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.


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. 


* 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.