Sunday, February 28, 2010

Mardi Gras

It was my first mardi gras, and it was so great. We didn't get a very good position so didn't see all that much of the parade, but just the mood of revelry and debauchery and general looseness on the streets was so fun to be part of. The colours and cheesy camp pop music and "to equality and beyond" lasers. Swigging from a bottle of champagne in front of police, watching guys stripped down to their jocks and blatantly cruising. The beautiful boys in togas / speedos / drag. Just awesome.

But the best part of all is having this one back from Old Blighty. Look out, Sydney!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

New eyes

Feel like I have new eyes. Everything just looks so good today - colours are vivid, the light is sharp and clear.... Kicked myself that I didn't take the camera down to Gordon's Bay for our weekly snorkel slash hangover cure.

These photos aren't from today. Today the water was aquamarine green and crystal clear, with sailboats racing out past the bay and dogs chasing tennis balls everywhere. No sign of the groper today but we did see some cool fish that were incredibly long and thin, like animated sticks. There's a photo I really want to capture, of my red toenails (and plugger tan) against the blue sky and green water as I'm floating on my back... But I'm too scared of getting the camera wet!

Stroke of genius - dragged a mattress out into our courtyard for an outdoor afternoon nap. The sun is softer here, filtering dappled through buttery yellow-green new leaves and a gentle breeze. My hair is curled with sea salt and I'm listening to Elbow, El Perro Del Mar and Miles Davis and reading lengthy Vanity Fair articles online.... conserving energy for Mardi Gras tonight!

Friday, February 26, 2010


Happy Cali snapshots, as promised....

Cute graf in San Francisco. Reminds me of a dad joke a friend used to tell. What animal do you find in everyone's kitchen? A GRILLER!

Close-up of the insane "art car" in Sausalito - a car painted and covered in dinky toys. Reminds me of the Gumby theme song. He was just a little green ball of clay.... GUMBY! Does anyone else find theme songs from childhood television shows resurface word-for-word even after all these years? For my money Dangermouse was one of the best. And, of course, Captain Planet.

Don't jump!

Ferrying back across the Bay.

Happy weekend y'all!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The George

Between boarding school and the (eeek!) almost ten years since, homesickness is something I conquered a long time ago. But every now and then a pang of longing for the old home town hits.

The George, as it's affectionately known by a younger generation with a penchant for abbreviation, is a good six hours' drive from Brisbane; nestled a couple of hours from the Queensland/New South Wales border on the banks of the Balonne River. Six hours of an arrow-straight, flat road; camoflage khaki scrub rushing past on either side like crayon scribbles. Something about the epic journey to get there - best done in an old station wagon, solo, with lots of beef jerky and ten of your favourite albums sung along to at top volume - makes your eventual arrival into town somewhat surreal.

St George is so named because explorer Major Mitchell crossed the river and camped there on St George's day in 1846. Back in the heady days of 1996 - it was all flannel and the intense crushes of twelve-year-olds and the ubiquitous novelty song "How Bizarre" - the town had a massive 150th birthday party and they reenacted the the George's conception.

It's a town of about 2,500 people, built on a big artesian bore. The town's water is either dirty brown river water, rainwater collected in big tanks, or the salty bore water that bubbles hotly from deep within the earth with a unique sulphuric smell. You know you've been away a long time when you notice the smell of the bore water! Originally I think livestock and a bit of grain cropping were the main industries; more recently a lot of grape farms have popped up, and the town has grown rich and bummed out again on that devilishly thirsty and ecologically unsupportable crop, cotton.
When you visit the George, drop in and visit my folks. You can find our place because it's right near the water tower, the tallest thing in the town. One new year's we watched delightedly as some drunken idiot scaled the tower and danced on the top. Back when it belonged to my dissolute maternal grandfather, the house was the hangout for all the local boozers and deros - as such it is perfectly situated at the centre point of the town from which all the pubs fan out.

Mum's clan were actually kind-of-big-deals in the town's history... The bridge that crosses the river is named after her great grandfather. The story goes that her grandfather was the first to cross the bridge, because as they were about to perform the ribbon cutting the toddler raced away from his parents, crossing the threshold in just a nappy. (Mum, I know you'll correct me if I've got this story wrong!)

I love trying to imagine what the George was like back in the 70s, when my mum and dad had left school at 15 and were cutting loose. Dad was apparently quite the party animal, known for antics such as eating live crickets and drinking two-stroke. When the river runs low, an island ("Turd Island") emerges in the middle, and back in mum and dad's heyday they held a party on Turd Island, ferrying eskies and supplies across in a tinny boat.

Ah, the George. If only it wasn't so far away.... and if only easter wasn't so far away, because I won't get back there before then. One of the best things about making the trek is this lady:
My nanna. Oh sure, she seems demure and sweet as pie, butter wouldn't melt in her mouth etc. But produce a deck of cards and take her on at euchre and watch the trash-talk fly. I think my favourite nanna saying was when someone pulled out a trick and beat her, and she exclaimed "Oh... you little... SAUSAGE DOG!"

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

There goes the fear

Last few days I've been furiously reconnecting with an album that soundtracked much of my late teens and early 20s. The Last Broadcast by Manchester's Doves isn't the coolest record but my god it's good. Not sure whether it's all the memories wrapped up in it... we listened to music differently back then, in the pre-iPod era. Listened to full albums, in sequence, every lyric learned by heart and every woozy organ chorus or double drum solo committed to memory.

There's something visceral and hopeful about this record - from the bombast of "NY" and the sweet acoustic strum of "Caught By The River", to the relentless joy of "Pounding". But the standout track is the big single "There Goes The Fear", the big anthemic track they've seemed to try to replicate on every succeeding album. Lately I read into it an expansive kind of love, a bittersweet letting go. Go on to great things, but remember me now and then.

Think of me when you close your eyes
But don't look back when you break all ties

Think of me when you're coming down
But don't look back when leaving town

What would I know? I just rode a bike home after a few too many beers!

Napa time

Nostalgia seems to come hand in hand with insomnia these days.. well, there are worse ways to spend sleepless nights than poring over old photos from overseas trips. This time last year I was finishing up an internship in San Francisco. This photo was taken in Yountsville on a weekend trip to the Napa Valley. Few things can top riding a bike through gently hilly vineyards green and gold with mustard flowers... This building, while it looked like a dodgy old mechanic shop or something from the outside, was actually a dingy little speakeasy type bar on the inside, blues on the jukebox, stuffed with mismatched old furniture and guys sneaking a Sunday arvo beer.

Gird your loins for a bunch of old photos from California. But right now, there's work to be done.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Biker bunny!

One of the random pleasures of working in Redfern - and there are many, from the frolicking dogs in the park and super cheap thai and lebanese food, to people singing to you on the street and the odd Rusty Crowe sighting - are these little Rabbitohs bunnies stuck everywhere. I love the random places they pop up, and this one's my favourite, for obvious reasons!

Empire state of mind

My favourite new New Yorker (Chuck Bass is old New York, obviously) is headed back to our fair shores today.

After such a summery weekend, for some reason today all I can think of is winter in New York, gloved-fingers wrapped around steaming soup from a street cart on the Met steps, watching the ice skaters in Bryant Park, and the divine hot chocolate martinis at Gramercy Tavern.

Getting the itch to travel again....

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Aw shucks

Sunday discoveries: an old black dress I swear I've not worn since uni... and it fits! And tucked within The Lifted Brow, a column on statistical maths by none other than Leesa Wockner, surely the same LW I totally admired back in our school days. How cool! So many gems in this random little lit tome. Had to try hard not to shed an awed tear on the bus when I read pars like this from "Harlem, 1964" by Ben Greenman:

I was sure you'd lean back here but you jumped off the steps. "You heard me," you said. "No more jokes." Then you kissed me on the side of the face but it was like you were kissing my lips. A girl went by behind you on roller skates. A leaf fell off a tree. There were so many other details that I'll never recover, little things I wish I could have noticed. Instead I was in the throes of something broader, thicker, and darker. So were you: that is a joke but it is after the fact.

This morning when we collected our red bikes from their sleepover in Centennial Park, we did a lazy lap around the park in the mid-morning sun. We passed an old couple walking together, he holding an umbrella just so, that the sun wouldn't shine in her eyes. I wished I could have taken a photo but I also love the fact they would have found it preposterous that someone was souveniering what I'm sure is a long-subconscious, tiny act of everyday devotion for them.

Happy days....

As Saturdays go, it was pretty magnificent. The fall of the light in the afternoon seemed to echo what we were all feeling: this is golden.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Lost in translation

Got talking to a random pom last night who got himself into a bit of trouble when he tried to adopt some Aussie slang. He interpreted the phrase "chuck a sickie" rather literally, and thought it meant actual vomiting illness. So he thought nothing of it when he was crook one day and texted his boss that he was chucking a sickie. His boss was just impressed at the ballsiness of it, I think, and rolled with it.

So to everyone out there chucking a sickie today, I hope you're enjoying it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

80s movie personality theory

In the spirit of those insufferable “two types of people” generalisations, here’s a little something I like to use to shamelessly prejudge people. It’s an elaboration on the High Fidelity theory that “it’s what you like, not what you are like”. Sure, you can judge someone on their favourite books or music. Who hasn’t craned their neck on the bus trying to see what the cutie in front of you has on their iPod, or fallen in love momentarily with someone sitting next to you on the plane purely on the basis of a worn copy of The Red Pony tucked in the back pocket of their jeans?

But this theory is a bit more specific to our generation (early 20s to early 30s) and I reckon it’s pretty reliable for making snap decisions about strangers and new acquaintances. I find it’s most accurate when used in social situations that preclude you ever seeing the person you’re judging again. Here’s how it works – ask someone what their favourite movie from the 80s is. If you’re more into dichotomy than chaos, give a multi-choice quiz offering these three options:

Top Gun

This is a very popular one with boys. You can do an innocent reading of this – Top Gun does after all have strong depictions of male friendships, striving for success and hooking-up-with-your-hot-teacher fantasies. It also has a soundtrack that veers from the sublime (Otis Redding) to the ridiculous (Kenny Loggins’ “Playing With The Boys”). Which brings me to the less innocent reading of why boys enjoy Top Gun: latent homosexuality. After all, was it really necessary to do all those scenes shirtless in the locker room? Why was everyone greased up for that gratuitous volleyball scene? And that hot teacher is really rather masculine. Someone who nominates Top Gun as their favourite movie of the 80s loves sports, secretly performs extended air guitar solos with their eyes closed, and has probably snuck a look at their friends in the changeroom and later felt guilty about it.

Girls Just Want To Have Fun

Like the chicken and the egg (although this quandary has a better chance of being answered by wikipedia), I’m not sure whether the Cindi Lauper song of the same name came before this early Sarah Jessica Parker vehicle. It also features a young Helen Hunt, an even younger Shannon Doherty, a fantastic 80s pop soundtrack, lots of leg warmers and, best of all, falling-in-love-through-the-power-of-dance montages. SJP is the permed girl on the cusp of growing up, with the strict military dad and the mad dance skillz. She enters a comp to dance on TV, secretly practicing with a super cute boy and, obvs, they totally love each other. Lacks the acutely-observed adolescent angst, and the heart, of a John Hughes film but it’s an enduring obsession of many girls nonetheless. Someone who nominates Girls Just Want To Have Fun as their favourite 80s movie enjoys shopping, secretly experiments with make-up and then removes it before anyone (least of all their strict dad) can see, and on Friday nights home alone when a dance movie like Centre Stage is on, winds up attempting to plie in the bathroom with the towel rack as a barre.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

This one’s my favourite. A perfectly made film – great casting, kickarse soundtrack, snappy dialogue, heart amid the shenanigans and it's shot like a love letter to Chicago – that even after innumerous infirmary viewings in boarding school remains the go-to flick for a sick day. I’m sure you don’t need a synopsis but I can’t resist recalling some of the great moments in this movie: Ferris’ instructional for faking illness… “do you have a kiss for daddy?”… the dirty nurse telegram… “Abe Froman, the sausage king of Chicago”… that chilly sparkling instrumental version of Please Please Let Me Get What I Want as they roam the art gallery… “when Cameron was in Egypt land... Let my Cameron goooooo”… Sloane looking like a goddess swimming in her slip… Charlie Sheen as the archetypal bad boy… and of course the parade scene. And I never understood how people could love Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing after she was such a heinous bitch as Ferris’ sister.

An intriguing new reading of FBDO, is the Fight Club Theory. IE, that like Tyler Durden in Fight Club, Ferris Bueller is simply an imaginary character that Cameron has invented to live out his wish fulfilment. It’s actually a pretty solid theory and just may blow your mind.

If someone names Ferris as their favourite movie of the 80s you can extrapolate that they have a healthy disregard for authority, an appreciation for simple adventures found in their own backyard, and their daydreams generally end with them lip-synching to the Beatles on a parade float. In theory FBDO is interchangeable with any other films of the Hughes oeuvre – although Pretty In Pink, Sixteen Candles or Some Kind of Wonderful would indicate a much more romantic soul, and The Breakfast Club someone in more need of therapy.

Well this turned out very long-winded – and there are hundreds of other 80s movies. What’s your favourite? Meantime, I hope to write more about John Hughes another time, but this article from Vanity Fair has some insights into a man I find inspirational as a writer. Just be warned, it’s very long!

Flip-flops on elderly people...

... should be called "scrape-flops".

Thanks Vanity Fair for a peek into the Secret Pseudonymous Fiction-Writing After Career of John Hughes.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Wigwam for a goose's bridle

Sam De Brito has a great blog post today on antiquated items of the Aussie lexicon that he fears are endangered. Of his list of 32 terms, I'm proud to say I'm still doing my part to keep at least 13 of them alive: rooting, bonzer, ripper, durry, dart, burl, lair, squiz, gander, togs, yakka, wowser and (a personal favourite of my mum) nong.

Make that 14. "Wigwam for a goose's bridle" is one I'd totally forgotten but definitely got thrown around a lot when we were kids and asking our mums what there was to eat. I always thought it was "wing wong" though! It makes absolutely no sense, and I think that's the best thing about it. There are so many other great phrases Sam didn't mention though:

  • Mad as a cut snake
  • So hungry I could eat a horse and chase the rider
  • Strike me roan
  • Fuck my brown dog
  • Jesus Christ on a bicycle
Only a couple of weeks ago I had a fun conversation with a backpacker who was taken aback by my hunger for other cultures' swear words and insults. (My favourite new nugget of knowledge from this cultural exchange was that "peterniklas" is a swedish term of endearment for the male appendage).

I guess what I'm really interested in isn't just the crassness, but the words and expressions that grow out of different communities and experiences. And so often they've grown out of working class or rural backgrounds, and they come up with these clever, complex, witty concepts that use language masterfully. Quirks that some beret wearing poet in the inner-west might never even come close to penning - and yet some storyteller in a shearing shed or worksite would never consider themself "literary" or creative. They just know what makes their mates laugh.

Such is the beauty of words.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Hot town, summer in the city

This is slightly lazy but I feel like it's the best tribute to another steamy dreamy Brisvegas weekend, now I'm back down south and in need of some catch-up sleep. It's a scrambled old diary entry from back in December...

Fell in love with a West End pool over a sluggish 2km this morning, panting over a kick board as Stefan's space needle threatened to prick the storm-sagging clouds. I was less a shark-like figure slicing through the water than a milk white dugong wrinkling the surface, but it was good.

Magpies (or possibly crows) are tap dancing on the tin roof to a scottish tattoo. Everything, or at least every green, is verdantly over-saturated in the overcast early afternoon. I long for the Boundary. For beer and blues and many, many cigarettes, the endless cycle of quenching and burning, half stuck to a vinyl bar stool, beads of sweat rolling haltingly down the contours of sweltering calves... and then a storm rolling in with violent thunder and lightning-lit, violet bruisy clouds.

Yesterday was the kind of Brisbane heat mirage that makes me wonder why I thought it was such a good idea to move back. Prodding, unmerciful heat and humidity adding dull kilos to the clothes hanging limply from bodies that feel bigger and heavier and lethargically sluggish.

But then you're riding along that dull gold river and the breeze finally offers some resuscitation. The colours are different here, bleached out like old photos under the flat, unforgiving sun. A climate seemingly bent on keeping you silent and prostate, sighing in brief stolen moments of air conditioning. Days with all the circular monotony of ceiling fans, lazily slicing air as thick and sinewy as overripe fruit. And it all seems so inescapable and hopeless until that moment of release, delivered in a mouthful of cool beer and a breeze of relief and then the streets pop and fizz like all the throngs of people propping up the bars have been waiting for, languishing for.

And we're reborn and all we need is a packet of salt and vinegar chips stinging the lips, the acrid bittersweet taste of childhood Friday nights while our parents went through the same dance. Fighting for a plastic seat at the Pacman table, bleeps and beeps over the roiling, rowdy rumble of RSL, carpet sticky with spilled beer and cigarette ash. Then being outside under the stars, and games with running and hiding and always with the counting and the big kids sneaking off and my sister being annoying or wait, was that me?

All these memory melting moments suspended in amber.


So despite this awesome extract from a book about how baby names can predetermine a kid's personality, my new faux nephew will not bear my name. But he has a pretty awesome name nonetheless - Louis. Makes me think of blues, trumpets, fire engines and dalmatians. All of which are surely harbingers for a pretty fun boyhood, right?! Going to spoil this kid rotten....

Perfect's over-rated

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in

-Leonard Cohen

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Valentines Day is a tricky one. It's a day for couples and those in love to celebrate their good fortune. Sometimes smugly. A lot of the hype gets pretty cheesy. But even for those of us who are on our own at the moment, it's still a good chance to think about love and be thankful for what we have.

After all, drop-everything-crazy-romantic love is just one kind of love. We also have the warm, unconditional love of our families. The fun, supportive love of our friends. Never underestimate how good it can feel to love someone (or even something) with no expectation of anything in return. You might adore your job, or that hobby or creative outlet you stay up late at night to work on. You might be smitten with your puppy or obsessed with an old Van Morrison album you just rediscovered on your ipod, or just crushing on the way the light falls on that park you ride your bike through after work. The very fact that you don't know where your next kiss will come from can be something to love! There's so much to love it seems unimaginative to get antsy about all the booked-out restaurants and overpriced floral arrangements of Valentines Day.

I don't generally go beyond the pictures on The Sartorialist, but Scott's post last week (scroll down to Feb 2) on gentleness, gentlemanliness and grace really resonated with me. Grace is something we don't make enough time for these days - small acts of kindness and thoughtfulness that can brighten someone's day more than you know. It's really lovely to go through the comments, where people have written in about the grace and chivalry they find in little actions of their partners.

So this Valentines Day I'm thankful for a lot of things. That I'm with my VERY best friend from my school days, the strongest bravest girl I know. That the most rock-solid couple I know just welcomed their son into the world - and he is going to be the most loved and damn cool kid out there. (I am still hoping he might be named after me!) That Pi is coming home from New York, that Alison is coming home from London, and soon Emily will too. That my sister is loved up with one of the coolest guys I know, that my housemate is loving life and trying to convince anyone and everyone to move to Sydney and share it. That life is good and there are photos to take and words to write and food and wine and laughs to share. That I got to do the couple thing myself, all the messy glorious intense loveliness of it, with one of the most incredible people I know - and that we can still be friends.

So wherever you fit in the single/coupled continuum, happy Valentines Day. Smile at someone cute on the street. Wish an old lady good morning. Let your taxi driver keep the change. Give your mum a call just to say hi. Hold the door for someone at work. There's so much grace waiting to be had - and given. Share the love.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The second city

When I came up with the name for this blog, I was anticipating spending a lot more time in Brisbane as well as Sydney. I love Brizvegas – so many great bars and buildings and back alleys, book-marking memories from boozy uni days – so it’s been sad that I haven’t spent any time there since my summer holidays. Particularly since Brisbane is also home to my second bike, Baby Blue, a powder blue confection of restored treadly prettiness.

It’s a city that’s really well set up for bikes. That track curving around the river is fantastic; at certain times of day when the tide is up, water laps right up to the path… at other times you get that fertile, foetid mangrove mud smell. One of my last nights there I rode with a friend right around to New Farm Park, and the lights reflecting off Story Bridge were spectacular.

To me Brisbane is all about swimming pools, condensation on your beer glass (pots, not schooners), nights of red wine and chain-smoking on balconies, bodies steaming with dancing at the Zoo, hippies at the West End markets, lawn bowls at Merthyr and 3am Bizarre Love Triangle dance-offs upstairs at Ric’s. I don’t think you can do that last one anymore though :(

I love the Brisbane of John Birmingham’s books - his seedy sprawling sharehouses and heat-addled cast of unhinged gonzo characters. When I moved to Brisbane to start uni, I expected my life to turn into another chapter of He Died With A Felafel In His Hand - a dog-eared copy of which I’d pored over as we ground out the last days of our boarding school sentence in Toowoomba. Of course, times had changed, but when I eventually went to a Red Hill party where someone busted out a bucket bong I was like FINALLY! Getting to meet JB has been one of the best perks of my job.

Anyway! Finally making a flying visit back up to Vegas this weekend, to share some anti-Valentines Day beers with a bunch of great mates. Will take Baby Blue out for a spin (she’s now in my baby sister’s custody), do some organic brunch and second-hand-book-shopping in West End, and as many fun Brisbane things as I can fit into two days. So hopefully next week I’ll have lots of great photos from the trails of the second city. Viva Brizvegas!

See the sky about to rain

Soggy times in Sydney tonight... rain dampened our Kuletos cocktails, drizzled while our Korean barbeque sizzled, teemed as we snuck in for a sheesha and closed half the main roads to Randwick with flash flooding.
Will definitely be back to this restaurant again, although perhaps not until the winter months. As it was, amid humidity and then storms, it was the full South-East Asian dining experience - sticky, sweaty, smoky! Best of all was frying our own pork belly to a delicious salty crisp, pickled cabbage and bright green melon iceblocks to finish. It's the kind of place where intoxication could lead to serious injury with your dinner though, with flames and smoke everywhere and buckets of fire being carried past regularly!
We did a kind of school-athletics-carnival-relay-meets-frogger desperate umbrella exchange back and forth across King Street as the gutters flooded. Mine and Ben's final leg met with disaster when I lost my right plugger in the rushing rapids. Thought it was headed for the ocean but managed to grab it in time! We finally got settled on a lengthy table with a bunch of randoms when some genuis drove past too close to the footpath and we all got drenched. There was much squealing, and for some reason flares were let off further down the street. In all, a memorable farewell to Sydney for my star intern who's headed back to Victoria tomorrow.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Rough trade

Let’s not go into why we were there, or how we heard about it. But last night at the Argyle (or as I like to call it, “the cougar den”) we witnessed the Sydney round of judging for RSVP’s search for “Australia’s Hottest Tradie”.

It was a totally surreal experience, a big gender role reversal, to be amidst this sea of catcalling women totally objectifying a handful of men. The people watching was excellent – sorting the women who’d come straight from work from those who’d gone home to doll themselves up! Hunger and lust in the eyes of squealing champagne-bolstered women, who are probably very mild-mannered accountants or child-care providers by day. And I was surprised at the number of guys and gays in the crowd.

The tradies themselves were hilarious – two interchangeable boys-next-door, the 30-year-old who made the mistake of trying to have a personality on stage, the westie wog electrician and a 20-year-old roided-up, stallion-necked poseur. The young’un wanted to win badly, hamming it up pouring water over himself, and looked bitterly disappointed when one of the nice boys won. And did I mention two of the judging criteria, tested by one lucky girl plucked from the crowd, were bicep measurements and “the pinch test”? And there were oh so many tool jokes.

(Cougar in the wild) Meanwhile, there was some kind of amateur round where, in my opinion, the best talent of the evening emerged. A strapping Maori/islander diesel fitter with the face of an angel. When he pulled an aw-shucks grin and his dimples came out like rays of sunshine, 200 women ovulated simultaneously. He faced little in the way of competition, though points for effort to the paunchy bloke with the comb-over. As we left the poor lad was in the middle of a cougar tug-of-war… hope he made it out alive, I daresay he left with the clothes torn off his back!

What could possibly go wrong?

Philadelphia Grand Jury played a cracking free set at Beach Road last night. It was our second stop on a night of snowballing randomness. The first stop I'll write about soon, I think you'll enjoy it. After we left Bondi, this happened:
Aimee unleashed her capoeira moves at the Coogee Bay. There were cartwheels. Wish I'd got more pics of her in action but words can't describe how much I love this photo. I've been sitting here at work doing literal LOLs every time I look at it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"Make love not war, fuckers"

The lego cold war (read instalment 1 and instalment 2 here) has taken a new and unexpectedly phallic turn. At some point between 1.30am and 5.30am this morning, Anna found the above on her doorstep. Sheets of plain A4 paper, wrapped in alfoil that had been painstakingly carved to read "MAKE LOVE NOT WAR FUCKERS". And as if to illustrate the point, three lego men set into pink, penis-shaped jellies.

Now aside from all the obvious questions - who is it, what is their agenda - what I really want to know is: where on earth do you get a doodle-shaped jelly mould?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Thumbs down

One thing – probably the only thing – I have in common with Hollywood uber-babe Megan Fox, is that we both have stumpy thumbs. Apparently they are known as “clubbed thumbs” but I’m sure we can come up with a better name for them than that.

Anyway. This made me very sad. Ms Fox used a thumb double in an ad that played during the Superbowl.

Way to blow your chance to stand up for thumbly-challenged people everywhere, Fox.

Wow - there's a blog dedicated to club thumbs! They even had a poll for what we should call them. I don't mind "royal thumbs" and there's a nice, menacing ring to "murderer's thumbs". Yes, according to the wisdom of palmistry (I dabbled, at around age nine), the stub thumb:

owing to the thickness, courseness and brutal obstinacy shown, has been designated the murderer’s thumb. This clubbed thumb shows terrific obstinacy … They are dangerous companions however not to be trifled with.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Salt of the earth

A temporary reprieve from the rain this afternoon brought nothing so vivid as the call of the ocean. Riding home in the afternoon sun, I was barely even into Randwick when I swore I could taste salt in the air.

The ladies' pool had just been pressure cleaned, and every shell and darting shoal came in crystal clear to the agog goggled eye. The swell was like nothing I'd seen before at Coogee, waves crashing into the pool and frothing every second lap end.

McIvers Baths is apparently the only women-only ocean pool left in Australia. While trying to find out how long the pool is, I stumbled on all these other colourful historical tidbits about the pool. Failed discrimination suits by guys who felt slighted by the no-dudes policy. Allegations of lewd, lascivious depravity; accusations of a "lesbian lair".

True, there generally is a fair splash on skin on show. It's weird to feel like a prude when stripped down to a one-piece, but then most places I'm used to swimming aren't studded with boobs, bobbing and floating here and there like fleshy Christmas ornaments. From seasoned pancakes to wayward wall-eyed nipples, the shamelessly bared baps of every age, shape and size may leave you wondering where to look... but that can actually make it somewhat easier to put your head down and smash out some laps.

People ask what the secret is to swimming laps. There isn't one. You swim to the end - then you swim back again. You get to the end however you can - counting strokes, counting breaths, mentally muttering gangster rap. Most the time it's just a struggle. Saltwater in your nose, burning the back of your throat. Forcing out three strokes before gulping air, kicking out cramps in crooked toes. But now and then you hit that state where you're physically on autopilot, and the arrow-straight back and forth becomes strangely meditative.

It's amazing the things that pop into your head, when all is submerged silence and your arms and legs have found their rhythm. Forgotten song lyrics, long-lost snatches of swim coach suggestions for stroke correction. Childhood memories.

Growing up in a bush town, the ocean was an exotic thing to be feared. On rare visits to the coast I remember squealing while the water licked at my ankles, my dad trying to teach me to catch waves, and watching amazed as the tide rushed out around my feet. But swimming itself always came easy.

Australian childhood is built on being in and around the water - from sprinklers to paddling pools, brown dams and rivers to bright blue chlorine. We grow up slathered in 15+, via bomb dives and kickboards and swim clubs and 50 cents' worth of mixed lollies from the canteen after an hour's squad training. I feel like some huge portion of my latter primary school days was spent swimming up and down the St George council pool.

I wonder how elite swimmers cope... watching that black line unspool for hours, kilometres, every day for years on end - they must see it even when they're not submerged.

At any rate, today's swim was a special one. Maybe it was all the lesbian nipple and armpit hair on show, but I started feeling a bit Helen Reddy. Propelling myself through the water I felt strong, and somehow womanly. Every 150 metres or so, I'd stop to clear the salt and fog from my goggles, and it was literally a revelation.

Like that bush kid slowly warming to the waves for the first time, I think a big part of the spirituality many people draw from the ocean is tied to fear. Well, maybe fear's not the word. But the undeniable sense of your insignificance it gives you - no matter how important you think you are, the sea could crush you in an instant... or just dump you and make you feel silly. Sometimes you need that.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Achin' for some bakin'

My love of food is no secret. I'm fascinated by the production, preparation and of course, the consumption of all things delicious. Every two weeks (I am chronically unable to budget on our fortnightly pay system) I take great pleasure in spending much of my weekend buying up seasonal fruit, veg, herbs, meat and other treats. Today was a fairly productive day in the little Randwick kitchen. First I made meatballs to take for fun work lunches:
Originally I intended to make the Swedish version but my hankering for a thick tomato sauce and oregano won out and I went the Italian route. These cook so simply in the tomato sauce, no frying required. Delicious with creamy mashed potato or some pasta. Next time I might try baking the whole production in the oven, with a bit of cheese on top. That is, of course, after I wrangle some lingonberry jam from IKEA and go all Swedish chef. This bad boy also comes highly recommended. Meatball cooking soundtrack: Animal Collective "My Girls", Grizzly Bear "While You Wait For The Others" and Wilco's "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart".
Next I made my old faithful choc-chip-and-cranberry cookies. These get a workout nearly every time I bake, generally in double batches. They're from a great recipe book my mum gave me last year called Apples For Jam. For extra special occasions I love to use chocolate with almonds or hazelnuts. I have to let my butter soften on the window sill for a while though, because our kitchen is totally devoid of cooking applicances so all beating is done with a wooden spoon! Cookie bashing soundtrack: Camera Obscura's "French Navy" and TV On The Radio's "Wolf Like Me".

75g butter
50g brown sugar
50g caster sugar
1 egg
a few drops of vanilla extract
160g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
110g dark chocolate
50g dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 190. Mash up the butter and sugar, beat until smooth. Add egg and vanilla. Sift in flour and baking powder, add a pinch of salt. Beat with wooden spoon until smooth and sandy... add broken up chocolate and cranberries. Press out teaspoons of the mixture onto paper-lined baking trays, allowing room for them to spread. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden... Then eat while the chocolate is warm and gooey, or take a tin into work to effectively atone for any level of professional misdemeanor!
As well as chopping up a fruit salad I also did a roast chook for dinner. Again the recipe was based on one from Apples for Jam, although I ad libbed stuffing based on memories of Dad's stuffing rather than just shoving some garlic and thyme in the cavity. Stuffing included rye bread, an egg, pine nuts, lemon zest, garlic, finely diced onion and fresh oregano, thyme and sage. Rubbed the bird down with butter and salt, surrounded it with chopped spuds, some garlic cloves and thyme sprigs, and doused the whole thing in lemon juice. I'm a slut for lemon on EVERYTHING. The whole thing took nearly 2 hours in the oven (poor Aimee was starving) and straight gravy probably would have been better than the pan-juices-and-cream concoction my cholesterol-loving cook book advocated. But - YUM. Before:
Roasting soundtrack: M Ward "Absolute Beginners" and the rest of Hold Time. Now I'm fed, watered, in bed and listening to the rain. Finally nailed the rest of The Heart of the Matter and I'm starting a Christos Tsiolkas book called The Jesus Man. Hopefully the rain will clear overnight so we can get a swim in before work!

Miss me?

We had a little road trip to Canberra. Normal service will now resume!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Yesterday & today

I am adoring this blog, 300&65 ampersands. An ampersand a day! It's like bite-sized typography porn for word nerds!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Dog days

An overdue update on the lego figurine cold war over at Anna's place. These militant dudes are watching over the front gateway for further stealth invasions. Sadly even they're no defence against your landlord deciding to sell.

In other random news, I spotted this dog with the plum seat at a Darlinghurst cafe on Saturday morning.
Makes me think of a pampered hound in Brisbane I'm rather missing. Audrey: I'll be back for a visit soon. We can play your favourite game where you hide under my bed and chew things until I drag you out by your paws.