Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Long weekend

Wow. What a weekend. It got off to a good start on Friday when I spent most of the day in my office piecing together an outfit for a fancy dress party in Elwood to celebrate a work colleague/friend's birthday.. It was an underwater theme and I ended up going as a shark. Spent the night eating cured salmon, pickled herring and swedish meatballs (the host is Swedish) and dancing to cheesy 80s music. My partner, Nathan, got totally wasted and was spinning some of my female work colleagues around on the dance floor and stumbling into the furniture. Nate paid for it with a massive hang over the next day. On saturday, I took possession of a mate's car for a week (she and her partner were off to Tassie to walk the over land track). I guess I only realised how much I missed having a car when I finally had one for a week...it awesome to have access to a vehicle and I hauled Nathan (who was starting to recover from the night before) off to the nursery to buy some pots and potting mix so I could begin my balcony transformation. In the arvo, while I was busy potting up the plants, I witnessed a tram accident outside the apartment. Poor mini cooper didn't stand much of a chance. No one was seriously hurt (from what I could see) but it did cause a bit of a tram jam. In the evening, we managed to catch some of the Australia Day fireworks from our balcony. On Sunday, we headed off to the Camberwell markets and, in the afternoon, I caught up with my jorno friend, Marcella, at the Carlton Gardens (it seemed that everybody was having a birthday in January). Took the car out for another spin on Monday (which was the official public holiday to make up for Australia Day falling on the weekend). Headed of to Keysborough, drove along Brighton and stopped for lunch in Elsternwick (had the best burger ever...can't go wrong with chicken and brie). Fantastic.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Brunswick brekky and new year on Victoria street

I woke up to a gloomy, wet morning on Sunday. Crap. I had earlier lent my umbrella to Nathan and had planned a brunch with my friends Dave and Steph. Fortunately, the skies cleared a bit and I managed to get out to Brunswick Street without getting too wet. Brunch was great. The company was awesome too. Afterwards, I headed off to the Fitzroy nursery for a bit of a wander and then decided to catch the 112 tram to St Vincent's Plaza so that I could go to Victoria street to do some grocery shopping. I had no idea that Victoria Street had been closed off to traffic because of Vietnamese new year festivities. Apart from the minor inconvenience of having to use a replacement bus service, my biggest regret was that I was too stuffed from brunch to try any of the delectable morsels on offer by all the street vendors that lined Victoria street. I noticed that these food stalls had even managed to displace the usual drug pushers that loiter on the street corners. It seemed like everybody was having a festive time.

A new addition to the balcony...

Nathan and I carried the 1 meter tall grass tree to the front of the shop and plonked it on the counter. I told the guy sitting behind the cash register that I wanted to buy the plant. He asked me where I'd parked my car. I told him I didn't have one. I told him, instead, about my plans to cart the plant home on public transport, from Batman station to the Docklands. Judging from the look his face, I could tell the guy thought that we were crazy. I ignored his looks, paid him the money, and proceeded to carry the plant out the nursery door (well, actually, Nathan proceeded to carry the plant out the door but I gave him the much needed moral support). It was raining. We carried it across the road and onto the train platform, trying not to get the shark needle-like foliage in our eyes. We hauled it into the first carrage of the train. Other commuters seemed a little amused. We got off at Flinders Street station, hauled the tree up to Elizabeth street and hopped onto the number 48 tram. We got off at Docklands, dragged the plant to the foyer of the apartment complex (boy was it a mistake to have gone to the gym the day before). We got the plant into the relative safety of the elavator. Went up. Got out. Carried it into the unit and placed it on the balcony. Beautiful. Grass trees (also known by their less politically correct common name, black boys) are native to Australia. They take years to develop their big black trunks and are extremely slow growing (1-2 cm a year). They often flower en-mass after bush fires (one of the most spectacular sights I have ever laid my eyes on were huge 4m + grass tress in full bloom in the Brisbane Ranges). Evidently many of the plants available at nurseries are salvaged from areas destined for development. To safely transplant these ancient plants from the wild requires a great deal of care. They are firstly dug up and then torched to simulate a bush fire. I considered the life that my grass tree would have had prior to captivity (it would be in excess of a 100 years old). My new addition is part of a plan to populate the balcony of my unit with Australian native plants. I already have a strappy-looking Dianella, a grey-coloured smokey bush, and a rock orchid. I've been eyeing off lomandra, doryanthes and maybe even a banksia. There is something wonderful about aussie natives. I love them for their tough-looking, steadfast, ruggered forms. They ae more practical too! With severe water restrictions, everybody should be tossing out their water-hungry exotics and replacing them with aussie native plants.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Abuse of power

This morning, a school friend of mine alerted me to today's front page story in The Canberra Times. The article reported that one of the teachers at my former high school, a now-retired Marist brother, had been charged with 18 counts of indecent assault on six teenage boys in the 1980s. Sure...there were rumours going around that he had been molesting some of the students, and most of us were a bit surprised to learn that he had suddenly and unexpectedly decided to retire in the same year that we graduated from school. But still, I had not expected the rotund, jovial, Brother Kostka to be a child molestor. And to think that he was not only suppose to be an ambassador of his faith, but was also my religion teacher.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Treat them mean, keep 'em keen

The Shanghai Dumpling Restaurant is a bit of a Melbourne institution. Nestled away in Tatterstall Lane near the gates of China town, the restaurant is legendary for its cheap dumplings, bad service and poor food hygene. It is a reflection of the quality (or maybe the cheapness) of the food that loyal customers seem to unquestioningly accept the frequent restaurant closures due to "kitchen rennovations" and the ocassional bout of bad food poisoning. Last year I heard a rumour (actually I read it in the MX newspaper) that the restaurant had been shut down for good. So imagine my surprise when I walked past Tatterstall lane the other week and noticed a bunch of people standing outside the restaurant, waiting for a table. Yay...the restaurant hadn't been forced to shut their doors after all (must have been another kitchen rennovation all along). Anyhow, yesterday I went back to the SDR with some friends. As usual, the restaurant was packed (the owner is most adept at squeezing customers into every available nook and cranny). And as usual, my friends were late. Still, I was fortunate enough to get a most coveted booth for four (a couple of SDR novices at an adjoining non-booth table, unhappy with the fact that they had to share theirs with two other people, had later tried to sneak into another 4-person booth and was promptly shouted back to their original seats by the owner). Five minutes after we had been shown to our table, the owner returned, looking surly and told us that we had to leave because our friends had not yet arrived and, unless we ordered right away, we would lose the booth to some other waiting diners. Holy shit. We promptly placed our order (I wasn't going to be kicked out over such a minor infringement). The others finally arrived and we had a great time pigging out, but still I couldn't help but feel the gaze of the owner on my back, watching and waiting for us to finish our meal and kick us out for the constant wave of incoming customers. This place is ruthless. A woman at an adjoining table who did not know how to use chopsticks got out of her seat and was trying to find a fork (this is a self-service kinda restaurant...one has to get their own bowls, their own tea, and even their own soy sauce from set cutlery and condiment 'stations' located around the restaurant). She was promptly shouted back to her table. Yes folks...dining at the SDR is a most stressful experience. But, oh, the dumplings. The juicy, succulent (cheap, cheap) dumplings brings us all back time and time again. But please, SDR, please...no more kitchen rennovations.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Science of sexuality: fruity fruitflies

According to a New Scientist report based on a paper published in Nature Neuroscience...male fruitflies use pheromones to avoid mating with other males. The ability to detect these pheromones can be altered with drugs that affect the strength of nerve-cell junctions in the brain. Males that are unable to detect these pheromones, in turn, mate with one another. Thus, the propensity of male fruitflies to engage in homosexual matings appear to be based on the detection of pheromonal cues. Fascinating!

The whole whale fiasco

So I noticed that the media is today talking about two protestors from the Sea Shepherd being held 'hostage' on a Japanese whaling vessel in the Antarctic. Dont get me wrong, I'm not at all condoning what the Japanese are doing, but I do wonder if 'hostage' is the right word to use here if one deliberately (and illegally) jumps onto another vessel and is then detained? More importantly, I wonder if the protestors are now being forced to eat whale?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Wanker of the year?

Looks like we are off to a good start this year with a whole swag of potential contenders already out of the wood works. Sixteen year old Corey Delaney has certainly earned his position on the nominee's list with his raucous house party in Narre Warren on Saturday night while his poor, unsuspecting parents were up in the Gold Coast on holiday. The house party got a bit out of hand when up to 500 youths were attracted to the neighbourhood where they proceeded to pelt police cars with bottles and cause damage to neighbouring property. The Victorian police commissioner estimated the cost of the damage to be around $20,000 and, quite rightfully, is considering making Corey (or his parents) foot the bill. Perhaps his neighbours should also be given the opportunity to pelt the little shit with empty beer bottles too?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Architectural wonders: Kiasma, Helsinki

One of my favourite buildings in Helsinki is Kiasma which houses the contemporary art collection of the Finnish National Gallery. Completed and opened in 1998, the building created considerable controversy because of its design and the fact that the design competition and contract had gone to an American architect, Stephen Holl, instead of a local.

Alexandre Despatie

Diving is an amazing sport to watch...

...and Alexandre Despatie is just amazing.

Phillip Island

Last Friday, I packed my bags and headed off to Phillip Island with my mate Phil (yes, I have a friend named Phillip who lives on Phillip Island). Phil bought a place there a few months ago and I had been dying to get out there ever since (having never been to Phillip Island before). I must say, it was an awesome weekend and I absolutely fell in love with the place. Phil has a great pad with a backyard full of bird-attracting native plants. It was great to wake up in the morning to a chorus of singing birds (instead of the more familiar sounds of city traffic and construction work). Although I packed my laptop with me, unlike most weekends when I have to bring work 'home', I actually felt very productive and managed to get quite a bit done without feeling that I had 'wasted' my leisure time on work. Throughout the weekend, Phil took me around the island to some of his favourite (and most picturesque) surfing beaches. It is hard to describe just how completely exhilarating it was to have the cool, salty sea breeze blowing against your face and to be able to absorb the expansive views of the big blue sky, the rolling waves and the surfers bobbing around with the currents out at sea. I was in a total zen state the whole time I was there (and managed to avoid seeing a single penguin). Apart from the sight-seeing, we also did some work on Phil's garden, went to a couple of garage sales, and even took in a trip to the island's bonsai nursery. Inspiring. A highlight was going out to the nobbies and seeing the seagulls nesting among the creeping succulents that had taken over the cliff face. It was truly a splendid weekend away. I felt totally relaxed and charged for the week ahead. Bring it on...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Tapas in the city

Went into the city last night for tapas and a catch up with friends. The place we ended up going to was called the Canary Club and, like many funky bars and restaurants in Melbourne, was hidden in a lane way. The menu looked amazing. We settled on some of the more exotic offerings: calamari churros, grilled water melon, a dessert featuring chocolate dust and churros soup. Delectable. Some of the other dishes on the menu looked intriguing but we were a little apprehensive about sampling the beetroot salad with 'beetroot soil' or the tuna with 'leaves'. Maybe next time.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Gordon Bennett...

...is an amazing artist. I recently saw an exhibition of his works at the National Gallery of Victoria. Brilliant.

Brand icons 2

Further to my last posting... why are A&F shirts so bloody small? I was stuck in the change rooms a few months ago trying to extracate my head and arms from an A&F shirt which, according to the label inside the collar, should have fitted me comfortably. Don't laugh. I was seriously panicking with my arms flailing above my head (an embarassing image of me rushing out of the change room to ask for assistance caused me to break out in a cold sweat) Eventually, I managed to get the thing off on my own. When I tried the next size up (and I was seriously contemplating a diet by this stage), the shirt not only accentuated my pastly upper arms and armpit fur (because the sleeves were so short) but also drew attention to my 'muffin top'.

Brand icons

Why are some brands so iconic amongst the gay community? Does it have anything to do with signalling theory (i.e. wear it and signal to others your sexuality)? I've been quietly observing a guy that catches the same train as me...I swear I'm not a stalker but conceed that I need to get a life (or a good book). Anyhow, indulge me for a moment (it is, after all, my blog). On the first day, I noticed that the guy wore an Abercrombie and Fitch stripey polo shirt. On day 2, he wore another stripey A&F polo shirt. On day 3, he, once again wore an A&F shirt (not stripey this time). From these sets of observations, I can deduce a number of possibilities. First, the guy is a 'metrosexual' (the bane of gay guys the world over). Second, the guy works for A&F. Third, the guy is gay. Of the aforementioned possibilities, I reckon the most likely scenario is that the guy is gay (later confirmed by the fact that he, too, seems to spend a lot of time gawping at other guys on the train). Hmmm...I really need to get a good book.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Snap, crackle and flop

Tried my hands at making roast pork the other day. The best bit about a roast pork is, without a doubt, it's crackling. Of course, there is no point having roast pork if the crackling doesn't turn out just right. The secret, I've been told, is a generous sprinkling of salt. So...I rubbed a ton of salt into the pork skin and shoved it into the oven. The result, I must say, was a little disappointing. Sure, there were some crispy, crackly bits but there was also a whole lot of chewy rubbery bits too. Next time, I've been told, I should wait for the oven to actually preheat to the right temperature before shoving the meat into the oven.... a simple, yet devastating oversight. I think I need to be a little more patient.

Monday, January 7, 2008

New fish

On Sunday, I went to St Kilda and bought a new fish for my aquarium at work.The journey from petshop to office aquarium required hopping onto one of these...

...followed by one of these...

...and finally, on one of these...

The campest movie of all time

I hadn't been to the movies in ages but the hot Melbourne weather on Saturday made the movie theatre an especially enticing place to be. I really wanted to go and see...

However, the session times didn't suit so, instead, I went and saw this...

Enchanted is arguably the campest movie I've ever seen. Despite some cringe worthy moments (more to do with my partner's uncontrollable laughter than the movie itself), I thought it was a pretty film. The hokey songs were especially hard to forget.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Happy New Year

Back in Melbourne, sweltered in the heat and have now gone back to work after a terrific break.