Travel through space and time

The Leeton Museum & Art Gallery has an undocumented feature that I think is magic 

Brace yourselves

As a former PR guy this seems obvious

There is going to be a big shift in reaching an audience since Facebook has blocked a swathe of pages, links and websites in Australia.

Feels Good Man

Watched this documentary for our family movie night

I hadn't really followed the journey of Pepe the frog and it's a helluva ride, as well as being a comment on the power of internet-based memes.

The discussion of hyper-sigilisation in particular suggests how much impact symbols can have to unite people.

Afterwards I asked my clan to draw their own Pepe.

Pacific octopus

"The giant Pacific octopus is considered the largest octopus species in the world and inhabits the northern Pacific Ocean off the United States up to Alaska and around Japan

"The largest individual on record weighed an impressive 600 pounds and measured 30 feet across in length." 

Via FB

Hamburgers and chips in Leeton

My family recently undertook a comparison of five takeaway hamburgers and chips in Leeton

In the details below you'll see I've included some basic observations about each, as well as noting weight and price.

Our order at each venue was for a plain hamburger and a minimum of chips with sizes varying as well as prices.

Some venues asked whether we were happy to have tomato and beetroot in the salad and one asked if we wanted cheese, but we didn't accept as that might be considered a cheeseburger.

The plain hamburgers shared in common the beef patty, lettuce, tomato, beetroot and bun.

They each differed in ways that make this comparison an exercise with contrasts and I expect the ratio of ingredients will vary between preparations and probably changes depending on staff at each venue too.

We split these five hamburgers over two meals and bought our favourite from the first round a second time to assist in calibrating our taste buds.

It was also interesting to note the burger from Luke's was 9 grams heavier when we bought it on the weekend, compared to the second one we bought on a weekday.


Country Fried Chicken:

Burger had beefiest tasting patty and lots of lettuce.
327 grams / $8

Chips were crisp, golden and fluffy inside.
439 grams / $2

Golden Fried Chicken:

Burger had a sourdough bun with noticeable butter.
317 grams / $7.50

Chips were served, rather cooked specifically for the order and didn’t seem as crisp (but had been brought home in a plastic bag).
507 grams / $4.40

Luke’s Cafe:

Burger had oregano added to patty and a noticeably toasted sesame bun.
284 and 275 grams / $7.50

Chips were crisp and highly rated, possibly the oil.
519 grams / $3

Tourist Supermarket:

Burger had lots of fried onion, which gave a sweet flavour.
333 grams / $11

Huge serve of chips with some crispiness.
909 grams / $3

Amesbury Crossing Family Store:

Burger tasted grilled and seemed to contain more salad (tomato and beetroot were prominent as well as mixed lettuce leaves rather than just iceberg).
326 grams / $6

Chips might have been served and came home in a plastic bag in a box branded GFC.
258 grams / $2.50


Conclusion

It’s worth noting that family members had differing opinions but the adults largely agreed on the following preferences.

Overall the Amesbury burger was the favourite and Luke’s a second place, but they were quite different in the style of patty and the amount of salad.

Overall Country Fried offered the favourite chips, with differing opinions about second place but my partner and I preferred Luke’s. 

Cooking with beer

I've got a stockpile of home-brewed beer and little interest in drinking

So I started looking for ways to use it, aside from watering the garden.

Beer bread has been good, although sometimes flour isn't good for me.

The recipe is easy, just add 375ml beer to three cups of self-raising flour and a teaspoon of salt.

I've found it also works with soft drink to produce a damper-like dough.

It's even better with a tablespoon or three of brown sugar, a cup of cut-up dried dates and some spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.

I've also started using beer when a recipe calls for water and am finding it's good in many foods.

The pizza dough I made with beer was described as my "best yet" too.

Big Fish

The other day my son mentioned he'd impressed his history teacher by drawing John Merrick on the title page for his notebook

We discussed The Elephant Man and I mentioned it was a film that had brought me to tears.

As I continued reflecting I mentioned other movies that had a similar effect, like Bambi and King Kong and Big Fish. 

My son didn't remember Tim Burton's film, which surprised me as I recall crying while watching it a second time with my family.

So we watched the trailer and my son asked "what exactly is it that makes you cry?"

I began explaining the father and son theme, how the son doesn't believe the stories his father told him and so on. 

Then I started recalling the final scene, where the son takes his father to the river and my throat started to close.

Soon my eyes were watering and I knew I was about to start sobbing.

My son looked bemused as I excused myself from continuing.

I don't know why the film makes me cry, probably the theme, but it surprised me how little exposure was required to have an effect.

Sometimes I think it's important to cry in front of my kids but it surprises me how rarely they remember it.

The Beach review

Director Warwick Thornton has been going from strength to strength in his filmmaking

In some ways it’s only a short distance from the contemporary tragedy of Samson and Delilah to the 1920s setting for the neo-western Sweet Country (which comments on Australian race relations with a plot like something John Ford would direct), but he’s quickly established himself. 

Thornton has a confidence in his control of what he shows viewers, particularly in action that happens offscreen, and his style seems almost disproportional to the work he has produced.

With The Beach Thornton puts himself at the centre of a powerfully understated experience that appears ridiculously cinematic for a six-part television series, thanks to his son Dylan River.

It opens with Thornton arriving at a remote beach shack on the Western Australian coast and ends with him leaving, while the supporting cast amounts to birds, an animal (spoiler?) and some tasty sea creatures.

Aside from occasionally cursing at the challenges of the setting, his addresses to a group of chickens serve as a device for monologues as Thornton reflects on his life.

I had difficulty forgetting that there would have been a crew watching from outside the frame in those moments, but did not doubt his skills cooking sumptuous fusion meals from a few jars of supplies and meat from the surrounding landscape.

It’s remarkable that the economy in the storytelling required only a couple of scenes showing city life, especially a collection of beer glasses, to give a context for his reasons to escape to the beach for about two months.

Much of the pleasure in watching this holiday is the foraging and cooking he undertakes, but the deeper character development is told with symbols like the flashy jacket he takes off and doesn’t put on again.

In Thornton’s productions the Australian landscape becomes a leading character and The Beach will have you wanting to find your own isolated beachside shack, although this one was apparently purpose-built.

9/10 

World Wetlands Day

Great pic shared by the Murrumbidgee Field Naturalists on World Wetlands Day, showing my Fivebough banner at the Swamp 

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower review

From the opening scene we learn the central character, Charlie (Logan Lerman), has been working through a personal issue as he writes a letter to an anonymous friend

Then he’s beginning high school and struggling to fit in, before he befriends a couple of older students and soon has a social life that involves partying with their cohort.

A memorable scene is when he first meets Sam (Emma Watson) and the camera takes Charlie’s perspective to see her face lit with a halo from the nightlights at a football game.

It’s soon clear that he is attracted to her, although part of that interest seems to stem from the kindness and compassion she offers after learning Charlie’s lost a close friend.

While this film is described as a coming of age story, it’s interesting that threshold is not crossed through the loss of virginity. 

The key plot development sees characters develop a sense of maturity through recognising the impact of trauma.

However, the film isn’t as heavy as this theme might suggest and is remarkably restrained in the way it handles the material.

Director Stephen Chbosky developed the screenplay from his own novel and the film maintains a quick pace that uses a variety of music to express character and mood, both within scenes and accompanying them.

The soundtrack is excellent and enhanced by Michael Brooks’ understated score.

I’ve watched this a couple of times now and found a lot to admire in the use of camera angles and flashback scenes to convey the internal world of the characters.

Watson’s acting carries a lot of the film, as she is required to cover a range of emotions, while accompanied by an energetic performance by Ezra Miller as her stepbrother.

There were many points where I thought I could guess the direction of the film only to be wrong, and I really enjoyed being surprised.

9/10

Ceci n'est pas une hot dog

For some reason I wanted a picture of Freud holding a hot dog

Bamay review

Bamay is a "slow TV" program currently streaming on SBS On Demand that reveals a new perspective on some of the local landscape

The visuals are mostly drone footage of the natural environment, accompanied by occasional text detailing features.

Slow television earns the name for the long duration and sluggish pace of the programs, which might include showing a train journey from start to finish.

Bamay shows stretches of waterways and includes the Murrumbidgee River as well as tributaries such as Yanco Creek and dams Burrinjuck and Blowering.

There is a short introduction by Wiradjuri man Peter Ingram, who shares some of his knowledge of the Murray Darling Basin waterways as links between communities and describes them as veins for the Australian continent.

Then, from what I've seen so far, the presentation moves between different streams with laidback music and snippets of information including First Nations and other roles for these landmarks.

The perspective is one that's only occasionally glimpsed from an airplane.

Aside from the brown water bursting the banks in places, the plants look surprisingly and refreshingly green.

It's not clear what the intent of the program's producers are but I came to the conclusion that Bamay offers a contemporary take on First Nations art.

Many Australian Aboriginal artworks present a map-like view of the landscape and often reference culturally significant sites.

My impression is that Bamay invites viewers to take a fresh look at our common wealth and the textual information presents both European and First Nations details – and that combination is the sort of narrative Australia needs right now.

Get Lucky's

My profile of author Andrew Pippos was published by The Canberra Times

While it's the third time I've had a byline in their pages, it's the first time in around 20 years!

Andrew's book Lucky's is a great read.

Banner at Fivebough

Leeton Shire Council have installed the banner that I designed as part of the Fivebough At The Heart Of Leeton project 

Photo from the Leeton Shire page on Facebook.

Booksmart review

Booksmart (2019) is a teen comedy that begins with a familiar setting and then gently pushes against expectations

The two lead American characters are friends who, facing graduation, realise they’ve sacrificed high school romance in the pursuit of grades and a place at college. 

If the film was made a decade earlier someone might say “YOLO,” but it’s way more contemporary.

That the characters are named Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) is the first step away from the usual male perspective, then Amy’s interest in same-sex romance is another difference to so many teen comedies.

Early on there’s a scene where Molly is seated in a toilet cubicle and overhears fellow students insulting her. It’s a scene that’s been done elsewhere, yet the first time I’ve seen it delivered in a unisex toilet.

Given the current debates about gender fluidity in Australian high schools, this film recognises the current generation are more adept at discussing sexuality than their parents.

Before the end of the film there’s an inferred romantic relationship between a teacher and a student, as well as some drug use, yet Booksmart doesn't make a moral judgment.

Despite the gross-out-style humour and sexual gags, the film has a sweet sentiment as the characters realise how mistaken they have been in their malicious gossiping about fellow students.

Olivia Wilde’s debut shows remarkable strengths in her direction, particularly the pace and a diverse supporting cast of authentic characters. She also includes good visual jokes in onscreen details.

8/10 

Baking beer bread


Bread is the carbohydrate of my people
 

While cereal-based loaf recipes date back to around 10,000 BC, around 2000 years ago Pliny the Elder reported that Gauls and Iberians used the foam from beer to produce "a lighter kind of bread than other peoples.”

My recent baking has been an adventure with beer as I’ve tried using various drinks to constitute loaves.

The beer flavour is subtle and I found that a Guinness-style stout added a richness that enhanced the bread, while a soft drink created a thick glossy crust.

A simple loaf made with a can of Coke, a teaspoon of salt and three cups of self-raising flour produced a crunchy damper-like bread that tasted great with butter.

The most popular results have gone for a sweeter bread that included three tablespoons of brown sugar (or treacle) and a cup of cut-up dried dates, as well as a teaspoon of dried ginger and half teaspoons of nutmeg and cinnamon.

Experiments continue with a savoury cumin flavour, as well as another loaf spiced with a teaspoon of Caraway seeds (shown with pumpkin seeds added to roast outside).

Next I want to try a loaf from flour, salt, sparkling tonic water and a teaspoon of oregano. 

Destroyer review

As it neared the ending, I had a thought that 'Destroyer' (2019) was a kind of remake of 'Bad Lieutenant' (1992)

It’s not that simple and not quite as harrowing, but Nicole Kidman rivals Harvey Keitel in her performance as a bad cop. 

As Detective Erin Bell she shows occupational hazards, including alcoholism and distant family and corruption.

Part of the appeal of watching this film was the frumpy twist on the usual icy Hitchcock-blonde-type role Kidman might normally inhabit. Here that aloofness is like a wounded animal.

Another part is Karyn Kusama’s direction, which draws on a long tradition of noir-style LA police thrillers.

When I read Kusama had a mentor in John Sayles*, I better understood the seamless way her films can shift from past to present (particularly 'The Invitation' (2015)). 

The uncertainty of whether a scene is past or present is part of the storytelling in 'Destroyer' and, like many detective movies, the audience follows the lead character in attempting to get to the centre of a mystery.

In this case the detective is bleary-eyed and trying to piece together fragments from between gaps in memories, like 'Memento' (2000).

The result is somewhat disorienting but the strength of Kidman’s character kept my interest and the sense of how stresses hollow-out a stone made her performance memorable. 

8/10

* Sayles’ film 'Lone Star' (1996) has a wonderful style that uses pans between scenes to underscore the relationships between characters and their histories.

The Merger review

'The Merger' is a local film that's now finding a new audience on Netflix and I regret not seeing it with an audience and sharing their recognition of the Riverina

The plot follows interpersonal politics of a small-town football club as they resolve grief and regret, as well as avoid losing their identity.

Their season is saved by recruiting new players from the migrant community, after recognising their diverse skills and desire to be part of the town.

Working with a predictable collection of characters, this film is a nuanced representation of masculinity as the plot follows a series of emotional arcs framed by sporting scenes.

'The Merger' is really creative in showing character development and kinda conflicts with memory of a news story from that region, where a team was taken to court for urinating on the main street of a neighbouring town.

It was also disorienting that Ganmain was often filmed from the opposite side of the train tracks, so there was an element of going into a 'looking glass' and seeing a reversed image of local landmarks.

I realise now the crux of the film is inverting local binaries by comparing experiences of personal loss. This film has an incredible heart, as well as mild and good-natured humour.

9/10