Nov 3

I just invented a tongue-twister. It came about because Rach and I were discussing my love of choc-top ice creams, and how I can’t go to see a movie without getting one to munch on during the Coming Attractions.

By far the best choc-tops are at Dendy Cinemas in Newtown. They make them fresh each day in a variety of ever-changing flavours (my favourite is boysenberry), and the cones are always crisp and fresh. Unlike Greater Union choc-tops, which taste like they’ve been in the freezer since Star Wars came out. Generally speaking, the smaller the cinema, the better the choc-top. This I call “Snubian’s First Law of Choc-Tops”.

My Second Law of Choc-Tops pertains to the fact that no matter how fast or slow you eat your choc-top you will always take the last bite at the precise moment the lights go down and the main feature begins.

Anyway, there’s a film I want to go and see, but it’s playing only at the Chauvel in Paddington, a cinema I’ve never been to before. Naturally my main concern is the quality of their choc-tops, and how they might rate as compared to other cinemas. This led me to create the following tongue-twister:

Which choc-top tops the choc-top charts?

Not bad, huh?

Here’s another one I heard many years ago from a Dutch guy I worked with who seemed strangely obsessed with it:

The Leith police dismisseth us.

This is one I love to tease Rach with, because she can’t seem to say it at any speed. It doesn’t make a lot of sense – I think it’s actually part of a longer poem – but it gets extra points for difficulty. Leith is a town in Scotland by the way.

Then for sheer ridiculousness and impossibility, there’s this:

Blake’s black bike’s back brake bracket block broke.

Try saying that with a mouthful of choc-top.

Oct 24

Well, it seems the Muses deserted me there for a while – nothing new from Snu in six long weeks! But let me tell you, if there’s anything that can shock someone out of a month of writer’s block it’s a night at Chatswood RSL Karaoke.

This being our first visit to the hallowed turf of Chatswood RSL we didn’t know exactly what to expect of the Karaoke venue. Perhaps a dark, tastefully lit den with low ceilings and comfy booths, a place where a group of hip cats such as ourselves would not feel unwelcome.

Instead what we found was a cavernous bistro-slash-auditorium, fully ablaze with light, populated by the motliest assortment of individuals that Homo sapiens has to offer. The singing was well underway, and we were greeted by the strains – and I really mean strains – of “Black Velvet” by Alannah Myles, as interpreted by one of the intellectually challenged poppets (bless them) who apparently frequent the Friday night event. A lone dancer – another of the Karaoke regulars – cavorted on the dance floor, dressed in red bustiere and tastefully torn black stockings. I sipped at my schooner of Tooheys New, desperately wishing for something stronger – like cyanide.

I had earlier decided that my personal appearance on stage was out of the question, but some others in our group – including the ever brave Rachael – set about choosing their song for the evening. Meanwhile, the parade of performers continued. My mind has thankfully erased most of what I saw last night, but a few images remain.

There was John, a short, bald, sturdy, fifty-ish man, whose voice is almost beyond description. It’s a gravelly, grumbly freight train of a voice, devoid of almost any inflection of tone or pitch. His rendition of “Come a Little Bit Closer” by the Delltones was a definite highlight. As I sat watching John sing, and as the solo dancer continued with her deranged pirouettes, it occurred to me that I felt like an extra in a David Lynch film.

As John left the stage – to rapturous applause – he walked past our table, where he paused long enough to ask Rach in his billy-goats-gruff voice, “It’s Warwick, isn’t it?” Rach was a little confused by this, having never before been mistaken for someone called Warwick.

A while later I was waiting at the bar when I sensed a looming presence at my side. I turned to find John standing there, hand thrust out towards me.

“It’s Warwick, isn’t it?” he asked.

I smiled and grabbed his meaty paw.

“Yeah mate, nice ta meet ya.”

I complimented him on his singing and we parted best of friends.

So, if you’ve got no plans next Friday night, why not try the Karaoke at Chatswood RSL. The drinks are cheap and a good time is guaranteed for all. But remember, it’s only a short step from Karaoke to Hari-kiri.

P.S. I have to mention Rachael’s impressive performance of “Escape” (aka “The Piña Colada Song”) by Rupert Holmes. Here is Rupert in all his nerdy glory, singing live on US music show Midnight Special:

Sep 11
Eating 101
icon4 Sep 11th, 2009 | icon2 Food | icon33 Comments »

I’ve just been pondering the pointlessness of much of what is termed “etiquette”. In particular I am rabidly anti-etiquette when it comes to dining out. This seems to be one area in which most people still follow – perhaps unconsciously – certain rules, learnt from a young age, that govern how you sit and eat a meal.

Let’s start by watching this short presentation on European vs American “dining styles”:

So what did you think of that? Obviously this woman is at last partly bonkers if she really thinks it necessary to observe all of these rules. Of course, common sense tells us it is most efficient to hold the knife and fork in a certain way (stupid bloody Yanks), but clearly you’d have to be insane to worry about whether the tines on your fork were correctly oriented at all times. Alot of what she says, however, is virtually hardwired into every one of us from a young age, and used unconsciously on a daily basis. This is what I am trying to change in my own little way. Here’s what I mean.

1) Napkin on your lap

I am sick of putting my napkin on my lap. It is totally pointless and I can see no reason for doing it. I never drop food onto my lap, because I lean slightly over my plate to eat. This itself is probably a gross deviation from accepted norms, but I don’t care. I keep my napkin on the table beside me. That way, I can wipe my mouth if necessary – always delicately and with pinky extended.

This leads me to the custom of the waiter placing the napkin on the diner’s lap before the start of the meal. Why it is believed that the diner is unable or unwilling to perform this minute physical exertion is beyond me, particularly when it involves a region of the body to which public access is typically restricted. Having to sit mute while a strange man lays a cloth delicately across my groin seems to me a flagrant violation of personal space at the very least.

2) No elbows on the table

This is an old chestnut, going way back to the family dinner table. Why this is considered rude I don’t know. My idea of a nice dinner out is to relax and be comfortable. I can’t be comfortable with my wrists resting on the table’s edge for two hours. I paid for it, so I’ll lean on it, thank you very much. My response to someone who says that putting an elbow on the table looks uncouth or boorish? Build a bridge and get over it.

3) Placement of knife and fork on plate

OK, I admit that I can see the advantage of a “signal” that tells the wait staff whether or not you have finished with your plate. For many years I carefully placed my knife and fork together at the end of the meal, even at home, where there was certainly nobody to come and gather my plate when I was done. But how about this: the waiter could ask, “Are you done, sir?” They still do this most of the time anway. We can speak, people! Let’s use the gift of verbal communication that millions of years of evolution has bestowed upon us! So this is one piece of dining etiquette I have dispensed with. May my knife and fork lay wherever they fall from my hands once the last morsel of food is in my mouth.

So, friends and fellow diners, these are my brief thoughts on dining etiquette. I believe all areas of daily life should be approached in this same open-minded way. Remember, if the only answer to the question “why am I doing this?” is “because that’s the way it’s done”, then that is not a good enough answer!

Bon appétit!

Sep 6
Battleaxe: A Musical Journey
icon4 Sep 6th, 2009 | icon2 Music | icon3Comments Off

While the world breathlessly awaits the release of the remastered Beatles back-catalog, I have just made an even more important musical discovery.

On a recent excavation in a dusty basement of the Snubian archives I came across a small wooden box. Inscribed on the lid were words from a language beyond my understanding, seemingly burnt into the wooden surface. Upon opening the box I was shocked to discover a monkey’s paw, withered and black. I removed it carefully, but as I did so the light by which I was working dimmed suddenly. I fell backwards and tossed the clammy paw into a dark corner of the room. Looking into the box again I saw that it contained a small parcel wrapped in velvet of the darkest blue. Slowly I peeled back one corner, then another, until the object inside was revealed. It was a cassette tape. Written on the tape was a single word: Battleaxe.

When I was in Year 10 at High School, a few friends and I formed a metal band. We called ourselves various names – Zenith, Red Alert – but Battleaxe was the one that stuck.

My good buddy Dave was on drums. Dave played trombone in the school band but was desperate to break into the percussion section. He was essentially a self-taught drummer, learning from his ever-expanding collection of hair metal albums. I had known Dave since he arrived at my primary school in Year 5. He was what was then called a “sissy”. That is, he played piano and organ, tap-danced, performed jazz routines to Village People songs at school assembly, stuff like that. But we got on well and started hanging out, moreso as our musical tastes started to form and converge.

Our singer was called Sasha. He was a few years older than us, a local identity who could often be seen speeding about the suburb in his dad’s hotted-up Ford Charger. Sash is I think the only person I have ever met who was truly tone deaf. Seriously, he could barely sing “Happy Birthday”. Great choice for a singer, I know. Sadly, his rhythm and timing were pretty poor too – he would often come in at the wrong time, or sing an extra verse when you were least expecting it.

On bass was another guy from our year at school, who was known by all simply as “Wacka”, although I think his real name was Robert. Wacka was a small-time drug dealer of some note as well as an electronics whiz and regional cross country champion. I’m sure these three attributes often proved to be mutually beneficial. (In fact, we had another bass player before this, who was summarily dismissed for forgetting to bring his guitar lead to rehearsal. Wacka commandeered his instrument, quickly soldered together a new lead and took over bass duties.)

I was on guitar and backing vocals. At this stage I didn’t have my own amplifier, so was playing through some kind of ancient radiogram that Dave’s parents had kicking around that looked like it was from the 1930s. My only method of achieving anything approaching a “metal” guitar sound was a rudimentary fuzz-box that Wacka had made from a design in an electronics magazine, and which I had bought from him for $12. It provided a little crunch but was far from the distortion-drenched sound I desired. At this stage I hadn’t been playing electric guitar long and was yet to discover the all important “power chord”, so I was still working from the cheesy chords in my Iron Maiden songbook.

Our rehearsals were held at Dave’s house, as his elderly parents (Dave was the youngest of a large but unspecified number of children) seemed to tolerate just about anything to keep him off the streets. We practised in Dave’s tiny bedroom, which was empty except for a pile of school-related mess, his drumkit and a bunch of mattresses that lined the walls – probably his long suffering mother’s futile attempt at “soundproofing”.

We rehearsed most Saturdays, choosing our material from the current crop of metal bands: Iron Maiden, Quiet Riot, Mötley Crüe, W.A.S.P. etc., as well as old favourites such as Black Sabbath. It is not false modesty to say that we were fucking awful. We were all beginners, certainly, but what we lacked in talent we made up for in volume and stupidity. We even gave ourselves fake names. I was known as Izzy Fareel. Dave became Dave Death. Sash and Wacka couldn’t be bothered.

Anyway, back to the mysterious cassette tape. At some point we decided to start recording ourselves on Dave’s ghetto blaster, and miraculously one of these tapes has remained in my possession for the intervening 24 years. There are a bunch of songs on the tape but only one features all four of us, what with Wacka’s various other pursuits often keeping him from rehearsals.

So, I present to you a cover of Iron Maiden’s “Running Free” performed by Battleaxe, c. 1985. Please excuse the poor quality of the recording, but remember that this is a historical artefact we’re dealing with here!

Running Free by Battleaxe

Here are the lyrics so you can sing along.

Just sixteen, a pickup truck, out of money, out of luck
I’ve got nowhere to call my own, hit the gas, and here I go

I’m running free yeah, I’m running free
I’m running free yeah, I’m running free

Spent the night in an L. A. jail, listened to the sirens wail
They ain’t got a thing on me, I’m running wild, I’m running free

I’m running free yeah, I’m running free
I’m running free yeah, I’m running free

Get outta my way!

Pulled her at the Bottle Top, whiskey, dancing, disco hop
Now all the boys are after me, and that’s the way it’s gonna be

I’m running free yeah, I’m running free
I’m running free yeah, I’m running free

You can tell by our squeals of delight at the end that we thought we were pretty shit hot. (That’s me exclaiming “That was tops!”) Apparently we suffered from a form of collective audio dysmorphia.

Here’s what the real thing sounded like, Iron Maiden performing “Running Free” with original singer Paul Di’anno on Top of the Pops in 1980.

So where are the members of Battleaxe now?

Dave was expelled sometime in early Year 11 after he broke into our school’s music department and stole some cymbals. He later got in with the wrong crowd – or maybe he was the wrong crowd – and has had serious problems for many years. Sasha did a runner after getting himself into some unspecified hot water with local heavies. He not only took his dad’s car but also cleaned him out of pots and pans, according to his younger brother who we grilled for information at the time. Wacka had always wanted to go into the Army – a career where his many and varied skills could be put to use – but I’m not sure if he got his wish. If he did he’s probably a Major-General by now. As for me, I have survived the dizzy heights of metalmania to become a calm and semi-responsible adult.

Aug 19
Radio Ga Ga
icon4 Aug 19th, 2009 | icon2 Family, Memories | icon31 Comment »

I recently came across a dusty box of cassette tapes, one of which was an interesting anthropological recording made by my family in 1981.

My sister Julie had moved to England with her husband around 1979 and lived there until 1984, during which time she had two children. Back then there was no email of course, and international phone calls were prohibitively expensive and so reserved for special occasions.

I can clearly remember when mum & dad had our phone line updated to support ISD – or International Subscriber Dialling, now known as International Direct Dialling. This meant we could call Julie’s home phone in England directly, without having to go through an operator. (Sadly we had to change phone numbers, but our old number – 574576 – will always be burned into my memory.)

Anyway, with the cost of phone calls to England being what it was, we didn’t get to speak to Julie very often. Then sometime in 1981 local radio station 2KO did a series of broadcasts from various cities in the UK, perhaps as some sort of loosely defined cultural exchange. And in the spirit of Anglo-Australian good will 2KO was giving Aussie expats the chance to broadcast a message home to their family in Newcastle. My mum was all over this in a flash, and so it was arranged that Julie would record a message to be aired at a specified time.

Such an important occasion had to be recorded for posterity, so dad’s mono cassette recorder (more used to playing Johnny Cash at full volume while dad worked in the backyard) was brought into the kitchen, a blank tape purchased especially (a “Tempest” brand C-90!) and the “record” button pressed as the time for Julie’s message drew near.

What with radio technology being what it was back then the broadcast sounded like it was being beamed from Pluto rather than northern England, but thankfully the cassette recording – now 28 years old – is still reasonably clear and intelligible. Here’s what my sister had to say:

Hello. This is Julie in Yorkshire. I’d like to say “hello” to Marj and Les ***** of New Lambton. We’re all happy here, mum and dad, our expected baby is coming along nicely; we think it’s going to be a girl. We’re very much looking forward to seeing you next year. Love to you all, and many thanks to 2KO for making this possible.

The tape ends as my mother bursts into tears of joy.

Somehow I ended up with this precious cassette – I think I made a case later on that as only three minutes of it had been used I could certainly fill the remaining 87. And although I was always careful to preserve Julie’s message I seem to have made good use of the remaining blank tape. One side has Australian Crawl’s “Sons of Beaches” album while the other has “Screaming for Vengeance” by Judas Priest. (The guitar solo in “Riding on the Wind” blew my 13-year-old mind.)

I’ve now transferred the message to computer, so it’s safe forever. Right? I’ll email it to my sister, she’ll probably get a kick out of it.

In other phone-related trivia, here’s something I just remembered. For years we had a little wooden box sitting next to our telephone, with a slot in the top like a money box. The intention was for people who used the phone to drop a coin into the box, to pay for their call. Exactly who these “people” were I don’t know – presumably “visitors” who had to use the phone, which was basically nobody that I can remember. The box always seemed to have a solitary 20c coin rattling around in it, and no apparent way to get it out. I remember the box had a picture on the side of Stockton bridge – one of Newcastle’s most conspicuous local landmarks – and a little poem that went:

Call from here when e’er you will,

But don’t forget who pays the bill.

If there is another single object that sums up 1970s suburbia more than this coin box I’d like to know what it is.

Aug 10

Things were different in the ’70s. Life was simpler, people were friendlier, the sky was a brighter shade of blue. But most importantly, tourist attractions were unhindered by bothersome laws regarding public safety and animal welfare.

About thirty minutes drive from where I grew up in Newcastle there was a magical place called “Raymond Terrace Lion Park”. For just a few dollars a family of four could enter the Lion Park and drive around at their leisure – in the comfort of the family sedan – observing the most majestic of Africa’s big cats.

Let me make this clear: once inside the Lion Park, you could drive unsupervised, among the lions, in your own car! Only common sense prevented you from opening the car door and stepping out into the realm of one of the world’s most savage killing machines!

Recently, while delving through the Snubian archives, I came across some photos of the Lion Park, probably taken by my sister. This would’ve been the mid-’70s. Note the Lion Park jeep painted with zebra stripes. Also note the large male lion gnawing on the thigh bone of its latest victim.

Here are a few other rare shots.

These days you’d have to go all the way to Africa to see this

Female lion prepares to attack neighbouring horses

Thankfully, the park caretakers observed the strictest of security measures to ensure the safety of their patrons. For example, the man at the front gate would explain that you should keep your DOORS CLOSED at all times.

Not only that, but the park itself had a foolproof double gated entrance, so that none of those pesky lions could escape and go on a murderous rampage through Hexham. As you arrived in your car, a man would emerge from a booth, collect the entrance fee, and then open the first gate, at which point you would move forward a few metres into the “lion exclusion zone”. After closing the outer gate, he would check that any nearby lions were otherwise occupied, then quickly open the inner gate and wave you through. Amazing! I can picture those double gates like it was yesterday.

I don’t recall what the advice was should your car break down, or should a lion decide to consume it. But I suppose cars were more robust in those days. For example, our family car at the time was a 1967 Holden HR sedan – see below. That’s my dad leaning on the bonnet. Hopefully this was not taken inside the Lion Park, but anything’s possible.

In doing some “research” for this piece, I discovered that Lion Parks were quite common back in the day, and were usually run by circus companies. For example, the Raymond Terrace Lion Park was run by Ashtons. They probably figured they could make a few bucks from their lions in the off season. Whether such an arrangement was good for the lions is arguable I suppose, although they had plenty of space and could always supplement their diet with the occasional stray koala.

I have always had fond memories of the Lion Park, or as I knew it, the “Lion Safari” - as in “Dad, can we go to the Lion Safari today PLEEEEASE!!!!” (repeat fifty times). Incidentally, the ’67 HR was our family car up until about 1976, when we upgraded to a Holden HJ “Belmont” – woohoo! The Belmont ran like a dream right up until I wrote it off in 1988. Ah, good times.

Aug 1
I am Woman, Hear Me Bore
icon4 Aug 1st, 2009 | icon2 Concerts | icon3Comments Off

Well, we saw Judith Lucy last night at the Sydney Opera House Playhouse. Let me get this out of the way right now – I thought she was awful!

I’ll admit I’ve never been a massive fan, but she’s usually been good for a chuckle whenever I’ve happened to catch her on the radio. But I barely cracked a smile last night. And when I did it was only because I was in the second row and afraid that if I sat stony-faced for 90 minutes she might pick on me. Because – and here’s my biggest gripe about the show – audience participation was a main feature.

I don’t mind the odd bit of audience interaction – heckling latecomers is a nice way to warm up a crowd, for example. But to be constantly talking to people in the audience gets tired pretty quick. After almost every gag she’d ask for a show of hands to see how many people agreed, or canvas people’s opinion. “What did everyone think of the movie Australia?”

And then she spent about 20 minutes discussing the differences between gen-X and gen-Y, a topic which pretty much shits me to tears at the best of times. We’ve heard it all before, Judith, and it’s not even funny! She picked a couple of young people (early 20s) in the front row and asked them a range of quite personal questions about their sex lives, drug intake, and so on. Aren’t we over pubic hair jokes? Honestly.

For someone who considers herself a feminist (she drove this point home several times during the show) Judith is pretty down on herself. We got to hear how upset she was that no Italian men hit on her during a recent European holiday, among a bunch of other “poor me” gags.

I’m certainly no fashionista, but Judith’s low-cut, black strapless dress was a train wreck. And although I feel uncomfortable commenting on someone else’s physical appearance, I’ll do so anyway. Let me just say she looked quite puffy from the second row. I could see the individual hairs on her arms too, which was a little disconcerting. This may be a little out of order, but her hair was pulled back in a way such that her general appearance reminded me of the portrait of Captain Cook they always show you in primary school.

Back to the gags. Or lack of them. Judith’s delivery has always grated with me a little. It just seems so put on. But admittedly most of the audience loved it. All she had to do to elicit screams of laughter was to mention her vagina. (There’s a tip to all aspiring female comedians.) And again, the reliance on getting laughs from hassling members of the audience doesn’t sit well with me. Shouldn’t a comedian – especially one with twenty years’ experience – be able to make you laugh at least once in ninety minutes?

The only buzz I got was when she mentioned that the show was almost over. Ahh, escape! Sweet freedom! She closed by singing (and I use the term loosely – which I suppose is her intention) “Send in the Clowns”, perhaps a last poke at herself. She’s the clown, get it?

However, the night wasn’t a total let-down. When we returned to the car I discovered Australia was 8 for 203. Go England!

Jul 29
Our Lips are Sealed
icon4 Jul 29th, 2009 | icon2 Concerts | icon3Comments Off

So last night Rach and I saw the Flaming Lips at the Hordern Pavilion in Sydney. What a show!

We got there early and nabbed a spot near the stage, in the centre. Even before the support band had started Lips frontman and funmeister Wayne Coyne – resplendent in grey suit and trademark loosened bow tie – could not resist appearing briefly to fire some streamers into the audience. As the support act played Wayne again popped onto the edge of the stage, looking every bit the mad scientist among the smoke and flashing lights.

Now, I’ve been to quite a few big rock shows over the years, and I have never – ever – seen a member of the headline act carry his own equipment on stage, until last night. Lips’ guitarist/keyboardist/drummer and all round musical genius, Steven Drozd, is obviously a hands-on kinda guy, because as soon as the support band wrapped up Steven appeared, lugging his large, orange keyboard rig. Wayne also was busy making sure his many stage props were in working order.

The impression you get from the Flaming Lips is that they are certainly not your typical “big rock act”. And that there’s nothing more natural in the world than to carry your own gear onto the stage, plug it in, test it out, and say “hi” to the audience. It was a delight to watch.

For those who are aware of the Lips’ live performances, you’ll know that at the start of the show Wayne rolls across the audience in a large clear plastic bubble. We were lucky enough to be right underneath as he passed overhead, doing our bit to transport his capsule across the crowd.

Meanwhile the sides of the stage filled with lucky punters dressed as white bunnies and green frogs, who danced around for the duration of the show. An 8-foot high inflatable caterpillar and yellow sun-like blob also made appearances and wobbled away to the beat. And although I didn’t see it, Rach tells me that at one point Wayne was on the shoulders of a large brown bear.

It would be hard not to enjoy a show like the Flaming Lips put on last night. Not only was the music uplifting and joyful, but they are a rockin’ band too – the lighter moments mixed in with some fine guitar crunch. The audience participation continued throughout, with almost every song a sing-along and the crowd showered continuously with streamers, confetti and oversized balloons.

Wayne chattered away between songs, acting as emcee and coordinating all extra-musical activity. This guy is certainly one of a kind, as are the band as a whole. It will be a sad day indeed when these guys stop making music.

Jul 26
Lazy Sunday Afternoon
icon4 Jul 26th, 2009 | icon2 Bric-a-Brac | icon3Comments Off

I love Sundays. Mainly because the Sunday edition of the Sydney Morning Herald is delivered – occasionally to somewhere in the vicinity of our house, having been fired from a large catapult located at the SMH printing plant 70 km away in Chullora.

The first thing I look at in Sunday’s paper – after discarding the TV Guide and Domayne catalogue – is the “S” liftout. This is the section that takes us “behind celebrity lines”.

Today there is a special feature on Hollywood babe Katherine Heigl (great surname for crosswords, will have to remember that one). We learn that she is in fact much more down to earth than would be expected. Fancy that! She is also “disarmingly honest”. What tosh.

Turn the page and here’s an informative piece about Aussie model Annalise Braakensiek, who has just released a range of “eco” lingerie, made from Earth-friendly products including “organic bamboo”. Shouldn’t this be in the business section? Anyway, we get a pic of Annalise showing off one of her new bras, complete with provocatively raised arm and sultry stare. In the accompanying story poor Annalise despairs about having to attend modelling shoots where “I was wearing these beautiful garments but they only go up to a maximum D cup, and I’m an E cup. It was so frustrating”. I can imagine.

Next is the regular column “Date with Kate”, where somebody called Kate Waterhouse (anybody know who this person is?) has lunch with somebody equally as pointless. Today it’s Sophie Lavers, recently crowned as the somewhat oxymoronic “Miss World Australia”. The photo of the two dining out is uncaptioned, so it remains a mystery which is which. Perhaps we are just supposed to know, darlink. Among the startling revelations from the beauty queen are that her boyfriend of two years is named “Jack Pembroke-Birss” (sounds like an Austrian ski resort) and her biggest indulgence is … chocolate!

Then comes a few pages of tripe entitled “Party Animal”, in which A-list socialite and grade-A dumb mole Amy Cooper reviews the previous week’s party scene. Essentially, we get to track where Gracie Otto was 24/7 since last Sunday.

Ah, here it is!! My favourite piece of printed matter for the whole week (excluding the daily KenKen puzzle). It’s “Urban Style” by uber-wanker Fernando Frisoni. Let me explain this to you. Fernando ventures out into the mean streets of Sydney (e.g., Paddington … ooh! aah!) and finds stylish locals wandering aimlessly about. He then photographs them, dissects their fashion sense and asks a few probing questions.

Bullshit. What really happens is this. A selection of models are paid to be photographed in some non-descript Sydney street (probably in Strathfield) while wearing the most ridiculous clothes imaginable, by whichever local rag-merchants have slipped Fernando a bag of cash in the previous week. Names are then invented for these non-people, usually outlandish and double-barrelled, like “Sabrina von Film-Noir”. (I made that one up.) Some pretentious twaddle is written to accompany the picture, such as:

Sabrina von Film-Noir in Kings Cross wears skirt by sass&bide, top by Felix of Milan, retro sunglasses from a market in Caracas, and scarf from her grandmother’s wardrobe.
What music are you listening to right now? I’m really digging early Kraftwerk at the moment.

Well, after all that – and having done the two Sunday KenKens – I’m too tired to read the rest of the paper, which is pretty much all rubbish anyhow. It will sit in our retro ’70s magazine rack until Tuesday night, when it will be taken out to the recycle bin, perhaps to be later fashioned into one of Annalise Braakensiek’s eco-bras. Maybe I’ve got time for a snooze before tea.

Jul 20

Along with 3.7 million others on Sunday night I sat gob-smacked as 38 year old mother of three Julie Goodwin was handed the title of Australia’s first “Master Chef”. The show’s producers must have a very low opinion of their audience if they think we could not perceive the blatant favouritism shown toward the eventual winner.

In the week leading up to the finale Julie presented undercooked, sloppy, and at times downright awful dishes. Her ridiculous “puddle pie” will hopefully never be seen again. The judges could barely move the goal posts fast enough to keep up with Julie’s wayward cooking output and to ensure that she remained in the competition.

The finale continued in the same vein. Julie prepared what were variations on a familiar theme: roasted meat, simple and tasty, yet poorly presented and lacking inspiration. This is essentially the same home-style cuisine which impressed the judges at her initial audition.

Meanwhile, the other finalist, Poh Ling Yeow, presented meticulously prepared and visually stunning dishes with a startling array of accompaniments and sauces. Throughout the competition she demonstrated a creativity, intuition and artistry that set her apart from the other contestants. This originality would be her downfall.

As the finale proceeded it was clear that the fix was in. So much screen time was given to Julie as to make it appear a one horse race. On several occasions the judges stopped by her bench with helpful suggestions – sorbet too grainy, pastry too thick – whereas Poh received little assistance. When it came time for tasting, the judges lapped up Julie’s simple, dinner table fare, while Poh’s innovative dishes were greeted with raised eyebrows. With hindsight, the result was a fait accompli.

The reasons for this are clear enough. Ultimately it is the goal of a television show to make money, through advertising and the sale of related merchandise. From early on it was apparent that Julie’s story – her “journey”, in reality TV lingo – was the most marketable. And unlike other reality shows that are audience judged, the winner of MasterChef was determined solely by the show’s presenters, with the producers standing in the wings. Julie had the prize handed to her on a plate, no pun intended.

What is most preposterous is that no head chef or restaurateur in their right mind would want Julie in their kitchen. She trembled and sweated her way through every cooking challenge, rarely completing the assigned task and often presenting dishes clearly below the standards expected, not qualities suited to the frenetic bustle of a commercial kitchen.

Perhaps Julie has shown that she can cook Sunday dinner for a family of five, but she is certainly no Master Chef.

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