29 January 2007

The Glory of Pumpkin

Hail to the pumpkin, that most honest of vegetables - a true humanitarian no less.

Roast jap pumpkin is the simplest dish to construct. Even the most unaccountably lazy person could conceivably convince someone lazier to cook this for them. You just slice it into wedges, lay them on a baking tray and splatter extra virgin olive oil liberally all over the lot. It's amazing how the oil will then cover the pumpkin on its own behalf. Osmogenesis seems a good word for this, except it does not exist; osmosis is the proper term. Then you crack a little black pepper, sprinkle sea salt and add a flourish of herb. Bake at 180C until it's as you like it. A little bit of brown on the edges is extra good.



Another great thing you can do with jap pumpkin is skin it and cut it into reasonable cubes. Parboil them and drain. Then you add them to a pot with lots of onion fried in olive oil with a generous amount of garlic. (Have your pasta boiling while this is happening.) Let the pumpkin cook with the onion for a while with the lid on. Include sea salt in this agglomeration. The pumpkin should hold its shape while still cooking through. Stir the lot through your pasta when they are both ready. Why not try some farfalle for the pasta?

Hey, no-one is forcing you to cook healthy. There is nothing wrong with processed food, consider these possible ingredients: hydrogenated petroleum oil, mono-sodium poisonate and partially de-weaponised plutonium. Yes, those are real ingredients from The Simpsons, but it's not so hard to believe if you have ever looked at an ingredient list in America.

So I am really looking forward to having some people to cook for again in another week. Before the house emptied I only did the dishes three times in as many months. Perhaps that is why I have done them once a week since everyone left and lived mostly on take-away.

26 January 2007

Watch Heroes

I stumbled across an awesome blog. You can watch the entire first season of Heroes there. It is a very cool show - I can tell you now it will be torture watching it on the TV. The other cool thing is you are not actually downloading anything, so it is all legal. WARNING: This show is very, very addictive. I just watched 12 episodes in row which was fairly slovenly, but I couldn't help it. The Heroes link comes from here, and there is tons of other stuff you can watch if you are bored.

NOTE: A few days later and the Heroes blog no longer has most of the episodes embedded, but the links still work to various sites.

23 January 2007

Chasing Away The Blues

Thankfully, today Chas Liciardello was today found not guilty of offensive behaviour for his shenanigans on The Chaser's War on Everything. The Chaser team have kept us laughing over the years , often by taking us right into the discomfort zone. Enjoy.





Little flying things upon fragile wings

Bugs, bugs, bugs.

Everywhere.

Ants in the kitchen? Don’t particularly care, those happy little workers will just clean up our crumbs.

Spiders? I left the house for 4 days and when I came back there were cobwebs in most of the rooms. We are only talking Daddy Long Legs, so I wasn’t quite Indiana Jones fighting the perils of old school archaeology; but, I think I have taken the same Huntsman outside at least three times now. One evening, there were at least 50 baby spiders, tiny, identical, delicate mocha brown things, scattered on the kitchen roof, there to remain by the consensus of the human inhabitants.

Moths. Ay, there’s the rub for some. A month ago it started. We were invaded by them each night as soon as dusk had tied her blessed golden hair tight to the skull of night. One of my housemates even purchased an automatic fly spray device that would release deadly vapours like clockwork - right into our living room! Of course, we attacked him mercilessly for trying to poison us all, but he refused to get rid of it unless we found an alternative. Henceforth, we had peppermint oil in a burner to accompany our evenings for some weeks. Not unpleasant at all, the aroma mixed well with the cooking and the moths liked it so much we would often find them floating in the burner's receptacle in the morning. When we were bored we could chase them and test our reflexes with "the clap of death".

I accidentally walked straight through the fly screen on the weekend, providing unfettered access to this dwelling on cool evenings when the breeze is all mine company but for thine internet. Since then I have seen nary a moth. It seems they were just up for a challenge and can’t be bothered now it is open house.

Nature.

You can’t fight it. Go around it or let it go around you

And ten thousand things will rise and fall...

20 January 2007

BETWEEN NOTHINGNESS AND ETERNITY


Between Nothingness And Eternity

Barren of events,
Rich in pretensions
My earthly life.

Obscurity
My real name.

Wholly unto myself
I exist.

I wrap no soul
In my embrace.

No mentor worthy
Of my calibre
Have I.

I am all alone
Between failure
And frustration.

I am the red thread
Between Nothingness
And Eternity.

Sri Chinmoy

18 January 2007

Come What May

Experience tells me
If I shut my proud mouth
And sit unflinching
At the foot of the Universe
That will suffice.

Truthful, I have no better plan.

12 January 2007

How to Dress

I saw a scene in a film, but I don't remember its name. There was trouble in the neighbourhood and the local black gangsta had called a meeting with the area's old school mafioso. They sat across a desk in a sparse office out back of an empty bar. You know the scene I am talking about. Our gangsta informs the mafia man, "I need your help." To which the don coolly replies, "I'm sorry, but my tailor is dead."

Shirts. Shirts need to be ironed with abundant starch. You'll feel a crisp new man as you walk out the door, especially if you are prone to patting yourself on the back. There are two ways to approach this: pay someone else to do it for you or learn how yourself. It's pretty hard to find good help these days, but if you don't have the time and can afford it, take the first option. If you want to learn how to do it, then discover the meaning of patience. Be as the monk who rakes the pebble garden. It can be relaxing and the perfectionist in you might enjoy it. I was going to link to some sites with instructions, but they all said iron the collar first and I iron it last. Just use your mojo.

Pure cotton is where it's at. Don't forget it. The Italians have this pretty much sorted, but it is nigh on impossible to find a decent collar these days. Even some fancy shop that sells only shirts will have a thousand of them with exactly the same collar. Stupidity. The collar serves to complement the face. If you have a fat neck, it needs to slim you. If you have a pointy chin, it should square your head up a bit. Don't look a fool for fashion and buy a shirt with a collar that might cause you to take off if an updraft catches you unawares.

Ties. I beg you, don't make a knot that is larger then your jaw. You may be able to get a job as a Channel 10 newsreader but you won't get my respect. Keep the knot small and get the dimple right. It just takes practise. I prefer the four-in-hand knot, but there is no way I can teach you how to do it. I think I was 26 when I finally learned how to tie a tie and it was a complete surprise to me.

Colours. The secret here is to work with your complexion. This quite possibly refers to the level of contrast between your hair colour and skin tone. If you are dark with dark hair, then a high contrast look will work well for you, like a gray suit with a white shirt and a black tie. That's a classic example, if you have a more muted complexion, then ask someone else how this works, my name is not Jeeves.

The rules of pattern. If you are going to mix different patterns then keep them in scale. If you are going to use the same pattern, then vary the scale. Not that hard is it? For stripes, this means that the lines should not be contiguous between the shirt, tie and suit. Work outwards from the shirt increasing the scale as you go.

Pants. The pleated front will always give you a classic look and offer a slimming effect if necessary. Pants with cuffs will always drape better, especially if you are tall. Call me old fashioned if you like.

Suit. The jacket thing that matches your pants. Whatever you do, don't buy a $100 suit from a men's chain store. That's made of polyester you know. Buy a decent pair of pants and get the shirt and tie right instead. Respect. Off the rack is always risky. There are mature ethnic gentlemen throughout the obscure suburbs of Australia who excel at the art of providing excellent tailor made garments. Just pick the right cloth and when you get fat they can let out your pants adding years of extra wear. All this for less than the cost of a root canal. Which would you prefer?

Socks. Tempting to neglect but the right socks seal the deal. Their colour and texture should draw together your entire ensemble. I like to incorporate an element of the tie here. Get this right and soon people will consider you to be more charming than Cary Grant.*

Shoes. Shoes should be comfortable above all, but shiny too and made of leather.

Lastly don't forget - it's what's inside that really counts.

*Conditions apply

11 January 2007

About a Buddy

Tonight I watched American Splendor. I can only describe this film as drab, which probably defines it as extremely successful as this is the essential feature of the tale. I can't even be bothered summarising the story it was so boring, I switched off in the second half completely. The moment that struck me in the film came when the protagonist said, "I'd be lost without my routine."

Me too. I never thought I would find being a public servant so satisfying. A friend once asked me how I could be happy with such a boring job. (Can you believe he refinances home loans for a living?) I told him an analogy about how it was like sharpening a sword which I could then put to any purpose I chose when the time was right. I was just treating the experience as a character building exercise. He chose to respect that.

Fair enough. He once rang me and said, "I was thinking of you for hours last night because I wanted to ask you something, but I didn't call." I said, "That's funny. I had this dream last night..." and told him all about it. He said, "Cool. That answers my question." In my dream I was explaining the condition of sleep: "See, my eyes are closed, but I know my room is still there, I just can't do anything else in it." His question: "What happens to us when we die?"

Years later, when he came off his motorbike he messaged me from hospital in the middle of the night and asked me to pray for him. Of course, I promptly forgot to. A few days later, he thanked me for the immediate difference that I made. I kept my mouth shut that time. Faith is a funny thing.

What the hell was I talking about? Oh yeah, how boring my job is! Oops, I was trying to prove that it is possible to elevate the banal with an attitude shift - we are all exalted as we so chose. American Splendor didn't succeed for me in that regard at all. Still, I thought Paul Giamatti was brilliant in Sideways. I found the ending particularly rich in mirth.

"Be true to your work, your word, and your friend," advises Thoreau.

10 January 2007

The Nature of Things

This post had been fermenting in my head for a day or so now, so look out for low flying segues. You might even be used to that feeling if you have been here before. On this occasion I have drawn inspiration from the writings of spiritual master Sri Chinmoy.

I was feeling a little down recently, when I was struck by that great idea that the spirit of thankfulness gives rise to good living, so I decided to start there: I actually felt grateful because I was not insane. OK. I was feeling fairly low. Eventually, I realised, as anyone who has ever done it can tell you, that the best cure for this condition is to, "Move it!"

I began the day by cutting down a dead tree. That's a fairly farmish occupation for the suburbs, but it was only a short one, and it had been lurking outside the kitchen window for some time. It was not my intention to be quite so precisely metaphorical in the garden of the world at the time.

A bit later, a Magpie landed on the wall and caroled mellifluously. There really is no other word for the song of this bird. It means flowing with honey and whenever I hear it, I always remember my teenage years and that period in my life when I aspired to be a shaman. This was not something I picked up at the career advisory centre exactly. I can't even remember where I picked it up anymore. I spent a lot of time trying to get to know trees amongst other things, which is not an entirely unsuitable preparation for the spiritual life.

Another manifestation of this condition was that I seriously believed I was a Magpie. It wasn't just me though, my friends all had their own birds too. In those days, I had a tendency to communicate with a recorder - with birds and people actually. Fear not, I can assure you that there were no dreadlocks involved, even if I did wear the same pair of baggy pants for a whole year.

Birds think differently to people. I remember sitting in the park near a Magpie and saying, "I have to go to the bank now." The magpie asked me, "What's a bank?" Around then I realised this whole thing wasn't quite working out. How long would it take to explain the fiscal system to an entire genera of vertebrates? Too long. So now I am known as He Who Said Goodbye To The Magpies in certain feathered circles.

Let's come back to the trees. Hugging trees is the sort of activity that is excellent for stimulating the growth of dendrites in the brain, particularly for children. This has to be the perfect school holiday activity, as I believe a tub of popcorn now costs about four times as much as a movie ticket. It's no coincidence that the word dendrite comes from the Greek word for tree...

Beauty non-pareil has blossomed
In the heart of
The subtle atom-tapestry.

Poem by Sri Chinmoy.

06 January 2007

When Bands Collide

It was after watching My Favourite Album on the ABC that I decided to listen to OK Computer by Radiohead. Strangely, it had been in my ITunes library for years but I had never heard it. These things do happen, and the many will live rich complete lives - replete in sorrow and joy - without ever undertaking this particular aural journey. There is no urgent need for me to indulge in wanton hyperbole to atone to my peers for this listening omission. (It's pronounced hy-per-bollie not hyper-bowl. Friends: are they not more useful than a Swiss Army Knife?)

Having decided that the track Karma Police sounded like The Beatles' Sexy Sadie, I got busy. A week later, I read somewhere that they share the same chord progression. Mystery solved.

Check this out.

05 January 2007

O Zoidberg, My Zoidberg


If you happen to be travelling in a light plane in a few weeks, you might on a whim type "John Denver CIA" into Google. If you happen to be me that is, which was how I found this story. It's about the spacecraft that crashed in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. In case you don't bother to read the link - and I don't blame you - allow me to quote extensively from it now:

"What is not well known is that the passengers in that vehicle from outer space were only playing dead. They hopped a freight train to Mena, Ark., and later dispersed to all corners of the country. They multiplied like flies, and now reside in all 50 states. A large colony lives in California."

I can guarantee that this entire statement is untrue - not because I know the author and buy his leftover medication so he can afford groceries - no, not at all. I can guarantee this because what really occurred was dramatically recreated in the best episode of Futurama ever. The one Futurama episode I would take to a desert island: Roswell That Ends Well.

03 January 2007

Light Reading

Today I picked up Flanimals by Ricky Gervais. I read it on the bus while travelling home. It is full of such wonderfully fecund language, running along the lines of, "The globberblubbulus enjoys the spleem of baby flooderbrot as it snerps along." (Run that through the spell checker.) The pictures are what make it so successful because while inventing this sentence the Jaberwocky started chiming loudly in my head. It's also a fair nod to the imagination of Douglas Adams too. Let's stop nodding now or we will never stop.

It is a child-like book though, I found myself luxuriating in the experience. The world on the other side of the windows was full of extra bright colours for me. It was probably just the diadem of creativity shining through everything that I was enjoying at last. At work today I did create though, I created a spreadsheet. I do like work, especially the way everyone else does things. I don't mean that exactly like it sounds - I actually have no idea if anyone else does anything, but I stay positive and things work out pretty well. The day was extra long though with large industrial heaters everywhere trying to dry out the wet carpet but mostly promulgating the fetid aroma that it had produced.

I am getting into all things Ricky Gervais at the moment. I listened to all the free podcasts on ITunes and they are pretty funny, even if they are only a Seinfeld script laced with vulgarity. Man Stroke Woman on the ABC is still mostly doing it for me. The regular characters are not yet too predictable and it is surreally satisfying.

Like that, I tend to get really into things until they bore me. This makes me a somewhat faddish purchaser. Tintin comics, the songs of Woody Guthrie, James Bond movies, the music of Oscar Peterson and Haruki Murakami novels are a few of the things I briefly obsessed over in the past couple of years. I read the complete works of Haruki Murakami in about a month before deciding I didn't like his style. Every book was thematically identical. Art should be about stepping outside yourself on the way in, not scratching the days on the dungeon wall.

Oscar Peterson has to be the most energetic jazz piano player I know, being the only one I am familiar with precisely. Anyone can appreciate the Oscar Peterson Trio doing West Side Story. This homage to Bernstein is seriously cool.

Woodie Guthrie struck me as just amazing in every which way. A troubadour tripping the stage of eternity. He was a monk, a drunken crazy monk. The original Dharma Bum who made it to the other side.

Tintin. What would happen if Aled Jones became a superhero I suppose.

James Bond. English tailoring. Enough said.

Meditation tonight was exactly like floating in the light of the universal playground.

Writing this was akin to trying to count the clouds.

02 January 2007

Let's cook


I love cooking. It really is the chance to give something to others that is so wonderful. I also like knives; for a few moments I can wield Japanese steel like a Samurai, all be it a somewhat under-dressed one. I have a little collection of Global knifes. And they are pretty cheap if you buy them on-line here. Well, much cheaper than in the shops anyway.

My favourite dish is a cholesterol cacophony. You need 600 mls of thickened cream and at least half a kilo of cheese. Ideally, a mixture of gruyere and aged gouda. This is not really a gratin, so make up a name for it.

Use any type of casserole dish with a lid because you want to leave that on until it is nearly cooked. Fill it with layers of 2/3 sliced potato and 1/3 sweet potato and onion. The potatoes can be thickish. Make the onion slices thinner. As you are layering the ingredients, season them with cracked pepper, sea salt, mincing garlic and freshly grated nutmeg. Also place the grated gruyere and/or aged gouda throughout the layers. To finish the preparation pour the tubs of cream over the lot. It should just cover the ingredients. Bake at 180-200 C for over an hour, depending on the oven and the dish size. Remove the lid or covering when it is cooked through and sprinkle a bit more cheese on top and allow to brown if you like. It likes to rest for a while.

Tips:

Find a nice organic potato suitable for baking. Something like dutch cream or a variety with a red skin. Ask them in the shop.

Gruyere or Aged Gouda are expensive but they will add an imitable flavour. The more you use the richer the dish will be.

I like to use Russian Garlic in this dish for its milder quality.

Don't be too generous with the nutmeg as it is intense.

For a traditional gratin, use a shallow baking dish and layer ingredients, probably just potato and season with salt/pepper. Then cover with a sufficient quantity of the following mixture: 1 Cup milk, 1 Cup cream fraiche and 1 egg. You need enough to just cover so stick to those proportions. Bake uncovered for about an hour at 190 C.

Enjoy.

At The Movies

My favourite movie review is over 50 years old and I don't remember the name of the reviewer because I saw it in a book of humorous quotations in my naturopath's waiting room. It read something like, "This film will be enjoyed by anyone who likes half a bowl of Yardley's Shaving Soap for breakfast." It doesn't get much better than that.


With nothing else to do but the dishes, I decided to ramble about some films that I like. After all, who needs an excuse to avoid the dishes?

The Godfather. Manly manliness. This one is going straight to the pool room. They say that men love this movie. In which case, it must be our obsession with power and control, but it is widely acknowledged that this is one of the greatest romantic comedies ever made. They are planning a remake with Matthew McConaughey soon. "If you had come here as a friend..."

It's A Wonderful Life. Sentimentalis beautifulis. I need to cry. I need to watch this. They really just don't make movies like this anymore. I once made a commitment to watch this every year. The first time I watched it on New Years Eve instead of Christmas Eve by mistake, but then I watched it on Christmas Eve with my family the year after. It may need to rest for a few years now.

Harold and Kumar Go To Whitecastle. Surrealis extremis hilarious. The big question is: "Is it possible to enjoy this movie if you didn't waste the best years of your life in a haze of marijuana smoke?" Experiments have shown the answer to be, "Yes, if you like fart jokes."

Star Wars. The original of course. If there is a universe where the prequels were not made then I am ready to live in it. I remember sitting in the cinema, in an aisle - due to the sheer number of kids in the place - when the words "mito chloridians" hit me like a dagger in the chest.

State and Main. Why do I like this movie so much? Is it the brilliant ensemble cast? The razor sharp script? The tight editing? It could be the perfect satire of the film industry. A great package.

I already devoted a blog to Zoolander. I probably can't bear to watch it again for some time. Still, it's hard to beat lines like: "So I'm repelling down Mount Vesuvius, when suddenly I slip and start to fall. I mean, I 'm about to die. Just falling... I'll never forget the terror. When suddenly I remember, "Holy Shit, Hansel, haven't you been smoking peyote for six straight days? And couldn't some of this be in your mind?" It was! I was totally fine! I've never even been to Mount Vesuvius!"

Yeah, time to do the dishes.

The Person of The Year

According to Time magazine, "I control the Information Age." I wasn't exactly aware of this phenomenon, but the sub-conscious mind operates very powerfully while we humans sleep. I more or less gave that honour to the soul-less moghuls of the modern media empires. You know, the ones who have lunch with John Horward and invent new words so that the sum of their wealth may be quantified, like a Rupazillion or, perhaps more apropos, a Murderzillion.

I live with four other people, three of us have blogs, four of us are responsible for updating websites. I try and post regularly here, on the assumption that visitors won't return if they come back a few times and find nothing new; but I want my posts to be meaningful - add something of interest or humour to the internet - and I don't want to get addicted to posting. Addictions only serve themselves in the end. Also, I am - inordinately - fond of semicolons and dashes in the middle of sentences; which can be tricky to work in there.

There are a couple of ways to get lost in the wonderful world of blogs.

One way is to start reading the comments and then following the links from posters to their blogs. Ad boring infinitum. Of course, I can't see you having that problem here though.

The other way is to look at someones profile and click on one of their interests. That way you get blogs of others with the same interest. Why I can't do that for my own profile befuddles me totally. Anyway, that way you might find the occupant of Botswana who describes herself as, "Tall, leggy, very high metabolism, some say face like Audrey Hepburn and body like Cameron Diaz. I know, I know, I think it's amazing too." The diverse interests of this individual include: opera singing, candlestick making, rebuilding car engines in her front yard, diamond mining and performing as a stand-up comic. Is this for real? I doubt it, but at least the copy writers for STA Travel have somewhere to get material. Tragically, "Snoops" didn't get past her first post in the middle of 2005. Not too tragically I hope, diamond mining can be a pretty rough game.

I guess it is not hard to find the corpses of blogs throughout the internet, but no-one seems to be burying them.