The Dissemination of Thought

Just because it's in print doesn't mean it's intelligent…

Posts Tagged ‘lifestyle

Come as You Are, or you think you should be

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When I told several Sydney-based friends I would be living in Newtown when I arrived in the New South Wales capital, they gave verbatim responses about how I would find it.
 
“Newtown’s pretty out there,” one told me as I packed up my life in south-west Queensland.
“It’s different but I think you’re gonna fit right in.”
 
I wasn’t sure how to take the comment at the time, but ever since my maiden stroll down King Street almost three weeks ago, it now makes sense: Newtown is a place you really can come as you are.
 
In 1992, I was an angst-ridden, overachieving 11-year-old. Like thousands of others, I honestly believed a subdued Kurt Cobain was singing about my life when he slurred the lyrics of “Come as You Are”. At the time, I thought it was my personalised theme song. I was wrong. The song is a musical tribute to the inner-west suburb in which I currently reside.
 
At a cursory glance, Newtown strikes you as a place where downtrodden creative types come to escape the judging stare of the real world. In the past week alone, I’ve spoken to two unemployed journalists, a musician preparing to busk her way to dinner and a dishevelled, 50-something writer who has been working on a manuscript since 2002. Everyone here has a story, from the well-dressed corporate type frantically hailing a bus, to the barefoot bohemian couple who seem to be celebrating a 46-year Summer of Love as they walk their Labrador.

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In Newtown, even graffiti is attempting to discover itself.

It doesn’t matter what you look like, how you dress or how oddly you behave here – the grand Lady Newtown has seen it all before on her bustling main thoroughfares and narrow, terrace-lined backstreets. She won’t judge you and, because of her unique allure, neither will the people who call her ample, culture-filled bosom home. If you don’t believe me, just ask the bearded, tutu-wearing guy who was sobbing hysterically on King Street last Saturday.
 
Even the non-human aspect of Newtown is a multifarious mix of calm and chaos. As I write this from the relative silence of my courtyard, it’s hard to believe the lights, sounds and manic pace of Enmore Road are only 200 metres from here. Only the constant, near-deafening whine of descending planes overhead reminds me I’m sharing a city with almost five million people.
 
To me, it’s Newtown’s ability to offer both solitude and a strange sense of community and belonging that makes it so appealing. You can walk along the street wearing flippers and a tin-foil hat if you want to, safe in the knowledge you’ll retain relative anonymity.
 
Despite offering an eclectic range of cafes, restaurants and stores, as well as a vibrant lifestyle that is probably unmatched anywhere else in Sydney, the real lure of this historic suburb is that it provides a venue for people from every corner of the globe to listen to Cobain sing their personal theme song.
 
Within the invisible, council-determined boundaries of Newtown, you can be anyone you want to be, even if you aren’t sure who that is.
 
Just don’t try to be anyone you know you aren’t. If you do, the eccentric, welcoming old dame will eat you alive.

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If they walk up the wall, we’ll place bets on them all

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It’s funny how the something we take for granted as an everyday part of Australian life is viewed by those unfamiliar with our lifestyle, but a friend’s reaction to the concept of camel racing – and betting on it – drove the reminder home last week.

“You’re going to race what?” she said with stunned confusion via Skype after I’d explained the concept of the Boulia Camel Races.

“So they’re like those feral camels you see in the desert and people actually ride them like horses?”

After I reiterated what the iconic event was all about and that there were also on-track bookmakers, she started laughing, shaking her head at the idea of wagering hard-earned money on the ships of the desert.

“Man, you Aussies will literally bet on anything,” she said with her thick New York accent.

Camels fly down the straight at Boulia Turf Club. Well, they’re going as fast as camels can. Source: travel.ninemsn.com.au

Her comments about Australians having a penchant for betting on anything that moved made me think, and after our conversation ended, I sat back and contemplated the gambling eccentricities of punters in this country.

That’s when it hit me.

We actually will bet on anything we can get odds on, including what are essentially feral pests.

It’s part of what makes Australia the unique country it is but when you consider what else we place wagers on, an annual punt on camel racing doesn’t even make the top three weirdest things to race and bet on.

I don’t know why, but Australians love to bet on pests.

In addition to camels, cane toad and cockroach racing round out the trifecta of animals-we-could-do-without that we’re happy to support with our wallets, as long as they’re racing and not invading our houses.

A cockroach gets its racing number before going head-to-head with a dozen other insects. Source: news.com.au

While the noxious cane toads are raced weekly in pubs from Cairns to Coolangatta, it’s the cockroaches that raise the eyebrows of most tourists when they witness them racing for the first time.

Perhaps the most iconic of all cockroach races in Australia is held every Australia Day in my old stomping ground of Brisbane, at the Story Bridge Hotel in Kangaroo Point.

According to a spokesman for the annual spectacle, the event “has had a long and distinguished history” that set the foundation for cockroach racing in Australia.

No, I’m not kidding.

I couldn’t make this up if I tried but it gets better: organisers fly in cockroaches for racing.

Yes, racing cockroaches apparently travel to compete, just like Black Caviar.

“We actually buy them [the cockroaches] and fly them up from Melbourne,” the spokesman said when I posed the question last week.

“It’s a huge event.”

If insects and feral animals aren’t your style, you can always bet on the lizard races in Eulo.

Feel like a seafood fix?

If so, crayfish racing may be your forte.

The first time I saw a crayfish race was on Magnetic Island in about 2004 and while the crustaceans are hardly the most enthralling

racers, they are certainly supported by spectators like they’re running in the Melbourne Cup.

Worse still, punters who decide to bet as well as splash out the $10 or $20 needed to purchase one of the ‘thoroughbreds’ act like they have just purchased Makybe Diva for $15,000.

The only difference is that, if your crayfish doesn’t perform well during the race, you can always commiserate eating with a little bit of garlic butter and a cold beer.

I spoke to my friend in New York again last night and after I rattled off the list of amphibians, insects and crustaceans Australians regularly bet on, she burst out laughing and said it proved her point.

“Do you guys just look at random animals and decide to catch them, race them and bet on them?” she queried.

Who said horses and greyhounds were the only animals you could bet on?

Australia’s love of a punt is evident in the crazy things we race and wager on but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

So, if you are betting on something ridiculous – including the proverbial flies on the wall – in Australia this weekend, take a moment to reflect on how unique what you are doing is as you put your betting slip into your wallet.

Opinions and ink

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For a change, I don’t have much to say. I’ve spent my day off avoiding words and opting instead to draw. It was ridiculously refreshing not to have to think about sentences and conveying a nonsensical message.

I’m getting a tattoo – my second – when I head back to Brisbane in September and have come up with a rough concept I’d like to share with you. Obviously, the tattoo artist will work their magic in coming up with the final design, but I wanted the opinion of my readers about the original scribbling.

So, what’s the verdict? Do you have ink? If you do, what and where? If you don’t have any tattoos and find the mere thought of them repulsive, why?

Written by disseminatedthought

June 19, 2012 at 21:17

It’s crazy cookbook time, and I need your calamitous kitchen confessions

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I need help. Not the sort offered by a team of psychiatrists and medical professionals, but that which only you, my freakin’ awesome readers, can provide.

After the piece that shared my ridiculously disastrous cooking escapades was Freshly Pressed on 3 February, things went absolutely berserk. 7,331 people read it on the day. Hundreds commented, and the last time I checked, 706 bloggers had liked it. For some reason, people seem to love embarrassing tales of kitchen calamities, especially ones written by self-depreciating single guys.

Will people really buy a cookbook written by someone whose cookies turn out like this?

For those who haven’t read “5 things I’ve learnt about cooking: the calamitous kitchen confessions of a single guy”, this is what happened when I tried to flip the contents of a frying pan for the first time:

Damn you, Jamie Oliver. After observing everyone’s favourite naked chef continually flip the contents of his frying pan with a deft flick of the wrist (no, that’s not a euphemism), I eventually asked myself why I was the only sap left using spoons and spatulas. The concept of the flip didn’t seem that difficult, and with every celebrity cook and wannabe MasterChef contestant sending their stir-fries skyward in a graceful arc with apparent ease, I made the decision to come in from the culinary cold: I was my time to flip.

I chose to try it for the first time while sautéing mushrooms. I was focused. I was visualising it. I was trying to determine how I should celebrate what I assumed would be a successful attempt. Putting the wooden spoon to one side, I eyeballed the frying pan and quickly snapped it upwards in a forceful yet clinical motion.

I wish I could tell you that the mushrooms landed with a poetic elegance, but I can’t: there’s nothing poetic about a hail of hot butter and fungi raining down around you.

Look at him, the Converse-wearing smug bastard. Source: paradoxplace.com

At any rate, a lot of the comments people left suggested, among other things, that I should look at writing my own cookbook. I received dozens of emails, texts and phone calls supporting this suggestion, so I decided to seriously contemplate it over innumerable glasses of Scotch, a bottle of red wine and more than a few bags of Skittles Sours. My eventual decision? To attempt the impossible, and write a quasi cookbook that someone is prepared to publish. If people are prepared to pay good money to read about my kitchen debacles and take cooking advice from someone with the culinary ability of an oven mitt, who am I to stop them from wasting their hard-earned?

The book is going to be a compilation of kitchen stories and culinary lessons learned the hard way, but it will also include easy-to-follow recipes with idiot-proof instructions provided by yours truly. I’m writing it under the working title Stirring the Pot with TDoT, but the final name will be something much more eye-catching and scintillating. I hope.

No, I didn't make this, but I can provide step-by-step instructions on how to buy some just like it for yourself.

This is the point at which your help is required. While I have a multitude of personal tragic tales, I know there are countless other amusing kitchen stories out there, and I want to include as many as I can in the book. Any that appear that aren’t mine will be fully attributed to the kitchen failure considerate individual who shared it with me. While it’s only fair, I also believe it’s a fantastic opportunity to show the world that I’m not the only one burdened by culinary shame.

If you are happy to share your cooking disasters for inclusion in the book, send me an email with the following information:

  • What you were trying to do in the kitchen when your catastrophe occurred. What went wrong? What was the outcome? Did you walk away with both eyebrows and all of your digits, or did you end up with a painful memento of your culinary ineptitude?
  • How you’d like to be acknowledged in the book. I’m happy to use your real name, your blogging name or any other witty pseudonym you feel comfortable with. Except Snatch Baggins. I’ve already got dibs on that one, should I ever decide to change my name.
  • How many copies of the book you’d like if it gets published and sales tank, resulting in boxes and boxes of unsold copies lying around. I’m thinking that 38 is a reasonable minimum commitment.

How can you say no to this random guy? Source: speechadvice.com

So, there you have it. My shameless plea imploration invitation for you to share your calamitous kitchen stories for inclusion in my yet-to-be-named cookbook companion. Everyone has tales of kitchen woe, so ask your friends. Ask your family. Ask your parole officer.