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Hysteria by the numbers..

Saturday. The city's public transport system shuts down to thwart lockdown protestors. Earlier in the week the drawbridge comes up on Ballarat, population 100,000, when a covid-19 case is detected. Maybe two. Maybe four. The Australian Capital Territory, where Autralia's bureaucracy lives, is given a further four weeks detention (prefixed - as always - 'at least') in the face of a few dozen infections. Back to Melbourne: photographs of several ultra-orthodox residents of the Balaclava/East St Klda area are repeatedy - meaning across many days - published in newspapers and social media following reports of 'illegal' religious meetings. When the truly insane ban on children playing in playgrounds is reversed the obeisant press prints pictures of smiling adults and children jumping for joy at playgrounds - as if gifted with a privilege - instead of being white-hot angry at the sheer stupidity, cruelty and utter pointlessness of the ban. Today: s man flies into Dar
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Sushi rolls: be prepared.

That lazy afternoon, with Blue Juice dying on the radio towards one o'clock, the kitchen table had Sunday written all over it. The wreckage of someone's - or several persons' - late breakfast of maple-syruped pancakes lay almost buried under the outspread weekend newspapers. Yes, newspapers plural. At least three weekend newspapers find their way into this house. The death of the newspaper will not be on my head. I cleaned the table. I like cleaning it. It is a mid-twentieth century original, of smoke-patterned pale green chrome-edged Laminex, over a tubular stainless steel frame that cleverly curves down at each corner into twin chrome legs that stand on the polished timber floor in neat black rubber stoppers, like little socks. It is as quintessentially 1950s as an R-Type Bentley. (And as long-lasting. Every year I see Ikea tables thrown in disgust onto hard rubbish collections, pathetic legs snapped like twigs, and deep scratches in their faux-timber veneers.) I had pre

The Long March of Everyman*: Episode 67,539.

Early Saturday afternoon, about one o'clock. The path led north, hemmed in by a cliff on one side and the creek on the other. Occasionally a ramp or stairway, cut into the hill, cascaded down from a street above and into the valley. Eucalypts scissored the oblique sunlight and I walked on through the flickering kinescope. From my house I had turned west to the corner, north uphill, and east again, to meet the path following the stream’s s-curves. It used to be an undefined dirt trail, then one year the council concreted it and painted a line down the middle with a pedestrian and cyclist symbol. Today - meaning literally today - it was a human superhighway carrying refugees from the torrid hatefulness of their own four walls, moving north and south like somnolent zombies. Floral-masked Brunswick and Coburg hipsters bearing takeaway coffees; family groups with prams and dogs and toddlers wobbling on first bicycles; old people making painful physical progress towards death; joggers, w

Removing swings ‘saving children’s lives’.

Greater Dandenong Council Mayor Angela Long said (reported Herald Sun, 24 August) police tape had proved ‘futile’ in stopping children going to playgrounds. She will support removing the swings - literally out of the ground - and asking for increased police patrols. Dandenong is a migrant suburb with poor housing stock and a high percentage of units, flats and apartments with no play areas. Play-starved children craving recreation have no other options. Mayor Long said, ‘I’m supportive of taking swings down if it’s to save children’s lives.’ Next day, Dr Seamus Jones of East Geelong wrote (Herald Sun, 25 August), ‘Damaging the younger generations to protect ourselves is ...  immoral. ... heartless and selfish. ... one day (we can) look back at this time ... as the only nation that hid behind its children.’ Herald Sun front page headline, 28 August: Teen Toll: Top Doc Reveals Devastating Health Scars on our Young.

‘Ain’t but three things in this world that’s worth a solitary dime ...’

  ' ... but old dogs and children and watermelon wine'. - Tom T. Hall 1936-2021

John Updike invents the future.

2021, somewhere near Boston. Ben Turnbull lives in a big old house with a number of empty rooms and attics with creaking pipes. His wife is busy with committees. Ben Turnbull survived the Sino-American war. Many didn’t. This is the aftermath. The west coast is unreachable; wiped out. Entrepreneurs are making brave talk about reinhabiting China’s radioactive wastelands. Parts of New York lie in ruins. China's bombs didn't reach that far: Chinese Americans, sympathetic to China, were responsible. (This book - for it is a novel - was written four years before 2001.) Local thugs ransom Ben Turnbull for property protection. He pays. There are no police. Ben lapses in and out of time-warp consciousness; becoming at one point a monk in 793 Britain during a Viking attack on their territorially-valuable island during which the other monks are slaughtered. He sees the head monk depart along with the invaders. Traitor? No, when they pass a fence, he perceives the monk’s head is on a pike.

Virginian Chicken: 1970s cuisine returns complete with retro typography.

The cookbook must have dated from the 1970s, if not earlier; but I could not ascertain this, as the title page with publication details on the reverse had been torn out or lost somewhere along the way. But you can carbon-date a cookbook by the names of its recipes and, sometimes, its typography. Not to mention, of course, its rich heritage of photography which in the case of the 1970s featured chocolate brown glazed soup tureens, Byzantine-style green-coloured stem glassware, tapestry tablecloths and stained glass lamps casting a multi-hued glow over the chunky candle-laden refectory tables.  The book I had in my hands featured 'Apricot-Glazed Ham Steaks', 'Pork Roly Poly' and 'Chicken in a Pot' among its quaintly-named dishes. The book was one of those community efforts with each recipe contributed by an individual. One recipe was 'Virginian Chicken'. Why Virginian? Was it first cooked at Shiloh Ranch? Or featured in an early episode of the TV series? I