Wednesday, December 18, 2013

year in pictures


Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Anne Summers in conversation with Julia Gillard

I’m not sure what I expected when I leapt online and grabbed a couple of tickets to this talkfest.

Who am I kidding? I know exactly what I hoped for. Spilling the beans on Kev. That’s what I dearly wanted. A bit of behind the scenes gossip.

And did we get that? Nope.

Was I disappointed? Just a little.

I guess the other thing I wanted was to see Gillard close up. To get a glimpse of the “real Julia” that I suspected was there during her steely leadership. That was something we got in spades.

Julia Gillard was warm, strong and amusing. But a bit evasive. The answers were short and pithy, skating on the surface.

Questions of her stance on asylum seekers, marriage equality and single parents were all answered with a smile. I sifted through her responses for any depth or a glimmer of something that would leave me feeling reconciled.

I really wanted to hear about some dark night of the soul, wrestling with her conscience on these issues.

But there was none.

What there was, by the bucket-load in Melbourne, was a room full of love. Staunch ALP love (I’d almost forgotten that the party stalwarts would of course be there in droves) and also deep female solidarity.

As much as I hoped for some goss and blood about the egotistical little man that toppled her, in some way our attendance was also a much needed thank you.

Thank you Julia for putting up with so much shit, just because you have a cunt not a cock between your legs.

Thank you Julia for demonstrating that a female leader can rule with both steel and grace.

Thank you Julia for publicly acknowledging that you choose not to be bitter, that you’re getting on with your life and seeing the bright side.

I still mightn’t support many of your policies or those of your party but sneakingly admire that you still defend them, instead of doing a hasty U-turn in the hope of garnering popularity.

I attended last night’s event because I’m a feminist. It felt good to be in a room with so many other feminists. Like our first female PM, I look forward to the day when gender and equality are no longer an issue in Australia. But for now it is, even more so with a new government that has Abbott as the self-appointed Minister for Women and Julie Bishop as the only cock-less member of the cabinet.

We’ve come a long way baby…but just not far enough.

Update 8.10.13: I've been ruminating on Gillard's response to the marriage equality question, relating her stance to her socio-generational roots. As a contemporary, I totally get the whole notion of 'we thought they'd be a whole new structure for relationships' philosophy but that's not what got stuck in my craw. Why now does she pull the personal ideology card over this policy, when she conveniently disregarded it over others. For example, as an atheist why increase the funding for the school chaplaincy program? Surely, she also thought that religion like marriage would loose relevance in an evolved society? The only reason I can come up with for her pick and mix approach to aligning personal belief with policies is that of vote buying. Why else would she pander to conservatives and christians on these issues?

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

farewell Julia

I got a girlcrush on Julia, way back before she was deputy PM, after reading a Good Weekend piece on her. It felt a little dirty because I’d long ceased believing in the ALP, even way back then.

But there was something about Julia. I found her forthrightness kind of sexy. I couldn’t help it.

When she ascended to the top political job in the country, a few of us snuck out to the pub and toasted her with champagne. None of us supported her party but finally the country had come of age, sexism was dead and that was well worth a drink.

How wrong we were.

In retrospect expecting maturity of a nation that still idolizes football thugs, Alan Jones and fart jokes, was naïve to say the least. Julia Gillard copped more flack than any Prime Minister before her. The sexism was blatant, relentless and just plain embarrassing.

She met each attack, from the opposition, the media and her own party with a kind of fortitude rarely seen in politics. She never faltered. Right to the end.

However I’m still mystified how she let us down so badly on equal marriage, the inhumane refugee policy, slicing and dicing the Single Parents Benefits, fortifying the school chaplaincy program, rendering the Resources Super Profits Tax impotent and dishing up a piss weak carbon tax.

It seriously killed the girlcrush!

But in the last year she began to redeem herself. Thanks for the NDIS, Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Gonski, and the forced adoption apology. Protecting the preyed upon, the vulnerable and the young harked back to the Julia I’d once admired.

And in the midst of all this rhetoric, let’s not forget about her keeping the global recession from nipping too sharply at our heels

Julia Gillard will have a place in the history books as our first female Prime Minister. Let’s not forget how she shot to world fame with The Misogyny Speech. Now that’s the Real Julia we all wanted to see more of.

Can’t wait for her parliamentary valedictory swansong. Let’s hope the gloves stay well and truly off.

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Monday, May 13, 2013

the comedian and the Grand Hotel Mildura

Dear Grand Hotel Mildura,

I'm sad and disappointed you cancelled a local comedian's recent booking on the grounds that it 'damaged your brand' to have her stay in your hotel. Sorry guys but it's your action that has done the damage, not the comedians views. I've eaten at the Grand before and if staying in Mildura in the future it would have been my first choice. Not now. Unless you make a public apology to the person concerned. No doubt you'll remove this comment but you still can't stop the news from going viral.

(take a closer look on her FB page)

It's become de rigueur to be a Deveny hater in the last couple of years post Bindigate. But when did it  become ok for hotels to cancel bookings on the basis of the client holding anti-war opinions. What next? White feathers?

But this is just small potatoes compared with the hate mail the comedian gets on a regular basis. If I opened my mailbox to being repeatedly being told I was a fat, ugly cunt who should be shot/murdered/raped it would do my head in. Take a look at her Top 100 Hate Comments, take a good look...what does this say about the world we live in? She must be the second most hated person in the country after our Prime Minister. This is more than a difference of opinion, this is person, it's sexual and it's sexist. Can you think of any Australian men who constantly cop this kind of repeated and disgusting abuse? 

If you still don't like Dev, that's your choice. Got to say I like and admire her even more in the face of this vitriol. It takes a lot of  guts and self-belief to soldier on through these kinds of threats.

You can email The Grand Hotel if you disagree with their policy of rejecting customers on the grounds of their political or social views. I really don't want to damage the business of a small business or a struggling town. I just want them to realise the error of their ways and apologise.

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Sunday, February 03, 2013

new year

How's your new year going? Here's a short synopsis of the last couple of months.

Hung out in Newtown and had a big, combined family Christmas in Sydney.

We all survived.

And Sin City? This sign on Enmore Road sums it up nicely.

We did that loooong drive back to Melbourne. Really it's a boring trip. 

This summer I discovered I liked Campari. I'd never been able to stand the bitterness before. Now I love it. Does that mean I've become a grown up?

Hung out at the People's Market. Amazed to find the vegan food stall had the longest queues. Perhaps this is the year tofu triumphs over the pig?

 It's been the summer of home-made ice blocks. The mango/orange/lime/mint are my favourite.

Looking forward to summer school, getting on with a backlog of work projects, more trips to Sydney, planning my next overseas trip and my next meal.

It feels like it'll be a huge year but a more positive one than the last. I'm a year behind myself and the drive to catch up is ridiculous.

And you?

Monday, December 03, 2012

other rants turns eight

I don’t know why I started blogging.

I have no idea what was going through my head and lead me to start my first blog. But I did.

It’s now eight years since I started blogging in December 2004. I miss the concept that I started with way back then. They were rants, often written straight into blogger with little or no editing.

They were long rants. They were about politics, human nature, health and my own personal philosophy.

Not many people read them then and even less do now.

But then again, I rarely post anything more that a photo these days.

My first post was triggered by having lunch with an ex and being both intrigued and repulsed by his smell.

A part of me feels sad that I don’t have the desire, energy or motivation to write posts like that any more.

As for politics, with Bush and Howard now gone, it was only Occupy Melbourne last year that briefly got me back into the saddle. It was exciting to witness a new political movement that wasn’t dominated by the usual lefty players. There was space for politically non-aligned individuals to stand up and speak. Some had solutions. Others didn’t. It was a truly organic movement.

So of course Doyle and his henchmen had to shut it down. It was brutal. Even standing on the sidelines, watching the destruction of the City Square camp changed me.

I attended my first political protest in primary school, not with my parents who’d never been to a demonstration in their lives but in response to an anti-nuclear group I heard about on local radio (ah radio, you’ve always been a part of my DNA) asking for children to be involved in “Flowers for the Fri”. My mum took me along to the meeting at the station and the following week to the demo, standing on the sidelines without comment. Supportive as always, yet neutral.

It was the beginning of many, many political actions to come. But the last one my mother drove me to.

I attended a number of Occupy marches on my own. I met wonderful people of all ages doing the same thing, excited and unified by a sense of hope. It made me blog again. For a while.  But like the movement itself, my blogging mojo fizzled out once more.

In my second year of blogging I wrote a piece I still remember fondly. Written on the body was spurred by seeing a tattooed arm on a tram ride. I was touched that the post moved others in some way. It reminds me that pieces like that, written in one hit as if purging a notion from my psyche, are worth writing and putting out there.

Like most bloggers, there’s been a point where I’ve said, “this is it, I’m not blogging anymore”. It’s a natural part of the blogging cycle. Now Other Rants remains semi-dormant, though I still blog in different forms elsewhere on the net. Those other platforms also wax and wane.

Blog authors and readers have changed. Initially they were greater in number, more engaged, both on the web and through actual in-the-flesh gatherings. Blogs have become highly niched. The Australian political blogging scene has largely risen and fallen with the birth and demise of collaborative venture Larvatus Prodeo. Actually it was LP that put me off blogging. There were some great collaborators and exquisite writing on the site but it was equally spoiled by vicious egos with too much time on their hands.

I’ve participated in the phenomenal rise of food blogging niche. I caught the rise of the first wave of Australian flogging (food blogging) when we were relatively few in number and even more sociable and harder drinking than the political bloggers. Then, almost overnight, the landscape changed to a world of look alike blogs, mostly highly opinionated accounts of their last restaurant meal or recipe sites with identical Donna Hay-style photos. There’ve now been three Eat.Drink.Blog events in different parts of the Australia. Perhaps the starkest contrast between the first one in Melbourne and the latter two in Sydney and Adelaide demonstrate a shift in the demographic. It was a blast to be part of the first EDB and talk about why I keep a food blog as cook’s journal. It was a free; invite only/balloted conference funded by sponsorship from small local producers. It was definitely a day and night to remember that bonded all the participants. The latter EDBs have been sponsored by the likes of Meat and Livestock Australia and other corporates. A far cry from the little grass roots guys we were happy to support.

There’s also been a rise in recent years of a new profession, that of the “full time blogger”. Imagine putting that on your immigration form (especially if say, you’re Syrian or Egyptian)? People who eek out a living from sales, sponsorship and freebies on their blog. This is a big thing in the food and mummy blogging niches. The world of sponsored posts and dubious transparency has divided the blog world between those who rail against and others who enviously aspire to it.

So much has changed in the scene since I first wrote about how my ex-boyfriend smelt. The readers too have changed. Attention spans shortened. The exodus to twitter. The rise 140 character ‘micro blog’ (what a ridiculous term). A world where traversing a paragraph can be a bridge too far.

So congratulations to you for making it so far through over four and a half thousand characters and turning up at the page after eight years.

I think blogs are establishing a new niche, a twitter backlash, where a discerning reader craves a world with full sentences and space to develop concepts and share ideas. It’s a smaller and potentially subversive audience in a world of increasingly foreshortened concentration spans.

One thing I’ve learned in eight years of blogging is once you’ve blogged for a few years it gets into your blood. You swear you’ll not be back and the next minute the urge to blog drives you crazy.

But whether I’ll be part of this new wave of blogging or not, is yet to be seen.

Thanks for reading.

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

a riddle wrapped in an enigma (but with better than expected noms)

Some lazy cross-posting for those who don't read my food blog.

“Russia is better to see once, than heard hundreds of times” 

Iceland, Portugal and Brittany headed my list of where to go for a spare week in Europe. Russia was someone else’s idea entirely but somehow it wormed its way to the top and we found ourselves in the most intriguing countries I’ve ever experienced.

From the bowels of the grey, smoky confines of St Petersburg airport, eventually the unsmiling immigration officers spat us out one by one to wait for our luggage. We’d read that taxi drivers were rogues but after a relatively smooth transaction at the kiosk we found ourselves travelling at good speed to our hotel, just in time for the tour briefing. Actually we were two minutes late and the guide let us know of her displeasure (though not as severely as the hapless travellers whose plane got in even later than ours). 

It’s quite possible at that point, after travelling all day from Amsterdam, we wondered why we’d come to Russia. Even more so after an unappetising hotel breakfast that segued into a bus ride in the rain to a large souvenir shop.

Perhaps it was the first shot of vodka that welcomed us to the retail haven, or the break in the clouds that appeared later in the day but  from then on St Petersburg began to shine. Though sadly not in time to illuminate the Church on Spilled Blood, for the iconic photo opportunity. However for a city that reportedly has only 40 sunny days a year we managed to score a number of them. 

And a bit like the weather, the earlier school-mistressy manners of our guide also blossomed, revelling a friendly and amusing soul beneath her initial strictness.

What I dreaded most about Russia was the food. Avoiding meat and dairy I feared this could be the worst culinary week of my life, as all the national dishes are laced with sour cream or cooked in a meat stock. But fortunately it turned out to be quite the opposite.

Too many meals were on a tight deadline, with so much to do and too little time to do it (and large chunks of time gobbled by the unpredictability of some of the worst traffic congestion in the world). Despite the prevalence of global brands everywhere reminding you that urban Russia is a first world country with barely a visual reminder of its communist past, restaurant service can be notoriously slow. If you have less than two hours to eat, self-service cafeterias are the way to go. And they are everywhere we went in the cities. Unlike some of the modern full service restaurants, there is no menu and certainly nothing in English to inform your choices. There are rules around where and how to queue for hot or cold dishes, drinks and what not which we no doubt blundered through. Like all good cafeterias you grab a tray. There was always an amazing array of salads, some even vegan, most vegetarian. On the subject of vegan food, these self-service restaurants will inevitably have more than salads to fill you, with hearty bean dishes and potatoes in some form. But having said that, the salads were good and with a more lavish selection of vegetables than we’d experienced throughout central Europe. Hot food was always presided over by non-communicative servers. Unless you speak the language, there’s no point asking but all my guesses paid off and I managed to find something hot and tasty sans-meat every time. There were chunks of perfectly cooked fish, cooked vegetables, spicy red bean stews and veggie or fish based patties. Then there were the spuds. Fried chunks of potatoes cooked with crispy mushrooms. Not sure if this is a year round dish, or just for autumn with the abundance of wild mushrooms. Every Russian, our guides asserted, knows how to identify edible fungi. Foraging, once a necessity for survival, seems permanently imprinted on the DNA.

While the cafeterias aren’t haute cuisine, they were always tasty and I never had a dud meal. They are also a bargain, which in Russia is rare, filling up for $5-10. I even enjoyed the excitement of not quite knowing what I’d chosen. A simple beetroot salad in Moscow was an unexpected winner (a small dish for about $2). Now I write about this six weeks later, I’m wishing we had a few of these iconic eateries in Melbourne.

However it was a hip, regional restaurant that kidnapped my tastebuds and made me fall in love with the cuisine. It may have cost ten times that of the humble cafeteria but that’s small potatoes for Russia.

Baklazhan (Aubergine in English) is nestled on the top floor of Galleria, a big new shopping centre near the Nevsky Prospect in St Petersburg (not unlike Chadstone). The food is Caucasian (Georgian) and Uzbek, with an arresting spiciness and freshness. But I’m getting ahead of myself. From the confines of the shopping centre you enter a different world, met by some, lithe young woman who is surely a model on the verge of her big break and ushered into a large but comfortable restaurant, fitted out by an interior designer with a world-class eye. English menus are available; waiters likewise speak the language and serve efficiently with a smile. With comfortable banquettes and seating that accommodates cozy couples, through to large celebratory groups this restaurant was buzzing with a wide variety of well-heeled diners. A seduction was underway to one side, two professionally attired women caught up over a glass of wine and shared plates on another, a multi-generational family group arrived with presents and flowers and behind me an impeccably dressed gay couple in their thirties sat with their small but well-behaved dog.

And the food was spectacular. Now that I’m home I’ve already begun experimenting with making the starter – a walnut dip with a hint of chili wrapped in sliced of grilled eggplant. The chili beans were the best I’ve ever eaten. While the ubiquitous fried potatoes and mushrooms were studded with chanterelles. Spectacular.

(yet again my desire to eat won, the camera only came out after eating two of these delicious offerings)

Both St Petersburg and Moscow are known for great sushi and it came in handy when wanting a change from the cafeterias. Despite the geography, food seemed amazing fresh in these cities (though much is imported). But what amazed me most was the variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, especially the abundance of seasonal produce like mushrooms and berries.

At a small market just off one of Moscow’s biggest tourist strips, Old Arbat Street, locals picked over some of the best raw ingredients on offer. After trawling through the street markets in Austria and Germany that had such a narrow and boring array of goodies, my heart sang to see the variety of fruit, vegetables, mushrooms and nuts on display. It was just a pity this was our last day in the country, my belly was full (of the aforementioned beetroot salad and fish) and the supermarket beckoned to stock up on vodka.

While I ate no borscht of perogi in Russia, I’m inspired by Georgian food, the humble beetroot and oh, my, all those amazing mushrooms. St Petersburg also fed my soul with other worldly opulence (Catherine Palace, it’s amber room and mirrored ballroom that I plan to revisit in the new Anna Karenina movie) and art to die for (The Hermitage, need I say any more?). It’s the Venice of the north and exceedingly pretty. Moscow had an edginess that thrilled me. I loved the short rides on the subway with it’s opulent Soviet era stations adorned with art and chandeliers but it was the city by night all lit up for a party and a quiet cemetery by day that made me want to come back for more. 

And the food, way much better,and often cheaper, than expected.

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Monday, October 08, 2012

random holiday snaps

So I've been back a month and not blogged about the joys of Europe/Russia. A few snaps from the holiday album.

Because the Rhine is not all pretty castles, there's beauty in the industrial landscape as well

Moscow by night

And by day

Catherine Palace, near St Petersburg

Zoom in on the bee doing it' thing at Floriade (Venlo, Holland)

Staircase, Melk Abbey, Austria

For those who like words with their photos, elsewhere I've blogged about revisiting Brick Lane, London 25 years on, eating in Camden, London and going to the Paralympics.

Needless to say the holiday was all kinds of wonderful. Can't wait for my next sojourn.

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Sunday, September 30, 2012

don't blame me, Alan Jones made me do it

Misogyny is a cultural attitude of hatred for females because they are female”. Allan G. Johnson (sociologist)

This morning it’s hard to know who is the most hated man in Australia. If social media bytes are anything to go by, the award goes to Sydney broadcaster Alan Jones. A couple of days ago, without a doubt, it would’ve been a faceless man in a blue hoodie.

These two men, who’ve most likely never met, share a sense of entitlement, an internal disconnect between their actions and consequences and most of all, a hatred of women.

Am I drawing a long bow to tar these men with the same brush? Jones is notorious for his attacks on our Prime Minister, essentially because she is a woman. It could be because she’s not his hero John Howard, who is of course a man. But even her predecessor, and possessor of male genitalia, didn’t cop as much personal criticism from Jones, despite it being Rudd to topple Howard from his God-given right to rule our country.

Jones has long used his position as a highly influential media personality to promote the Liberal Party and push a right wing agenda. His listeners can’t seem to get enough of him. So while it’d be logical to presume that all non-Liberal politicians are fair targets for his ACMA-sanctioned vitriol,  female political figures seem to cop more than their male counterparts. Take the infamous “chaff bag” threats last year, when Jones repeatedly inferred on air that the Prime Minister should be “put in a chaff bag” and dumped at sea. If this doesn’t represent violence against women, I don’t know what does. But he didn’t just stop with Gillard, Sydney mayor Clover Moore and Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young received similar, misogynistic contempt. As for the chaff bag, Jones also had one for the then Greens leader, Bob Brown, but perhaps being gay makes one less of a man in Alan's mind?

When influential figures have air time to repeatedly indoctrinate their audience with hatred against a gender, race or religion and the regulatory body, in this case the government appointed Communications and Media Authority, defend his right to do so, it legitimizes a culture of disrespect.

This weekend Jones was caught out taking his women-hating campaign against Gillard a step further, by publicly asserting that the Prime Minister is a liar and this caused her father to die of shame.

Will this be comment be a bridge too far for Jones? While other Lefties are rubbing their hands with glee that this could be his undoing, I doubt this will be the final death knell for his influential career. (Update: maybe not the original comment, but after seeing his "apology", who knows) Why? Because misogyny is rife in Australia and if his previous assertions about wanting to kill Gillard and dispose of her in a sack in the ocean aren’t deemed inflammatory enough, why would this be? By bringing Gillard’s father into the picture he might be offending our sense of good taste but he’s not actually accusing the Prime Minister of partricide.

And that brings us back to the man in the blue hoodie. What’s he got to do with Alan Jones? We all know that rape is about power not sex, right? We have a culture that is infused with and condones misogyny, if Jones’s popularity is anything to go by. Through the week victim blaming was rife.  On the Facebook site “Help find Jill Meagher”, before her body was found, a commenter asserted that she’d been drunk “led someone on”, this would have pissed the poor man off “and the consequences followed her”. His logical conclusion being “she met with foul play as a result of her actions inside the pub”. Let’s not blame the guy who anonymously wrote this, he was just mouthing the inference of more influential media figures. Through the week our own local shock jocks were calling Ms Meagher a party girl and drawing their own victim shaming conclusions. And we know that women having fun, outside of the marital home, drinking, wearing high heels and a pretty dress get what they deserve.

If Gillard deserves to be killed (put in a chaff bag in dumped in the sea) for being an outspoken woman, what chance do ordinary women have? According to trial by media, a woman drinking with friends, without the protection of her husband, and daring to walk home alone is obviously asking to be sexually assaulted and murdered.

So why do we hate the accused, when he’s done exactly what so many men in our country believe she brazenly courted?

According to the anonymous commenter on Facebook, rape and even “foul play” may be warranted, if a woman merely has a drink in a public place with friends. Is it any wonder in a society that doesn’t blink an eyelid, when a public figure explicitly states his "joking" desire to kill a number of female politicians? That he didn’t really mean it and anyway, nothing’s off limit if you hold public office. These two men are merely the tip of the iceberg, reflecting the deep vein of hatred towards women that simmers in Australia.

As I concluded in my last post about Jill Meagher:
Society needs to change and we all contribute in some way to the environment that creates people who do not respect human dignity.
 We’ve created Alan Jones too.

Postscript: have just lost 42 minutes of my life live-streaming Alan Jones’s “apology”. To summarize: he was just repeating what someone said earlier on the day at his Godson’s birthday party and he probably shouldn’t have repeated it. Oh and carbon tax made me do it. The Gillard government’s failed promises made me do it. The “chaff bag” was just a figure of speech. And anyway, the tape could have been edited so he mightn’t have said it after all. Oh and people say nasty things all the time about him, so suck it up Juliar.

Enough rope?

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