Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.

29.8.18

Chicken parmigiana without the deep frying.

Cut a couple of large chicken breast fillets laterally into slices about the thickness of a slice of bread. Intersperse the cut chicken with slices of ham. Place fillets into an oiled baking pan that holds them snugly so the slices don't slide around.

Cover fillets with your preferred napoli sauce, topping up with a little water if necessary. Top with grated tasty cheese and parmesan on top of that. Plenty of cheese.

Sprinkle parsley over. Cover baking dish with foil. Bake 20-30 minutes. Chicken should be moist but not pink.

Serve with baked potatoes and steamed broccoli.

7.8.18

The Glass Building, Part Three.

Having spent what feels like most of the day - in fact, it has quite literally been most of the day – trying to get to a meeting, Kate, Hamish and Vijay walk into a meeting room on the eighty-eighth floor accompanied by client Charles, who handles a six million dollar account for multinational pharmaceutical company Alchemy.

Six people – Blake Browning Burns media buyers – who are sitting around the table, stand up as they enter. A screen hangs down ominously at one end of the table. (The BBB media department operates out of a separate office to BBB creatives.)

CHARLES (TO KATE): I thought we'd double up on the presentation by bringing your media experts in to present their recommendations. I know you won't mind.

KATE (SMILES A LITTLE TOO EARNESTLY): That's fine, Charles. I'd like to present creative as you know but why don't we get media out of the way first – and then they can leave.

VIJAY (TO HAMISH): Not subtle, is she? There goes another hour. Why does it take six media people to present a chart with a bunch of ticks on it?

HAMISH (TO VIJAY): I don't know. Bunch of idiots wearing Ben Sherman suits, square glasses and carrying shoulder bags. And that's just the blokes. Or is it the women? I can't remember.

HANDSHAKES ALL ROUND, THEN THAT POINTLESS EXCHANGE OF BUSINESS CARDS ALL OF WHICH WILL END UP IN THE BIN WITH THE TAKE-AWAY COFFEE CUPS

CHARLES (HOLDS UP A HAND): Thanks, everyone. We'll get the meeting started when John Silvester arrives. He's Alchemy's worldwide head of new product initiatives and he's visiting Australia this week from the UK. He'll be here shortly.

HAMISH (TO VIJAY): We could be here all day.

TWENTY MINUTES OF SMALL TALK LATER, A VERY SHORT MAN ENTERS THE ROOM. IT IS JOHN SILVESTER. HIS OVERALL SHORTNESS IS ACCENTUATED BY THE FACT THAT HIS LEGS ARE PROPORTIONATELY SHORTER THAN HIS TRUNK, SO WHEN HE COMES INTO THE ROOM HE LOOKS LIKE A SUITCOAT ON A SKATEBOARD.

JOHN SILVESTER: Hi, everyone. I'm John Silvester, worldwide head of new product initiatives and I'm visiting ...

CHARLES (SMILING, AND POSSIBLY A LITTLE TOO ABRUPT) Yes, I've already introduced you, John.

JOHN (PUZZLED AS TO HOW YOU CAN INTRODUCE SOMEONE BEFORE THEY HAVE ENTERED THE ROOM): You did? Thanks.

JOHN SILVESTER CLIMBS UP ONTO A CHAIR

JOHN SILVESTER: OK, let's get started. Let's see the creative.

CHARLES: Ah, John ... the media department have come along today as well, so I thought we might run through their strategy first.

THE MEDIA PEOPLE SWITCH ON THEIR POWERPOINT AND START GIVING A VACUOUS PRESENTATION ABOUT TARGET MARKETS, INTERRUPTING EACH OTHER FREQUENTLY. AFTER ABOUT HALF AN HOUR OF THIS, ONE OF THEM STARTS SUMMING UP.

NIGEL: We think your market is ready for the product and we see a great potential success amongst Rich Over-Achieving Doubles (ROADs), Suburban Hipsters In Trucks (SHITs), Singles With Squillionaire Incomes and No Kids (SWINKs), Family-Oriented High Earning Working Parent-Syndrome Pre-Nesters With a Predilection for Buying Expensive But Useless Items to Flaunt Their Lifestyle (FOHEWPSPNWPBEBUIFTLs), and Gender Neutral Bureaucrat Couples With Six Figure Incomes and No Kids (GNBCWSFINKs).

NIGEL PAUSES FOR EFFECT, WITH A STUPID SMILE ON HIS FACE, THEN CONTINUES.

NIGEL: We've undertaken painstaking research into the intricacies of their lifestyles; how they fit into the overall demographic of the population breakdown vis-à-vis the disposable income matrix (DIM) as it impacts on whole-market activity (WMA); and analysed each segment's values, aspirations and intentions – their VAIs. Furthermore ...

JOHN SILVESTER (INTERRUPTING): So what does all that shit mean? And, to get to the point, since you're the media buyers, where are we running the ads?

CHARLES (GLANCES AT JOHN SILVESTER): John, the guys have done extremely well, don't you think? All that market segmentation must take a lot of very painstaking research.

NIGEL STANDS THERE, STILL GRINNING, LIKE A COCKER SPANIEL WAITING FOR A TREAT.

VIJAY (TO HAMISH): This could get interesting.

HAMISH: It already is. Nigel is a complete button.

VIJAY: A what?

HAMISH: Button. Knob. Idiot.

THERE IS A SUDDEN AWKWARD PAUSE AS JOHN SILVESTER LOOKS AROUND THE ROOM WITH A BELLIGERENCE OF EXPRESSION THAT ONLY SHORT, POWERFUL MEN CAN ACHIEVE. BEFORE HE SPEAKS YOU COULD HEAR A PIN DROP.

JOHN SILVESTER: There's one thing I've learned in forty-five years in business, Charles.

It's a famous line - possibly an infamous one - and everyone thinks a politician said it first. But the little known fact is, the politician stole it from a very famous, very crusty old businessman.

It goes something like this: You can fool some of the people some of the time, you can fool all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool most of the people all of the time. Or some shit like that ...

VIJAY (UNABLE TO SUPPRESS A LAUGH): Hah!

THE YOUNGER MINDS IN THE ROOM HAVE NO IDEA WHAT JOHN SILVESTER IS TALKING ABOUT. THE MEDIA PEOPLE ARE STONY-FACED. JOHN SILVESTER PLOUGHS ON

... the actual words don't matter. You know what they meant. It's like that 'sucker born every minute' line from last century, or 'known unknowns' from last decade. Mix them up and they're largely all the same. They're aphorisms dressed up as insight. Catchphrases dressed up as perceptions. Slogans dressed up as revelations.

ANOTHER PAUSE

They're all shit, of course. But the fact is, most of them contain at least a tiny grain of truth. Somewhere.

HE TAKES A DRINK OF WATER FROM THE GLASS AT HIS ELBOW

And the grain of truth in the first line I quoted is that, en masse, people have been forever blinded by fake science, fooled by magic tricks.

HE LOOKS DIRECTLY AT NIGEL

... but not forever!

And if all that acronym shit meant anything at all, someone would have bottled it and sold it. But they never did.

So you people have to keep inventing new ones every couple of years, just to keep on fooling clients into parting with ever more millions.

ANOTHER PAUSE AS JOHN LOOKS AROUND AT THE HAGGARD FACES BEFORE HIM

I briefed you to book some media to publicise a new product. What you did instead is spend my money to come up with $50,000 worth of hocus pocus not worthy of a kindergarten clown juggling skittles in front of a bunch of four-year-olds.

HE TURNS TO CHARLES

Charles, you should know better than to call your media department's work 'painstaking research'.

On the contrary, it is content in search of a context ... garbage in search of a bin ... brainpower in search of a purpose.

In other words, a gigantic waste of money.

My money.

JOHN SILVESTER PAUSES AND STANDS UP

I am calling this meeting to an end as I have a flight to catch.

But one announcement before I go.

As of now, Blake Browning Burns is sacked.

HE WALKS OUT OF THE ROOM. THE DOOR SLAMS BEHIND HIM

KATE (FACE WHITE AS SNOW): It was those last two acronyms, Nigel. They would never catch on.

THE DOOR CRASHES OPEN AGAIN. IT IS JUNE PUSHING THE TEA TROLLEY

JUNE: All out. I have to clean up for the next meeting.

2.8.18

The Glass Building, Part Two.

Kate, Hamish and Vijay are visiting a major client at its CBD glass tower headquarters to present a new campaign. After being brusquely issued with ID like cows being branded, having an argument about nothing in particular and sitting around in an uncomfortable waiting area, they had to hurriedly reschedule the meeting because Vijay the writer had forgotten the scripts - even though, technically, it was Kate the account manager's responsibility.

Four hours later, Kate, Hamish and Vijay endure the reception charade again.

After about fifteen minutes a young blonde-haired man wearing a pinstripe suit and a red tie bustles across the acres of marble, gushing 'Hi! So glad you could make it!' which, given the rescheduling, sounds sarcastic, but you can never tell with clients.

It is Charles, vice-president of marketing, international consumables, supermarket lines, drygoods, major brands and house brands. Yes, that is his title. Despite the designation, Charles is just another corporate drone who puts together boring powerpoint presentations, hangs out in the kitchen over-snacking on biscuits and wastes much of the day on Facebook. What makes him important to the agency is that he also happens to control a six million dollar budget.


KATE: Great to see you, Charles! Sorry we had to reschedule. The writer forgot the scripts.

CHARLES: Yes, they often do that. All that creativity and then they forget the most basic things. Come on up!

They walk to a bank of twenty elevators, ten along each side. One arrives – the one at the far end - and opens with a ding. They head towards it, but it shuts and departs. Another ding, another walk, another door shuts in their face. After about five minutes of this nonsense they capture a lift. The ride to the eighty-ninth floor is interrupted about thirty times by office workers with armfuls of files getting in at one level and out at the next.

CHARLES: I don't know why they don't just organise people to work on their own level.

KATE: They could use the stairs.

CHARLES: Are you kidding? Then they'd be too exhausted to go to the gym after work.

KATE: Says it all about modern life, really. Ignore the stairs at work and then go and pay hundreds of dollars to get onto a stair machine in some gym and stare at a wall for an hour while you sweat.

The four finally arrive at the eighty-ninth floor, trooping out of the elevator and along a corridor to double glass doors activated by an intercom. Charles picks up the phone, hits 9, and delivers the secret security phrase which is 'Can you open the door please?' The door emits a click, and they go through, eventually arriving at another door titled 'The Darling Downs Room'. Another sign on the door reads: 'Please observe all safety precautions and seating protocols when holding meetings in this room. Please remove all takeaway coffee cups from this room after meetings. Please unplug and remove all computers and projection equipment after meetings. Maximum room capacity 20 persons. Additional chairs available from services: call 1321. For fire warden call 1432. Telephone and internet available in this room: call I.T. services on 4352.'

Beneath that, another sign reads: 'Room booked'.


CHARLES: Damn. The room's already booked. We'll have to go to another meeting room. There's one on eighty-eight.

KATE (PASTED-ON ACCOUNT SERVICE SMILE NO LONGER REACHES HER BLUE EYES): That's OK. I love walking around large buildings all afternoon.

VIJAY (QUIETLY, TO HAMISH): I love advertising. I love clients. I love meetings. I love it when account service people get angry.

HAMISH: Shut the fuck up, Vijay.

THEY GO BACK TO THE ELEVATORS.