Thursday, 25 December 2008

...fat belly post

So this 10 year old kid after Christmas lunch today says to me,

"It's been such a good year, I got so many presents!"

So being a smartarse I say "That's what it's all about!"

And he says, "No it's not! It's about love and friends and the birth of Jesus Christ!...
....Well that's what they told us at school anyway."

Happy Christmas, whatever that is!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

...tourist rant

A couple of pub regulars have enquired about my August trip to Bali and Lombok. We went there for a friends wedding but thought we'd stretch it out and see as much of the place as we could. Me, Q and a good friend of ours thus Jetstarred our way to Denpasar, and us being seasoned backpakers in our past lives, we thought we'd relive the old days and just wing it. No bookings, no idea. None of this tour group stuff for us, I mean what's the point of being treated like sheep?

What's the point of going abroad if you're just another tourist carted around in buses surrounded by sweaty mindless oafs from Sydney and London in their baseball caps and their singlets and their ipods and their Ralph magazines, complaining about the coffee - "Oh they don't make it properly here, do they, not like at home" and stopping at Balinese handicraft sweatshops selling woodcarved penises and Bintangs and buffalo rendang and two veg and sitting in their bikinis and sarongs squirting Banana Boat all over their puffy, raw, swollen, purulent flesh 'cos they "overdid it on the first day." And being herded into endless Hotel Miramars and Bellvueses and Continentales with their modern international luxury roomettes and draught Bintang and swimming pools full of fat German businessmen pretending they're acrobats forming pyramids and frightening the children and barging into queues and if you're not at your table spot on 7pm you miss the bowl of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup, the first item on the menu of International Cuisine, and every Thursday night the hotel has a bloody cabaret in the bar, featuring a tiny, emaciated local with nine-inch hips and some bloated tart with her hair all beaded presenting Traditional dancing for Foreigners. And then some adenoidal receptionists from Camberwell with blindingly white legs and diarrhoea trying to pick up beefy, short smiling 16 year old waiters called Wayan and in the evening there's an excursion to the local temple to buy Monkey bananas and melted ice cream and bloody Bintang and one evening you visit the so called local restaurant with local colour and atmosphere and you sit next to a party from Lilydale who keep singing Khe Sanh and complaining about the food - "It's too spicy isn't it?" and you get cornered by some drunken skinhead tradie from Bacchus Marsh with fake Dr. Scholl sandals, a Bintang singlet and last Tuesday's Herald-Sun and he drones on and on about how Mr. Howard should be running this country and how many languages Kevin Rudd can speak and then he throws up all over the mango daquiris. And sending postcards of places they don't realise they haven't even visited to "All of youse. Sunny but too humid and air-con not cold enough. Food very spicy but we've found a charming little local place hidden away in the back alleys where they serve Bintang and do an awesome chicken parma and the guitarist plays "Downunder!"

Or spending four days on the tarmac at Sydney airport on a five-day package tour with nothing to eat but Gloria Jeans Muffins and you can't even get a drink of Bintang because you're still in Australia and the bloody airport bar closes every time you're thirsty and there's nowhere to sleep except behind the outdoor ashtray and you can't sleep anyway because kids are crying and vomiting and breaking the plastic pot plants and Arsehole Airlines keep telling you it'll only be another hour although your plane is still in Iceland and has to take some Swedes to Yugoslavia before it can load you up at 3 a.m. in the bloody morning, so you sit there jet engines running till 6pm because of "a maintenence issue", which is code for "jaded airline engineers have walked of the job again"and nobody can go to the toilet until you take off at 8pm, and when you get to Denpasar airport everybody's swallowing "enterovioform" and queuing for the toilets and queuing for the armed immigration officers, and queuing for the bloody bus that isn't there to take you to the hotel that hasn't yet finished being built. And when you finally get to the half-built ruin called the Bali Paradiso by paying half your holiday money to a licensed bandit in a taxi you find there's no water in the pool, there's no water in the taps, there's no water in the shitter and there's only a 3-legged gecko in the shower. And half the rooms are double booked and you can't sleep anyway because of the permanent twenty-four-hour drilling of the foundations of the hotel next door and the blaring television in the lobby showing Indonesian Idol #96 and you're plagued by appalling trainee legal clerks from South Yarra pretending to be hippies, and mortgage brokers wives busy buying identical holiday villas in mangrove swamp development plots just like Beacon Cove just in case the Liberals get in again, and puffy wannabe surfer girls from Newcastle-upon-Tyne with sloppy-buttocks and Hawaiian -patterned sarongs looking for any male, tanned spanish tourist who can keep it up long enough when they finally let it all flop out. And the Bali Tourist Board promises you that the recent outbreak of birdflu is merely a mild case of Bali Belly, like the previous outbreak of Bali Belly in 1660 which killed half London and decimated Europe and meanwhile the bloody Police are busy arresting drunken sixteen-year-olds for kissing in the streets and shooting anyone with bad dreadlocks or who looks like they may have once had a toke on a joint. And then on the last day in the Denpasar airport lounge everyone's comparing sunburns and blurry, swollen tattoos, drinking Bintangs, buying cartons of duty free Benson & Hedges and using up their last 50,000 rupiah on horrid dolls in Indonesian National costume and awful alcohol related "humorous" fridge magnets and stubby holders and little, plastic custom surfboards with things on it like "Rod Stevens of Narre Warren got shit-faced in Kuta, Bali" and signed pictures of the Shapelle Corby, and everybody's talking about coming back next year because they didn't get enough time to do any shopping and you swear you never will again as you tumble, pale as a ghost and bleary-eyed out of a tourist-tight antique Indonesian airplane...

I seem to have gone a bit off the point here. But I'm glad to say that because we didn't go with a tour and tried to stay away from the crowds it wasn't like that at all and indeed it was much, much better. And here are some pictures...

Apologies to Eric Idle


Monday, 15 December 2008

...flavour....where for art thou?

I was going to write a long and whimsical review on a new beer I tried the other day, but I soon realised it doesn't deserve the effort.

I never thought I'd say this but I'd rather have a Fosters. Richmond Lager, a very disappointing 0.5 packets of Nobby's.

This blog seems to have turned into a bit of a Myles Barlow ala Review of late, which is a great show but I always forget when it's on. Does anyone know?

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Saturday, 13 December 2008


Crikey! Throw another goanna on the barbie mate. I scored this hot date last Saturday night with my hot new wife so we opened up the gates on our white picket fence, jumped in our roo pouches and bounced on down to the local flicks. We got fat on pancakes (just doing my bit for the urban obesity epidemic) and went to see Austraya.

I have a bit of a thing about actually experiencing cinematic experiences in actual cinemas, so it was either that or the latest 007 offering, but I reckon the James Bond franchise lost it's mojo after Diamonds are forever and takes itself far too seriously these days. Where's the willing suspension of disbelief? Speaking of disbelief, despite all the Australia hype, controversy, promotional tie-ins, advertising, potential cringe factor and generally bad reviews, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

Australia is fairy tale, in Baz Lurhman's trademark fantastical, flambouyant style. People who are looking for something else need not apply. It is simply a high quality popcorn flick, and an engaging tribute to the golden age of Hollywood through the screen of 1940's Northern Australia, a land and time of much mythology. It's not challenging. It's not dark. It's not historically accurate. It's characters are not well developed. But it doesn't need to be it be, nor is it trying to be. It's light entertainment and a visual feast. Just switch your brain off and go for the ride.

A movie that names itself "Australia" is destined to cop a shitload of flak in a modern society so historically young, diverse and idealogically divided, and perhaps the title hasn't helped locally. But its an international film and most other nations consider Australia a bit of an enigma, and Baz does nothing to stop the mystery, in fact he plays on it through lavish cinematography, enhanced to being super-real, aided through world-class digital effects. The cut of young aborigine Nullah rising slowly out of the marsh on horseback, framed by purple crocus, water reeds and a crimson sky was exquisite, a fusion of Monet and Arthur Streeton. Preying on our age-old attraction for the romanticised, noble savage and the "mysterious" walkabout, Baz does nothing to explain that when you're a nomad, you tend to walk about a bit, but it's the mysteries of life that make the world an interesting place, and the cinema is one of the best places to explore that fascination.

As you can probably tell, I'm going in to bat for this one. I know critic's job is to be critical, but I feel that many cultural commentators have missed the point of this film. It shows that anyone in this country who dares to put their head up and try to tell a yarn about a long time ago, in a land far, far away is likely to get their head blown off, and that's a shame. We really are a sensitive lot when it comes to representing ourselves to the rest of the world.

Such cultural obstacles will continue to inhibit the potential of the Australian film industry and will do nothing to foster investment in larger budget projects. It would seem that if you want to tell an Australian story, no matter how fanciful on the big screen, don't have a big budget, don't tell anyone about it and don't have any punters come to see it. Then no one will know if you are offending them or not.

Australia is the ultimate popcorn flick. Sure the Japenese didn't really land on Mission Island because the place doesn't exist, and the cliffs in the Kimberley aren't really the 1000m drop that is presented to you. And the characters are all cliched and the ending is a bit disappointing, though not the director's preferred ending, but it's a fantasy-cum-tribute movie, not a freakin documentary. Some people will judge a film by its ability to provide a thought-provoking and challenging experience, and movies that do that are great. But I like going to the movies to ecscape the realities of life, and I can forgive a movie that may have a dodgy script, acting, etc if it makes it up to me through cinematic experience and willing suspension of disbelief.

And I'd turn gay for Hugh Jackman. So I'm giving it 4/5 packets of beer nuts. What do you reckon?

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Wednesday, 10 December 2008

...the lost world

In 18 days, I will be here. The oldest and tallest temperate rainforest in the world atop the Errinundra Plateau, far East Gippsland.

I've been near here once, and it was the friggin Lost World I tell ya. I saw a fungus the size of a car. It was growing on a tree so big I couldn't work out where it began, but it seemed to end somewhere in the clouds.

Strange, primitive creatures inhabit this world. The elusive Long-footed Potoroo, Quolls, gliders. sooty owl and Jervis Bay tree frog. The government tells us that within the confines of the Errinundra National Park, we must tread lightly to protect this precious, pristine and remote wilderness.

But if you are VicForests, a state-owned enterprise, you can send bulldozers into the same ancient forests neigbouring the small park and turn large tracts of it into woodchips, sell it to Japan and then buy it in the form of expensive cardboard boxes. You can quite legally destroy the habitats of ICNN Redlist Endangered species, kill and displace rare and unique wildlife with heavy machinery, drop incendiary devices from helicopters to raze the stubble, and lay poison to kill the native animals that may venture into the moonscape to eat the monoculture regrowth. And not only will the goverment let you do this, they will subsidise you for it!

But remember, no camping outside the designated 4 tent campsite, take your rubbish home with you and don't brush your teeth within 20 metres of river and creeks. We don't want to trash this fragile environment, do we?.

Meanwhile we demand our impoverished neigbours stop logging their rainforests, and lay a large part of the solution for global climate change at their feet.

What's that all about then? I know we need wood but surely there are other ways to get cardboard boxes.

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Wednesday, 3 December 2008

...a good ole, green-eyed gal

I was never a big fan of Scotch whiskey, nor bourbon for that matter. Bourbon (cheap bourbon) was too sweet, and Scotch tasted like someone had made an ancient celtic rocket fuel and, added a pair of old socks but forgot to add a few ingredients to make the brew less of a solvent and more like something you'd want to pour down your throat. But by my late 20's I had warmed to a few Irish whiskeys, Jameson being the most well known. Jameson (Bammo) is a full-bodied, smooth and balanced drop, not too sweet and not too dry, though I still preferred to mix it with a generous dose of dry ginger ale and ice.

And after a while I even began to appreciate the odd cheapo Scotch and dry on winter's night out, a classic warmer, though I never thought I would be able to quaff the stuff neat or on ice (though that probably has more to do with a cold and fateful night in 1988 that involved three teenagers, a trampoline, a bottle of VAT 69, and consequently a bucket and alcohol poisoning. That night was enough to take Scotch off the menu for the next 15 years).

But I never used to like olives either, or capers or anchovies. Now I can't imagine life (or pizza) without them. Such adult-acquired tastes do more than just demand attention, they are the culinary equivalent of a right-arm uppercut to the cheek on the footpath outside the pub of a Friday night. Pow!

So I now have the pleasure of introducing you to my new love, my sparkling green-eyed beauty, my unlikely romance..... Ardbeg 10yr old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whiskey!

Like a shag on a dry-stone wall in a glade (sea bird or other), Ardbeg takes you there, and then some. Distilled with the crystal waters of Loch Uigeadail and infused with the rich, peat-smoke dried malted barley from a place that just made me throw up my tonsils on the keyboard like a startled sea-cucumber when I tried to say it. The barrels are exposed to the cold northerly gulf winds on a remote island in the Irish Channel, occasionally being pissed on by a Jack Russell Terrier for 10 years or more, bringing subtle hints of brine and seaweed, haddock and Pal to the heady, smoky but smooth vapours. And the shits kinda greenish too.

Whisky comes from the Gaelic word uisge beatha meaning 'Water of Life', derived from the Latin aqua vitae, which goes to show that there was fuck all to do pre-1700 except sit around getting maggoted. "Ooooaaaiiii, I likesh dis ere drink. Makesh my prize heap of dung seem more.... interestin'.... hic!" The good ole days, when rum to a poor man was like gold ("just need something to make me forget about my miserable existence for a bit!)". Well there's heaps more to do these days, with computers and shit ("Makesh my blog seem more.... interestin'.... hic!"), and I'm starting to realise that Ardbeg is a sometimes food (at ~$80 a pop, so not on the cornflakes) and that life is about more than just heaps of interesting dung and rocket fuel, it's a wonderful, lucky, comparatively privileged and perhaps indulgent life I'm having on this awesome, diverse, weird and incredible planet, Earth........

..........all made better with a tumbler of Ardbeg 10yr old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whiskey on the rocks!

Jim Murray's Whiskey Bible 2008 awarded the Ardbeg 10 year old expression the title of 2008 World Whiskey of the Year and Scotch Single Malt of the Year. If I had a Whiskey Bible, or knew any thing about whiskey for that matter, I probably would too. So that's why I'm giving Ardbeg 10yr Single Malt 4.5 packets of beer nuts.

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Tuesday, 2 December 2008

...eternal circle

There is an idea within Einstein's General Theory of Relativity that if an object travels in a straight line through space for a ridiculously large amount of time, that object will eventually arrive at it's initial point of departure. Of course this all depends on the answer to the great question, is the universe open-ended or curved?

As far the bloggiverse is concerned, I am living proof that it is of the curved variety.

I have arrived at my initial point of departure...... again.

You see being the Man at the Pub makes one prone to making rash, emotional decisions whilst in varying degrees of inebriation, and early this year (or late last year) I awoke one afternoon behind the neighbours compost bin with a whopping headache to find my beer had been stolen from the fridge and my blog had disappeared. The whole lot gone.

In an effort to re-invigorate I constructed my next blog, Red in Tooth and Claw, a cutting edge expose into the Janus faced, naked ape, delving deep into the dark recesses of the mind of the third Chimpanzee and it's view of the world around it. I even changed my name to Homo J. Sapien to herald the occasion. It lasted about two weeks, but it did have a nice picture of a Mandrill in the background. You see my intellectualism is like a Japanese meal.... lots of it, in very small portions.......... and an innordinate fondness for sea cucumbers.

A sea cucumber, yesterday.

After a blogless period I tuned my creative meanderings to It's not you, its me!, a tottering, rollercoaster of a blog, about an overweight, middleclass, white male and his problems. While not the most original of blog ideas, it satisfied for a while. And in an act of foolhardy short-sightedness, I started another blog, to revive my flagging painting career, Blank Canvas, an artists journal. But they didn't fire, and I didn't love them, so I caught up for a few drinks with my old mate the delete button.

My bloglife had died in the arse. I drifted through time and space, like in that fantasy movie but without all the cool special effects and beings from other dimesions. I was a failed blogger. A flogger. I needed to redeem my online self. My creativity failed to spark in other departments, like oil painting, photography, playing guitar and model aeroplanes, but the sex was great.

Then one day I got the itch, and it wasn't that fungal thing this time. I needed a new blog. I busily set about the concept of it and then the design and tone. Small World, a grownup's blog. A blog about fascinating places, unusual facts in history and the natural world, of general interest but best used with Google Earth. I embraced my inner geek and knocked up a you beaut header. I would be factual and objective in my posts. It would be a non-political blog suitable for every person from every culture, children and old people, if they knew what a blog was.

But I soon realised the error in my thinking. How could I be perfectly neutral and objective? How could I not crack a joke at someone else's expense? How could I not upset half the world's population when I innocently mention that I think Captain Cook was a top bloke for his time, despite all the colonization and brutal opression that followed him.

Captain James Cook. Man before his time, or utter bastard?

Then I got an email from a lady from west, a reader of the original The Man at the Pub. She reported on the a dire threat to the security of the local blog scene...... rampant complacency. She also said my old blog was good, so that was enough to have me don my cape, put my undies on the outside of my pants, scrap Small World and ressurrect The Man at the Pub, like a phoenix from the ashes who has just realized his DVD's are 3 weeks overdue. So here I stand, ready to add my own unique form of complacency to the local blog scene.

I have my old mouth back. Yay!

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