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Showing posts from February, 2013

1970s: still in the steam age.

Steaming: Essendon City Council road roller, 1970 The photograph was taken by my sometime-freelance photographer father and published in the Essendon Gazette , possibly around the time the roller was to be taken out of service. The location is The Boulevard, Essendon, on the north side of the Maribyrnong River. I recall being frightened by a similar machine hissing and rumbling up our street in West Essendon, near the Niddrie border, when I was a pre-schooler and the roads were still being made. I used to hide in the old red brick front verandah, later demolished to add another bedroom for the growing family. Thanks to Martin for rescuing the old print and uploading it  here .

Gnocchi with roasted red pepper, leek and avocado.

It was a hot night. I was sitting on the front porch with a cold beer and a book on the table beside me. The ancient incandescent globe above cast a soft yellow glow in the dying light and the oppressive heat. The heavy silence was broken only by the sprinkler hissing softly in a small shady corner of the garden. Then the crickets started. I heard that crickets can generate 100 decibels, or is that just an urban myth? The noise was deafening. Do crickets go deaf? The noise came from small cracks in a dryer part of the lawn. So I moved the sprinkler. The noise stopped. I sat back in my chair and felt a heel for drowning crickets for doing nothing more than making a noise. Maybe they weren't drowning. Maybe they were drinking. All these thoughts stopped me from being able to concentrate on my book. Then there was another distraction. From out of the window behind me stole an aroma so incredibly divine, I could only stand up like a zombie and follow it into the kitchen, via the do
I was wrong. So you might have noticed word verification is back on. Is there a better way? I never really liked the idea of comment moderation but it might be a better alternative to trying to read murky letters in word verification. * UPDATE OK, I'll try the Registered User filter and see if that works. Word verification is impossible to see.

"Like the 60s or something."

Vinyl is making a comeback, as in LP records. I never liked CDs. I never liked anything about them. The discs, the plastic cases, the size. Nothing. The sound was as cold as an Antarctic morning. Now vinyl is coming back : ... old-school record stores are reporting a booming trade on the back of gen-Y music lovers drawn to the "warm, rich and full" analog sound and "big, sexy, artistic" album covers. "This new generation that grew up with MP3s discovers vinyl and they're blown away by the difference," said Chris Pepperell, owner of Sydney's Red Eye Records. Quote of the story comes from nineteen year old Hannah Sellwood: "I just love to pretend as though I'm in an era I've never actually lived in -- like the 60s or something," she said. * Now let's put vinyl to the test. Slip on something with a lush strings and plenty of air, and a cool clipped voice that lets the warmth through along with the ambient clicks and pops

Out of the archive: an old meme.

Remember 'memes'? I found an unfinished one in my drafts when looking for an old recipe. The meme went all the way back to 2006. I had intended to answer it at the time but never got around to it. Memes were an enjoyable waste of time because you had to think about what you wrote, but they died out when things got faster on the web. Now you can insult people in a few seconds on Twitter. So let's resurrect the meme and wallow in a bit of web nostalgia. The 'one book' meme, circa 2006. 1. One book that changed your life. Books don't change your life. Not really. Unless you count changing the way you read. I read John Buchan's Greenmantle online in 1999, which is last century. But I changed straight back to reading hard copies again, and have read very few online since. Nor do I own an e-reader. I will one day. 2. One book you have read more than once. Farewell, My Lovely. Curiously, one edition had the comma in the title; another didn't. Most

That isn't writing, it's typing.

Children do dreadful things when they pretend machines are toys. In the early 1960s we had an ancient typewriter; a big, tall, black monster of a machine that sat on felt-covered feet. I forget the manufacturer. I'd bash away at the keys and get the type bars all entangled at the platen like crashed cars piling up on a freeway, and then prise them away again one by one. It was a heavy machine, but if you slammed the return hard enough the whole thing would slide left an inch or so. This was because it the only place we could sit the typewriter was on the kitchen table, and the kitchen table always had a tablecloth on it. The tablecloth taught me to be gentle with things. Bash, bash, ding, rrrrip, bang, slide. We used to type pretend menus and slip them inside those 1960s padded vinyl folding menu holders that had the title of the café embossed in gold on the cover, along with a picture of an elegant couple dining in front of a hovering pencil-moustached waiter holding a white cl

Foodies not impressed: someone moved their cheese to a discount supermarket.

It's a hard life being a gourmet foodie. Or is one of those words redundant? The trick is to be the first to get on to something new and exclusive, and then drop it like a week-old meme when the mainstream discovers it. For example, God forbid a supermarket - a discount supermarket - should win an exclusive cheese show award. An award? Aldi won eight gold, 41 silver and picked up Best Contributor at Royal Sydney - in its first attempt . Looks like the old stagers have been resting on their limburgers. Uproar and outrage ensued. Pointedly, the ABC accompanied its story with a picture of a housewife pushing a trolley out of an Aldi store with her toddler in tow - he probably eats Bega Bar-B-Cubes! or Cheestiks! The Age went typically pseudo-intellectual, wheeling out a cheesemaker's take on cultural identity: Perhaps the decision to award Aldi the lion's share of produce medals for dairy this year is simply a fitting acknowledgement of a seismic shift in how we con

Days you remember.

August 1969 : I am on my way to a scout camp near Gisborne in my father’s near-new blue HK Holden Belmont. A song comes on the radio. It is a new Rolling Stones song called Honky Tonk Women . I turn the volume up to almost maximum. My father turns it down again. 17 February 1973 : the Rolling Stones play at one in the afternoon at the open-air Kooyong tennis centre in 105 degrees Fahrenheit. No-one in Melbourne that day will ever forget it, whether they were there or not. 16 February 2013 : I am driving to Lygon Street for an early lunch with the family*. During his program Off the Record , 3RRR’s Brian Wise plays back to back Rolling Stones tracks, recorded during that 1973 tour. Rocks Off is followed by Honky Tonk Women . I turn up the volume. My passenger turns it down again. * Pasta fagioli, pasta with tuna and napoletana sauce, calzone rustico with ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan and hot salami, and short macchiatos for the parents; margherita pizza, spaghetti and strawberry

Big arrows pointing the wrong way.

Elli's Deli was always too small. It was square, with counters all around. The staff stood on a postage stamp in the middle while hundreds of customers came at them from all sides. The staff were separated from the customers by display cases several feet in width. Goodness knows where they put the money. Probably under one of the cheese wheels. Elli's Deli was a Coburg institution. Some people came to Coburg just to visit the shop. Elli's had a Greek heritage, but it sold all foodstuffs of the type that was once called 'Continental'. Entire suburbs grew up on Greek and Italian home-style cooking for which the ingredients came from Elli's Deli. Those same ingredients in turn came from Melbourne's foodie suburbs. No, not St Kilda or Fitzroy, or even Brunswick. Look at the packaging on the basics on the shelves in Elli's Deli - sauces, fresh cheese, pasta, pita bread, etc - and you'll see Thomastown, Reservoir and Tullamarine addresses. That's where

Worldwide web or Shelob's Lair?

Having cancelled my 'account' at one of those annoyingly ubiquitous social media networks last year, I reopened it last week, for the sole reason that I had to find an industry contact. See? It works. You are identified by your name and an optional photograph, and contacted via your email account. The following day, my email account had hundreds of emails in the spam folder, and hundreds more the spam filter had missed in the inbox. Something had also sent spam emails from my email account to names in my contacts list. Furthermore, I had several emails responding to link requests that I had not sent. Are these incidents 'linked'? I don't know. The internet is a dangerous place. Wouldn't want to get trapped in it. I might call in the ACC. They seem to be doing a good job with sport. (Although so far it's all grandstand and no action , like the entertainment before the grand final.)

Will the internet supplant mothers' advice?

Cooking is an inexact science, but once you stumble on something that works, it often becomes a favourite. One way to stumble on a great recipe is to have someone who has been cooking it for forty years - and their mother before that - right there in the kitchen next to you, and show you how to do it, many times, until you can do it instinctively. That's the old, slow, inefficient way. The modern, fast, efficient way is the internet. The internet knows everything. The internet takes up less room than an aged mother-in-law and you don't have to feed it. The internet doesn't nag. It just gives you options. Millions of them. Billions of them. No need to hand down recipes to your children any more. No need to teach them anything. Just give them an iPad and walk away. Stuffed red cabbage rolls. Buy a red cabbage. Or grow one. Mix half a kilogram minced beef with three quarters of a cup of basmati rice, a tablespoon of chopped parsley, a teaspoon of coriander powder, half