RuPaul's Drag Race season 9 recaps

The shadiest Drag Race recaps on the web. Get ready to death drop, queens!

The Bachelorette Australia recaps

One woman, 14 desperate men, mucho LOLs. Oh, and Osher Gunsberg.

The Bachelor Australia recaps

Sequins, spray tans and sex - it's season 3 of the world's stupidest dating show.

RuPaul's Drag Race Season 8 recaps

YASS, HUNTIES! Every episode of season eight recapped for your reading pleasure. Let's get sickening!

Monday, October 31, 2011

6 celebrity wigs that cleverly avoid lawsuits

It's Halloween in America today, which means that in a few hours normally sane adults will suddenly emerge from their dwellings dressed as cats, zombies and Snooki and spend the evening trying to drink beer through masks.

B grade celebrities are always popular costume choices, because as I discovered in my local Halloween shop last week (yes, I have one), all you really need to pull off a convincing celebrity look is a wig.

If you can find one. I searched high and low for a Donald Trump wig and all I could find was this:

I can't tell who this is supposed to be.

It kind of LOOKS like Donald Trump, but it also looks a bit like Conan O'Brien with a hernia. Is Conan a billionaire though? So many questions.

Then I saw this one and thought "When did Anna Wintour marry a soccer player?"

Tosh spice.

You can't really see on this next one, but it was titled "Alaskan Mamma".

Don't misunderestimate this costume.

I'm not exactly sure but I THINK this is supposed to be Sarah Palin. If so, it's not a very realistic costume. I found a much better one at a different shop down the street:


And look, it's the "Eurasian Traveller":

Nice, I like.

What do you mean, that's a very unlikely specific costume? No, I don't know where the other continental "traveller" wigs are. Borat? Never heard of him.

And then there was everyone's favourite pop star, "Wet Look!"


Come on, you know Wet Look. He was big in the 80s, did that song where he was dancing in a graveyard - Chiller. He used to wear one diamond covered sock. Bobby Jane? Rough Burglar? Don't Finish 'til You've Had Your Fill? No?

In the end I think the most realistic celebrity wig was this one:

Winning, etc.

Mainly because I think Charlie Sheen will probably legally change his name to "Party Guy" soon anyway, if the courts won't allow "Winning Q. Tigerblood".

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Today it snowed in Manhattan for what is apparently the first October snowfall since 1952.

Being Australians, Barilski and I were mesmerised by the funny white stuff falling outside our apartment window. So I videoed it:

And then we did our own version of an American sitcom's Christmas special:

We are yet to venture out into the giant snowdome that Manhattan has instantly become, because we have never dealt with frozen rain before and are therefore rather scared.


Only one way to find out. But I wish I'd bought those gumboots I saw yesterday.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Nightmare (two months) before Christmas

This week I received some distressing news from home.

According to my mother, her local supermarket has been overrun by pumpkins, bedsheets with eyes painted on and crappy bits of plastic in the shape of skeletons in an effort to get people to buy sugary “treats”.

If you have no idea why that would be then congratulations, you're still Australian. If your eyes lit up when you read that and you shrieked “HALLOWEEN!” then congratulations, you're probably still under 25 (it's fun being young, isn't it?). But I'm sorry, you will have to hand your citizenship back.

As I suspect most young Australians know, tomorrow – October 31st - is Halloween. According to legend, this is the day on which the barrier between the living and the dead is at its thinnest, and restless ghosts and ghouls roam the earth in search of spiritual redemption, and young girls dress up as sexy nurses and get drunk on alcopops.

I say “young” Australians will know this because for generations, we Aussies haven't gone in for Halloween. Carving pumpkins and dressing up in stupid outfits when you don't even get a day off just seemed a little too much like work to us. Not to mention the whole idea of an event in which strangers are encouraged to give lollies to children is more than a bit dodgy these days.

"And what the bloody hell am I supposed to do with this?"

But it seems the cultural creep has started and along with bad sitcoms and giant sneakers, Australia is starting to adopt yet another bit of Americana. And as our most voracious media consumers, kids, teens and 20-somethings are the first to be infected by the Halloween bug, thanks to endless US TV shows and movies about it.

Speaking as someone who now lives next door to a 365-days-a-year Halloween shop (no, I'm not making that up) I say – AUSTRALIA, GET HOLD OF YOURSELF! You don't need Halloween! It is a bogus festival that, like so many others, has strayed from its simple beginnings to become yet another celebration of mass consumerism.

As in America, the driving force behind Halloween in Australia appears to be the large supermarket chains that will welcome any opportunity to make you buy more crap you don't need. “A festival that forces people to buy chocolate that ISN'T Easter? Brilliant!”

Not even Americans understand the origins of the event, beyond carving out pumpkins and eating candy. They barely even understand the concept of Thanksgiving, which is why one recently expressed surprise when I said Australians didn't celebrate it. (See, we didn't have any starving pilgrims or turkeys and... oh, never mind).

If you want to dress up as a zombie Amy Winehouse (and PS: if you are, you're so unoriginal, EVERYONE is doing that this year) and party with your mates on Halloween then sure, why not. It seems that horse has bolted anyway.

But come on Australia, let's at least nip this whole “trick or treat” thing in the bud while we still can. The more kids that start wandering the neighbourhood asking for sweets each year, the more pressure everyone will feel to stock up and spend more at the checkout, and the more crappy plastic jack-o-lanterns will start appearing in our supermarkets every year. Do we really want another day on the calendar owned by big business, just because we liked the idea of dressing up?

Plus, have you tried “candy corn”? It's disgusting.

To Halloween – Australia says no.

This article was first published in the Adelaide Sunday Mail's Sunday liftout on October 30, 2011.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Australia's Next Top Model Recap: Season 7 FINALE

Well this is it. After 12 long weeks, two overseas trips (three if you count the one to Cockatoo Island) numerous tantrums and countless crying fits (mostly by me), we will finally call time on Australia's Next Top Model season 7.

But not before an hour filled with awkward pauses, badly scripted jokes and footage you've already seen. BECAUSE IT'S THE OH-MOY-GOURD-AMAZING-OFFICIAL-ANTM-LIVE-FINALE!!!!!11!!!1 *

*NOTE: May not actually be live any more.

I have my beverages ready for the ANTM drinking game I will inevitably create about five minutes in.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Australia's Next Top Model Recap: Season 7, Episode 12

For the benefit of my three readers who haven't yet heard who was crowned the winner in last night's live finale, for the entirety of this recap I'm going to pretend that it's still Monday, no one has won anything yet and everyone still cares what I think.

It's nice in my happy place.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A final look at Season 7's finalists before the finale. Finally!

After a chair-grippingly thrilling fairly uneventful and actually quite dull 11 weeks Australia's Next Top Model is finally just eight hours away from meandering to its logical conclusion at the Sydney Opera House (ie: a live broadcast composed of 95% long pauses, 3% dramatic looks to camera and 2% fuck ups destined for YouTube).

Sadly being in another time zone I'm going to have to guess what happens during the finale via the various tweets and text messages I'll be getting from my drunk friends freeloading off the open bar at the after party, but I'm assuming that at about 8.30pm Sydney time I'll get a bunch of these:

He really does love Lady Gaga.

1001 channels and nothing to buy

In 1992 Bruce Springsteen sang about signing up for cable television only to discover “57 channels and nothing on”.

Fast forward a couple of decades and the lyrics need a slight update. Now it's more like 1000 channels and nothing on. If you're watching my TV here in New York it's actually 1001, to be precise.

Yes, even here in the city that never sleeps, one of the most exciting metropolises in the world filled with every sort of entertainment you could dream up, you can ignore the outside world to spend 24 hours a day cycling through 1001 channels, trying to find something to watch.

It's clearly a much more advanced system than Foxtel, which only has 142 channels with nothing on. That's almost nine times the nothing!

But for every remote control-clicker wearily cycling through the old movies, repeats of Seinfeld, 24 hour news and Spanish soap operas with variations on the name “Amor Prohibido”, there is one type of viewer that is consistently and lovingly catered for by American cable TV – the home shopper.

Presumably they're a large audience, as there are dozens of channels populated with people called “Carole” and “Bob” whose sole purpose is to spruik things like the “Super Food Chopper” (makes a stir fry in nine seconds) 24 hours a day.

Clearly the type of person who would find 1001 virtually empty channels enticing is the same who would go for an all-in-one polar fleece jumpsuit with a zippered “hatch” on the buttock area. (Yes, they actually sell these, they're called “Forever Lazy” - see below).

I don't care how much the people "at the football match" and the couple drinking tea on the bridge were paid, it wasn't enough.

While writing this column I cycled through a few. On the Home Shopping Network you could buy the “Serious Skin Care Instagleam Trio with tote bag” for $69.95. Over on QVC they had a whole three hour show dedicated to the “Jacqueline Kennedy Collection” in which you could buy a “simulated sapphire bracelet” (how romantic), or the “Royal Colour” bracelet (I think “royal colour” means it looks like gold, but isn't) for $169.95.

On SHNBC you could snaffle a ring made of something called “lolite” with “a real European look”. WRNN was selling the “10 minute trainer” for two payments of $39.95, while SNY had some sort of device called the “total gym” that looked like it was modelled on something from the inquisition (but it was only $49.95 so, you know, bargain.)

I stopped flicking after channel 582 because I ended up stuck in the Spanish language stations and got distracted by whether Carlos was going to tell Jose about being in love with his girlfriend Marta.

Lucky Springsteen didn't write his hit in 2011. “1001 channels and nothing on except Zumba infomercials” just doesn't have the same ring to it.

This article was first published in the Adelaide Sunday Mail's TV Guide on October 23, 2011.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Worst doggy Halloween costumes ever

There can be no greater indicator of a country's financial prosperity than the existence of an entire industry geared towards making comical costumes for dogs.

Which is why after an afternoon spent at my local Halloween costume shop (yes, I have a local one of those), I know that everyone at the Occupy Wall Street protests is wasting their time and should basically just go home, chill out and dress their dogs up as pumpkins.

Or S&M fetish mistresses.

This "Doginatrix" getup (10 points for the pun, doggy costume guys!) was just one of dozens on sale at the Halloween Adventure Shop on 4th Avenue yesterday for $20 a piece.

Now I'm not saying you've got problems, but if you feel the need to make your dog look like a leather-clad sexual deviant you might want to spend a bit of time assessing what's important to you. (Although dogs do bite stuff and piss all over everything so maybe a dominatrix outfit is kind of appropriate). (Note to costume manufacturers: I think most dogs already HAVE collars).

Want Rover to look sexy but not THAT sexy? Try this:

This is the gayest dog costume I've ever seen.

Oh no, wait...

I stand corrected.

Maybe "cracked out rent boy" is more your thing?

"I'll give YOU a bone, blah blah whatever just gimme five bucks, OK? Don't make me beg."

Or maybe you're one of those people who's all like "I want my dog to look like they're INVOLVED in the sex industry, but not being exploited by it."

Have I got the costume for you:

Crack baggy not included.

You know, I think the thing that stands out in all of these photos is the look of total indignity in each dog's eyes. Either that, or it's the effects of the photographer's sedative wearing off.

"You, sir, should be ashamed of yourself."

That's actually not a costume, that's a production still from the long-awaited Wonder Woman film. Christina Hendricks looks great, doesn't she? (I've always heard people going on about that woman's "puppies" - NOW I FINALLY GET IT!)

Meanwhile, if you're going to dress your dog as a character from a movie like, say, Pirates of the Caribbean, don't cheap out and get the generic "Pirates of the Seven Seas" version that makes Scruffy look like a waitress at a medieval theatre restaurant.

"Is sire having the beef or the chicken tonight?"

And for god's sake, pick a movie that people actually LIKE.

Wow, Antonio Banderas has really let himself go...

You can't go wrong with Star Wars.

Actually it seems you can.

Yep, you definitely can.

Meanwhile, I have just discovered THIS is on tomorrow, so expect further doggy costume updates over the weekend.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Australia's Next Top Model Recap: Season 7, Episode 11

Put on your limited edition Alex Perry sunglasses-hat, slap on your Madeline Signature Collection Eyeshadow and start waving your souvenir DAWSON HEARTS BOTOX flags - IT'S THE PENULTIMATE ANTM SEASON 7 RECAP!

She just needs a bottle of tequila and she's ready to go.

A musical interlude

While I patiently wait for someone to upload episode 11 of Australia's Next Top Model to the interwebtube so that I can recap it in hilarious fashion, let's all take a small musical interlude and remember last year:

I can only hope something as epic as this occurs at this year's finale. If the dyslexic work experience kid isn't available to stuff up the voting count, I suggest the following to keep things interesting:

  • Simon(e) and Neo to duet on Ebony and Ivory as all the other modelettes parade in swimwear.

  • Alex Perry to make his entrance on a giant pair of sunglasses, sort of like Kylie Minogue did for the Sydney Olympics.

  • Sarah Murdoch to announce the winner from inside an inflatable plastic ball floating on a wave pool.

  • Cassy to be announced as surprise winner.


Any other suggestions?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Why VHS is better than DVD

It's been sitting in a cardboard box in the spare room ever since we moved house almost a year ago, but I just can't bring myself to throw away our VCR.

After acquiring a DVD player, two video game consoles and a Foxtel box, our telly has more loose wires than Charlie Sheen – and no spare plug for our little silver tape player. So into the cardboard box it went.

Not that this is much of a problem. It's not like we're starved for entertainment in the casa di Starke. If we actually turned on one of the video games we bought at huge expense I'm sure we'd have hours of fun.

But despite our VCR's relative uselessness, I just can't bear to see it go.

Or the tapes. Combined, my boyfriend and I have about 30 old VHS tapes, ranging from the sublime (This is Spinal Tap, The Rocky Horror Picture Show) to the ridiculous (an absurd museum souvenir video of me dancing to Yothu Yindi when I was 14) and the completely unnecessary (What Women Want). (I blame my boyfriend for that one). (Yes, really. He actually bought it).

We've also got at least two copies of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (one $20 ex-rental) and a tape of Ferris Bueller's Day Off lovingly recorded off the television from around 1991, with priceless old ads still included.

I wish I knew how to quit you.

These days everything is on DVD, or Blu-Ray (whatever that is – I saw it in a shop once), or downloaded from the internet. And this is all fine and good. (Particularly downloading videos from the internet, which is better than good, it's completely ace, and I have no idea how we existed without it.)

But in the transition from VHS to DVD, I feel we've lost a lot of cool features. This is why I miss tapes:

1. A VHS tape will never stop right at the point where the detective is about to reveal who murdered the butler in the library just because it has a speck of dust on it.

2. You will never have to skip huge portions of the movie, and try to imagine what happened in them, because your VHS tape has a tiny scratch on it.

3. All playback problems with a VHS tape can be fixed by one of three simple methods. A) Flip open the top and blow on it, B) Fast forward and rewind repeatedly until the picture comes back, C) The tracking button.

4. Tapes don't force you to sit through endless government notices about pirating movies. Partly because pirating a VHS is bloody difficult so those notices don't usually exist, but mainly because you can actually fast forward a tape without getting a OPTION DISABLED notice on your screen.

5. You can stop a tape half way through and come back to the exact point you left off AT ANY TIME IN THE FUTURE. You can even take it out of the machine and watch another 10 videos, and put it back in its box and stick it up on the shelf and not come back to it for another six months – AND IT WILL STILL PLAY FROM WHERE YOU LEFT IT THE FIRST TIME. Magic.

6. If you drop a tape on the footpath, or sand, or gravel, or from a great height (say, off the side of a house) it will probably still play as normal.

7. When you're bored with a VHS, you can rip it open and wrap the tape around stuff like 1980s tinsel.

This article was first published in the Adelaide Sunday Mail's TV Guide on March 27, 2011.

TV that's sure to suck you in

I might be showing my generation here, but I can’t remember the last time I watched TV without my smartphone in my hand. If you are a fellow Gen Y-er, you’ll understand this is because I am permanently connected to Twitter and Facebook and cannot knowingly let a moment of television go by without comment, preferably with some sort of hashtag attached #tvaddict.

And I know I’m not the only one – try searching Twitter for hashtags like #XFactor or #Renovators or #QandA and you’ll see viewers are having an entire online discussion around their favourite shows about things like Guy Sebastian’s hairdo and Tony Jones’ sex appeal (which, for the record, is apparently high among left-leaning first year uni students).

No matter how small your loungeroom, social media has made watching television a truly collective experience. But nothing makes for a shared viewing experience like... well, a shared viewing experience.

Last Sunday American cable network HBO aired the much anticipated season four finale of cult vampire drama True Blood, and I joined about 200 others at a New York City bar to watch it.

A die-hard fan after discovering the show just two months ago and promptly ripping through all 47 episodes (yes, that practically equals a full two days of my life, what of it?), I was more than excited to put on my official True Blood T shirt (yes, I bought one, what of it?) and join the masses for the big event.

For those unfamiliar with the show: imagine an R rated Twilight as done by Quentin Tarantino but with gallons of blood, super-violence, sex scenes and a liberal dash of homoeroticism, plus laughs, and now multiply that by at least four. It’s gory, bloody, extremely sexy and completely addictive. Which makes it perfect to watch in a dimly lit bar surrounded by fellow obsessives and gin cocktails.

Having never been to a public TV screening before, I can now say that tweeting from the couch is nothing compared to actually watching a show with a crowd that loves it as much as you do. The drama is heightened, the thrills are more thrilling, the scary bits more frightening – it’s theatre on a flatscreen.

To my surprise, despite the flowing booze and the free vodka jelly shots for audience members to down “every time someone dies” (I had four), the crowd was respectful and quiet to properly watch the show. Well, quiet until one of the hunky male characters took off their shirt (“wooo!”) or two characters hooked up (“yeeeow!”) or a vampire got blasted into smithereens (“gasp!”).

And woe betide anyone who talked – one tipsy punter who dared to ask where the bathroom was was loudly shushed out of the room.

Given the drama on True Blood is powered by sex scenes, blood spilling, supernatural special effects and comedy, it’s the perfect show for group viewing; I’m not so sure other programs would fare as well. I can’t imagine a bar full of Better Homes and Gardens fans whooping it up with jelly shots every time Joanna Griggs puts on a different cardigan, say.

Why Adelaide is yet to embrace this sort of thing, I’m not sure. There are many great shows on Foxtel - True Blood, for one – that non-subscribers are missing out on. Why doesn’t some enterprising soul start screening them in a bar and make a night of it? Television has often been criticised for isolating people and destroying social interaction – well, what a way to make it social again.

The True Blood season four finale screens on Foxtel’s Showcase channel on Thursday, November 3.

This article was first published in the Adelaide Sunday Mail's TV Guide on September 19, 2011.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Financier, Midtown

Petstarr's coffee rule #128: Don't trust the French.

Financier Patisserie
1211 Avenue of the Americas
AREA: Midtown

Cafe au lait (Petra) - 1

What is the BCACB? Click here for an explanation.

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The French are very good at lots of things, like bread, fries, kissing and being rude to tourists. From what I've seen they're also extremely good at infiltrating America and opening up crap cafes. You can't walk 20 metres in New York without passing a "cafe-patisserie" (ie: bog standard bakery with cakes in the window) or stumbling over a handwritten "prix fixe" menu featuring hideous things like garlic snails marinated in stinky cheese.

Perhaps France's famous gift of Lady Liberty is actually a trojan horse from which crappy bistro owners have been secretly escaping since 1886.

"How the merde am I going to get down from here?"

However unlike their mediterranean cousins, the Italians, the French aren't very good at making coffee (see: Balthazar). Perhaps this is why Americans have embraced them so - two cultures joined in mutual coffee cluelessness.

Which brings me to Financier Patisserie, tucked in behind the News Corporation building on the Avenue of the Americas in midtown.

If you want to experience what it's like to fly from Sydney to Los Angeles at a fraction of the cost, and without any of the entertainment or the benefit of actually arriving in LA, then book yourself in for a solid 13 hours at Financier. For the full effect, bring along a thin blanket that's too short to cover your feet and try to sit next to an obese person.

Order a cafe au lait, sit back and enjoy the aroma of warm water and milk, just like Qantas makes.

I probably should have taken the lid off, huh...

My cup of warm milky water came with a mini madeleine cake sealed in a plastic wrapper, further enhancing the airline vibe. If I could have found the steward call button I would have congratulated them.

My "chevre salad" (or "chev-ray salad", if you're the girl behind the counter) also came in a plastic tub, inside of which was another mini plastic tub of dressing, a plastic knife and fork, salt and pepper and a serviette wrapped in - wait for it - plastic. Sadly there was no lemon scented towelette.

Still, my experience at Financier wasn't all bad - I didn't have to go through customs when I'd finished.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Australia's Next Top Model Recap: Season 7, Episode 10

You know when you buy a carton of eggs, and you put each egg through a gruelling set of challenges before smashing each of them on the floor while playing emotional guitar music, and then you only have six eggs left?


This metaphor totally works.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Starbucks: It had to be done

Try as you might, you just can't avoid the dark forces of the US coffee empire.

AREA: Everywhere

Cappuccino (Petra) - 2

What is the BCACB? Click here for an explanation.

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There are a few things you can be sure of in America: you are never more than 10 metres from a snack; if you choke in a restaurant, someone will know the Heimlich manoeuvre, and there will always be a Starbucks on the next corner.

Apparently there are 171 Starbucks outlets located in Manhattan - but I got that figure from a 2007 article so we can probably assume they've all mated by now and there's more like 5 million.

With this kind of neighbourhood penetration it is almost an inevitability that - despite how much of a coffee snob you may be, and despite how much you swore you never would - you will end up in one, if only on the excuse that you want to use their free wi-fi.

So it was that I found myself ordering a double-shot cappuccino surrounded by the new season's mix-and-match separates in Macy's Herald Square, a department store which has TWO Starbucks outlets inside to placate the exhausted shopping masses.

Don't be fooled by that wench on the label. Evil lurks inside.

The last time I tried Starbucks was three years ago during their failed venture in Adelaide, a city which already has a coffee shop on every corner and, despite its otherwise bogan tendencies, prefers a decent espresso to a mug of warmed milk that may or may not have had a passing interaction with a bean.

I think you can see where this review is heading. I do not like Starbucks coffee. I appreciate that they might have been the first major chain to introduce Americans to an alternative to the dripolator, but when the alternative tastes like warmed-up dishwater and costs $5, I'm not sure that's reason to celebrate.

The best I can say about my cappuccino was that it was hot. Although after four hours of shopping like I was training for the Retail Olympics I was so desperate for coffee I would have licked percolator swill out of an ashtray so, with that in mind, Starbucks was fine. I hate to think what it would have been like without the "extra shot".

It also had that signature "pond scum" foam on top, sans chocolate powder.

All this considered, I still rate the Starbucks cappuccino higher than the latte from SoHo hipster favourite Balthazar, which just goes to prove that wearing ironic glasses does not necessarily make you a better barista.

I think it's safe to say I won't be making Starbucks a regular coffee haunt, even though their free wi-fi is very useful. Not just because their cappuccino wasn't that great, but for the following reasons:

1. Calling small "tall", medium "grande" and large "venti". THIS IS SO UNNECESSARY I CAN'T EVEN. HOW IS MEDIUM GRANDE?

Unconfirmed reports suggest Starbucks board member Tom Cruise was strongly in favour of the company's cup naming convention.

2. Pumpkin spiced latte is very, very wrong, Thanksgiving or not.

3. Ditto for salted caramel mocha.

4. LOOK AT THEIR PHOTO OF A CAPPUCCINO. LOOK AT IT. It breaks so many coffee rules it might as well be a milkshake.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Lost in translation

``SO, what part of England are you from?"

This is the phrase an Australian in America hears the most, after "Pardon?" and "Sorry, what?"

Usually it's delivered with a knowing smile, as if to say "See, I'm a well-travelled individual, I can pick an Englishman when I hear one."

And then you have to let them down gently that, actually, you're from Australia. AUSTRALIA. No, not Austria. It's in the southern hemisphere. Yes, with the kangaroos, that's the one. For some reason, it seems most Americans are only able to detect two accents - their own, and what they think is British.

I guess you can't really blame them. Most people are exposed to other accents through TV shows and films, and most English-speaking TV shows and films come from America or Britain. They just don't hear Aussie accents here often enough to detect the differences between us and the Poms. The only Australian accent most Americans are familiar with is Steve Irwin, so unless you leap about shouting "Crikey, look at that croc!" they'll just assume you're a member of the royal family.

Now I'm worried that, after a month living in New York, the accent-deaf American ear is rubbing off on me. The other night at a party I asked a girl how long it had been since she'd left London.

"I'm from Sydney," she deadpanned. (In my defence, Young MC's Bust A Move was playing very loudly in the background, and it's impossible to really hear someone speaking when that song is on, particularly during the verse about the girl dressed in yellow who says "hello".)

Of course most of the time Australians are lucky if they can be understood at all in America. Last week I totally perplexed a waitress by asking for a "Diet Coke", which she obviously heard as "doy-ut cark" and, rightly, had no idea how to respond. I could have been threatening to hold up the place in Lithuanian, for all she knew.

After three goes I finally had to do my best "American girl ordering a Diet Coke" impression just to get a drink.

Some Australians have gone to great lengths to avoid acquiring an American accent.

My American friends have also taken great delight in parodying my pronunciation of the word "no".

"Noy! Noy! No-eee!" they shriek, collapsing in laughter, prompting me to pout something like "OY DAHNT SAY NOY, STOP UT!", which doesn't really help my cause.

My partner, also Australian, has requested "sewing needles" and been given instant noodles, asked for "two bowls" and received two glasses of Coke, and a simple request for "chicken on rice" - while pointing to the large "chicken on rice" sign on the restaurant's wall took a good five minutes to resolve.

All of this has led me to finally understand why so many Aussies mysteriously pick up an American twang after living in the States for a while. It's not because they're wankers who want to show off where they've been living. Well, maybe in part. But, mainly, it's because they want to order a Diet Coke and actually receive it, instead of a blank look (and a possible visit from the authorities).

It's because they don't want to mend a patch on their pants with instant noodles.

And it's because, when it comes down to it, anything is better than being mistaken for a Pom.

This article was first published in the Adelaide Sunday Mail on Sunday, October 9, 2011.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Australia's Next Top Model Recap: Season 7, Episode 9

So, remember in episode 8 how all the modelettes went to NIDA and got acting lessons and learned how to cry on demand and the ENTIRE HOUR was FILLED WITH OSCAR WORTHY, CHAIR-GRIPPING DRAMA?

Well hang onto your hats, because episode 9 kicks off with an event so exciting, so thrilling, so budget-bustingly huge it makes last week's drama festival look like the 2010 nativity play at Burrumbuttock primary school (which had to be cancelled halfway through act 1 when three Year 4s were hospitalised after one of the sheep accidentally ate some myrrh and attacked the manger).

Yes, the modelettes get A VISIT FROM SARAH MURDOCH.

Are you thrilled?

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Worst cooking show ever

People complain that we have too many cooking shows these days, too many TV chefs going on about deglazing and locavore produce and showing us how to form a quenelle.

Being a rabid fan of all things foodie (including deglazing, although I still haven't quite worked out what a quenelle is) I would normally scoff at this suggestion.

However having just discovered the worst cooking show since Peter Russell Clarke swore at those eggs on Youtube, I have to say I concur.

We DO have too many TV chefs. Two too many, in fact. Specifically, those two insufferable blonde food arrangers on Foxtel's Four Ingredients Australia.

They made this cake using just one ingredient - a store-bought cake. INGENIOUS.

You may already be familiar with the recipe books the show takes its name from - self-published by Queensland mums Rachael Bermingham and Kim McCosker, “4 Ingredients” went to the top of the best seller list in 2008 and spawned two follow-up books, the improbably titled “4 Ingredients 2” and “4 Ingredients Gluten Free”. (I guess when you only have four ingredients to work with, removing gluten gives you more room to move).

I first came across the book about a year ago at the house of a foodie friend of mine.

“Quick, easy and delicious recipes - all using only four or fewer ingredients” it blared from the cover, above a photograph of two very smiley blonde women in a very shiny kitchen, looking very pleased with themselves.

Suddenly my friend lurched into the room, grabbed the book from my hands and shrieked “I DIDN'T BUY THAT – IT WAS GIVEN TO ME, DON'T THINK I BOUGHT THAT”, before begging me not to tell anyone what I'd seen.

Having now seen Ms Bermingham and Ms McCosker in action, I can understand why she was so embarrassed by my discovery.

The Four Ingredients ladies are not TV chefs. They're barely even TV cooks. Restricted by their ridiculous concept, most of their recipes are simply an assembly of - usually store-bought - food items, with an oven possibly involved before the thing gets to the plate.

In furniture terms, if Gordon Ramsay is Chippendale, the Four Ingredients women are IKEA. And frankly, I'd rather eat an IKEA sofa than their “Curry Pie” which calls for sliced bread (one), milk (two) and a “can of sweet curry” (three).

Call me crazy, but I thought cooking shows were actually supposed to teach you HOW TO COOK. Are you actually teaching anything about food if all you're doing is opening a can of something and putting it on a piece of bread?

Apart from being completely vomit-inducing, it's terrifically unhealthy to constantly rely on pre-made sauces and cans of curry simply to keep under a four ingredient limit. Take their “easy casserole”: chopped steak (one), a bag of frozen vegetables (two) and V8 juice (three).

Firstly, I think I can safely say without even needing to cook it that this would taste disgusting. Secondly, bags of frozen veg always contain cauliflower, and who the hell wants that in a casserole? Thirdly, and more importantly, is it not a false economy to choose frozen veg over fresh just to keep the ingredient count down? Fresh vegetables would not only taste better, they'd be much cheaper.

Last night on the show I saw them make pesto lamb chops, which is composed of (you guessed it) store-bought pesto sauce spread onto a lamb chop. SURPRISE! Excuse me, but that's not a recipe, that's a serving suggestion. Do we really need a TV show to tell us to spread one thing onto an obvious other thing? That's like Jamie Oliver introducing his “lovely jubbly brekky recipe” and then showing us how to pour milk onto Cornflakes.

Apparently using only four ingredients in every recipe is supposed to make life quicker and easier. If you ask me it makes it boring, expensive and bordering on unhealthy. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to make dinner – WITH NINE INGREDIENTS.

This article was first published in the Adelaide Sunday Mail's TV Guide on January 16, 2011.

3D TV a failed spectacle

I am notoriously bad at predicting trends.

You know those famous stories about the recording exec who turned down the Beatles, and the publishing director who canned the manuscript for Harry Potter? I'm like that. I remember hearing the Spice Girls in 1996 and thinking “One hit wonders”. I thought Friends wouldn't last the first season.

So it's with some trepidation that I declare my latest trend prediction: 3D television = FAIL.

I may be wrong about this (and indeed, history would prove that to be quite likely) but I just can't imagine people sitting down to watch their evening's telly wearing a giant pair of specs.

"Wow, this episode of Q&A is AWESOME!"
"It's like Tony Jones is IN the room with us!">

I have to wear glasses to watch television already and let me tell you, it's not fun – particularly when you want to lie on your side. Now they want me to put ANOTHER pair of specs on top? “Four eyes” never seemed so apt.

Not only this, but news this week revealed these battery-powered goggles will cost upwards of $150 each – despite the fact that they look exactly like the kind you can buy at the servo for about 10 bucks.

Multiply that for a typical family of four and you're up for at least $600 on top of the cost of the television itself just for everyone to watch re runs of Three and a Half Men together – albeit a version where Charlie Sheen's popped collar pops RIGHT OUT AT YOU (and whether that's value for money or not, I'll leave you to judge).

This leads me to the same question I asked when all those fancy LCD and plasma screen TVs came onto the market years ago – will people really pay more just to watch the same crap old shows in a slightly different format?

Of course, exponents of 3D TV will claim you won't get the same old shows. They say there'll be a whole new crop of amazing programs specially designed for the 3D experience, like Avatar the mini series and... er... Avatar 2 and... um... Cooking with Avatar? Avatar Idol?

Which is all good and well, but given James Cameron took 15 years to get the technology right the first time round it would seem we're in for a bit of a wait. In the meantime – assuming people start buying 3D tellies in earnest – it's likely the networks will just hire a bunch of techno geeks to render all their regular shows with 3D effects to fill the gap.

Here's hoping they start with The Biggest Loser – imagine THAT in glorious 3D! All the sweat, tears and chunder popping out from the screen as the contestants heave their way around the gym.

Or RPA – Joe gets his finger stuck in a can of beans and has it surgically removed RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOUR FACE!

Or Q&A – it'd be like having Tony Jones RIGHT THERE in your living room! WOW!

Thanks Mr Cameron, but while 20 to 1 is still on the air I think I'll stick to boring old 2D viewing – no one needs to see Bert Newton in that much detail.

This article first appeared in the Adelaide Sunday Mail's TV Guide on March 7, 2010.

She's the man, as long as it plugs in

Despite anatomical evidence to the contrary, I've always been something of the man about the house.

I don't mean I like to lounge about my house in a smoking jacket, fake beard and y fronts. I only do that on Tuesdays.

I mean that for most of my life, I've been better than the average female at many typically blokey things – like fixing computers, tuning televisions and working out which cables go into which holes on the back of the stereo – and have therefore been called upon by nearly everyone I know to fix some sort of household problem at some stage of our relationship.

My entire family and many of my friends owe their home entertainment systems to my in-depth knowledge of RCA plugs and HDMI inputs.

It's possible my mum and sister would just give up on television after the analogue switch-off if I wasn't around to install their set top boxes for them. Dad's already a lost cause – I gave up on him after he once tried to play “the other side” of a CD.
Being an honorary bloke is something of a badge of pride for me, because I am generally utterly crap at REALLY manly things like building a pergola or reverse parallel parking in one fluid movement.

So it was that when I arrived home from work on Thursday to find the dishwasher full of dirty water and blinking at me, my first thought was “I can fix that.”

The sensible part of my brain responded: “You SHOULD be able to fix that, but maybe you can't.”

And then: “Really, maybe you should call a plumber.”

And then: “No, seriously. Call a plumber.”

But it was too late. Screwdriver in hand, I had already started unhooking the drainage hose from the U bend under the sink.

“Can't be too difficult,” I thought, undoing the input hose from the water tap, smugly congratulating myself on remembering to turn off the water first.

“Look how professional you are! See, you don't need a stupid plumber,” the non sensible part of my brain jeered at the sensible part as I heaved the entire dishwasher out from under the bench, only to discover that didn't actually help at all.

The dirty water remained defiantly on the floor of the dishwasher, gurgling around the seemingly clear drainage hole.

A broken dishwasher is still better than this.

Only one thing for it – scoop the bilge water out and into the sink. And also into the cupboard under the sink, and over all of the recycling, because you disconnected the hose, remember?

“Told you to get a plumber,” sensible brain grumbled.

My next great idea was to determine where the blockage was by filling a cup with water and pouring it down the U Bend. And again, into the cupboard under the sink and all over the recycling because I forgot what just happened three seconds ago.

“IF YOU WERE A TV I WOULD HAVE FIXED YOU BY NOW!” I raged at the machine, angry at my inability to instantly acquire plumbing skills from the surrounding air.

So I did what all people my age do these days when faced with a problem they can't solve. I asked Google.

“All our dishwashers are programmed to drain at the start of each cycle,” said the manufacturer's website.

“If your dishwasher is not draining, start a wash cycle and stop it after 45 seconds.”

So I pushed the wash button. Like magic, the dishwasher did what the internet said it would - it drained. Into the cupboard under the sink and all over the recycling, because I had forgotten to hook the hose back up to the U bend first.

So in essence, Google fixed my dishwasher.

Don't tell any men though – they might revoke my club membership.

This article was first published in the Adelaide Sunday Mail's Sunday liftout on August 7, 2011.

Pure water torture

We've got a new swear word round our place - “bosch”, and derivatives thereof.


The usual accompaniment to the swearing is a cold, wet, barefoot walk round the side of the house to fiddle with aforementioned heater followed by a sprint back to the bathroom in a rather pointless effort to “save water”.

Like this, but with less smiling.

You see, at some point in the last few months, our water heater has become cursed. There's no two ways about it. One day it was working, the next - it had developed a crushing personality disorder that rendered it all but useless except in the most particular of circumstances.

Some examples of circumstances in which it does NOT like to produce hot water are:

three seconds after you have removed all your clothes and are shivering next to the shower with one hand on the hot tap
three seconds after you have removed all your clothes and are shivering next to the bath with one hand on the hot tap
any point at which you need hot water for an essential purpose and it is a) raining, b) hailing, c) snowing or d) all three

On the other hand, it is virtually guaranteed to instantly produce hot water when a plumber is looking at it. Sadly this is not a cost effective solution to the problem.

It all started when my boyfriend and I went to Melbourne for a weekend. Maybe the water heater got jealous, maybe it felt lonely. Maybe it died of a broken heart. Or valve. Whatever happened, we endured freezing cold prison showers for days after we got back until we could get a plumber out to replace the thing.

“Nah, you can't put a new one there,” the plumber said when he saw the position of the old heater. “That's against new building regulations. Gotta be at least 500 mil from an adjacent overhang and no more than 300 mil vertically from a horizontal protrudance.”

I nodded sagely, as if I understood what he was going on about.

To replace the heater meant putting the new one on the opposite side of the house and running new pipes up through the roof, he said, all at a cost of about $3000.

This, I understood.

Fortunately, the plumber identified the problem with the old heater and got it working again with a few new parts. But he didn't reckon on the curse. Within 24 hours it was back at it, acting all moody and being a bosching nuisance. Until plumber number two turned up, then it worked perfectly.

“It's a bit hard for me to er, fix it if, er, it's working,” he said, before fiddling with a few nozzles, twisting a few wires and going home.

The water heater waited approximately 30 seconds after the plumber's van had left the driveway, then promptly switched off again. I swear I heard it laugh.

Soon the morning shower ritual became like a segment on one of those bad Japanese gameshows where contestants are made to chew cacti or rub chilli powder on their nether regions - a weird russian roulette involving either an arctic waterfall or a scalding hot spray.

The first five minutes of every shower had to be spent with one hand in the freezing downpour, trying to detect a change in temperature as your arm went numb.

(So ingrained is this behaviour now that while visiting my mum's the other day I was actually impressed when hot water came out of her kitchen tap less than two minutes after switching it on. I felt like a medieval peasant out of some bad sci-fi time travel movie. “Arr, what be this magick? This be the devil's work!”)

Weeks of this sort of thing will tend to drive you mad, which is why by the time plumber number three visited us last week, I was beginning to feel slightly deranged.

I think I scared him a bit as I tried to explain the intricacies of the curse on our water heater.

“It works four times out of 10,” I said, “But it works nine times out of 10 if you take the cover off first. And sometimes if you blow on it, but only if you twist that knob at the same time. And it helps if you've already used it once before that day, but not more than three times.”

Sadly he had much the same reaction as plumber number two. And so the bosching water heater continues to not bosching work properly. Bosch it.

This article was first published in the Adelaide Sunday Mail's Sunday liftout on July 17, 2011.

Cruise control

At the risk of offending a large group of people I'm going to go out on a limb and say that people who regularly holiday on cruiseships are, shall we say, cut from a different cloth. Hawaiian print cotton, usually.

There's something about the type of person who goes in for that whole culture - parking oneself on a ship and watching the world gliding by from a deckchair – that I just don't get. I don't understand those cruisers who don't even bother to go ashore, ignoring any local sights in favour of a 24/7 view of the all-you-can-eat buffet. Why don't you just book a hotel room somewhere and lock yourself in? It's cheaper.

Maybe it's because they get to be kings and queens of a giant vessel for a month that many cruisers also seem to have an enlarged sense of entitlement.

"I bet all the people on that boat are jerks."

A friend who recently went on a cruise scheduled to take in Japan said some passengers had angrily demanded their money back because the March tsunami had forced a cancellation of the stop. How very dare those Japanese!

I had my own run-in with crazy cruisers from the first day of my cruise holiday in Italy. We were being taken by bus from Rome to the port of Civitavecchia to board the ship when suddenly, drama struck.

“Hey, the driver is nodding off!” shrieked a woman up the front.

He WAS driving slowly, but his eyes were open and he certainly wasn't veering over the road. A well-groomed American man sprung from the back row to investigate.

In his shiny white sneakers, Nike sports socks, neatly ironed cargo shorts and polo shirt, this guy could have stepped out of an ad for “Wealthy American Traveller” magazine. He was the type of guy that touts hone in on the second they step off the bus. A typical cruiser.

“Excuse me sir, are you FEELING OK? Are you FALLING ASLEEP?” he shouted slowly, in that way people do when they don't speak a foreign language, as if increasing the volume somehow makes them easier to understand.

This elicited a series of annoyed grunts from the driver, accompanied by a dismissive wave of the hand and a swift increase in volume of the Europop on the radio.

“Does anyone speak Italian? How do you say 'go faster'?” Nike socks yelled down the bus.

Various passengers started chirping out “Rapido? Rapido! Moo-ey rapido?”- even after we passed a horrific accident in which a sports car had hurtled off the road and into a tree, presumably because its driver was travelling “rapido” at the time.

Unfortunately for Nike socks, who had by now appointed himself boss of the bus, the driver was a fat, balding Italian man who was not interested in discussing his driving abilities with American tourists.

He also had a very respectable handlebar moustache, a toy stuffed rabbit nailed to his dashboard and was clearly not falling asleep. I secretly hoped he'd roll up his sleeve to expose a swathe of dirty Italian tattoos before headbutting the guy.

After about 20 minutes of various passengers chanting “rapido” at random times, and the driver continuing to ignore them, we passed a sign saying “Civitavecchia – 3km”.

“Well, I think we made it!” announced Nike socks, as if he'd personally guided us through a war zone unharmed and now deserved a medal.

“Now let's STEP ON THE GAS!” he thundered.

Considering we had more than two hours to board our ship which was currently 3km away this seemed unnecessary.

Suddenly, a woman declared she had seen the ship in the harbour, and we'd passed it.

These people, who couldn't read Italian road signs and had probably never been to this town in their life, were now concerned the driver had missed the turn off.

“He's missed the turn off! We've passed the town! I can see the boat back there!” they all started shrieking.

“ALRIGHT, LET'S GO, RAPIDO!” exploded Nike socks, who had just about reached the end of his tether, unlike the driver who was nonchalantly trying to tune the radio.

“We passed Chi-veckia! WE PASSED CHI-VECKIA!”

A quick glance at a road sign revealed we had indeed passed the town – to access the roadway for large vehicles. Five minutes later we pulled into port.

Job done, Nike socks returned to his seat at the back of the bus to boast about his achievement in navigating us all safely to the port he couldn't pronounce and didn't actually know how to get to. Just in time for the buffet.

This article was first published in the Adelaide Sunday Mail's Sunday liftout on May 15, 2011.

We just clicked

The other day I bought a gizmo on the internet. It took about 10 minutes, cost me just $8 including postage, and I did it in my pyjamas at 11pm.

In terms of convenience, you can't really get much better than that. (And before we go any further, no, it wasn't THAT kind of gizmo, thanks very much. I already have two SlapChops).

By contrast, I tried to buy the same gizmo from a shop the previous week and it was a pain. It took me 40 minutes to find a park and battle the crowds before I could even locate one, and when I did it was a grossly inflated $40.

Not that I could have bought it if I'd wanted to, as it was in one of those mega electrical stores that sells everything from popcorn makers to computers where the three overworked staff are permanently tied up with clueless shoppers trying to explain the difference between gigabytes and megahertz and why none of that matters anyway if they only want a laptop to look at photos of their grandkids.

And it goes without saying (I hope) that none of this was achieved in my pyjamas.

The moral of the story is: Internet shopping is quick, convenient, usually cheaper and allows consumers to buy anything, any time - and now with iPhones, iPads and smart phone technology, anywhere.

These ladies normally shop online too, but their computer crashed.

But Australian retailers still seem to be wondering why shoppers are turning off traditional storefronts. Stores that are only open from 9 to 5 (except for late night shopping days, granted). Stores that you have to fight to find a park for. Stores that never seem to have any staff to help you. Stores that have to drastically mark-up the cost of things to cover their overheads.

They have long complained about internet shopping and how it's costing local jobs, how it's unfair, how it should be taxed, yada yada yada.

The fact is, if Australian retailers had jumped on board the online shopping bandwagon 10 years ago, they might not be in this mess now.

Electrical giant Harvey Norman this week announced it will launch an online version of the store in a few weeks, which is great news, even if CEO Gerry Harvey did sound rather like he'd been railroaded into it and would prefer the internet to just go away, thanks very much.

In his announcement, Harvey complained there was "no history of anyone making money" through internet retail. (I assume he was talking locally, unless he's somehow never heard of Amazon, BookDepository or iTunes.)

If that's true, perhaps that's because Australians have a) never really tried to sell things online and b) never been very good at it.

Our two biggest department stores - Myer and David Jones - mostly use their websites to promote their catalogues and store locations, only offering a small selection of goods in special "shop online" sections you have to squint to find.

Compare this to American department stores Nordstrom ( and Macys (, where the entire website functions as the shop (how novel), and the benefits of using it are made obvious to the shopper: Free shipping! Spring sale! Online specials! Aussie shops take note: It's 2011. You don't need to tell customers to "click here" anymore. Just give it to us.

Overseas retailers are winning Australian consumers' dollars not only because they're cheaper - they offer more stuff and they know how to sell it to savvy web users. It's not rocket science.

The thing is, there are drawbacks to buying things from international sellers that local retailers could seize on if they were smart.

Postage from overseas can be expensive and slow - nothing takes the gloss off your "instant purchase" quicker than having to wait five weeks for it to arrive. You wouldn't have that problem with a local purchase.

Plus you don't always know who you're buying from, or what they might do with your credit card details. But local brands like Myer, Harvey Norman and DJs already have a level of trust built-in that will go a long way with shoppers.

I'm glad Harvey Norman is taking the plunge into the big scary world of online retail. It's about time for the others to stop shivering on the shore and jump in too.

This article was first published in the Adelaide Sunday Mail's Sunday liftout on April 3, 2011.

Nightmare on Hindley Street

Have you ever watched one of those horror movies where someone has been locked away in a room somewhere working for hours and hours, avoiding all outside communication, and when they finally emerge they discover the world has been taken over by slobbering, stumbling, aggressive, psychotic zombies?

Have you ever thought “I wonder what that would be like”?

Well I can tell you exactly what it's like, because it happened to me last Saturday. And it's called Hindley St.

It was 2.30am, I'd just finished work and ordering a taxi on the phone was proving impossible. So I decided to walk to Hindley St. If only I'd waited.

Walking through Adelaide's deserted streets it was hard to imagine the gory battlezone that awaited me just two blocks away - although in hindsight, signs of the impending apocalypse were there. Like the bloke who had his girlfriend in a headlock on Leigh St while her friends shrieked and thwacked him with handbags, and police tried to separate them all. That wasn't usual.

Or the bloke vomiting just outside Topham Mall, still clutching a stubbie. That didn't normally happen.

If this had been a horror film, audiences would have been smacking their foreheads at about this point and yelling at me to turn around and go back to the office. But I persevered, albeit clutching my handbag a little bit tighter.

And suddenly there it was – the heaving, sweating, puking, neon-lit horrorshow that is Hindley St.

A mass of slurring, wide-eyed zombies stumbling along the footpath and spilling onto the road, falling in front of cars and shouting obscenities at anything that moved. Nine different soundtracks from nine different bars colliding in mid air like a miasma and smashing into drunk teenagers stuffing their faces with McDonald's. Chubby girls in cheap lycra dresses riding so high you could see their even cheaper undies, men with shirts undone and guts spilling over their jeans.

At least they still have their shoes on.

Nightmare on Hindley St.

Within 30 seconds of stepping onto the footpath, a fight broke out between three men just a few metres away from me.

“WHO ARE YOU CALLING A ****?” yelled one as the other two started muscling up.

Two cops strode over as I swiftly moved further down the street, still looking in vain for a taxi.

Then I noticed more police, and ambos, and about 20 onlookers had gathered around the nightclub across the way. A man lay on a stretcher, covered in bloody splotches that looked suspiciously like stab wounds. He was wheeled into the back of the ambulance as I ran to the first free cab I saw – only to have it snatched by a man with a bloody hole in his jeans knee.

I spent seven whole minutes on Hindley St last Saturday night, and it was seven minutes too long. I felt threatened, unsafe and yes, a little bit scared.
What the hell is going on here? What has HAPPENED to Adelaide's west?

Ten years ago, even five years ago, my friends and I used to go clubbing on Hindley St - but I can't remember it ever being as bad as this. I can't remember ever feeling unsafe just walking along the footpath. I can't remember ever being physically repulsed by a street before.

Sure, I accept that as a tired, sober office worker I was quite the anomaly on Adelaide's most notorious party spot in the wee hours of Saturday morning – clearly Hindley St is not designed for people like me. I get that.

But is that really a defence for the absolute cesspit the strip seems to have become?

Is it really good enough to have to accept that “if you don't like it, don't go there”?

Shouldn't we be able to expect more from what is touted as one of the major after-dark attractions of our city?

This article was first published in the Adelaide Sunday Mail's Sunday liftout on Feburary 13, 2011.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Wait for it, wait for it...

I bought a dishwasher last week.

It's shiny and silver, and it has five different wash cycles and an internal heat fan and buttons that light up. It's my first ever dishwasher, and it's fantastic.

It's also currently sitting in a cardboard box somewhere – possibly on a container ship in the middle of the ocean, or maybe on a factory floor in Shenzhen underneath a sign that says “for dispatch” in Mandarin - and has been for the past two weeks.
And unless someone pays attention to that sign some time soon or speeds up that boat, I expect it will remain so for a further three – at least, that's what the store I bought it from tells me.

That's five weeks to get a dishwasher from a shop down the road into my kitchen. I suspect it would be quicker to study advanced electronics and build my own.

This guy ordered a new fridge in 1987. It'll be loaded onto the boat in China next Monday.

Not only am I waiting more than a month to get my shiny new appliance, but I'm also currently in a three week long queue to see an eye specialist, it's taken me two weeks to get in to see the dentist and I'm half way through a four week wait to get the internet connected.

And I am about to tear my hair out. It's a feeling similar to road rage, only without the car or the road. Just the rage. Boiling, red hot wait-rage.

Now, I know that having been born in 1980 I'm technically a member of Generation Y – which basically means I use Facebook a lot and have a short attention sp... LOOK AT THAT BIRD!

It also apparently means I am more impatient than most. (Hey, when you get used to downloading a movie within seconds of having decided you want to watch it, it's not much of a leap to constantly expect immediate satisfaction.)

But I'm sure it's not just 20-somethings like me who think waiting for anything
these days is beyond the pale. Chronic impatience is a pan-generational, modern affliction. And I blame technology.

We weren't like this 15 years ago.

Before email, before Google, before mobile phones and instant text messaging when we didn't have the ability to contact everyone at all hours of the day no matter where they were, it was quite normal to wait for things. You want to write a message to someone? Put pen to paper, whack it in an envelope, stick it in the big red box and wait a few days.

You want an answer to a question? Go to the library, take the time to look it up in a book.

You need to talk to someone? Call them at home. If they don't answer, it's because they're out. So wait. Then call them again.

Back in 1995 if you arranged to meet friends somewhere and they were late, you had to wait. You couldn't just move on and text them to say you were going to a different place, meet you later. How did we all cope with that? These days it's just unthinkable.

We've all gotten so used to getting everything exactly when we want it – be it someone on the other end of the mobile, or instant cash from a machine in a wall, or an answer to a tricky pub trivia question via Google – that it drives us mad when things take any longer than “immediately”.

It seems wrong to be this way, to feel aggrieved when things don't happen exactly when we want them to. It seems somehow childish and petulant. Something we should all be above.

Perhaps we all need to cast our minds back a decade, remember how we used to cope with waiting just fine, and relax a little more.

Still, five weeks. That's just ridiculous.

This article was first published in the Adelaide Sunday Mail's Sunday liftout on September 26, 2010.

Retro fashion fallout

If you're over the age of 25 and are labouring under the delusion that you're still “cool”, I've got news for you: you're probably not.

(I say “probably” in case this magazine has somehow found its way into Johnny Depp's loungeroom and he is currently reading it, in which case – hi! You are still cool.) (Also, please don't make any more pirate movies, thanks.)

I hate to break it to you, but unless you're regularly featured on Rage or in the credits of Quentin Tarantino films, once you find yourself in the back end of your 20s you automatically become so uncool you might as well be your own parents. Any older and you might as well open your own socks and sandals boutique, selling novelty ties on the side – THAT's how cool you are.

You may feel permanently 21 and hip, but if you're ever in doubt of your true age pick up a copy of your local street press. You'll find out pretty quickly just how old you really are.

Take me, for example. I may be only a few weeks shy of 30, but after leafing through some local street rags recently I have discovered I am actually about 82.

Whereas 10 years ago I'd gladly read about new bands, new songs and what brand of sneakers we should all currently be wearing, this time after flipping through a number of feature articles, fashion spreads and social photos my only thoughts were “What the hell band is that?” and “That girl should really put on a cardy”. I'm only a few steps away from whacking youngsters with my handbag for not standing up for adults on the bus.

I shouldn't have been surprised – I've been aware of my gradual journey down the slippery slope to dagdom for some time. It all started about three years ago when I noticed floral vests for sale in a shop in Rundle Mall. And young girls were buying them. FLORAL VESTS. Worse than that, they were teaming them with high waisted stone-wash denim shorts and patterned tights – willingly! It was like a long lost video clip from Girlfriend - I kept expecting Robyn Laou to burst out of the changerooms and for everyone to break into a few bars of “Take It From Me”.

It was then I realised the unthinkable had happened - the 90s had become cool again. All of a sudden two decades had passed, and snap-in-the-crotch bodysuits were suddenly de jour once more. And the trend hasn't slowed down: now every time I venture into the mall it's like I'm being haunted by the Ghosts of Fashions Past.

My mother warned me about this day. I remember when I was about 15 raiding her wardrobe and finding a heap of 70s fashion pieces hidden at the back – leather coats, platform shoes, bodyshirts, flares. I'd struck the jackpot.

“Why didn't you TELL me you had all this cool stuff?” I wailed.

“Darling, it's not cool when you actually lived through it the first time,” she said.

Now, surrounded by teenage boys in tight bleached jeans and Wayfarers and girls in sunflower print dresses and floppy hats, I finally understand what she meant. None of it looks cool to me, which of course just means that I am now utterly, drastically and irreparably UNcool.

C'est la vie. I guess it had to happen – we can't all be Johnny Depp. But if I ever see someone in happy pants or Hypercolour T shirt, I really will whack them with my handbag.

This article was first published in the Adelaide Sunday Mail's Sunday liftout on October 5, 2010.

Hungry? Can it!

I don't want to alarm anyone, but I think the end is nigh.

I know those crazy old men with hand written signs have been predicting it for ages, but now I really think they may be right – for I have seen the end of days, and yea, it is a sandwich in a can.

That's one of the signs of the Apocalypse, right? Plagues and pestilence, four horsemen, and a sandwich in a can?

There I was, minding my own business, when the "Canned-wich" (you have to admit it's got a catchy name) popped up on television - a fluffy white bun spread with jam and peanut butter, wrapped in plastic and shoved into a can. It keeps for years. Apparently they're going to sell it in vending machines.

If your reaction to this news is "When?" then you should probably stop reading right about now.

If however your reaction to this is similar to mine - ie: screaming a la Janet Leigh in Psycho and shouting "WON'T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?" - then you'll agree urgent action is required.

Frankly, we should have seen this coming.

We Australians love to think of ourselves as foodies – we pride ourselves on our fresh produce and farmers markets, and continually pat ourselves on the back for our world famous seafood and meat. And then we let a canned sandwich into the country. (I mean really – with all this fuss about boat people, you'd think they could handle a bloody sandwich. Border security's got a lot to answer for.)

I'm not saying we shouldn't be proud of the excellent food we do in this country, but let's not kid ourselves – we're far from “fresh food people”.

Travel to France or Italy, Thailand, Vietnam or Malaysia and you'll understand what fresh food is. The French would rather guillotine themselves than eat canned bread – they buy a fresh loaf from the bakery every morning. We Aussies buy a block of squishy factory made stodge each week and bung it in the freezer for toast.

Italians wouldn't dream of keeping plasticky, pre-sliced cheese in their fridge – why would they when practically every street corner has a fully-stocked deli on it, filled with fresh hand-made cheeses, cured meats and pasta?

Feel peckish walking down a street in Adelaide and you'd be lucky to find a coffee shop to buy a sandwich in (canned or otherwise) – and even then, only if it's lunch time. Try that in almost any Asian country and you'll be spoiled for choice at any time of the day with vendors cooking satays to order, or whipping up bowls of noodle soup with fresh herbs, or filling crusty bread rolls with salad, chicken and herbs for the perfect hunger fix.

Let's face it, for all the fuss and bluster about Australia's love affair with cooking, food and all things MasterChef, that show was still being propped up by ads for things like “chicken in a can” and the frozen chicken parmy meal in a box (just like a pub meal – but sadder, and lonelier).

Apart from being fairly revolting concepts, aren't these products just redundant? Why buy a frozen schnitzel when all you need is meat, egg and breadcrumbs to make a fresh one? Why buy canned chicken when you can buy an ACTUAL roast chicken and cut it up?

If that's not bad enough, I saw a self-heating can of hot chocolate at my local supermarket this week. Pull a tab, give it a shake, wait three minutes and presto – piping hot beverage. Why is this product necessary? The only situation I can think of in which it might be useful is if James Bond had to defuse a milk-soluble nuclear bomb and only had two minutes and 58 seconds to do it.

Actually, there is one other situation in which all of these products become useful – the Apocalypse. Better stock up your bunkers, I hear it's heading our way.

This article was first published in the Adelaide Sunday Mail's Sunday liftout on August 15, 2010.