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The Archive of Blackframes.com.au posts

Old posts from the original Blackframes site

Filtering by Category: Archive

All Day I Dream About Supermarkets

Lach Ryan

foodomans

I find myself in a peak activity period of my life. We’ve just bought our first house, relocated to a new city and are about to welcome into the world our second youngster. This is a time of rapid, confusing and sometimes awkward change; a life-puberty almost. With such a load on my mind, you would think I would be having sleepless nights as I wrestle with these new changes. That I would be struggling to adapt before ‘the second one’ (that’s what we are calling the baby...’runner-up’ seems a bit disparaging) arrives. That these big concepts would be consuming my thoughts as I try to focus at work.

But that isn’t the case.

Almost in rebellion to the scope of what is before us, my mind seems captured by only one subject- Supermarkets.

I am obsessed by them!

In our new area, we are spoilt for choice. I can triangulate my house using the three local Aldis and we sit just outside of another Bermuda triangle of Coles, where independent grocers and competitive pricing have been known to disappear. Woolworths have a smaller presence in the area, but I have never been swayed by their wares. I find there rotisserie chickens more akin to moist rubber ducks. I also like how they insist on ensuring Robbie Williams receive increasing royalties for ‘Angels’ by playing it instore constantly.

Aldi is exotic to me. I read their catalogues like a Spanish nobleman perusing a list of Columbus’ finds from the new world. “What is this Cat Cave you speak of? Bring me one of those!” I once ventured into one, but was overwhelmed and taken advantage of by locals. Friends suggested going on a group tour, so I am planning on booking something with Trafalgar in the spring.

Coles is a place I am much more familiar with. Sure it doesn’t have Jamie Oliver fronting their ads like Woolworths, but they’ve got RSPCA approved chickens and eggs, a status Mr Oliver himself is yet to attain! I was deeply sad to say goodbye to our inner-city Coles. It was the showpiece in the Coles supermarket stable, so advanced and modern it was featured in their ads. Do you know how validating it is to pick up your weekly cucumber from the same pallet Curtis Stone leant against in the Hormone-free Beef ad? Of course you don’t! You probably shop at an IGA.

I was looking for something more. Something to fill the supermarket sized-hole in my heart that Pascal blamed on God. That’s why nothing could have excited me more, not the arrival of my forthcoming offspring, a Lonely Planet guide to Aldi or the destruction of the Angels recordings master tapes in a house fire that also claims the life of Robbie Williams, than the news of a brand new Coles.

Down the road from our new house sits the latest offering from the Coles people, an experiment in Human behaviour as much as it is a supermarket. This store is big enough to park a 747 in, with unique sections for the non-edibles (in most people’s diets) such as socks, baby goods, cosmetics, crockery and party supplies. The aisles are the length of a bowling alley and the width of Kim Kardashian’s front door. Stocked on its shelves are foods from exotic places such as India, the unknown country of Asia and someplace called Britain?

I had been there for just over an hour when I thought I should text my wife to explain why the short trip for a few essentials had turned out to be much more. She probably thought I had tried my luck again at Aldi and got lost.

I texted her “This place is insane!”

Her response came quick. “You’re talking about a supermarket!”

Hopefully you’ll notice that we both adhere to the rules of grammar when texting. Sure we are wasting valuable micro-seconds of our life each text, but YOLO right?!

But I knew she was wrong. That place isn’t just a supermarket. It is an escape. A state of mind. A mind that is too occupied with local supermarkets than the big issues of life currently facing it. A mind that may, just after all, be a little insane.

Now excuse me while I go read the weekly specials catalogue.

 

Saint Alan- Patron Saint of car parking

Lach Ryan

Roger-Moore-The-Saint

Last week I was crawling the streets of the CBD, engine lowly running, stalking pedestrians like an interstate businessman in the red light district, hoping one of them would hop into a departing vehicle. With no car parks forthcoming, except for those in the multi-storey carparks (that ironically only tell one narrative –the ode of the overcharge), I turned to higher powers. I bowed my head with one eye on the road. This was more to keep an eye out for cops policing the new anti-prayer while driving laws, rather than for safety. I then did it. Prayed 2013’s third most requested prayer (behind weight loss and the cessation of banjo-fuelled rock). I asked God for a carpark...and on the third day (it was a Wednesday night) a park opened up between a Mazda and a Honda like Moses parting the imported small-to-medium-sized-vehicle sea.

I am not a Catholic. I don’t pray to Saints, however my recent run in has me curious if there is a Patron Saint working the carpark prayer hotlines. Afterall, who would the Pope call on when parking the pope-mobile during the Christmas shopping rush?!

Let’s say there is one and let's call him Saint Alan. Scholars, Theologians and Historians you ask will probably differ on his story. Some will say he once worked for Henry Ford,  going ahead of the great man to reserve a parking space in close proximity of his destination. Often lying face first in mud to reserve a spot until his arrival.

Another popular tale has Alan as a modern saint, holding the fort at an Edinburgh inner-city church carpark during the 60’s and 70’s. He would volunteer his time to park cars during the days and weekend nights, raising valuable funds for polishing the Church’s organ. He tragically lost his life trying to protect a VW Kombi van from a gang of soccer hooligans.

Some Catholics will even tell you he was a well meaning, roller-skating parking inspector in post-Cold War Berlin, who would often top up citizens nearly expired meters.

We don’t really know if Alan was a real man, or if he is even formally recognised by the Catholic Church. All I do know is God seems to help those who help themselves to after-hours loading zones.

Looking for Love on the Open Housing Market

Lach Ryan

model house

House hunting, in the internet age, borrows much from online dating. It's all a big search to find 'The One'. Purely mobile app based, you simply filter your desired results based on location, numerical range (age and price) and features (a voluptuous figure is like original hardwood floors). US- FHB’s with GSOH willing to RSU (roll sleeves up). Needs to be close to good schools, coffee and Thai takeaway. Needs to be away from Bogan’s with rusting car lawn sculptures.

YOU- mid-century brick, 3BDR, OSP, good bathroom. Likes young families, being dressed up and having your garden done. Non-smoking, AC and pet friendly preferred.

You send an enquiry to show your interest and if all seems OK, a date is set to meet. You prepare yourself the morning of the inspection, thinking that this could be the first time you meet ‘The One’. Driving down the highway, expectations high, you hope they too are preparing themselves to look their best...

Too often however, you find yourself turning up to these the property blind dates, the open for inspection, and being disappointed that she looks nothing like her photos online. Couldn’t she at least put on some foundation and cover those imperfections and age lines?

To begin with she is obviously older than she led you to believe. Not only that, but the backyard is in total disarray and who even knows what to do with upstairs. Quickly into your meeting, you get the impression she comes with baggage and there is far too much work to be done. You can see that if some guy who was good with his hands spent the time fixing her up, she might be something special. But that’s not going to be you. Not at this stage of your life. Besides you’ve got kids to think about and this is not the type of environment you want them to be around.

Then you try something different. For a while you start hanging out at the reception bars of real estate agents. Reception bars aren’t the right place to meet your dream home. They only attract junior agents trying to offload you deceased cat lady estates or old meth labs.

Your other option is to just play the field, become an investor and negative gear your way through the market. Throw yourself around with multiple properties, just looking for your own returns not worried who you screw in the process.

But how long can it go on? The only other option is to rent. That is real estate de facto, where neither partner trusts the relationship to properly commit beyond 12 month periods. It’s also not the best environment for kids. Plus the government doesn’t look as kindly on it as they do those smug types, coupled up with their own home. We often talk with them. Those who have found their dream home. They smugly tell us the trick is to not try. It will just happen. “You’ll feel the spark and you will just know” they say.

You’ve just got to keep on believing 'The One' is still out there. That it will come along soon. Hopefully really soon, before we grow old and end up living in a tent by the side of the freeway growing tomatoes from discarded McDonald’s thickshake cups.

The Secret Life of Promotional t-shirts

Lach Ryan

Logo here

A promotional t-shirt, like chicken pox and broken hearts, is something we have all had at one point in our lives. You know these tee types- wearable advertising given to you from a fun run, swim event, annual conference, retail, promo, team activity, branded giveaway, charity cause or election campaign. The 90’s was the golden era for promotional t-shirts. The internet hadn't yet taken hold and marketers were looking for an alternative to print, so the 180 gsm cotton t-shirt reigned supreme.

I still remember my first. I received it in 1992 when I was 10. The promo was for a lite milk company celebrating their endorsement by then Olympic swimming champion Kieran Perkins. It was decorated in a full-body Kieran Perkins signature, accompanied by about 17 milk logos. The best thing about it was the color- a muted fluorescent yellow that looked like the ink from an impotent highlighter.

‘Milky Kieran’ as I affectionately referred to it, would go on to see me through summer nights as a pyjama top or occasionally accompany me to the beach, like a 10 year old boy’s equivalent of a sarong. Casually thrown over Speedos, a golden tee to protect me from the sun’s golden rays and golden Ray the resident beach pervert. I don’t specifically remember other kids complimenting me on the tee, but I have the photo and memories that more than sustain me to this day.

What is it about a promo tee that makes them cease to have a life outside of their moment? They are the Cinderella of the clothing wardrobe. They have their moment at the ball then are quickly relegated to the role of gym gear, pyjamas or work wear. Granted not all elements of our society hide them away. Farmers and tradesman are more than happy to indulge in some campaign-chic, donning inspiring numbers from the studios of our top paint, plumbing, fertilizer and insurance brands. You only need to head to an op/thrift shop to find whole aisles dedicated to them, represented by the likes of: “Organten 34th Annual Hamster Jamboree” “I ate Big Bill’s Fish Boat Roll” “Beekeepers Union Spring Conference Canberra 1996” “A vote for Fabian Legg is a vote for uni-cycling”

The great thing about the op/thrift shop is they act like a museum to the art of the promotional tee. Here all the elements of a good promotional t-shirt are on display. Poor cuts, unused pantone colourways, horrid typefaces and prints that look like they were created by injured animals walking across the keyboard of a Mac. However, I think there is something wrong with a society that relegates these archives of advertising to sub-standard clothing roles. The first promo tee was produced for The Wizard of Oz in 1939 (true fact) which was made from cats wool and steel (unconfirmed fact). That is 75 years of fashion history which we can’t just throw away. This weekend, I ask you to not wear your promotional upper-garment during physical activity. Instead give it an iron, match with a dress pant and take it out somewhere nice. Show the world your best kept fashion secret!

Ode to Fish ‘n’ Chips

Lach Ryan

FnC

There is a tradition that is not only specific to Australia, but to the season of summer. In a world of mega, franchised take-aways and hipster food vans, one retro delicacy stands the test of salty time. They are humble in both their ingredients and their packaging and recently, during a midweek meal by the bay,I was reminded of their simple brilliance. I write today to pay respect to the understated delicacy that is fish n chips.

Fish and Chips are traditional and extremely popular throughout the Commonwealth countries, especially along the coast. The great thing about the fish n chip tradition is also about how the meal itself is consumed. What makes them so quintessentially a summer meal is the cultural trait of eating them by the beach.

Families in Australia will often purchase their fish n chip, and then head to a local beach, beachside park or ocean lookout and feast away. No one is quite sure where this tradition originates from, but Anthropologists suggest it has something to do with a need to eat food closest to where it originally came from. This is quite a weird practice when you think about it...it’s not like people turn up to farms every time they have a steak. In Australia, the standard ‘fish’ served with your order is known as flake, a type of shark meat. This allows Australians the opportunity to get back at the sharks. An “eat them before they eat us” approach. It has never really been publically discussed, but perhaps if the Australian public stopped eating sharks, then the sharks would stop eating them.

The paper parcel in which the food is wrapped adds to the mystique of the meal. The brilliance of the paper wrap is that it doubles as a plate for serving. Hazards tend to exist when consuming fish and chips outdoors. In the wild, their natural predator is the seagull. Hordes of gulls will descend on your picnic spot as soon as they hear the rustle of paper being unwrapped. It’s for this reason I suggest you don’t hold Secret Santa gift-swaps down by the beach, lest ye be preyed upon by hungry gulls looking to eat the ceramic handcrafted, toilet roll holder Darlene in Logistics crafted you. To keep seagulls at bay, families will often allow their dogs and toddlers off the lead to go and chase them away.

If you have never experienced fish and chips, make it a priority this summer!  F ‘n’ C shops tend to be more plentiful near the coastline, but still can be found inland. However, you might want to follow my grandfather’s wisdom who, paranoid about food poisoning, refused to eat fish unless he could see the ocean. Late in his life he developed cataracts and, as he was a devout Catholic, every Good Friday we would have to serve him dinner in an inflatable boat in the bay.

Hot, convenient, inexpensive, satisfying and just a bit wrong, nothing tastes more like summer than fish and chips! Except maybe sunscreen

Angel in a Mercedes

Lach Ryan

Vintage Mercedes

As a Kid, there was this one verse in the bible that intrigued me more than others. Hebrews 13:2 says "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares". I got the gist was of the text was about showing hospitality and kindness to all, regardless if they were familiar to you or not. For a kid, hospitality was easy- it just meant showing them where the toilet is,sharing your Cheezles and giving them a turn on your BMX. But this angel stuff is confusing for a 10 year old. How do you entertain angels? Do you need to get special catering for them?  Book a DJ? Perhaps organize a tour to Phillip Island?

A few week ago I think I actually got to experience this verse, but not in a way I imagined when I was a kid. Turns out angels don't ride BMX's. They drive Mercedes.

I was getting off the shuttle bus from my work commute, ready to jump on my scooter (I am aware of how tragically Bond-like my life is) when I spot in the mirrors a big, bronze Mercedes rumbling into the car-park. I smelled this thing before I heard it, oozing diesel fumes and making  noise a factory of Prius' could only dream of. It pulled up right next to me. The door popped open slightly, then was helped on the rest of the journey to 'open' by a seasoned, stumpy leg. The owner of the leg, and the car, was a stocky 60 something male with a type of grey-blonde haircut you purchase at a shopping center. His weathered face was looking me over, intently. I was slightly concerned by the dramatic nature of his arrival upon my evening, getting a strong Eastern European organised crime vibe from him. Then he spoke.

"How fast they go?" "What?..." "The scooter." "Oh right. yeah. ummm..  mostly sit on 40 round here but I've had it up to 80km comfortably." "That right? Gee. Never would have thought..."

Our conversation maintained this intensity and depth for another five minutes.

I observed that the Merc Man was very happy to be talking to me. Maybe I resembled a Ukrainian rockstar, maybe he was very lonely. Recounting the story now, it seems sleazy to have a 60 year old man strike up a conversation in a carpark, but I never got those vibes. It was an easy exchange between two beings. He seemed lonely if anything. He wanted someone to talk to about the ownership and economy of scooters, and in that time and place, I could offer that.

So I did.

Driving away, the simple and complete randomness of the exchange stayed with me. It wasn't that an old guy striking up small talk about the weather and auto-parts is that strange, it was the genuine enjoyment the guy seemed to get from the simple conversation and how in turn I enjoyed talking to him. What had just happened? Then that verse came back to me. Maybe I had just entertained an angel?!

So it turns out angels aren't into BMX's but they are intrigued by the mechanics of 150cc German scooters. But shouldn't they turn up and talk me through a big life decision? Comfort me in times of sorrow or doubt? Reveal a mission from God that I must complete with a quirky soundtrack? Aren't angels supposed to have wings, not 1990's era Adidas zip-pants?!

Maybe not. Maybe they are just about simple connections and helping us to realise that, ultimately life is about relationships and the ability to commute urban centers in an efficient manner. Still don't get how the vintage Mercedes fits in.

Vitamin D is for Deficient

Lach Ryan

ku-medium

Cometh the winter, cometh the medical trend reports. If it’s not bird, swine or albatross flu, it is warnings of a super-zombie virus immune to soup. Right now the hottest thing in medical trends since Tahitian tongue tinea is Vitamin D deficiency. Australian’s may live in one the driest, sun drenched clear-skied countries on the face of God’s great green, groaning, gulping, groovy, gothic, gassy, googly earth but that we are told this not enough. It seems the shift from the anti-cancer council message of Summer's “Don’t go out in the Sun” has become so effective that  Health authorities have come out with a Winter version “Please, go out in the Sun...its getting kind of weird.” This mixed messaging has left the Australian public in a standstill, confused and pasty white.

What is vitamin D? It’s a hormone that helps your body soak up calcium, ensuring you keep your bones and muscles intact. In the past vitamin D deficiency was the cause of rickets, but now it is more closely linked to sales of fake tan, supplements and the concerns doctors give otherwise healthy people. More concerning is that it has recently been linked to Cancer. This means too much sun is a bad thing, but so is not enough. 'Enough' is classed as 2-3 hours per week of direct exposure onto the skin during the winter months. However, it also appears the vitamin D is a racist little brat,  as a bigoted 3-6 hours are recommended for those with darker skin.

Yummy staples like eggs, fish, liver and some milk has been known to boost Vitamin D levels.To counter the risks of deficiency, a focused diet can be enjoyed to optimize vitamin D uptake. Why not enjoy a simple sandwich made of two slices of bread, a piece of liver and 11 crushed fish oil tablets drenched in milk and served with a boiled egg? Most people would rather risk the osteoporosis than submit their taste buds to such punishment.

We have become increasingly paranoid about our VD levels (not that one... it grows without impediment), as testing levels have increased by five times that from original rates 8 years ago. Among those at risk include the elderly, pregnant, the pregnant elderly and shift workers (excluding  those employed at  7-11 and other fluorescent lighted environs).  Particularly vulnerable is anyone who covers-up for extended periods of time such as ninja’s, superheroes, morph suit enthusiasts and beekeepers.

Let's get real. In this busy, microwave meal, bag-less vacuum, working world we don't have time to sit in parks flaunting our rolled cuffs to the gaze of the solar rays. If you are concerned about your vitamin D levels - go see a doctor. They will be more than happy to give you some pills. Pills that basically give your system the same vitamin D hit you would get from 20 minutes of daily sun exposure. Meaning you no longer have to go outside! But be warned. When next year's winter medical warnings come through, and they link vitamin D supplement pills to an outbreak of Vampire-ism, don't come looking for my blood.

Coveting is a Cancer and a Killjoy (or How I bought a New TV)

Lach Ryan

black_white_tv

A week or so back I bought a new TV. Earlier the same week I also got an ‘all clear’ from a type of medical test you want clearance from. These two things are unrelated. In a way.

The Doctor didn’t say “Well Mr Ryan you don’t have cancer, so I recommend you go out and buy a new TV.”

Me: “Really?”

Dr: “Yes its standard medical practice now. Last week I informed a woman her haemorrhoids would clear without surgery, then I advised her to get a new fridge.”

Me: “I see. What’s the thinking behind this? Some sort of psycho-physiological positive reinforcement? Treating my body for not been crap?”

Dr: “Yes that and my brother-in-law manages the local Good Guys. You pay less for cash there, you know.”

So out I went and saw Dr Senjakrumi’s brother Devon and got myself a great deal on a new TV.

Basically the situation was that our old TV had died. Not of cancer, but just old age. The set went and with it our belief that we could possibly entertain ourselves without it (not before a week and a half of dusty board games and half finished e-books).

Going into the electronics store, my aim had been to get a 42inch LED TV. The old set we had was 32inch plasma that looked more 2003 than a popped-collar on a polo shirt.

Walking through the maze of plastic LED walls, I passed the 32inch screens that once had satisfied my eyes. But next door to them was the future... all 42 inches of it. Those extra pixels cried out to me ‘Look. Look.’ Then I realised it just was an excited Vietnamese man hidden by the screen, showing his wife his latest discovery... a 50inch Full HD LED monster. Seeing me captivated by the Vietnamese gent’s set, the sales guy casually remarked “Why settle for 42inch when you can have 50inch? In comparison, 42inch just seems so small! You know now that you have seen it, you will always want bigger.”

There it was. The problem with everything. Until a few moments before, I was stoked with the 42inch set! It was 10 whole inches bigger than anything I had previously known. Then along came the Look-Look guy and his 50 inches of fury, and I had to have it.

I realised this act was symbolic. We are always coveting the next, literally, best thing. From iPhones to jobs, houses to partners, clothes to cars, holidays to food. Why can’t we be happy with what we’ve got? Can we not just enjoy it and be thankful for the fact that we actually have IT and not worry about upgrading or chasing THAT?

Unfortunately I am very competent at that type of behaviour. I did buy the 50inch screen but only because I got a deal where it was a $20 difference from the 42inch. Since I have had it, most of my friends that have come over have said... “Wow. It’s bigger than ours.” Then turning to their other: “I think we need to look at getting a new one too. It’s getting too small.” Last time I checked with the vet, TV’s don’t shrink with old age.

As broken humans we are conditioned to want what we don’t have. Pascal will tell you it is a God-shaped hole we are all trying to fill. I tend to agree, but that then means that God looks an awful lot like electrical appliances, crossed with a clothing rack and a sprinkling of Apple products. God actually was onto this early with his 10th Commandment, or as he called it - coveting.

In one month or one year, my new TV will be just my TV. Eventually it won’t even matter to me. Not in an immaterial sense, but a my-TV-is-now-old way. It’s been said many times before, but all these feelings pass and we need to be happy what we have now. Our partners, our friends, our house, our food...our health. It only takes a few days of waiting for a Doctors test result, with a your health on the line, to make you realise what you have is enough... and that it could, and eventually one day will, be all gone.

50inch is great, but 42inch is fine. For now. Soon they both won’t matter and that can be sooner than you think. But hey, everyone loves a bargain!

Healesville, Sanctuary of Strange

Lach Ryan

ANZAC Koala

Yesterday was ANZAC Day in Australia. A day to make biscuits whilst remembering those that died in past wars. A day that defines our young nation's character via the lens of tragic loss inflicted from conflicts vastly removed in relevance from our remote state. It also means a public holiday. Out of respect for the fallen, our country's retailers choose to close the doors to their premises until 1pm. This allows the general  public to reflect on the sacrifice of the diggers and wonder what to do. Some choose to attend special dawn services, others attend parades where the young watch elderly ex-servicemen walk aimlessly and wave ( in a nice reversal of the normal parade dynamic). Still others, as I observed, like to turn up to these closed shopping centers and sullenly hold a makeshift moment of confusion-fueled reflection. As they stand in the crisp mid morning, car keys in hand,  prompted to turn their thoughts from the shopping list to the lives lost in Afghanistan. We chose to head out of the city, to a place in the Yarra Valley- Healesville. The name of the place gets its origins from the first British settlers, who would often stop there on their travels to consult with an Indigenous Orthopedic specialist. The man, Gunjamarila (which is Aboriginal for Dr Toe) was said to be one of the first know practitioners of foot doctory. Here, settlers would get their bunions, achilles and excess fluid seen to.

Healesville today draws people for many reasons such as the food and wine offerings, its natural beauty and the native animal zoo known as The Sanctuary. Mostly it draws people due to an old scientific research project involving a magnet that works on the unique magnetism of people's personalities.  The magnet, a joint venture between the CSIRO and Tourism Board, is hidden within the town's municipal center and literally attracts hundreds of thousands of humans each year.

We however were there for the The Sanctuary, a place where wild animals who are placed into captivity for the benefit of international tourists, can feel safe and pampered. First we came across the cabaret-costumed, chicken-dinosaurs known as the Emu. Next to us were some North American tourists (couldn't tell whether they were Canadian or American, as they were neither ignorant nor wearing double denim) who  referred to them as Eemoos, making them sound like some sort of digital cow. In line with our nations coat of arms, Kangaroos were there too. In a pen. How do you contain Kangaroos? I hear they can leap over buildings in a single bound, are faster than a speeding locomotive and can stop bullets. They also contribute regularly to a major metropolitan newspaper. There was a Red, a Grey and a Silver one...much like ones options at any Volkswagen dealership.

Next was the main attraction- Koalas. A safe bet is that if you can see a Koala in the wild, somewhere within a 10m radius will be a German backpacker. After the war, Germans were looking for some purpose as a people. After much debate, it was decided they should wander the world in search of Koalas. The smarter ones eventually find their way to Australia, but you can't knock the enthusiasm of those in the Brazilian rainforest. I felt sorry for these Koalas, not because of Greta and Andreas constantly capturing every tweak of their fury face, but they way they lived. Each day they are propped into a carved eucalypt log loaded with the Koala equivalent of a brick of cocaine - fresh branches of gum leaves. Here they slam their face into the green goodness like Pacino in 'Scarface', machine gunning their onlookers with dazed disaffection.

We saw some enclosures where Platypus were supposed to be. Who knows if they were. The Dingoes were my highlight of the zoo. Up close, they appear as very similar to the common dog. Apparently they are all thought to have descended form one single wolf that immigrated across from Asia thousands of years ago, probably to study. It is no surprise then that their little in-bred brains make them go looking in tents for midnight snacks.

The whole exercise was to show our son Archer some native animals up close, but this point was clearly lost on him. He just kept requesting to see the gorillas. I explained that gorillas were an introduced species to this country, and haven't been seen in the wild since 1937 when one was spotted shopping at the Myer Mid Year sales.

Our trip was topped off by a quick stop at a Valley Dairy, where we tasted some locally made cheese. They had selections of Goat's and Cow's cheese. One with ash sprinkled over it and tasted better than anything that I've ever made  featuring charred ash. People who work in the dairy industry, to me anyway, all seem a little strange. Perhaps it is the oversupply of calcium in their diet. This guy was quite keen for me to try a slice of Human milk cheese he had been working on, a colostrum Camembert. It was at that point we said farewell to this overall-ed oddity and headed back to the city. I'll be stuffed if those brave souls sacrificed their lives at war, just so I can use my freedom to eat freak cheese! To adapt a Vandal's lyric "Australia stands for freedom, but are we truly free, if you can walk into a dairy and order some boob cheese?"

Appiness by the Kilowatt

Lach Ryan

anti social technology

It is likely you are reading this to simply distract yourself from the boredom of whatever life activity you find yourself in; commuting, eating, toileting, working, piloting, ruling, creating, procreating, taxidermy or even haberdashery. The fact is that we are all now wired for constant, meaningless Oh cool they are  touring at the end of the year!... Sorry I got bored writing that last sentence and checked Facebook. Where was I? Distraction- that's it. We are all wired (or is it wireless?) for constant distraction. If not via an web connected screen, it's via an iDevice. How many brunching mid-twenties girl packs do I have to behold, not engaging with each other, but their phones. How many guys aren't Man enough to stand in line with only their thoughts without putting their hand in their pants to play with their mobi-thing? Parents at parks capturing their kids first back-flip  engaged with the record button and not the moment. Couples on dates with nothing more to talk about than what lives people are editing for Facebook. Kids at live gigs reducing life affirming experiences down to pixels on a screen. Muppets simultaneously steering bikes and cars whilst getting angry with birds. From the desk to the couch, the bike to the bed, public transport to the toilet. We are all looking to tiny screens, just to stop looking inside ourselves.

Bit glum? I only need to look at my life.

Those moments I catch myself jumping onto apps in a vague attempt to distract myself from the dull waking hours. A bad day can tend to look something like this: Wake. Breakfast. Check apps. Work. Lunch with apps. Home. Check apps before dinner (recipe via an app). Upload dinner photo to app. More apps of an evening, whilst waiting for TV to improve and sleep to come. When waiting my my 2 yr old to fall asleep, I'll regularly switch between apps relating to new jobs, property for sale, home loan calculators, banking and the secret Instagram account I load selfies of my hands onto, trying to get modelling jobs. The apps trick me into thinking this availability of information in my hand will translate into a new reality. It never does. Doesn't sound good does it?  I should go see somebody. No need- they have an app for that now. This is appiness.

There needs to be an 'Off' button. Surely there is an app that locks you out of all your other apps for a set amount of time? One so we won't all be distracted. We could think and feel all those things (good and bad) that we haven't been, and go do something about them. All that would probably happen is TV ratings would go back up.

* If you are bored and looking for something then check out the song that vaugely inspired this post. Two different versions, same singer-songwriter| here + here

 

Making Contact

Lach Ryan

Contact

"Just poke yourself in the eye." This is essentially what my optometrist advised me to do whilst 'fitting’ my new contact lenses. Contact lenses are an optical push-up bra. Convincing both the wearer and admirer that visually there is more going on than there actually is. Recently I took up an offer from my optical dispensary to improve my eye-cleavage. After running through how to expertly poke myself in the eye and being assured that I was 'a natural' , I gathered my sample pack and headed home to try out my new mutant-vision powers.

But I could not.

It seems looking at myself in the mirror, I was unable to stick them to me. The lense would not contact with my iris. Poke after painful poke, the clear plastic bowl of enlightenment would not adhere. Try as I may, I couldn't enhance my visual capabilities due ironically to my hand-eye coordination.

Now for those readers who have not had the pleasure to lock eyes with me, let me explain something. I have been blessed with a set of eyelashes that are the love children of a mascara model and a camel. Had I not been born a man (this is a literal statement and painful fact for my mother), I would have made my living travelling the globe fluttering my eyelids for cosmetic companies. That, or providing the services of a human fan via my eyelids to a rich Arabian sheik.

Two weeks on and several attempts later, it seems my lush lashes just won't allow for the finger of revolution to deliver on its visionary promise. This provided many minutes of entertainment for my family, who would gather with popcorn and chairs to watch the sideshow freak now known as the Persistent Poker of Pain.

Maybe it is my body trying to rebel against what has become my iconic look. Perhaps the black frames that have adorned my face for the last 5 years have become like an exoskeletal-appendage. There is a power in the frames of darkness. They take over the wearer, imposing a worldview that is theirs alone. Ever since the Optical Revolution of the early 70's that saw the rise of the contact lenses, black frames and contacts have been at war. The random blindings and fatal infections may have subsided, but the tensions remain. I will remain a visual Switzerland on this conflict. My heart lies with black frames, but contact lenses seem to have a vision for the future. If only we could see eye to eye.

 

The No C's Diet

Lach Ryan

Shot of a funny  woman housewife dressed in retro style.

I am good at very few things. Eating is one of them. Inspired by b-grade TV show 'Man vs Food' I have started entering eating competitions...granted these are with myself, but the competitive digestive juices still flow. However, I cannot stay on this gluttonous path. I have up-sized my efforts to get the balance right when it comes to eating and have developed the framework of a diet that will ensure a slim silhouette and many appearances of TV Shows that air before noon. Large Ladies and jolly, fat Gentlemen I would like to introduce you to my revolutionary NO C's Diet. Once in a generation a diet comes along that defines that era along with its music, fashion and politics. Who can forget such dietary classic as the Atkins? or The South Beach, The Mad Hatter's Tea Party, CSIRO, Liver Cleansing, A Walk to Remember starring Mandy Moore and the Estonian Egg famine? Essentially the NO C's is a simple system of what not to eat. It concentrates on the obvious and not-so obvious.Here's an overview...

Week 1 -6 Simply eat whatever you like, but run twice as much as you normally do. Easy huh? Never run. Get off your ass and move those legs. Marathon runner in training? Well bud those 84kms aren't going to get completed arguing with a blog post via computer screen.

Week 7-12 By now you should have noticed general well-being improvements, possible drastic weight loss, a sense of renewed confidence and purpose and an appreciation for open spaces. Great! Buckle up because now we go to the next level.Your eating plan starts here and requires you to cut out all of the following-

Cigarettes- it looks unbelievably cool to smoke, but good looks don't count for much when you're dead, unless you believe in Model Heaven. Cakes- Blow the candles out on any goods from the flour fueled family such as muffins, friands, biscuits, pancakes, waffles or flan. Chips - Remember girls 'a packet a day keeps progress away'... and the potential of you ever needing to by a notebook titled 'Notes for my Wedding' Carbohydrate sides- no potatoes, pasta, cous cous, polenta, rice, packet or artisan breads. Don't even consider a plate that has come into contact with these sides, less they talk with the rest of the meal and influence them with starchy ideas. Cans and Casks- alcohol is gone. Maybe so is your confidence and social life, but you needed to know this sooner or later. Coffee- the withdraws will be more prolonged than the US getting out of Afghanistan, but just think that at the end of the day, you alone will rule your nervous system and not some tribal Pakistani warlord (the coffee bean in this analogy). Cereal- forget starting the day with this. Try fruit, skipping it altogether or just eating a picture of your favorite food you cut from the supermarket catalogue.

Week 13 -16 For the final 4 weeks we tackle some often overlooked factors, to get you the results many chase but very few capture.

Cats- a hard one for many, but to loose the fat you've got to loose the feline out of your diet. If you find it too hard, at least try to change to low fat Kittens or even possums who are higher in protein. Catalogues- the staple of any weight loss diet is eating pictures of foods cut from supermarket catalogues (see cereals). In order to shed yourself past the edge of never-before, put down the scissors and go for something else less intangible. Cabbage- Who doesn't love a whole cabbage from the local Cabbage shop after a few drinks on a Friday night? Sorry these are off the menu along with the alcohol. Chocolate- strange as it may seem, but recent research shows that chocolate consumption may be heavily linked to many forms of obesity, fat gain, diabetes and general ill health. Whilst the so-called Doctors have yet to prove any of this, anecdotal evidence suggest backing off on the bars may offer some people some weight loss benefits. Sounds just crazy enough to work!

 Following this diet over the course of 16 weeks along with a Government approved calisthenics program will see you experiencing weight loss gains like a jockey in Spring Carnival. Keep those before-and-after shots coming...

How to MC a Wedding

Lach Ryan

MC

A few weeks back I was at a wedding. The first one I have attended where I was not the MC or wearing inappropriate shoes or any underpants. I had some time to sit back sniff the cheese and chew the wine, taking notes and reflecting on how you hammer the MC role at a wedding. Here are my Do’s and Don’ts for all you first time players.

DO

Learn the names & faces of parents and the bridal party- I made the mistake at one wedding of talking to the Uncle as the Father of the Bride. In my defense  he looked very similar to his brother and I also caught him pashing the Mother of the Bride behind the ice fountain on a few occasions.

Eat- these gigs don't pay. Get your time investment back with food. You'll be busy during the peak service times so slip the function coordinator a $20 and this will ensure you get a sampler platter coming at you like a tipsy, lonely bridesmaid at home-time.

Prepare- I don't care what classes you took during your Arts degree or how many episodes of Drew Carey's 'Who are those white guys beside the black guy Anyway?' you cant impro this. As one who has taken a few dips in the pool of improv, it is a dark art that cannot be mastered. Prepare a few thoughtful words, and if you can make them funny. If you can't do funny, aim for controversial  Either way make them memorable.

Fill gaps- Most weddings are brilliant fun, if they are yours. For everyone else its an excuse to put on a suit/dress and juggle drinks and small serves of food. This is where the MC needs to bring information and frivolity. Tell them where the toilet is, tell the about yourself, tell them about love. Tell them this is the best night of their lives and if it was all to end right here and now...well remind them you have a gun.

DON’T

Reference the Buck's party/Hen’s night- what happens on these things is between you, the other attendees, the fabric and the stain removal guy. Despite what insights on your friend's beloved may have surfaced, you need to shelve them like a good wine only to be bought out 20-30 years later at the birthday of one of their children.

Talk about Ex’s- save that for the divorce BBQ or Spouse's wake. Something like "Hey Emmy.P now works the registers at Coles and guess what? She's single!" would then be appropriate.

Offer an opinion on the wedding ceremony- Unless you are legally empowered to do a better job, make like a TV fisherman and Let. It. Go. Yes we all know there are other verses in the Bible than Corinthians 13, but Bogans don't!  You think there aren't other great wedding dance songs out there beside 'November Rain' ? Sure there are. Bogans don't care.   To them love is patient. Love is kind. Love is best expressed  whilst dry-humping your new wife through a Slash guitar solo in front of 73 family and friends.

Play an instrument/wear a Kilt - Despite the calls from the bridal party avoid this request. Putting sentiments to music is cheap and tacky, and best left to musicians. Doing it in a man-dress is worse. Nobody wants to see the by-product of your six drum lessons, and nobody especially wants to see your kit and sticks.

Follow the above and the rewards of MCing a wedding will be yours. More Moet bottles and thank-you cards than you have ever known.

Dads of Summer

Lach Ryan

DadnSon

The holiday section of summer is closing for another year, and so I shake the sand off the towel of my existence and prepare to settle into the year routine proper. I can’t help but feel this summer was one of the better ones- full of quintessential defining Dad moments, like I was living a poignant 80’s sitcom. As a Dad of summer, things that you remember once loving come back via your kids and wink at you lovingly again. Like viewing fireworks freshly through the half-closed eyes of a toddler you are forcing to stay up. Seeing Police arrest drunken teens, and the ensuring drama it provides. Ice cream as meal replacement. Getting sand in your pants, ensuring exfoliated skin that only nature can provide (because a beautician wouldn't go there).  Enjoying local tourism attractions that would have been impressive only to Eastern Europeans and the under 12’s.

For me, fatherhood kicks me in the shins every time I pack the car for a trip. Nothing makes me feel more like a Dad, or should I clarify my own Dad, than when I’m playing virtual Tetris with a pram, a portacot and a Porter’s monthly portion of luggage. Squeezing bags into crevices whilst muttering like a madman’s mother, all under the duress of some self imposed take-off time. The impending threat of overrunning this scheduled leave time ensures a nice sweat is broken into. The baffling thing about this sweating is that it will happen in any weather, face-melting heat or lip-freezing cold, I’ll be lightly covered in a deodorant defying dew of discomfort. Many of times this scenario played out as we visited family in the rurals and got away to the coast. Each time I felt my ability with packing the car improved, so did my scope as a father. I even managed to undertake the last two attempts without grouching at my wife.

Time spent in hot cars is as Australian as time spent in London. Both have vastly different effects on your complexion. Summer was filled with such trips, up and down highways as the heat chased us from destination to destination. The reign of the iThing means that jillions of songs are available at the scroll of a finger. But when you’re a Dad, the rules state that much like a commercial radio station, only a few CD’s can be in rotation at a time. For us it was The Gaslight Anthem’s ‘Handwritten’. I’m happy my son likes straight up rock, and more than a few montage moments were had screaming together to ‘45’ whilst A-man head banged like an advanced baby bogan.

We hosted our son’s 2nd Birthday party. Blowing balloons and supervising party games is another Dad duty. My own Dad was there in his new found role of Pop. He was a bit flustered, having had to pack up the car earlier that day for the trip down. Here we were, holding the piñata as two 2 year- olds spent a good 30 minutes trying to dint it with a miniature cricket bat. The cricket bat wasn't that effective in cracking through, but was a vast improvement on last year’s device. Why we thought Grandma’s walking stick was the best thing for barely standing 1 year-olds to attack a paper mâché Cookie Monster, is pure proof you don’t know much about kids for first couple of years. Dad knows this so passed on some great advice. ‘Don’t stand directly behind the piñata when the kids swing... not if you’re thinking of having more of them anyway.’

Fixing things is imperative for true manliness and a favoured Dad pastime. The wisdom goes something like this “Women break it, Men fix it.” Just ignore the female majority working in mental health treating majority male patients, or the hunk of teen hearts smashed by Armageddon-era Ben Affleck. This fix-it imperative only increases when children enter the picture. I found myself this summer along with my little apprentice- man nailing nails, assembling tables and beds, starting motors, tightening bolts and digging a hole. There is something rewarding about learning how to make better that which currently is not, avoiding having to pay a professional for it. I may push this ideal as far as I can but early on I suspect things like dental work and optometry may need to be left to the professionals. I’ll just do the stuff around the house.

One thing that did get the better of me was the DVD/Recorder.  Stuck in an elctro-loop, the thing kept turning itself off, after I turned it on. It was at this point I realised I was approaching the peak of Dadness. In past cultures, children were reared to protect and provide for their parents and elders when they became weak, vulnerable and old. In modern society it seems we simply breed a new generation to understand and interpret the latest technology for us. As A-man came over with his toy spanner and said ‘I do, I do’ and started banging on the top of the player...I realised in about a years’ time he’ll be able to sort this. Until then I guess I’m stuck watching TV, which isn't so bad...Armageddon is on.

BBQ’s were also had, the Zoo visited, fish ‘n’ chips enjoyed, waves surfed, dogs patted, bikes rode balls kicked (sorry Pop) and dreams dreamed.That last bit is assumed. I can’t get into my kids sub-conscious yet, especially when he’s asleep. The Perceptorator V20 only claims to work when they are awake...at least that’s what I think it says. The instructions are all in Russian.

A Silent Night

Lach Ryan

Queen_BF

There is alot of noise around Christmas time. Each year the Queen does a Christmas message. This year is will be in holographic 3D in an attempt to get more people to care. Obama and the Pope each put one out too. One is in done via shadow puppets and the other is parody song of the year's hits. TV networks put out Christmas Specials that sometimes are, and sometimes aren't. There are sales to be had, causes to be supported, dogs to be adopted, Santa photos to be taken, hampers to be won, campaigns to listen too, feasts to be prepared and venison to be slaughtered

Its all too much. Add to this the constant flow of people trying to catch up with you before the 25th December like the world is going to end. This year,most people actually thought the world would end on the 21st December! It didn't. I suspect there will be an increase in Gift Voucher giving this year as people scramble to hide the fact they didn't bother shopping for pressies as they had backed in the Mayan calendar and were too busy dancing butt-naked among beehives in Byron Bay.

The noise of Christmas is almost too much. You don't need to do half the stuff they say, eat as much as I do or even spend all that you don't have. I do think you need to make time to find some quiet and reflect on what all this craziness is about. Not just Christmas, but the year past. Even the years ahead. Why the noise? What could you hear if there was silence? What the flip is tinsel about?!

It seems there will never be silence, thanks to Christmas carols. Don't get me wrong, I like a nice carol occasionally. A good carol is like a dog, it's best kept outdoors and away from young children and the elderly. However I cannot stand the increasing rate of televised events with pop-tartlets, reality TV fading-stars, network profile 'talent' and game show hosts warbling songs of praise through their whitened, atheistic teeth. These songs are intended for people who believe Christmas has more to do with the Big Guy in the Sky, than the Big Red Guy who ate too much pie. They really need to just shut up.

When I was a teenager, I remember on Christmas eve Mum would mop the floors before going to bed. I would kind of stay up, just hanging around enjoying the anticipation of the next day. Occasionally the peace would be disturbed by Paul smashing cans next door, but mostly it was a quiet night. A Stille Nacht as the Germans call it. No crap TV movies with John Candy racing home to see his family and avoid a heart attack. No domestics. No drunk Uncles. No Xmas Eve nightclub benders. Just silence.

Each Christmas Eve I try to remember these nights. The Silent night. A holy night. When Christ the Saviour was born.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas.

The Hero Next Door

Lach Ryan

FS

Children’s TV is visual cough syrup. At first it starts out practical, just something to ease the congestion of child minding. Then you find yourself late one Wednesday afternoon sprawled out on the couch, looking down the bottle of addiction.  It sucks you in. The bright colours, the syrupy story lines  You become quickly addicted to the 10min episodic bursts of entertainment. When did a 30 year old man care what a bunch of talking trains get up to each day? When he became a Dad- that’s when! My child is addicted to Fireman Sam. All other children’s TV is judged by this benchmark. A show is either BS or AS (before Sam or After Sam). Many, many shows are BS. Take for example the multitude of poorly animated shows featuring either talking Pigs or Sheep. Aren't any other animals suitable for anthropomorphizing and adventures? What about Gibbons, Salamanders and the humble Yak?

‘Yerty Yak all Dressed in Black’ would be an ace show. It would follow the goings-on of a young, misunderstood Goth Yak trying to fit his square frame into a rounded Yak world. However I would never get to watch that show, as it doesn't have fire or a man named Sam.

Archer is obsessed. Any free minute he has, he will try to watch this show. We have a cache of them recorded to the hard drive of the PVR, but he also has mastered the iPad and catch-up TV solely for the purpose of getting his ‘Reoar Reoar’ (his sound for sirens and also shorthand for the show) hit. Now before you tune out (like many viewers did for the shortly run Russian animation of Grigori Gibbon) expecting a person with kids brag blog, I have some theories and concerns with this show that I can no longer remain quiet about.

‘Fireman Sam’ is set in Pontypandy, Wales. This is a small village with the most varying topography in the world. Imagine a place with snow-capped mountains that meet a deep harbour. It is like New Zealand of the northern hemisphere, without the Hobbits and grating accents. But below this idyllic surface lurks some darker monsters. Take for example the town itself. It is small. A population of no more than 40 people, 4 of which work for the Fire brigade. When 10% of the town is employed by the fire service, sinister needs creeps in.

This level of employment needs to be justified; fires need to be put out. There must be a constant source of fires. Where there are fires, there is smoke. Where there is smoke, there is most likely a closet pyromaniac. Now I am not sure which of the four main fire fighting characters is the Pontypandy Pyro, but if I had to guess I would say Station Officer Steele. He’s the stiff upper-lipped, silver haired leader fox of the team.  Don’t tell me though the thought of early retirement doesn’t occasionally reduce him to some secret, pantsless, burny-burny just to keep things rolling.

Sam himself is an enigma. A workaholic, the man seems to never go home (does he even have one?) and is quite the eligible bachelor. Single by choice or just married to the job, he tends to make the local ladies swoon. Especially sister-in-law Bronwyn. Bronwyn is married to Sam’s less capable brother and local fisherman Charlie. The fact the creators look down on the dippy Fisherman, is a clear indication that this show is homage to the English class structure. Bronwyn is always coming onto to Sam with puns and double entendres’ about trucks and hoses that would make the most open minded stay-at-home Mum blush. Sam is oblivious. This makes me wonder if his internal fires burn only for other Firemen.

Another of this progressive show’s characters is Dilys Price and her son Norman. A single Mum and mischievous son. Norman is a natural disaster of a child and would be second only to Charlie Sheen at the peak of Two and a Half Men’s popularity, in regards to importance of a character in a series.  He is the central cause of 90% of the fire or emergency situations in the show. The 10% he is not involved in, the audience is still led to believe he is to blame. The show could easily be called Fireman Sam and the Redhead Menace Child. The real question that the writers leave floating in the corner of the room is- who is Norman’s father? I like to think that the fact that both he and Fireman Sam are redheads has little to do with their strong Welsh roots, but speaks more loudly of their shared DNA.

Fireman Sam as Norman’s father would make complete sense from a narrative perspective. It talks to the tradition of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, but the opposite dynamic. It is probably this complex subtext of what appears to be a simple children’s show that saw it nominated for a BAFTA.

Norman’s mother Dilys is quite active on the dating scene. Her long time suitor on the show is the town’s bumbling bus driver Trevor, ambiguously dark skinned for bonus broadcast-diversity points. That doesn’t stop her fluttering her eyes at other men that punctuate the show. She is a sucker for a man in uniform. Take the token international characters that speak strongly of the markets this show has high appeal in. Canadian mountaineer Moose Roberts and Australian rescue helicopter pilot Tom Thomas. Tom is often called into action when the fire-fighters have to do anything that doesn’t involve a ladder or a hose. He is adapt at looking hunky in a 1980’s Queensland way and is also handy on the BBQ- what did I say before about BAFTA’s? Moose Roberts basically hangs out on Mountains and talks in a difficult accent about the weather. He has a permanent five o’clock shadow, but I couldn’t say the same thing about his role on the show.

Fireman Sam has proved itself as a viable entertainment option since 1986. This is one heck of a long running show as far as Children’s TV goes. It is the unanswered questions between the lines of the shows scripts that will continue to hook easily engaged parents far into the future. If you want to be up with what the cool kids (literally) are into, this is it.

Seoul Gangnam Style

Lach Ryan

psy

The most famous place on the planet at the moment is probably Gangnam. It is an area in Seoul's south that is both affluent and plastic. Home to Asia's best plastic surgeons and the type of people that would use them, along with the cars they would drive. I was told that plastic surgery is a popular gift to graduating students from their proud parents. Makes the waterfront lunch in Geelong, Mum and Dad bought me look tame. Young Korean's would rather get thier boobs, noses and eyelids (most popular apparently) than enjoy a steak with the folks. It is also a place of commerce, with many businesses and conventions taking place there. It is for that reason I was in Seoul, Korea. It feels as though the work component of the trip has overtook the travel side. I didn't really get to sit down and enjoy the three course cultural meal of Seoul as I had planned. It was more like I 'sat at the bar and had drink, promising myself I must come back properly'. I was fortunate enough to be shown around by some locals so did get enough of a peek.

Business in Korea is a consuming and homo-erotic affair. Koreans work all the time! It seems the notion of holidays, like vegetarianism, is foreign to them. It is also common to see pairs of chummy business fellow's walking arm draped over each other discussing mergers and acquisitions. If not wearing a business suit, most Koreans seem to favor Jeans and runners. This is ultimately the birthplace of this controversial look. Gangnam style seems to translate to Levi's and Nike's, making Jerry Seinfeld a sartorial icon before his time.

Beef is a popular dish in Korea. So popular I don't actually know if any other food is served. That is an exaggeration. They have various pickled vegetables and greens, but they all seem to serve as a vessel for beef. In my 4 days there, I had beef twice a day. There is now so much iron in my blood that I am negotiating with China for the mining rights to it. The food is amazing though! Most nights it was BBQ, but I managed a burger or two from Kraze Burgers...off their all beef menu. The most popular burger is known as the 'Cow Stack'. It is a beef pattie served with cheese, pickles, mayo wedged between two outer beef patties.

It was hard but I took in some historic sites when I could. I took a couple of early morning walks in the crisp air to a temple and also King's park. It was coming out of Autumn, and the trees looked like they were on visual fire...but not in a Moses or Black Saturday way. The temple was an interesting experience. It was very busy with locals praying ,but still managed to be serene despite being in the center of a city. However, I am always suspicious of a church or holy place that has its own ATM on premises. Again, I saw another bunch of offerings to shrines, carrying on the Asian tradition. These God's seemed like they were running a restaurant, as everybody kept bringing them rice.

Korea is easy enough to get around with only English and working legs. Most signs and shops are also in English. Such businesses as 'Beer Bang' and 'Skin Food'. I hope the latter is not what it sounds like. There are enough cosmetic places around as it is. I did see a delightful little bistro that offered up an array of dog. Out front was a simple handmade sign showing your choice of doberman, poodle, maltese or bisou with complimentary kimchi. Kimchi is the other Psy of Korea, it is everywhere and made mostly of cabbage.

Seoul as a city is huge. It is sprawling like I'd imagine LA, has the stature of New York but reminds me mostly of Vancouver. It is extremely clean and well presented much like it's people. However I didnt get a sense of much substance. The saying goes  "South Korea has Seoul" . I also hear North Korea has a military dictatorship and that sounds much more interesting to visit.

 

Hong Kong; I hardly knew thee.

Lach Ryan

Hong Kong Stopover

36 Hours in Hong Kong. Sounds rather like a Paul Kelly song where he’d drawl on about some bloke wandering Asia looking to cleanse the anguish of losing his Blue Heeler. That has Australia-Day-in-London-pub-sing-a-long all over it, but more accurately it is the first-stop itinerary of my latest travels. For those of you who just joined us, I occasionally travel for work in my day job in the para-coffee industry. Hong Kong was named after a giant ape. Her brother was also very famous and had a movie made about him. It is basically an Island or two that holds approximately 7 million people, although 40 million tourists pass through it every year making it the number 1 visited destination in the world. You could say that Hong Kong is the turnstile of the globe. I probably wouldn’t though, especially at social functions where you are trying to impress folks. They’ll most likely think you’re a bit of a muppet.

I arrived late in the afternoon and learnt far too much about the metro system and far too little about the quality of the taxi service. I spent another frustrating few hours trying to connect to in-room broadband with some fishing wire posing as cable that the hotel provided. It didn’t work. I complained and room service bought me a shiny new white cable that looked like it was from Steve Job’s private collection. Then I trekked onto the streets to muster up some chow. I came across nothing that tickled, took nor striked my fancy. In a daze of frustrated confusion I settled upon a Thai restaurant. When the green curry that I ordered was all ‘green’ (it was glowing enough to run a small car) and too little ‘curry’, I decided I’d cut my losses. I staggered back to the hotel, but came across a massage studio.” That would do the trick” I thought. “Pay some middle aged Chinese woman to rub your aching, knotted muscles at 9.30pm on Tuesday. You are in Asia afterall.” So I went up to the place and was ushered firstly into small room, before being reassigned to one befitting my giant stature. Note to self: you are not built for Asia. Public transport doesn’t want you, clothing stores and footwear outlets don’t want you and hotel bathrooms certainly don’t want you either. Anyway, I donned some grandpa pyjama outfit while this lady smoothed out the kinks of the day for only $27 AUD.

The next morning I was up for a business meeting. I know this because I put on a jacket and a business face. It face fell off somewhere in the elevator on the way down from my room. The day was great stuff. Edmond my guide took me to a dozen cafes around Hong Kong, where I consumed at least six espressos. Later that afternoon I couldn’t work out why my phone was vibrating constantly in my pocket, until I realised it was my leg taking the full hit of the caffeine.

Before getting the ferry across to Kowloon, we stopped at the Apple store. I need free WiFi, but I also couldn’t get over the queues. I asked one guy what they were queuing for. My Cantonese is that great but I think he said he was just there because everyone else was doing it. The ferry goes across Victoria Harbour and only costs about $2.50HKD which is cheap considering the view. Miss Kowloon doesn’t always ride the ferry I am told, but if she isn’t commuting that day you can always admire the other view of the cityscape. Public transport is actually pretty fun in Hong Kong. Their double decker trams are super cool. Near the tram stops are these spiritual elders with incense and shrines who will give prayers and offerings to break the curse of your bad luck. I don’t quite get what they do or which God they are dealing with, but judging by the offerings they all had he must really like oranges. Perhaps he has a bad cold or is just vitamin C deficient.

We concluded the day with a dumpling smorgasbord. They were mostly those magic ones with soup inside. Afterwards I went late night shopping at big department store. They had their annual ‘Thankful Day’ sale on. Thankful Day is an annual holiday where everyone gets together to remember and celebrate the power of 10-30% OFF.

Tomorrow I fly out of Hong Kong. Not by myself. I will be using the services of an airplane. I can’t quite do that yet. Next stop is Korea…they didn’t actually specify whether it was North or South. The North is the one with beaches right?