Thursday, November 27, 2008

New in Freelance Food. I am glad to report that Freelance Food is becoming more complex and gore-mett than stuff on toast. Here are my two latest menu items:

Fried Rice

Leftover takeaway steamed rice (awesome, because it excuses you for buying takeaway)
Vegetables: eg, broccoli, capsicum, onion, carrot, bok choy, etc.
Egg, if you have it
Minced chilli and garlic
Chinese sausage or whatever you have (bacon, chorizo, Oz sausage)

Cook chilli and garlic in pan with oil. Add chopped-up vegetables and/or meat. Add cold rice and stir through until coated in oil and other ingredients are mixed through. Make a hole in the middle and crack the egg in. As it cooks, continue to stir so that the egg is mixed through the other ingredients. Add soy sauce/oyster sauce/chilli sauce to taste. Consider yourself an awesome Chinese chef!

Today's lunch is inspired by the most awesome sandwich shop I've ever eaten at, The Olive in the Strand Arcade in Sydney. I read about it by accident last year in a "Best Sandwich In Town" listicle in the {sydney} magazine and decided to try it. Oh my god. Italian meatballs in tomato sauce, ladled out of a pot and put in a sandwich with some other things, and then these crispy slices of fried zucchini. It was SO GOOD! If you ever want to go there, don't do it at lunchtime because there are queues out the door.

Meatball Sandwich

1 frozen sausage (I buy gourmet sausages, wrap them individually and freeze them)
minced garlic
tomato paste
canned diced tomatoes
leftover red wine
dried basil and oregano
salt and pepper
2 large slices bread (I used light rye bread)
cheddar cheese

Par-defrost the sausage in the microwave so it is thawed but still firm. Chop into 1cm medallions. If sausage meat starts to squeeze out of skin, make it into little meatballs with your fingers. Heat the garlic and mustard in oil until they become aromatic. Add sausage medallions and fry. Add tomato paste, canned tomatoes and wine. Add basil and oregano, salt and pepper to taste. Cook sauce until it reduces to a thick, rich consistency. Leave to cool slightly, then spoon onto one slice of bread. Top with sliced cheese, then lettuce, then other slice of bread. Eat!!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Punctuation: it's important. Just now I was thinking, because clearly I have nothing better to think about, that punctuation would be incredibly important when writing the lyrics to Des'ree's song 'Life'. (Punctuation is clearly important to Des'ree herself.)

You might know 'Life' as the song with possibly the worst lyrics of all time:

I don't want to see a ghost
It's a sight that I fear most
I'd rather have a piece of toast
And watch the evening news

Here is the video:

But the punctuation is most important in the chorus. Clearly there are many options, which I can't be bothered being systematic about, but can you please vote on which of the following punctuation you think is generally most appropriate. Then we will clearly have made an advance in human knowledge.

a) Life! Oh life! Oh, life! Oh life!

b) Life... oh life! Oh life... oh life!

c) Life, oh life! Oh life! Oh life.

d) Life; oh life. Oh life; oh life...

e) Life: oh life, oh life, oh life.

f) Life - oh life. Oh, life - oh life.

g) Life? Oh, life. Oh life? Oh, life!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

How to do the 'Thriller' dance, in 51 steps. Just now I was looking for a notepad and came across the one that, a little over three years ago, I had used to write down the dance moves to Michael Jackson's 'Thriller'. I bought the HIStory DVD expressly for the purpose of learning this dance routine (originally, to humiliate Bo), and I watched the 'Thriller' video obsessively, writing down the moves. Then I taught it to the other Is Not Magazine editors and we performed it at our 2005 Halloween party, "Mmmmmrrhghhghhhhh: Disco Of The Dead".

This is a bittersweet episode in my life. On the one hand, everyone at Is Not Magazine (and some game ring-ins) learned all these steps in two rehearsal sessions, and there was a real satisfaction to acquiring this body knowledge. On the other, we were tricked into doing it again several days later by the dickheads from Express Media (and some professional dancers/acrobats) at a Miami Vice- themed warehouse party dance-off that remains one of the most humiliating moments of my life.

Now I have decided to share these steps with you - although there are already several online teaching resources for this purpose. They are copied exactly from my notes so I'm sorry if they don't make sense. They make a lot more sense if you compare them with the video. You must imagine a count of 8 beats in every bar of the song. Half-beats are denoted by 'and'.

1. Wait 1 bar. Head and shoulder twitch to right side on 1, 5, 7

2. Stretch arms to sides, angle hips to left, jiggling body.

3. Toss head on 3, turn it to left on 4, still jiggling

4. Turn head back to front on 5 6 7 8. Body still turned left. Step forward with right foot on 5, bring left up behind on 7.

5. Breaststroke movement on 1, tossing head straight back and following thru with body. Do two breaststrokes with body facing left, and two with it facing right, which should bring you to beat 8.

6. Jump to right on 1 with right foot out, leaning back to left side with weight on left leg.

7. On 2, roll body and flick head back.

8. On 3, another little skip to right then flip body and head forward on 4.

9. Shift weight onto right leg. Straight left leg bent with the toe pointed. Flick look over left shoulder on 5, back ahead on 6.

10. Bob down from knees, hips facing left and left leg extended to left. Right arm held slightly out, left arm behind body on 7.

11. Rise up with pelvic thrust to left, swing right arm out on 8.

12. Repeat bob and thrust two more times on beats 1 2 3 4.

13, Bob down on 5 then come up on 6 with legs straight and arms straight up. Clap over head.

14. Lunge to left on 7 with shoulders hunched and hands on thighs. Jiggle head. Slowly draw right leg up to meet left foot and rise to standing position. This takes 7 8 1 2. Stomp right foot on 2.

15. Shrug shoulders on 3 and flick head left on 4.

16. Bring arms up again and clap on 5, then lunge on 6 but to right this time. Up on 2, then 3 and 4 shrug and flick in opposite direction.

17. Then run away with palms slightly out at waist level, shaking head in bemusement. For one whole bar. (NB: In rehearsal we referred to this as the "tard run".)

18. Wait two beats, then face right and rock back left while on tiptoe, making claws to right side on 3 then left on 4.

19. Keep body rigid and swing right foot out, then wiggle hips while shifting weight from left to right over 5 6 7 8, leaning slightly forward.

20. On 8-and, rise onto right tippy-toe, punch right arm into air just above shoulder height. Left leg extended.

21. On 1 2 3 4 wiggle from right to left.

22. (What follows is the routine's key sequence. Even if you nail nothing else, this will convince people that you can "do the 'Thriller' dance". I found it helpful to swing my zombie claws in an arc like a pendulum on the direction changes.) On 5 6 7 take three steps to right with claws, lifting feet. Switch claw direction to left on 8 then switch back to right on 1, then left again on 2.

23. On 2 3 4 take three steps in opposite direction.

24. Claws on 5 6.

25. Jump in air on 7, whirl arms around on 8 from left up around head touch ground.

26. Bend down shaking shoulders, come up again x 2 on 1 2 3 4.

27. Shake hips, right arm and head from right to left x 4 on 5 6 7 8.

28. Pivot backwards on left leg and do same thing facing backwards on 1 2 3 4.

29. Pivot back on 5, weight on left leg, right leg extended, right arm above head.

30. Bring right arm down into guitar pose and swivel hips on 6 7 8.

31. Wiggle hips, shifting weight from right to middle on 1 2 3 4.

32. Wave right arm frantically in air, still wiggling hips on 5 6 7 8.

33. Reach out to right on 1, pull arms in and thrust pelvis on 2.

34. Box stupidly to left on 3, then crouch pose on 4, left knee extended, left hand on knee, right leg straight, right shoulder back, right hand on right kidney.

35. Four zombies pose on 5 6 7 8.

36. Using right foot as pivot, step around it on 1 2 3 4 5 6, thrusting left shoulder for emphasis. Arms held slightly out. Should be facing backwards by 6. Look over left shoulder on 7, back on 8.

37. Stomp forward, starting on right foot, on 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 1 2. Swing whole side of body at once, hunching forward.

38. (3 "cos this/4 is 1/Thriller/2...") On 2-and, jump up, land on right foot first, look left then ahead.

39. On 5, shrug shoulders. On 6, swivel whole body left with left foot forward. Weight even between bent legs. Arms bent like Barbie at waist. On 7-and, reach and pull to left, done by 8.

40. Step on right, bring left leg in front quickly, then right extended to right. (1 2) ("save")

41. Step on right ("from"), extend left. Repeat twice with different legs ("beast", "strike"). On last one, bend arms above head with loose fists held together.

42. After "Thriller" (2-and), thrust hips, wiggle arms still held above head (and-4).

43. Skip on left, then right on 5 6, crossing legs and aiming to step on same spot with each foot.

44. On 7, put feet together. On 7-and, jump feet apart, arms above head, then back toether on 8, then crouch down for 1 2 3 4, lifting head on 4.

45. On 5 6 7 8 rise slowly doing zombie claws.

46. Repeat steps 38 and 39 (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8).

47. Do lame zombie pop-locking for 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 1 2.

48. Do steps 43-45 on 5 6 7 8 except drop back down on 8, then rise up again on 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8.

49. Repeat steps 19-24, then on the 8, the pose from step 34, then step 36.

50. Step 37, but only for 1 2 3.

51. Turn back around quickly and do lame group zombie pose on 4.

* TA-DAAA! *

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Alfred's last hurrah. Well as I write, my family dog, Alfred, will probably be dead. He had that fateful appointment with the vet at midday, and his grave has been redug under the lemon tree. Dad has apparently made him a coffin too. It breaks my heart to think of my dad in the garage making the dog's coffin.

Faithful readers of this blog might recall that Alfred dodged the reaper two years ago at age 13, and I wrote his o(bourg)ituary back then, filled with the small achievements of the suburban pet. Since then he has been the absolute darling of my parents' household: doted on and fiercely anthropomorphised by my mother, washed and groomed by my dad, and the faithful companion of my brother, in whose room he took to sleeping. He was always happiest around Matt: he'd follow him around the house and be anxious when he was staying overnight somewhere else.

He regained full control of his limbs after his canine stroke, although he was always creaky like an old person, finding it hard to get up and sit down, and with wonky balance. His continence was a bit shabby, too. But what ultimately did him in were those "old dog lumps" that I wrote about previously. We thought they were just benign cebaceous cysts until one in his neck got infected and refused to get better. Turned out they were cancerous.

Alfred had an operation to remove some of them, but at his age there was no point getting rid of them all, and in any case they grew back with a vengeance. However, Alf did get to celebrate his sweet sixteenth birthday smelling far better and being infinitely more pattable. As with many dogs, his ears have always been the nicest part to pat. Just a week or two ago, when that photo above was taken, I remember fondling his velvety ears, his eyes glazing with contentment.

Never the smartest of dogs (although my mother would bitterly contest this), Alf's ultimate virtue was his unflagging good temper. This is what made the decision to euthanase him so difficult: even when I last saw him on Sunday night he was happy, alert and apparently not in pain. I'm not sure what precipitated the decision to make today the day.

I decided not to be there for the funeral under the lemon tree. Mainly it was because I want to avoid the worst part: seeing my family really upset. But perhaps it's also because sentimentality about animals makes me squeamish and my defence against that is irony... but I don't want to ironise this gorgeous dog, so sincere in every dumb thing he ever did.

Still, I can't help thinking about the drifts of white fur that used to form little tumbleweeds in the house. Matt had an irritating habit of plucking loose tufts of fur from Alf's coat, and I used to joke that he should save them for stuffing cushions. Even after Alfred's death, reminders of him will still be everywhere, and I wonder how long my parents will take to vacuum. Or how long I'll take to wash the pants I was wearing on Sunday night as Alf leaned adoringly against my legs.

Right now I'm listening to 'The Lark Ascending' by Ralph Vaughan Williams, one of my favourite pieces of classical music, which was used to great effect in the movie The Year My Voice Broke. But its melancholy seems especially poignant today.

Okay, iTunes has now seen fit to segue into 'Mr Jones' by Counting Crows. Way to ruin my eulogy, iTunes.

Monday, November 03, 2008

NaNoNoomy-noomy-noo. Ma-mee-ma-moo. Ma-moo-ma-may. Making stoopid syllabic abbreviations is so associated with the Nazis and Soviets that George Orwell saw fit to adopt it for Nineteen Eighty-Four, but I always think of this obnoxious practice as a very American thing. Prime cases in point: the Huffington Post = HuffPo; Chinatown/Little Italy = ChiLiTa; and of course, National Novel Writing Month = NaNoWriMo.

That snarky observation aside, I'm gonna attempt to write 50,000 during the month of November. It is madness and probably an exercise in writer's guilt, and apparently the impulsive part of my brain that made this decision believes my current writing workload is but a feather upon my back. To keep myself honest, I am going to post each writing session on my deservedly neglected creative writing blog. Just don't expect me to be hitting the goal 1,667 words per day, especially as I am already three days behind.

Happily, I have already leaped the first hurdle: what the novel in question will be about. Go blogging! It provides the answers to all, which are in front of me. I thought of calling it all sorts of naff, punny things, such as Killing Him Softly, Killing In The Name and Music Makes You Death. But because you can backfill any rubbish title with meaning and because I have Arrested Development in my head now, I have decided to go with But I Am Still Thirsty.

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