Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Mini plastic food
I know I should've stopped buying toys a loooooong time ago, but how could I resist the Re-Ment Disney 1950s Cafe Set? Re-Ment makes collectable mini plastic food sets in blind boxed containers in hundreds of themes, from Family Diner to Airline Meals to Panda Kindergarten. In the Disney 1950s Cafe Set, options included the Mickey Mouse shaped fried eggs set, Mickey's Cafe club sandwich set, Mickey's Cafe donuts set, and so on, but I must admit I was holding out for the Mickey Mouse burger, fries and onion rings set, so how excited was I when I opened the box! I'm now religiously checking the Re-Ment website (www.re-ment.us) and Flickr Re-Ment Addicts photo pool for more mini plastic collectable cuteness.
Women-only train carriages
I jump on board one of these (often pink) subway carriages when I travel in the rush hour. There are pink signs on the platform to indicate where to board. They were introduced in Tokyo and Osaka in 2000 after a high level of complaints from women about being groped by chikan (male perverts) on crowded trains. Even though they're designated women-only at certain hours of the day, guys tend to avoid them the rest of the day anyway, and they're often less crowded than other carriages.
Macro mode on my camera
I will be eternally in debt to my always-in-the-technology-know friend Stef for recommending the Canon Powershot G9 when I was shopping for a new digi-cam. The macro mode is perfect for taking pictures of food and cute mini things, ideal for living in Japan. My BF and I have just discovered the stop-motion mode which allows you to make cool stop-motion videos easily. The G9 rocks!
Botchan by Soseki Natsume
I am trying to branch out into Japanese authors other than Haruki Murakami while I am living here. Since I am working in Japanese high schools teaching English, I found this book, about a college graduate who moves to the island of Shikoku to teach Maths to unruly high school boys, hilarious. It was written in 1904, so it's also an interesting way to learn about Japanese life during the Meiji period (1868-1912).
Perfume - Love the World
If this isn't the catchiest J-Pop since Perfume's last hit, Chocolate Disco, then I didn't just buy a Hello Kitty tap decorator for my bathroom sink. (I totally did, and she waves her arms when the water runs. Did I mention how much I love Japan?)
Amy Richardson is always discovering bright and beautiful things. A former staffer on magazines such as Home Beautiful and Girlfriend, she's since landed in Japan to do everything from make umeshu plum wine, teach English, master capoeira and document every hyper-coloured piece of pop culture and eye-stunning bite of food there is. She took those awesome pics above and you can check out her other cool shots here.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Pronounced like Sylvester Stallone's famous character (sorta), this French poet had a life that was heaps meatier than any boxer's, as I'm discovering via a biography of his life by Graham Robb. It's poetry and I'm lovin' it. (For more excellent poetry including audio, like Ginsberg reading Howl, I also love www.poets.org)
Rimbaud wrote a famous poem called The Drunken Boat. Ironically, I've been a drunken *goat* a fair few times recently (it rhymes, see) thanks to my current favourite tipple, chilled pink wine (aka rosé). It's like a white wine made with red grapes - so I'm told - and it's deeply unfashionable. I care not.
Yes, friends, I'll shut up about this joint on Commonwealth St in Surry Hills eventually, but only when it stops being so damn good. Where else are the wait staff so cute ... or cool ... or cute AND cool? And where else do you get a soundtrack of classic Cure whilst inhaling your South American-styled tapas (bell peppers stuffed with blue swimmer crab, tomato and labna salad, spiced calamari, the best olives in town). If you can't find me on a Friday afternoon, check at the bar. I'll be drinkin' rosé.
Post-Bodega booze and food fest, young(ish) ladies must attend to their daily constitutional. It's a yin/yang thing you see. Lucky for me I've somehow decided recently that I enjoy running. Or make that jogging. It's efficient, it gets you out in the perfect Sydney winter sunshine... and by the time you read this I'll probably be well and truly over it.
F--k and Run by Liz Phair
Liz Phair's classic indie rock album Exile In Guyville just got reissued, and I can't stop playing the "hit", F--k And Run. Hadn't listened to it for about ten years until recently. Thankfully, it's still good. Which is more than can be said for Liz Phair.
I remember first coming across Tracey Grimson's name when I mooched off the music magazines in the local library in the '90s. You probably have seen her byline on pages aplenty too. She was also general manager and presenter extraordinaire at FBI radio. A self-described "grudging yoga enthusiast", she runs a semi-updated food blog Soup Me So and is keen to hear from anyone up for an Addams Family pinball challenge (she's looking to relive her "misspent youth").
Cheese and wine
The three of us (cheese, wine and I) by far have the best relationship I’ve ever had with anyone or anything, it’s a simple understanding we share. All we need to make each other happy is a wood block, a cheese knife and a bottle opener. I’ve always thought of cheese as romantic, so add a splash (or bottle) of wine as it’s an experience to be had.
I love a little shop here and there, and I don’t think there is any place better than Net-a-Porter. I feel I should explain more, but I’d rather you gain the experience yourself. Enjoy and god bless your credit card.
Angus and Julia Stone
There’s a little something special about this music duo, they are clever, talented and damn fine to listen to. I first bought their EP a few years back and feel in love immediately. Their soothing sounds and cryptic lyrics are original and thought provoking. I recently went to their concert at the Enmore Theatre and it was by far the most rewarding experience.
I can’t call myself a Buddhist, but after travelling to many countries where Buddhism is their love/culture/religion I have always felt at peace, a sense of calm when there. I recently travelled to the Buddhist temple in Wollongong, the four hours I spent with my boyfriend exploring and learning their way of life transported my soul to a place that's hard to forget.
If you have ever read a book by Jeffrey Deaver you would completely understand where im heading here. I am by no means a words person; I’d never consider retiring and writing a novel – or maybe I would if there was any chance I could write like Jeffrey Deaver. His plot lines and descriptive paragraphs has seen me with tooth picks holding my eyes open at 3am begging to know what the next chapter holds.
Carlie Oates is a stylist whose fine work can be seen in the pages of Sunday and Emporium magazines. She has an impressive lunch-making repertoire and once commando-rolled out of a speeding taxi.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Set in gritty Baltimore, this HBO series is one of those shows where the greater the investment, the greater the reward. The complexity of the characters unfolds slowly and the plot is revealed seductively like a striptease. Like the crack addicts it portrays, it leaves you wanting more at the end of every episode.
Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea by the Silver Jews
You know how you get excited when you hear that one of your favourite bands is releasing an album and then the album comes out and you listen to the album and the album is no good or it's just a cheap rehash of their other albums and it's disappointing? Sigh.
But then other times one of your favourite bands releases an album and you listen to it and you think it's pretty good but you need to listen to it again. And then you listen to it again and you remember all the reasons you love that band and then you listen to that new album almost every day henceforth and become a little bit obsessed with that album and want everyone else around you to be obssessed with that album too. Because deep down you know how great the album is and not just because the album has samples of seagulls and foghorns and songs about jails made out of lollies and has a cover version of a song by an obscure Japanese artist you thought hardly anyone has ever heard of, but that it also contains monumental truths and is funny and musically varied and you realised that this is probably going to be the best album of the year.
That's what happened here.
Texas Hold'Em Poker
All in on pocket 7s. Twice that has led to my undoing. On Wednesday it was a heart on the river. She had two overs with my suited Ace and Three in the hole. Flush beat my Ace high. Loss permeated around me as I left the RSL. Still, I wait once more for the day when I go heads up, re-raise before the flop, and on the turn hit my full house boat to take out the tournament. My day in the sun will come. Then we'll see who's the short stack, won't we?! WON'T WE???!!!!
If you have a gambling problem, please call 1800 633 635.
Sharp knives and a Scanpan
I never knew how much a good frying pan could affect one's cooking. From the country that brought us the building blocks of society, Lego, comes the titanium pan that turns frying into a joyful experience. Mushrooms sauteed to perfection. Omelettes golden brown all over. Butter glides across gracefully like an oiled up synchronised swimmer down a bowling alley. This baby distributes the heat evenly across the full nonstick surface. Metal or plastic stirrer. Doesn't matter - it's titanium. Somehow everything looks and tastes way better then it ever did before.
Good knives make cutting the things you put in the pan easier. And they make everything look and taste better too.
A great anytime snack. To open one with a shell that is mostly closed, take a half discarded shell from the shrapnel of the eaten pistachios, wedge it in the small gap of the shell of the stubborn sheltered nut, twist and voila. Behold your green, and hopefully salted, prize.
Dave Regos has many cards up his sleeve - even when his poker habit is shaken. He hosts the reliably awesome radio show, In The Pines, which sits high on my list of must-listen shows on FBI 94.5FM. He's filmed M.I.A. on the road and has made a retro-cute clip for Cloud Control. He also writes, makes a mean breakfast burrito and is working on a magical documentary (literally).
Saturday, August 2, 2008
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, John le Carré
This is the first "spy thriller" I have ever read. I am half-way through, and for an English Lit grad and highbrow nerdy book snob, GEE WHIZZ it's a guilty pleasure. (Like pornographic magazines, except nerdier). What on earth's going to happen to my "defected" British agent, being interrogated in an East German hunting lodge? I am learning to love stupid characters, and exceptionally clever plots.
Just got back from a week in northern New South Wales, where on three separate occasions I went for runs along the beach. This is also new for me. First it was a token get-warm-enough-to-jump-in-the-ocean trot, then an I'm-imitating-David-Hasselhoff-on-a-romantic-afternoon jog, and finally a proper, watch-the-sun-set-and-the-moon-rise, keep-going-till-I'm-panting run. I now have soft-focus visions of getting up in the pre-dawn light and gliding along the Merri Creek, sucking that cold air into my chest. It hasn't happened yet ... but it might.
North Korea's 'Mass Games'
A video performance artist friend put me onto this - North Korea puts on these INSANE displays of patriotism every year, for "the General". Twelve thousand schoolchildren make "the world's biggest screen", by turning the pages of these huge colour-coded books in perfect synchronicity ... it has to be seen to be believed.
Although this newspaper does make me feel like the world is about to end, any second now, the journalism is so damn good. All the stories are a decent length, and the bias is left- not right-wing. Makes Aussie newspapers seem like the kitty-tray lining they really are.
I love it! Going to sleep last night, I realised how happy I am to be there ... even tho I had to tape plastic bags over my chimney and buy a door snake to reduce the draft, I love my little crowded messy room. And I love my housemates - this morning there was a bowl of rice congee porridge with squid bits waiting just for me. Thanks Liv!
Tom Doig is currently working on a show about David Hasselhoff and Hitler (awesome). I'm not sure if his Baywatch-style jogging is part of the research. Tom has also done a lot of noteworthy things in his time, such as co-direct the National Young Writers Festival, edit Voiceworks magazine and steer part of the This is Not Art ship. He also has a knack for doing unforgettable things - I once saw him strip onstage and rub pet food on himself while singing (I think) a song from Cats, the musical.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Sydney rain storms
I’m English, so I’m pretty used to rain, you don’t get a green and pleasant land without it, but nothing prepared me for the kind of rain that you get here. English rain is very, well, English. It’s subtle, gentle, wet in a way that you don’t even realise it’s wet until you happen to touch your sleeve and then you are soaked through. Australian rain is BIG, it’s undeniably WET, it’s heavy, and it’s totally and utterly awe-inspiring. I love it! It’s like punctuation, dripping commas breaking up the long, sunny sentence making it understandable.
Coffee, Tea or Me
This little (and I mean little) coffee shop on the corner of Crown and Davies Street in Surry Hills is just perfect. The décor is shabby-chic, in the right way, they serve tea in china cups (essential) and the staff are friendly in an English way. That is, they smile (a little), they are polite, friendly and attentive, but they don’t need to know your name. They do, however, remember your favourite drink and they serve it with care and attention. The wait is often long, but unimportant, English people don’t mind waiting, we feel at our most comfortable in a queue (besides, it gives us something to whinge about later). If you are not so keen on waiting, they supply newspapers and magazines in a basket in front of the coffee machine or there are the numerous Polaroids of their four-legged customers gracing the walls to keep you occupied. It feels like a little slice of Europe smack bang in the middle of Surry Hills and for that I am eternally grateful.
Marmite and Challah
Challah is a Jewish bread eaten on the Sabbath. It has a doughy, eggy texture with a thin, glazed crust, usually sprinkled with poppy seeds. It has a slightly sweet taste, which the poppy seeds offset nicely. When combined with butter and a layer of Marmite it becomes manna from heaven! The salty layer of Marmite (the English variety, which is infinitely different to both Aussie marmite and vegemite) and the sweet bread is a combination to set the taste buds leaping for joy. It’s even better if eaten whilst watching trashy Saturday night telly before a night out on the tiles and is offset with a glass of icy cold milk (which also acts a stomach liner for the night ahead).
Kapka Kassabova’s poetry
I don’t get much time to read for pleasure at the moment, so to my delight I had to work on an Australian or New Zealand poem at school. Wandering around a second hand bookstore in Newtown on the search for new world poets I opened up Kapka Kassabova’s book Dismemberment on page 8 and read 'Striving for Lightness'. It pulled me in word by delicious word and I had just been having a conversation about that very topic not moments before, by synchronicity or serendipity I had found myself a New Zealand (via Bulgaria and Scotland) poet for school. I now read her poems in any spare moments I have, usually just before bed and find myself lost with words that could have been written just for me.
Being an actress, words are my livelihood; other people’s well-chosen, finely crafted words, I say them and bring them to life through me. Shakespeare’s words are the best! They are pre-packed with power and raw energy, sex, breath and heartbeats, shape and texture, taste, smell and colour, all the magic ingredients there on the page, ready for you to just add life. His work is always relevant, always up-to-date and to quote Doctor Who, ‘He is the most human human to have ever lived’.
Elly Goodman is an English actress currently living in Sydney who kindly sent me a list via email. Perhaps you might see her on a stage sometime (or if not, skirting through rainstorms or remembering Elizabethan-era monologues while preparing Marmite on Challah).
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
I made it twice this week – once because we had company and again because I made it so well the first time. It’s not anything new, but it’s one of those magical concoctions that tastes amazing, takes about five minutes to prepare and impresses guests because it looks kinda fancy. Don’t cheap out - use good parmesan and it becomes a revelation.
From the lower end of the culinary scale, there’s times where approximately 20% of my body weight is this mysterious black drink. Usually on Saturdays.
“Catch the blast of a hype verse, my glock burst, leave in a hearse, I did worse” – the first lines of the opening track from Wu Tang’s classic 1993 album 36 Chambers came from Ghostface and since then he hasn’t stopped. There’s always at least one album of his on my iPod, usually a couple. 15 years on and he’s prolific – three albums in the last 18 months. Who does that?
I had a brief flirtation with fancy sneakers but then came to my senses. Vans Half Cabs and Chukkas are doing it for me now - they’re simple and comfortable.
I don't think I'm the first list-contributor to nominate this country. I’m going back to Japan with my girl in October. After my first visit last year I just dream of being there. The people, the food (especially the food), the shopping, the all-you-can-drink karaoke – it’s amazing.
Will Bond has a heatseeking ability to find the most judicious beats for your dancefloor. You can check out his bullseye musical precision when he runs Favela Rock. You can also get all mouseclicky with the Opulent magazine blog where Will tracks his thoughts on everything from R Kelly to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Menu-wise, he's also managed to conquer gozleme, tapas and vegan cheesecake, which is pretty impressive.