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Showing posts from August, 2021

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

Gold in the flatlands.

The road led north out of town on a vast hard plain pointing straight towards Australia's dead heart. We had emerged onto this flat superhighwayish landscape out of a series of curving roads through gulch, valley, pass, fissure; the land fractures that yielded 1850s Bendigo gold, whose evidence still lines that city's main streets. I drove the B-roads via Heathcote and Axedale to avoid linear Bendigo's endless stoplights and because I prefer B-roads anyway. The houses along the northbound highway grew fewer, then the big industrial yards and warehouses muscled in, like in every other outer-suburban industrial wasteland in the world. A steel fabricator's warehouse, a wool-buyers' yard, a refrigeration works. Open fields, and then a lonely church, its sign recommending:  Let Jesus Carry the Burden 1 Peter 5-7, in three different typefaces. A larger sign on the next property, a farm machinery sale yard, proclaimed:  Kubota: This Is the Life, which was almost as spiri

Beef stroganoff and Bruce Springsteen.

That clichéd Russian casserole dish from what, the 1950s? 1970s? had been in the oven for several hours the other day, using cubed gravy beef, rather than strips of whatever: fillet? scotch? rump?  Anyway, the whole thing is a sham. Onions, mushrooms and wine were not in an early Russian recipe. On the other hand, cubed beef - rather than strips to be sautéed - were. Who cares about genuine? In the 1960s they invented manufactured stroganoff mix, in a packet. They sold millions. Convenience food.  I had shaken the cubed beef in a sealed bag with enough flour to coat it and enough paprika to colour the flour. And salt. And pepper. Then I had sealed the beef in oil in an open pan, transferring it to a casserole with a scattering of marjoram, and then sautéing a couple of thinly sliced onions in the same pan with some halved button mushrooms, before removing them to the casserole. Then a good amount of white wine and beef stock had been sloshed into the pan to coax out the cooked bits of