I'm not sure if it was actually the point of Leichhardt's last hurrah.

Here is the Jimbour Station house. I have to credit one of my friends for making me think of The White Earth, which we read at bookclub. After the thoughts about Voss, the thoughts about decrepit, crumbling station house of The White Earth, which was set in this area, just made everything seem creepier, or rather just unbearably sad and haunted.

Next to come into view was this magnificent pool. Another of my travelling companions informed me that this was the pool from the mini-series, Return to Eden, starring Wendy Hughes and James Reyne. I remember watching it as an early teenager, so that just added crocodile attacks to the haunted atmosphere.

And as if that wasn't enough to make us all jumpy, then the information that back in the station's heyday they used the bottle trees for target practise ensured a quick retreat to the expansive vegetable garden nearby.

Next: Garden Retreat.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Gelexy ooff Impteeness. Bork!

There I was, using my time constructively, following assorted links about my friends activities on my Facbook feed, when I was led to this site: The Dialectizer.

The Dialectizer will translate any words, even entire web pages, into a range of English dialects attributed to various down-trodden, maligned, and animated characters.

I've run the blurb of this blog, the Dostoevsky quote above, through the Dialectizer. If you're reading on a feedreader, it reads thus: '...what can one do, if the only straightforward task of every intelligent man is pointless chattering, the deliberate pouring out of emptiness'.

For your edification, and because the pouring out of emptiness should be available to all classes, puppets, and ten year olds:

Red Neck: whut kin one does, eff'n th' only straightfo'ward tax of ev'ry intellyjunt man is pointless chatterin', th' deliberate pourin' outta emppiness.

Jive: whut kin one do, if de only straightfo'ward tax' uh every intelligent joker is pointless chatterin', de deliberate pourin' out uh emptiness.

Cockney: wot can one do, if the only straightforward task of evry intelligent man is pointless chatterin', the deliberate pourin' out of emptiness.

Elmer Fudd: what can one do, if the onwy stwaightfowwawd task of evewy intewwigent man is pointwess chattewing, the dewibewate pouwing out of emptiness.

Swedish Chep (Bork): vhet cun oone-a du, iff zee oonly streeeghtffurverd tesk ooff ifery intelleegent mun is pueentless chettereeng, zee deleeberete-a puooreeng oooot ooff impteeness.

Moron: what can one do, if de on straitef'erd task of ebehy intelligent man is poitless chattehigg, the, uhhh, delibehate pourigg out of emptiness.

Pig Latin: atwhay ancay oneyay oday, ifyay ethay onlyyay aightforwardstray asktay ofyay everyyay intelligentyay anmay isyay ointlesspay atteringchay, ethay eliberateday ouringpay outyay ofyay emptinessyay.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Take A Picture

Amber has asked everyone to take picture of themselves right now.

She's attached these rules:

Take a picture of yourself right now
Don’t change your clothes, don’t fix your hair
Just take the picture
Post the picture with no editing
Post these instructions with your picture

Now if Amber told me to jump off a cliff, you should know that I wouldn't. But I'm feeling a bit suggestible right now. And I have a lap top with a camera:

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Get yourself over to Progressive Dinner Party for some spamalicious haute cuisine.

SPAM® Musubi

Thursday, September 11, 2008


I have just written this sentence:
In these analyses Brunsdon emphasises the character trait of ‘responsibility’, maintaining that in view of the extensive agenda of social reform enacted by the Conservative government, the questions, ‘Who can police?’ and ‘Who is accountable?’ assumed considerable importance in greater British society and, subsequently, in its stories, including crime-based television drama.
And it occurs to me, in the context of the larger piece I am writing, that I don't know how it fits.

My brain feels like it's chewing air.

I need a break.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Fun and Exercise

The big news in my life this past week arises from the purchase of a Wii Fit and the necessary accompaniment, the Wii Console.

Between this and the new television I have almost thoroughly plundered my tax refund and so sealed the fate on any overseas travel plans that I had for a couple of months time. The truth is, I was finding the prospect of coming back to a completely empty bank account and the end of semester drop in income all a bit stressful anyway. This way I'll be able to stay at home in a more comfortably feathered nest while I take advantage of the extra time at my disposal and toil away at my thesis.

While I've been wishing for a new TV for quite a while now, the Wii package was a bit of an impulse purchase following a blood test and subsequent phone call from my doctor.

First of all I learned I needed to top up my thyroid medication. It's a strange kind of relief to get this direction, because it means that any slumpiness I've been feeling is not on account of any fault with myself in the sense of my personal attitude towards things, it's because my thyroxine levels are low. Or at least that's how I'll excuse any lack of motivation or low mood on my part.

The next piece of news was not unexpected either. I've had blood tests before that have revealed elevated cholesterol levels. It's a familial thing, although the only heart problems that I'm aware of in my family's history have been suffered by post-menopausal women. Either way, it's still not a good state of affairs for me personally and so I will embark on the doctor's advice, as I do every time, with a renewed sense of determination, as I also do every time, to keep up with the ingestion of fish oil and psyllium husks. This time I have actually gone out and bought one of those margarines that help lower cholesterol absorption. I haven't done this previously because I tend not to use butter or margarine as a spread; I go without, and any cooking is done with olive or canola oil, peanut oil or, yes, butter. Although I so rarely cook with butter--less than once a fortnight--that I figured it would have little effect. But obviously I'm getting the bad version of cholesterol from somewhere so anything that will help reduce its absorption must be embraced.

The other major factor in elevated cholesterol is, of course, the dreaded exercise. This is something my doctor also asks me about every time I see her. As with the dietary advice, I try and commit to doing more, but aside from a three year period in my mid-twenties, I've never been a natural athlete or exerciser. Courtesy of high-school PE classes I've always associated exercise with bullying, abject humiliation, and acute embarrassment. (If there's an obesity epidemic, then it's not just the purveyors of fast food who need to step up and take responsibility. Every PE teacher who's ever cultivated a fascist class environment is just as culpable).

Anyway, this is where the Wii Fit enters the equation. I saw it advertised and I can't tell you the intense feeling of relief that came over me. I almost feel tears thinking about it. Here was an opportunity to exercise without being harassed by men leaning out of cars while I walked up a hill near where I live. Here was an opportunity to exercise without being scolded for my lack of co-ordination. I wouldn't have to go out, or be pressured into gym memberships with direct deposit payment plans. I could exercise whatever the weather and wear the least flattering of clothes.

I've been using the Wii Fit for four days now. I did the intial body tests and received the bad, although, again, not unexpected, news. I've set goals, guided by the eminently sensible advice offered by the Wii Fit. I've exercised between 30 - 45 minutes every day, and that's not counting the time I've spent bowling, boxing, and playing tennis on the Wii Sport application that came with the Wii Console.

I've learned I'm not so bad at the Wii versions of bowling and boxing. Although I'm not so bad at bowling in real life either. I'm enjoying the tennis; I'm glad it's getting a little more difficult as I progress.

But back to the Wii Fit proper. I think what is so good about it is the emphasis it places on posture and core body strength as a mark of athleticism. It measures that according to your ability to maintain and control shifts in your balance in the various activities on offer. In this vein, I've been skiing and ski jumping and tightrope walking. A few times I've faltered and my Mii--the avatar you create of yourself--tumbled down a hill gathering snow in a tangle of skis and limbs. Twice I fell off the tight-rope while the watching crowd commiserated. While trying to hit a soccer ball with my head, I've been smacked in the face by stray football shoes more times than I care to recall.

There are muscle and yoga workouts too. From the muscle workouts I've learned I have pretty good deep muscle strength. It's encouraging to learn that. No-one's ever made that observation before. I've done meditation before and been told I'm a good breather (what a relief :-P), and that was confirmed by the yoga exercises. The beauty of the yoga program is that the Wii board senses the shifts in your balance, so can offer you advice on maintaining the proper posture in your poses. Very handily, throughout all of the exercises the Wii tracks your balance and allows you to correct yourself by making sure the tracker is always in the blue or yellow areas which are indicated on the screen.

Finally, the aerobic activities have also proved fun and beneficial too. I'm still trying to work out the running. I'm supposed to run at 60% capacity without overtaking the Mii in front of me. I can't quite figure out how to do that, I'm only managing 44% capacity at the moment. It's something to do with consistency of pace.

I'm glad I've just managed to unlock a boxing training game. I'm not sure why I like boxing so much, obviously it's something to do with my knockout success in the Wii Sports version, plus there's almost certainly a head game going on with it too.

I've had moderate success with the step programs. I really am not in possession of much in the way of rhythm. Something to work on.

That said, you should know that I am the hula-hoop queen. It's the one thing I've scored full marks for so far. Not saying I could keep a real one in motion for three minutes straight, but in the realm of Wii, I can maintain six in orbit while catching another two.

While I don't really want this blog to be a tool for the promotion of any product, Wii Fit has transformed my attitude towards daily exercise. For that alone it has been a revelation and, indeed, a revolution. It has more potential to improve my health than any other exercise activity I've tried; it has certainly been more effective and encouraging than any human purveyor of physical activity I've ever encountered.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

A PhD in Horribleness

I came across news of Joss Whedon's Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog at Gwen's blog.

In composing this post I've come to realise that it's not officially available outside of the USA or Canada yet, which means I'm incriminating myself if I talk about how hilarious Nathan Fillion and Neil Patrick Harris are in this three act online musical. And if I give fulsome praise to this tale of a love-lorn evil mastermind then I'm toast.

It's the kind of thing I'll want to own on DVD to watch in High Definition (if that's possible), so hopefully it won't be long before the rest of the world gets proper access.

What is interesting about Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog from a Television Studies perspective is that once again Whedon has proved himself to be an innovator in the medium. Out of the mess of the writers' strike Whedon has found a way to deliver content that people want to watch (5 weeks at #1 on i-Tunes television downloads), by-passing the usual first-time distribution channels for this kind of work.

I predict a slew of PhD theses about Dr. Horrible, if not its very own journal.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Bubble n Squeak

For a moment I toyed with calling this post 'Rain and Bird shit' as a way of registering my irritation with some of the comments over at The Orwell Prize blog. In particular I'm talking about those comments which express dismay that things Political didn't occupy Orwell's thoughts all the time. On this point, that many of the comments take the liberty of referring to Orwell by his birth name, Eric Blair, rather than his pen name, strikes me as especially ironic. What after all are the expectations of the personal diaries of a man with whom they presume such familiarity? It seems to me that there's a mordant fear of banality, in the sense of something trite or trivial, evident in the comments. It's as if the commenters are convinced that if they betray any interest in someone interested in the change of seasons or the ripening of various fruits and crops or, yes, the colour of the local birds' shit, then that will somehow reflect upon them in such a way that is incommensurate with their sense of themselves as people who only think Important Thoughts.

One can only hope, on their behalf, that Orwell's perspective on the outbreak of WWII will prove to be a suitably interesting contrast to all that terrible banality. Hmmm, isn't that an old Chinese curse?: 'May you live in interesting times'.

I suppose my irritation with these comments arises from the fact that I have a less fractious relationship with banality. Meaghan Morris reminds us that banality also means 'commonplace'; it is the ordinary and everyday aspects of life that many humans have in common. When banality is understood as a 'common place', then it is a place to arrive at rather than flee from. This is much of what cultural studies is concerned with. So, on that note, I will say that it's also getting warmer here in Brisbane as Spring is officially but a couple of days away, and the shit that concerns me most right now is that of fruit bats: why do they have to splash it all over the side of house?


I eventually decided upon 'Bubble n Squeak' because, although you wouldn't know from that diatribe above, this was planned as a kind of bits and pieces post. I have a few things to mention that probably warrant dedicated posts, but I don't really have the stamina to write all the posts I want to, or think I should be writing, right now. As well, I can't resist a culinary pun when there is one to be had.

So, I'm sitting here, with a glass of red wine in hand--my first since my sister scared me with all her talk of fatty liver disease--and munching on vitaweats with hummus bi tahina and roast capsicum, trying to figure out how to make my thoughts concise and orderly.

Even as I say that, I have to go off on a tangent immediately to tell you that I did have a glass or two of white wine last Friday when I went over to Clare's new house-sit. There, I was commandeered as a pillow by the cat of the house. All was going very well until even this cat-deprived cat lover had to go to the bathroom and so disrupt said cat's slumber. Who needs LOLCats to interpret the language of cats? It was a very clear message: 'Pillow. Ur doin' it wrong'.


I wrote some notes on the way home, on the back of a template for a mask I picked up from the kids section of the 'Picasso and His Collection' exhibition, to remind myself of the things I wanted to tell you. Let me go and get it.


I pilfered the 'Make A Mask' template to give to my niece next time I see her. I did the same with the Kids' Activity book from the Andy Warhol exhibition that GoMA hosted earlier this year. She had a fun time with that. Now, whenever she says something is boring, I ask her 'What did Andy Warhol say?' She's never terribly impressed by that come back.

These exhibitions, along with the Meaghan Morris lecture I linked to above, are definitely events I think I should have blogged about, not here so much as over at Sarsaparilla. I haven't posted over there for a while, and I do feel some responsibility to represent Brisbane and Queensland since I'm the only contributor from these parts.

Anyway, just briefly, I enjoyed both exhibitions. I liked the way the Picasso exhibition placed the artist so firmly in the context of his influences, making the point that he was able to make something new because he was an avid collector and admirer of other artists' works. Like writers who read, he was an artist who was better because was literate in his chosen medium.

Overall, I think the Andy Warhol exhibition was better as an exhibition. Perhaps that's due in part to Warhol's own marketing savvy (certainly the gift shop offered a better range of merchandise). It felt far more dynamic than 'Picasso and his Collection'. I'll make special mention of the time-line in the Picasso exhibition, which was just so wordy and cumbersome, a blockade in the middle of the exhibition. I decided I could read about Picasso's life in the exhibition's catalogue that I would inevitably purchase.

I suppose one could argue that the equivalent of the time-line in the Warhol exhibition was the cabinets jammed with the ephemera of Warhol's shoe-boxes, but perhaps because it was ephemera and not an historical time-line, I was happy to take a far more aleatory approach to the material.

It was good to see some works by Henri Matisse that I hadn't before. What colours!


Looking at my notes, I seem to have been a bit crankier on the way home than I am now. I've noted that while looking at the exhibition there were a couple of times when I hung back to let a few voluble 'experts' move ahead of me. I like silence when contemplating pictures, or rather I like the head space to think things through. A ridiculous expectation to have in a public art gallery, I know.

I did have to laugh when one young boy was acting as a guide to some younger children, pointing out the various anatomical features in Picasso's more abstract works so they could make sense of the figures.


On the way home, I walked across the Victoria Bridge and saw the preparations for the Riverfire fireworks tonight. There were people waiting on the bridge, up to 2 hours before the fireworks began. That's committment.

On the bridge, there were tubes filled with those plastic bread bag seals, accompanied by signs that said some extraordinary number of them had been fished from the river. I've forgotten the number. The statistic that stuck in my head was the one that said if they were stacked on top of one another the line would extend 1km.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Chicken Tonight and Mushrooms for the Next Two Days

I'm waiting for my dinner to cook. It's chicken, Super Tasty Spanish Roast Chicken, in fact. Since it's a Jamie Oliver recipe from Jamie's Dinners, you all probably have the recipe so don't need me to replicate it here.

I'm also making some Real Mushroom Soup from the same recipe book, although my substitutions have rendered it Swiss Brown Mushroom Soup, rather than the 'authentic' wild varieties gathered in the English or Italian countryside.

In combination, both of these will be lunch and dinner over the next two or three days. I took a mobile phone photo of the chicken before it went into the oven, dotted with chorizo and stuffed up the nether regions with a couple of hot lemons and some parsley stalks, but I haven't taken the time to transfer the images to my laptop just yet.

What I do have on my laptop right now are some photos of another meal that I prepared quite some time ago. I only discovered these photos fairly recently; I'd completely forgotten about them, but it's clear that I had intended to blog the recipe since the photos are of the step-by-step variety. Such attention on my part to documenting the preparation process is fortuitous because just as I managed to forget about the photos, I also forgot the origins of the recipe I prepared and recorded so diligently.

So, here's a photo-recipe for salad. Coincidentally, it also has chicken and mushrooms as feature ingredients:

Dried wood ear mushrooms, reconstituted. I don't think that many are actually required.

Sliced spring onions. Looks like one, maybe two. Whaddya reckon?

Peeled Lebanese cucumber. Fluorescent glow optional.

Here I seem to have sliced the mushrooms and added some chopped coriander.

That looks like some julienned celery on the left. I do know that chicken on the right is poached thigh, because that's what I tend to buy. The recipe probably asked for breast meat.

I'm guessing: soy sauce, maybe fish sauce, peanut oil, a dash of sesame oil, dried chilli? It's the kind of thing you can probably make up.

Toss it all about. Fresh, crispy, tasty.