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Servo Wars/Bin Ninja: So you wanna be a Reality TV star?

bins

I still can’t believe it. It was a sure thing. The public would’ve loved it, but it wasn’t to be. Of course, I speak of my reality TV show, Servo Wars.

At the end of our Singaporean street were two busy service stations (petrol stations/ gas stations). Yes, two, right across the road from each other. I almost want to type “literally across the road from each other,” but my fingers, in grammatical obedience, won’t allow this.

Anyhow, can you imagine a more perfect setting for a gripping reality TV series? Each station a microcosm of bustling human activity within a teeming island state, but- and here’s the kicker- there’s a broader narrative arc in which our two servo’s are in constant, artificially-constructed competition with each other. Genius, I hear you breathlessly whisper.

Servo Wars.

The thrilling drama would’ve included-

The ancient, stumbling driveway attendants- yes, folks who fill your tank, check the oil and wash your windscreen- dodging inattentive drivers- who once or twice a week are necessarily skiddled in the name of televisual art, and are stains on the driveway, their bloodied limbs a-thrashing. Soon followed by the engaging theatre of wailing ambulances and Ray-banned police, not chewing gum, but interrogating the trembling car owners before they’re hauled off to Changi prison.

cop

And

The duelling managers of both affixed convenience shops shouting at the store assistants, sometimes simultaneously, “I asked for more condoms in the counter display! Together is this curiously asexual nation’s most popular, albeit furtively purchased brand of birth control, and I can only see dozens of Alone packages!”

Or-

“Look across the road at our competitor, our life-long enemy! Esso! They’re offering two-for-one croissants. Somebody. Do something!”

I know, I know.

While Servo Wars remains unproduced, our planet is a little poorer. But’s here’s hope. Casting will soon begin for my latest project, one that will capture our hearts like the charming Bachelorette bogans.

Ladies and gentlemen, Bin Ninja.

A character-driven vehicle focussing upon the endless struggles of a middle-aged suburbanite as he tries desperately to manage his bins: the red (general refuse), the green (organic materials only) and the yellow (recycling), this is everyman drama, but infused with the conventions of Greek theatre.

Bin Ninja’s work is manual and repetitive as he selflessly takes stuff to his nest of driveway bins, five, six, sometimes ten times a day, every day! But, watch as the meditative power of these acts instantaneously transcends the mundanity. Bin Ninja!

Look! The boys have just finished some muesli bars- wrappers to the bins! Plastic milk container empty again? That’s the second today. They’ll pee the bed! Never fear, Bin Ninja silently walks it outside, before momentarily dashing through the hail and wind, stomping the plastic flat and dropping it into the yellow (recycling) bin. The man’s a hero!

Then there’s the Sunday Bin Ninja’s wife lopped the 97-year-old neighbour’s overhanging tree, scattering limbs and leafy debris all over the precious and universally-admired lawn, and left him to chop up the branches with a cheap hand saw and inadequate pruning shears and, somehow, fit them all into the green (organic) bin while the wife promptly trotted off to the local footy club with her girlfriends and drank Adelaide Hills sparkling wine!

BH

Oh, Bin Ninja, I think the nation’s falling in love with you already!

And just when Bin Ninja merchandise is sold out across the entire country- t-shirts, stubby holders, novelty BBQ aprons- the eagerly awaited Christmas special screens. On Boxing Day!

apron

The plot is simple: the boys again get too many presents, and all the plastic and cardboard packaging for the infinite games and the Lego and the car racing tracks and the cricket-sets and the bike accessories and the bed-sheet like wrapping paper has to all fit into the yellow (recycling) bin already exploding with pre-Christmas boxes and clunking bottles and beer cartons, and abandoned greeting cards and envelopes from already-forgotten former work colleagues.

What will Bin Ninja do? How will this very real, very residential conflict find resolution? The bin is spilling all over the sorry driveway, and what’s that sinister noise? It’s the council bin-truck making its menacing, diesel-fumed way along their very street! Go Bin Ninja, go! Will he wheel the bins out in time? Will he dodge being run over by this mechanical beast? Will he save his family from a recycling crisis?

Coming in 2018.

Bin Ninja.

 

Esso

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The Shortest Song in the World

ND

As a kid I loved playing Mum and Dad’s records on the stereogram. There was always a little zap of frisson as I dropped the needle onto the vinyl, spinning at 33 1/3 RPM, and the speakers would spit and sizzle, and provided the stylus didn’t bounce off, we’d soon hear some music. Not the cold digital tunes of today with their obedient binary code, but some warm, enveloping sounds.

A favourite record was Creedence Gold.  Its track listing is-

Side 1

1.”Proud Mary” – 3:07

2.”Down on the Corner” – 2:43

3.”Bad Moon Rising” – 2:19

4.”I Heard it Through the Grapevine” (Norman Whitfield, Barrett Strong) – 11:03

Side 2

1.”The Midnight Special” (Traditional) – 4:11

2.”Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” – 2:39

3.”Born on the Bayou” – 5:14

4.”Susie Q” (Dale Hawkins, Stan Lewis, Eleanor Broadwater) – 8:34

The last track on Side 1, “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” mesmerised me. It featured not one but two great guitar solos. The second of these stretched on forever and to my eight year old self was impossibly cool. It was always disappointing when the song faded out.

There was so much happening within it, it was a snaking southern boogie like the Mississippi itself, and I wondered how this huge instrumental break enlarged upon the lyrics, how it connected to the story, and of course, it didn’t. It had no textual meaning.

It just was.

It was beyond narrative, but nonetheless epic. It told me that there was much in the world about which to get excited. There was possibility and opportunities for wild, unhinged self-indulgence. And Creedence Clearwater Revival was from San Francisco, a city that fascinated me.

Long, meandering songs such as this open themselves up to connotation and interpretation; like a novel or a film, and many argue that these marathon songs often possess a cinematic quality.

But how do we locate meaning in the world’s shortest song?

“You Suffer” is a track by the British grindcore band Napalm Death, from their debut album, Scum.  It’s precisely 1.316 seconds long. It’s now over thirty years old. Its lyrics are officially listed as-

You suffer

But why?

However, I must confess, I was unable to detect these unaided. I only heard the lyrics “Raaaah.” I had to find them on the web, probably because rightly or wrongly, my ears have enjoyed limited grindcore listening experience. Like arc welding, I think lyric decipherment, when it comes to micro grindcore, is actually quite a specialised skill. There’s possibly a TAFE, or adult education course in it.

I first came across the song when teaching in Singapore (don’t tell the authorities- they might come after me) when babysitting covering a Maths class one humid, bothersome afternoon. I played the song on my MacBook at random points during the lesson when the pupils- all compliant and sweet, were silently immersed in matters algebraic and entirely unsuspecting. I made a few of them jump. It was the most fun I’ve ever had in Maths. It was decidedly un-Singaporean.

Among other places it’s located on an album called Earache: The World’s Shortest Album which has thirteen songs and clocks in at a total of ninety-two seconds. You can listen to the entire album when watching the evening news, in the advertisement break between, say, the sport and the weather. For our British friends iTunes lists the album for sale at 29 pence. There’s a walk-the-dog and put-out-the-bins pocket money incentive for the kiddies of Birmingham.

So, micro grindcore fans, it’s nice to have visited your world, but I don’t think I’ll stay long, despite it being the funniest song about human suffering I’ve ever heard.

1.316 seconds is more than enough.

 

 

 

 

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Round 20- Adelaide v Port: Barney 43

hill

I blame the shameless brewers of that most horrific muck West End Draught. Where were the dissenting voices at that fateful marketing meeting? Here we are, into the third decade of the state’s biggest football event and it’s still, somehow, called the Showdown, as determined by the fifteenth best beer manufacturer in Adelaide.

However, it’s also another example of American linguistic imperialism. If we were talking about Ole Miss and Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl then the word would work, but here in South Australia we should’ve gone with Dust Up, Yike, Blue, or my preference, Barney.

“We’re underway in Barney 17.” Or-

“There’s the siren. Adelaide has won a thriller in Barney 31!”

For the first time this millennium I’m on the Hill, just down from the world’s best scoreboard. We’re in a tidy quintet of chaps. There’s ferocious rain and wind and the sky is like an aubergine. The mud and slushy grass is tundra. Old mate behind us has on a Power scarf and is in shorts. My phone says it’s eight degrees. Jason pulls out his sunglasses, “Reckon I’ll need these soon.” We laugh, and Chris asks, “Did anyone bring the 50+?”

With a significant wind-assistance Adelaide traps the ball within their arc, and like an over-zealous debater, makes point after point after point before The Hoff collects his own kick and soccers cleverly. This, I’m delighted to report, would be the Power’s sole major until about ten minutes into the third quarter.

The Crows dominate across the ground and despite the conditions are clean and sure in disposing by hand and foot, which is a happy contrast to their dismal first half at the MCG last Sunday. Tex Walker appears impatient with his side’s inability to punish the Power so, both as captain and big forward, monsters his teal competitors in taking strong grabs and slotting telling goals.

Paddy Ryder has been in colossal form and various denizens of the Hill voice their anxieties about how Sam Jacobs might handle the Power star. They needn’t have worried for while their aerial and ruck duels are spirited, the boy from Ardrossan is also outrageous at ground level and kicks a great pack snap for a rooster who’d bang his red-combed head on the hen-house rafters.

Despite now missing his appendix Eddie Betts kicks some amazing goals, including one from his pocket just down in front of us. As the ball bent through, the heaving crowd about me leapt and there were ponchos and scarfs bouncing and flapping like a Latino dance party. The only deviation from the Happy Days script is when yet another goal-of-the-year contender is deemed by the evil umpire to have been touched by an evil Power player.

And what of Port? They’d appeared to be entirely unlike Port such is their pedestrian spectating. They seem disinterested, and must be waiting for The Choir Boys to reform. In the sheds at half-time only Robbie Gray has earnt his hot cup of Milo.

September looms and pleasingly Sloan finds plenty of it, and creates well. On the Hill, I spy a gent wearing a bespoke shirt featuring a picture of Rory’s blonde bonce with this accompanying prose-

Men want to tag him

Women want to shag him

The crowd is boisterous and enjoyable. I see lots of Crows fans standing with Power faithful, and the banter is lively. Not Disney channel, but not Tarantino either.

Suddenly, Charlie Cameron has it and he accelerates through the middle. It’s among our game’s most exhilarating sights, but while his pace is Lamborghini, his kicking is still often Holden Gemini.

Then Brad Ebert gets one, but unlike last Saturday against the Saints, it really is too late, and the Port supporters are shuffling towards the gates like an Alabama chain-gang. The Nissan Urvan will soon be pointed towards the Lefevre Peninsula, and I just hope that Uncle Ernie managed to fix the heater when he popped round yesterday.

Adelaide records its biggest winning margin against the INXS wailers, and after two decades now lead 22-21 in these most magnificent of contests, the Barney.

I must get back to the Hill again.

nissan

 

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Film Review- The Trip to Spain

The-Trip-to-Spain-poster

Enticing Spanish food, gorgeous cinematography and two actors playing fictionalised versions of themselves perpetually engaged in battles over career, family and who does the best Michael Caine impression.

Yes, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon have returned with the third in director Michael Winterbottom’s now anticipated film series.

With a typically thin premise- Coogan insists he’s writing a book inspired by Laurie Lee’s As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning along with the usual contract to write a set of restaurant reviews for the Observer our team departs from Plymouth by overnight ferry for the north of Spain.

The comic energy of the film comes from the endless cockfight between the characters over their impersonations of actors and celebrities. Their stable includes Michael Caine, Robert De Niro and celebrated BBC Radio announcers Terry Wogan and Ken Bruce. Brydon’s impersonation is so uncanny- “Up next: The Doobie Brothers! – that he once took over Bruce’s Radio 2 morning show and most listeners only knew what had happened when the real host appeared at the end!

Mick Jagger is a welcome addition to their repertoire, having snuck in following Coogan and Brydon’s early discussion of older men having kids. He stunningly captures the Stones’ front man and his nasal almost public schoolboy tones, along with the hysterical clapping trope associated with Jagger’s onstage performances. It’s funny, and early on we have Coogan 1, Brydon 0.

Beyond the aural fun it’s also an essay on middle-aged masculinity. The ebb and flow of careers- Coogan now sees himself primarily as a writer, and the scenes with him sitting morosely at his laptop indicate how dismally this is travelling, through to meditations on death and the struggles with family and love. Coogan’s Dad-joke-sad attempts to flirt with an attractive ferry attendant establishes this middle-aged loss early. Happily, Steve later announces that “Fifty is a sweet spot” but of course there’s an underscored doubt about his optimism.

With Emma, Steve’s assistant and Yolanda, the photographer, joining them late in their journey a shared lunch gives the leads the attractive female audience they need for a final showdown in which Coogan and Brydon duel over who can do the best Roger Moore with the Welsh star taking this to maddening yet terrific excess. It’s magnificent.

In the previous films we had literary assistance in Keats, Shelley and Bryon, and here in Spain it’s Don Quixote and his assistant Sancho Panza which somehow reaches its ridiculous zenith in them duetting on “Windmills of You Mind” as their Range Rover speeds towards Malaga.

The film is part travelogue too with the countryside as well as the restaurants in luscious prominence. The Alhambra is used to highlight Coogan’s latest existential crisis as he wanders through this stunning palace, his haunted, hunched self in contrast to the natural and Moorish architectural wonder.

“She was only nineteen years old!” is the overdue vocal joust- I thought Michael Caine might be unforgivably absent- at their final restaurant in which their shouting match somehow remains unheard by those at the surrounding tables. This impossibility adds to the film’s absurdity.

The Trip to Spain is huge fun and already I’m guessing where they’ll next venture. I suspect a French tour.

Regardless, I’m sure that Caine, Moore, De Niro and co will be along too.

The Trip to Spain is in Australian cinemas now.

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To old mate Chris Hayward, on his 50th

 


About a month back six former Kapunda High scholars- Rocket Ellis, Nick Lienert, Trevor Lucas, Andrew and Chris Hayward and I were at the MCG taking in Port versus Collingwood: a truly post-apocalyptic and dentally-challenged fixture. Ours was a tidy collective.

During the second quarter Chris returned with his round, and this is instructive for he had not six, but two Bundies. One for his brother, and yes, one for himself. Now some of you are possibly thinking, that’s a bit selfish. Indeed, some of our ensemble in Row G may have thought this too- despite none of us liking Bundy. What do we make of this purchase? The meaning is, of course, that Chris values family deeply, and for this how can we but admire him?

And those in our group at the MCG not called Hayward were pampered by Chris with refreshments. Yes, light beer. No, one each. As the insipid lagers made their sorry way to the downcast recipients there was anger and a fight threatened, and partly because it was Port and Collingwood and we wanted to blend in, a fight threatened.

But this is to misunderstand the situation. Ever a visionary, Chris had foretold that we’d end up in an Irish bar at 3am, and plainly, he was looking after his mates. Our safety, and our health were, as always, his priorities. So, thanks for your human concern Chris. Indeed, leadership can be lonely.

Chris is a tremendous enthusiast, and as all of us know, this great gift is contagious. To spend time in his company is one of life’s joys for Chris finds happiness and fun everywhere. He loves laughter and people, and lives in robust and generous ways. And for this, we thank him.

So happy 50th Chris. To Chris!

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Greenock Brewers Barossa Valley

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In one of his more reflective and tender moments Australian poet-balladeer Kevin “Bloody” Wilson offered the following as a courtship inquiry

            Does your Dad own a brewery?

I’m unsure what reply Kev received- probably one in the negative, but I do know that a bloke from my hometown of Kapunda runs Greenock Brewers Barossa Valley in this gorgeous hamlet about an hour from Adelaide.

If you ask the average punter their favourite law what do you get? Thou shalt not kill? The deliberate out of bounds law? Unlikely. I nominate the German Beer Purity Law of 1516, and happily the owners, Chris and Lisa Higgins are fans of this one too, and it guides their craft. And, of course, it’s especially relevant here in the Prussian-settled Barossa with its tradition and strict codes and nodding respect.

I ducked in last week, and while Chris was down in town, Lisa let me in and after a couple snifters, I strolled out with some tremendous cargo in the form of two six-packs. I drove back to Glenelg with matronly care.

Bunawunda Blonde is dangerously easy to drink. But unlike many commercial beers (read muck) this lager rewards with complexity and maturity that doesn’t scream, “Messy Millennials on a hot Sunday”. There’s delicate spice infused with a smiling approachability. I like it. It’d find a cheery spot around a BBQ, or at five bells on a Friday (or earlier in the week).

The brewery is set just off the town’s main drag on Mill Street. Coming from Nuriootpa (where a young HG Nelson once kicked a footy) if you get to the pub, once run by iconic mine hosts, Norton and Mick Schluter, then you need to turn the EH Holden around. But if you slip into the Greenock Tavern’s front bar, never fear, for the brewery’s excellent product is available there too.

Having spent not a few winters up at spoggy’s on a Saturday and playing footy in various Barossa towns I can assure you it gets decidedly crisp, and in these times of personal need the application of dark ale becomes vital.

Greenock Brewers Dark Ale is like the Bunawunda Blonde, in that it’s a beer of subtlety and elegance. It doesn’t get in your face like a Tanunda Magpies fullback or an Angaston opening bowler, but moves with seduction. This, as many will tell you, always works better and jags the win. There’s some lingering Mocha and wafts of smokiness too that seems perfect for an evening around a cracking fire, after the Kapunda Bombers have had a top day in the lead-up to finals.

When I poked my head in the other day I spotted a cosy outdoor area with tables and chairs and a fire. The brewery itself is housed within a fetching old stone wheat store that immediately makes a wonderful impression. It sets a tone, and turns up the thirst a few Fahrenheit notches. Couple this with occasional live music- probably no Kevin B Wilson, although I can’t be certain- and it makes the Greenock Brewers Barossa Valley an attractive location, in an attractive town, in an attractive valley.

I’m there.

greenock blonde.png

https://www.greenockbrewersbarossavalley.com.au/

 

 

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Pardon me, Pastor, pass the pasta

DD

The torchlight beams hop about the dirt path in front and then above, and occasionally, behind us, as our boys, Alex and Max, guide the way into Sassafras. The mountain dark and colossal cold presses down. Fern trees are all about, like extras in Avatar, for we’re in the Dandenongs. To our north a wooden building appears. It’s a church.

At least it was. Now, it’s a restaurant called Dine Divine. On the phone, a week ago, Janine was insistent.

“We must go to the old church Sunday for they have a brilliant pasta night.”

Mine host and restaurateur Trev punches our order into his iPad with one finger. He’s had a successful career, and splits his time between Southbank, his farm and this converted place of worship. He could be retired, but I know there’s nowhere he’d rather be. He likes a yarn.

Janine, Garry and I have the carbonara. It’s magnificent. Creamy and luscious, but possessing subtle flavours, while the pasta is bouncily solid, as it should be. The ham is salty and necessarily complementary, and the dish is equivalent to the food I had at Jamie’s Italian in January. Anyway, we know his restaurant juggernaut is a genealogical lie, for Mr Oliver was born in Essex.

Garry and I each have a Crown Lager, and I remember a time, back in the simpler, pre-globalised 1990’s when these represented a beery extravagance, and were something to be enjoyed at a Christmas function, when the boss was shouting- Quick! Davo! Get a couple more Crownies. We’ve still got ten minutes to go! Or you were on the lunchtime lash, at somewhere precariously bohemian, like Café Junction in the Adelaide Casino. Now, a Crownie’s unreconstructed flavour and nose seems as sophisticated as a night at the Dapto dogs.

When in Ireland on their honeymoon some dear friends ventured into a pub for lunch. Brett considered the blackboard menu above the bar, and asked the waiter, “What’s in the Guinness and steak pie?”

With unblinking eyes, the young local looked through and past Brett, and replied in an unironic monotone, “Guinness.” There was a pause. “And steak.”

So, my wife had the Guinness and steak potpie, and declared it the best she’s ever feckin’ had. A couple bowls of chips are inhaled. Folks sometimes forget that it’s easy to butcher a chip, to mix food industry metaphors. These are an ornament to the spud. We eat them as if we’ve been wandering the desert for over a month, except we’re in a temperate rainforest.

Is there a better soft drink than a Lemon, Lime and Bitters (LLB)? Of course not. I just read that it’s customary for Antipodean golfers to take it after their round, but I must rebut this as bald-faced nonsense. But Alex has one, and for a few minutes it’s the best event of his brief life.

The LLB is superseded by the arrival of his sticky date pudding. He is nine, and eating chocolate dessert inescapably descends into an unholy hybrid of unwatchable reality TV, horror schlock, and Animal House food fight scene. It becomes difficult to tell if he’s gobbling the pudding, or vice versa.

Again, I wonder at what age he’ll possess a fully-functioning mouth, and we’ll be able to throw out the drop-sheet. It seems a while off. Inserted between the almost medieval-black castle of pudding, and the elegant bathtub of ice cream, is a golden lattice of toffee. He makes a suitable mess of this too.

On the flight home, Alex announces it as a Victorian highlight. For me, it is too.

Dine Divine is warm and wonderful, and sits geographically and gastronomically at the centre of Sassafras.

We’ll be back.

Dine Divine is at 345 Mount Dandenong Tourist Road, Sassafras, and

https://www.dinedivine.net.au/

SDP