Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I'm thinkin' about my doorbell

It's Hallowe'en again. Boo yah. Every year, ABC Radio and The Traumatiser join together in banging on about the Americanisation of our culture and overseas traditions becoming a part of Australian life, isn't-it-awful-blah-blah-blah. Naturally, driven by the media frenzy, I expect hoards of children to come trick-or-treating.

So as not to disappoint said midgets, every year I buy individually-wrapped chocolate bars. When I first started preparing for crowds of ankle-biters dressed as ghouls and Spice Girls, I used to put the chocolates in a little bowl by the front door. You know, so I'd be ready. I'd even buy two sorts.

Naturally, the only time swarms of children have beseiged our door is when I have forgotten about Hallowe'en. Like last year. Completely forgot it. We didn't have so much as a Tim Tam in the house, so of course, we had trick-or-treaters.

Of course, they were opportunistic little bastards, but the whole thing was done in such a bloody half-arsed Australian way that if we'd had chocolate, they would have scored the lot. Here's how it played out:

(Ding dong)

Bloke: Uh, yeah?
Three lads: Trick or treat!
Bloke: (sceptical) Where are your costumes?
Lad number one: We've only got this fake arse (turns around, displays plastic buttocks worn over shorts)
Bloke: Hmm, fake arse, eh?
Lad one: (scratching) It's itchy, too. It's pretty hot out.
Bloke: (yelling) Red, there are trick-or-treaters here with a fake arse. Do we have any chocolate?
Me: (interested) A fake arse, you say?
Bloke: Yeah.
Me: Hmm, I'd pay that one. Sadly (and uncharacteristically), we're a chocolate-free zone.
Bloke: (sees random snack-sized box of sultantas on kitchen bench) What about this box of sultanas?
Three lads: Yeah, whatever.

Seems like a hell of a lot of work for a box of sultanas, but that's just me. I'm inherently lazy.

After last year's Fake Arse Incident, I made sure there were mini Mars Bars in the fridge tonight. But no matter how much I thought about my doorbell, no-one rang it.

Guess we'll have to eat the Mars Bars ourselves, then. (Hallowe'en rule of thumb: never buy chocolate you don't like.)

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Frankie says vote for Pedro

Look what I found over at everyone's favourite bit of bitchery, Go Fug Yourself. The Fug Girls were most concerned with the raggy hemlines on the poor, underfed little thing's jeans, but I've cropped them out because they weren't what caught my attention.

Forget about whichever Olsen twin this is - after all, who knows or cares? And she's obviously on her way to haunt a house somewhere, after counting all the money she's made from convincing six-year-olds they need bras, so who are we to get in her way?

The important thing in this photograph is her T-shirt. She's not old enough to know what "Frankie Says Relax" means, bless her little chicken bone wrists, but while that's sad, it's irrelevant.

The important thing here is that if Frankie T-shirts are back, then Choose Life T-shirts can only be a fluorescent sock away. Hurrah!


Sunday, October 29, 2006

There's WHAT on my glasses?

I am convinced that when I remove my spectacles before bed, something odd happens to them. I put my book on top of the stack on my bedside table, put my glasses on top and turn out the light. Normal, yes? No. Then a small, earth-burrowing beastie (a mole? a wombat? a fuck-knows-what?) snuffles into the room, climbs the bedside table (without waking Mr Furpants), snatches my specs and puts them on and trundles off to dig a hole in something unspeakable.
The next morning, the beastie returns them before I wake. I get up, take a shower and put them on and hey presto - they're covered in a fine film of shite. Nothing else can explain the state of utter filth in which my spectacles exist. Obviously it's nothing that I do to them, since I almost never burrow through things unspeakable. Damn you, mole/wombat/fuck-knows-what! Clean my damned glasses before you bring them back next time!

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Chocolate fix

Here's this week's chocolate recipe. Enjoy!

Marble Cheesecake

180g plain chocolate biscuits, crushed in the food processor
90g butter, melted
500g cream cheese
400g can sweetened condensed milk
200g white cooking chocolate, melted
300ml thick cream
1 tablespoon gelatine
1/4 cup Cointreau, warmed
100g dark cooking chocolate, melted

Mix the biscuit crumbs and the butter (it has to be real butter, I'm afraid - if you use any other sort of spread, the base will fall apart and Ford forbid that that should happen). Press into the bottom of a greased 23cm springform tin and refrigerate until firm.

Beat the cream cheese and condensed milk with electric beaters until smooth. Beat in the melted white chocolate and then the cream. Add the gelatine to the Cointreau and stir with a fork until dissolved (zap it in the microwave for a few seconds if it is too cool). Beat in the gelatine and Cointreau and spread the mixture over the crumbs.

Drizzle the dark chocolate over the top and swirl it through using a fork or a skewer to create the marble look. You have to be quick, because the chocolate starts to set when it hits the cheesecake mixture. Refrigerate overnight. Serves 8-10.

If you're feeling tricky, you could reverse things and use 200g of dark chocolate in the mix and 100g of white chocolate on top. If you don't have any Cointreau, replace it with water. And if you want to look like a real clever clogs, serve the cheesecake with chocolate-dipped strawberries.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Oops, I did it again...

No, I'm not Britney Spears. Thank Ford, because then I'd be married to Kevin Federline and I think I'd rather set my hair on fire. I have, however, found another one of those handy, dandy mail order crapalogues that I love so much. It fell out of a food magazine I was reading (which tells me the target demographic of that mag is Not Me). I tried to resist, really I did, but good ol' Bright Life Australia caught my attention with this eye-catching product:

Uh, you want me to put what on my shoulder?!

As you can see, it's a personal massager. It's deep and satisfying, it gives a penetrating massage, stimulates the circulation and makes you feel good. And look! It's just like going to Subway - it comes in 7 inches or 9.5 inches. Obviously the 9.5 inch one is for people with bigger shoulders.

But now comes the really awkward part: who wants to be the one to tell Auntie Ethel she just bought a dildo?

When I had a closer look at their catalogue, the good folk at Bright Life turned out to have lots of great products. For example, the Ready Relief Bottle:

Just like a catering pack of sauce, only without the sauce

We've all seen them in hospitals and obviously many of us have thought, "Gee, I'd really like one of those old man wee bottles. Wonder where I can get one?" Relax - the search is over. And isn't it unobtrusive, in that vibrant fire engine red? You could tie it to the back of your backpack for use on those long Asian train journeys and no-one would suspect a thing. You could even use it on the bus on the way to work. It looks just like... well, a bright red old man wee bottle with a white lid. But of course, it's not only for the chaps, because they've thoughtfully provided a ladies' attachment.

"Don't forget to sit down when you take a pi-iss!"

Am I the only one who thinks that ladies' attachment might just be on upside down and could result in a horrid, horrid mess if used that way? Really, I suppose it wouldn't make much difference which way you turned it. I know it's disappointing, girls, but old man wee bottles just aren't for us. There must be something else in the catalogue that we can buy.
Ooh, what about an Un Bra? I've always wanted a pair of swimming goggles for my boobs.

It doesn't say anything about having to lick them before you put them on, but that must be in the fine print instructions:

1. Lick the inside of your Un Bra
2. Suction the little bugger on!

If you threw it at a window, would it crawl down like one of those rubber worms from the '80s? I'm also a little worried about the model's nipples. Where did they go? Did the boob goggles eat them? Or were they pulled off in a horrible accident the last time she tried to get the boob goggles off? Maybe I don't want an Un Bra after all...

Hang on! Just when things were looking a bit unfun, along comes the Jumbo Face/Butt Towel!

Someone must have used up about three years' worth of willpower not to call this wonderful product the Big Buttface Towel. Hats off, whoever you are - I'm not sure I could have done it. Also, why is Miss Face wearing a bra while Mr Butt appears to be wearing an Alice band in his hair? Just one of the mysteries of Bright Life, I guess.

There are some other cracker products in the catalogue, of course. Incontinent? Don't worry, they've got big, super absorbent undies for men and women. Bunion on your toe? Bunion Brace is just what you need. Nasty calluses on your heels? Callus Remover can help. I think. It looks like a very small electric sander, and while it claims to be "safe and painless", it also claims that it "smoothes skin instantly". Gah! Keep it away from me! There are nose hair shavers, slimmer panties that make Bridget Jones's big knickers look like something from Victoria's Secret and a lovely line in red tartan flannel nighties with white lace trim.

Inexplicably, there are also these weird things called Tree Faces scattered through the catalogue. The come in a variety of styles. Meet Charlie the Friendly Tree Face:

More than one tree? Don't worry! You can also get:

  • Peter the Naughty Tree Face: he's poking out his tongue - isn't he cheeky?
  • Kitty Tree Face: a birdfeeder in the shape of a cat (ooh! irony! I love irony!) and
  • Frog Tree Face: a Kermity-sort of face which has legs, but no body - go figure.

Somebody seems to have spent way too much time fixated on the Lord of the Rings.
"Hey, wouldn't it be really, really cool if Ents were, like, real, man? I mean, like, if we all had Ents in, like, our backyards?"
"Oh, yeah, man! That'd be wicked. Hey, can you pass the bucket bong, man? And the Tim-Tams? Cool."

When Christmas Eve comes around and you haven't done any shopping, don't blame me. I've given you some absolutely fabulous present ideas over the past few weeks, what with Bradford and Centurymail. If you choose to ignore them, I wash my hands of you.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Ears on backwards

I was feeling lazy today. Nobody required any hacking, I'd already clipped the hedges and done the washing, so I decided to haul my sorry arse down to the local cinema. At $6 a ticket, I couldn't lose, right?


My regular reader probably remembers that I read The Devil Wears Prada a little while ago (mainly because I borrowed it from her and because I haven't returned it yet). The book was no great work of literature, but I didn't mind it. I was duly horrified by the evilness of the evil editor and identified with the misery induced by working in print media. Unfortnately, I couldn't leave it there. No, I wondered what sort of film it would make. I had great hopes for Meryl Streep as uber bitch fashion magazine editor, Miranda Priestley. See, she looks splendidly vicious, don't you think?

When the credits rolled at the end, I didn't take note of who wrote the screenplay. Whoever it was, if I were Devil Wears Prada author Lauren Weisberger, I'd be daydreaming about taking out a hit on that person. I'd probably be having that daydream while lying on my private island purchased with the proceeds of the screen rights, but that's beside the point.

A few years ago, a journalist asked Louis de Bernieres during an interview what he thought of the movie version of Captain Corelli's Mandolin. de Bernieres said, "It would be impossible for a parent to be happy about its baby's ears being put on backwards." (Of course, the movie version also bought him a lovely little cottage somewhere on an English moor - also beside the point, since we're talking about Artistic Integrity.)

One of my pet hates is movies made from books where some smug git has decided to change the end and/or other important parts of the story. I know The Devil Wears Prada is a fairly fluffy example as books-gutted-on-film go, but it happens to be the most recent one I've seen. The movie version stripped out so many things that were integral to the story. For example, the book's protagonist - Andy, the poor downtrodden assistant with New Yorker dreams - had a boyfriend named Alex who was rather saintly and a teacher; inexplicably, in the movie version, he has turned into trainee chef named Nate. Why? Can people identify with chefs named Nate and not with teachers named Alex? Next problem: Andy's best friend has gone from being a white alcholic who is studying for a PhD in Russian literature and who has a serious accident towards the end of the story, to being an African-American art photographer with no apparent substance abuse problems and who remains wide awake and coma-free.

These things were, however, quite minor compared to the major problem with the movie. Meryl Streep's Miranda Priestly turns out to be almost human and Andy ends up almost fond of her after she gives her a reference for a job on a newspaper. Come on, the woman was meant to be Lucretia Borgia melted down in a septic tank with Lady MacBeth, Myra Hindley and a bushell of cockroaches! There was a reason the author called it THE DEVIL Wears Prada. If it was meant to be A Minor Demon with a Secret Heart of Gold Wears Prada, then that would have been the title.

Of course, this isn't the first time a scriptwriter has thought he or she as known better than the poor bastard who dreamed up the characters and story, suffered through the birth and a dozen edits of the manuscript and then fought to have the thing published. I refused to see Captain Corelli's Mandolin, because I was horrified by the thought of Nicholas Cage playing Corelli. Our Nick has a single expression (pained) and is patently too tall and thin to play the part convincingly. This, of course, was fairly minor when compared to the itsy bitsy issue of the end being completely cocked up. If there are any American film-makers or even aspiring film-makers reading this, please, PLEASE take note: the end was supposed to be sad. That was the beauty of the book. That was why thousands of people read it and sighed over it. If Corelli and Pelagia had lived happily ever after, it would have been a pot boiler.

The movie version of Cold Mountain was cinema non grata for similar reasons. For a start, Nicole "I have scary little teeth and a nasty fake laugh" Kidman and Jude "Mr Bland Blond" Law were wrong for the lead roles. I don't know how the film ends (for obvious reasons), but I wouldn't be surprised if the hero didn't even die as required. And it's not only romances that screenwriters manage to mutilate. The final instalment of The Lord of the Rings trilogy was also left without a fairly important chunk. Knocking out the section at the end where the Shire came under attack from Saruman and his cronies made the story too simplistic.

Of course, some movie versions of books have been wonderful. To Kill a Mockingbird is a notable example. Ah, Gregory Peck... Some books have even been improved on film; for instance, The Last of the Mohicans. The racism of the original 18th century manuscript was knocked out AND we were treated to Daniel Day Lewis in buckskins and long hair. He even got wet a couple of times, so everyone was happy.

Then there are adaptations like the reworking of Conrad's Heart of Darkness into Apocalypse Now, which produced something new that proved to be a masterpiece in its own right.

So I'm not completely mealy-mouthed about changing books. On the whole, though, changing a story for a screen version is nothing short of hubris on the part of the screenwriter/director. It's also the ultimate smack in the face, not only for the writer, but for the readers who loved the book, made it successful and brought it to the attention of film-makers in the first place. Hollywood is so self-obsessed that it doesn't seem to realise there is a reason for the popularity of the original book: the story. When you change the ending or the characters or the plot, you often destroy the story.

Meryl Streep is, of course, an excellent actor and she played Miranda Priestley very well and with a fabulous sneer, but her version of the character is only a pale reflection of Weisberger's Bitch From Hell. And it's all the screenwriters' fault. There's an excellent reason why Salinger has never sold film rights for Catcher in the Rye.


Monday, October 23, 2006

All hail the Lord of the House

Meet Mr Furpants, Bringer of Mouses, Raiser of Hell and all-round demanding moggy.

Mr Furpants has a thing about height. For some reason, he doesn't like to do anything at all on the floor if he can help it. He even eats from the laundry bench. At the moment, he is obsessed with the lefthand corner of my desk. Why? No idea. I can only guess that he thinks if he sits there, he'll be the centre of attention. Plus, the desk is higher than the futon behind me, where he has a perfectly nice blankie. That pile of junk he's nesting on is made up of some paperwork, a notebook, a Writers' Centre newsletter, a watercolour pad, a framed picture (with glass) and a mobile phone catalogue. Comfy, yeah? Cats, man.


Sunday, October 22, 2006

Pizzodyssey #2

Point of origin: La Marinella
Topping: La Marinella (tomato, cheese, ham, pepperoni, mushroom, bacon, onion, fresh capscium, pineapple, olives)

Well, it's pizza time again! Mmm, smells good so far.

Hang on, what bastard decided it was a good idea to cut the crusts off? I'm not kidding - the crusts are cut off all the way around. It's been cut into a nice, neat grid, with a little throw-away border around the edge. Didn't anyone tell the cutter that eating your crusts makes your hair go curly? Or at least that it gives you a handle for the squishy bit of the pizza?

Indications so far aren't good, but it doesn't look awful, so let's take a bite, shall we? Oh, Christ. If Yoko Ono had been a pizza at the time she stole John Lennon away and killed The Beatles, she'd be this pizza. Come on, when you name a pizza after your restaurant, presumably it's the best you've got to offer, or it's your own uberpizza, right? The only person I can see liking this bastard is someone with no tastebuds. Or possibly no tongue. Or maybe a chick I used to to work with who once asked what sort of pizza we'd just had for lunch and then said, "Euww yuck! Kalamata olives! Prosciutto? What's that? Oh, yuck! Roasted capsicum! Yuck! I only like ham and pineapple!" (Really? We would never have guessed.) I think we should rename this pizza the La Yoko.

I really wish we'd thought to ask for it with no pineapple, too. Did someone add sugar? I didn't look at the menu closely and I'd forgotten how revolting pineapple can be on pizza. I used to love it, but now it just seems so wrong. Somehow it's not as bad if I'm making toasties on pitta bread or muffins, but it's just a horror on a proper pizza. Think of, say, marshmallows in beef bourgignon and you might be close. It's just Wrong (that's an Etiquette Grrls capitalisation, so please Insert Pained Look Here).

The only thing I can say for this pizza is that it's not burnt. Well, most of it isn't burnt. Bloke just held up a slightly blackened piece. The base is thin and there's about 2mm of crispness, but the rest is undercooked. The effect is something like chewing on plasticene. Bloke suggests it's akin to semi-cured silicon sealer, but since I keep away from silicon sealer, I can't really say. I suppose a fair metaphor would be partially-cooked pizza dough.

I think the worst thing about this pizza is that it has a weird red wine taste, as though someone decided to get all tricky with the tomato sauce base and add some left-over red wine. The overall effect is not dissimilar to that pizza at the end of the party onto which someone spilled stale goon.
As for the toppings, there are plenty of them, but

  • ham, you say? are you sure it's not Spam?
  • I can't actually see any bacon;
  • the pepperoni (which the menu-writer was incapable of spelling - it has two Ps, old sport!) is only pepperoni if you're in a bizarre parallel universe where pepperoni has no pepper and Eddie McGuire isn't a wanker;
  • the olives are those ugly pre-sliced, oxygen-treated, browny-black bastards that taste like nothing and have the texture of partially-tanned leather;
  • the mushrooms are canned; and
  • did I mention there's too much Ford-damned pineapple?

On the up-side, at least the capsicum is red. (Because remember, green cap is crap!) It's in pieces roughly the size of a fingernail paring, but it's red. Tomato sauce base - meh. Cheese - tasteless, barely identifiable as a dairy product. Overall, this was an arse pizza. It was edible, but certainly not enjoyable.

Verdict: * Yes, a single, solitary, lonely little star. I would have gone lower, but I presume that, over-sweet and red-wine-ish as it is, it couldn't be worse than Pizza Hutt, Pizza Haven or, Ford forbid, Domino's. I have to keep something in the tank to heap rubbish on pizzas of the generic and/or frozen variety, you understand. One may be the loneliest number, but it is as low as I dare go just two pizzas into the Pizzodyssey.


Satiny comfort

I love mail order companies. Can't get enough of their cunning little cheese graters, handy home helps and charming ornaments. The range of useless crap that they sell just astounds me. For example, Bradford.

I'm sure you'll be overjoyed to know that I've found a new one. Well, Bloke found it, really, while he was flipping half-heartedly through the Sunday Mail this morning. "Oh, look! Satiny Caftan Loungers," he said.

I politely enquired as to whether he had recently smoked any crack. Rather indignantly, he waved this at me:

Naturally, I took an immediate interest. After all, how often do you see identical triplet models wearing Satiny Caftan Loungers? And hey, you can get Around the Clock Comfort in one of these babies, whether you choose (from left) Seashore, Leopard or Peacock.

Here's the blurb from the ad (and, of course, the website):

"Our magnificent imported designs feature a deep vee neckline and falls from the shoulder to create a flowing line that flatters every figure. Made from lush pure 100% polyester, they feel soft as silk and smooth as satin. As soon as you slip one over your head, you’ll feel the luxurious cool comfort that lasts hour after hour. These satiny caftans are so elegant you can wear them while entertaining or even for a candlelight dinner for two... yet they are so lightweight and comfortable you can wear them all day long. In fact, they are so comfortable you’ll be tempted to sleep in one. And these are all easy care wash and tumble dry."

It's made of lush, pure 100% polyester? Great! And I could wear it while entertaining, you say? Or at a candlelit dinner for two? All right, I can see that it might be useful in that if you spilled red wine on it, it would wash right out (or you could just throw it away). If you were wearing it for a candlelit dinner for two, you could get out of it pretty quickly if things hotted up, but I would have thought the likelihood of getting any action in a kaftan would have been slim to none. Though, of course, if you did give in to temptation and wear it to bed, it would act as a natural contraceptive. Save on condoms! On the down side, being 100% lush and pure polyester, you wouldn't be wanting to get too close to the candles at those candlelit dinners.

There's one more small problem. Apparently, it's one size fits all, from 8 to 24. Really? Just like a picnic rug or a couch throw, then? Wow! But what about the size 0 girls who want to be comfortable while they're entertaining? It's really not fair on them, you know.

And guess what? They're just $29.95 each, but if you buy three, you get free postage and handling! These are 100% pure lush polyester, remember.

But is anyone thinking of this, perhaps?

I'm enjoying the outfit on his stunned and almost-eyebrowless grape-peeler, too - it looks like a scaled-back version of Demis' nightie, albeit made from a spotty scarf instead of a sheet. The dead leopard's head in the corner is a really tasteful touch, too. Did Demis sit on it by mistake, or did it die laughing at their outfits?

If Demis isn't doing it for you, were you perhaps thinking of this?

Now I'm not suggesting for a second that the lovely satiny triplets are King Size Homers, or even Demis-sized, but you have to admit: kaftans have a bad name. I know that 80s fashion is back again (holy snapping duck shit! cinch belts and bubble skirts are back - will tube skirts and stirrup pants be next?) but hasn't the '70s revival already been and gone?

(There does seem to be a bit of a trend for public pyjama wearing, though. I wandered past a video shop yesterday and saw a sign on the door that said "Sloth Sunday - come in wearing your pyjamas and get half-price movie rental". Two questions: (a) what if you like to sleep in the altogether? and (b) what if you go in wearing a Satiny Caftan Lounger? Obviously the answer to both should be that you get your videos gratis just so you'll get the hell out of their shop quicker.. Actually, the Sloth Sunday sign wasn't the only weird thing I saw yesterday, though. The other one was really weird. People were crowded around a fruit shop table and looking so enthusiastic that I thought Hugh Laurie must have set up a kissing booth. Pfft, no such luck. The table was covered in... bananas. $2.99 a kilo bananas. People were shoving bags full of the things with the same look as Daffy Duck had in that Warner Bros cartoon where he and Bugs Bunny end up in Aladdin's Cave - "It's mine! Mine, I tell you! Mine! Mine! All mine! I haven't had any potassium since Cyclone Fucking Larry, now get out of my way!" But I digress.)

Century Mail has other clothes as well. For example, the Lifetime Socks:

Five pairs will last you a lifetime! Two pairs of black, one grey, one brown and one navy. Uh, they'll last a lifetime because they're NYLON, people. Not 100% lush polyester, but nylon. They will last a lifetime because you'll never wear them because they'll make your feet smell like Limberger cheese. But you have to admit, the guy modelling them has da moves! You can tell by the way I use my walk, I'm a woman's man...

But just when you thought Century Mail didn't use any natural fibres, along came the Ladies Patterned Handkerchiefs:

They're cotton, so there. And they're embroidered so you can rip off half your nose on the stitching. (Can anyone remember the last time they actually used a hanky to blow their nose? No, tissues, toilet paper and paper napkins from Asian restaurants whose laksa has helpfully cleared out your sinuses do not count - I mean a real, cotton hanky.)

The Slip-On Visor:

Yay, no more sun in the eyes! You too can look like Great Auntie Maisie that time she thought she was the croupier in a wild west dancehall casino.

The Wonder Bra Strap:

No, not the Wonder Bra, the Wonder Bra Strap. I think this one is really my favourite, because it looks so darned comfy. And sexy. Don't forget sexy. Are you tired of looking like a slapper with your bra strap hanging out from under your tank top? No? Sorry, forget I said anything.

There are so many great products at Century Mail that I just don't have time to go through them all. The Candle of the Month set looks great, though, and I was really quite tempted by the handy Punter's Pen (elegantly finished in brushed metal), which can pick my winning lotto numbers for me.

Ah, Century Mail, how did I ever do without you?

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Psst, wanna score some brownies?

I know nobody asked for the heroin brownie recipe, but since I'll probably lose it, I'm going to post it anyway. This is for purely selfish reasons - if I want to make them again myself, I won't have to spend three hours looking for the recipe.

250g dark chocolate
125g butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup plain flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 cup white choc chips
1/2 cup dark choc chips
1/2 cup milk choc chips
3 eggs

Melt the dark chocolate and butter together in a saucepan over low heat. Beat the eggs and sugar together until thick. Add the chocolate and butter mix and beat until smooth. Sift in the plain flour and cocoa and fold them through, then add the choc chips. Grease and line a 20cm square pan, spread in the brownie mix and bake at 160 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Cool in the pan and slice into squares. Makes about 24.

Feel free to add some chopped nuts instead of some of the choc chips. I'm sure they'd be great. I'm allergic, so a handful of nuts would pretty well be a crunchy suicide pill for me, but you fill your boots.

There, now I can't lose it the damned thing! (crafty grin) Perhaps I should do the same with my marble cheesecake recipe...

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Son of guts but no glory

Be afraid, very afraid. Someone from the US found my blog by Googling "mice+guts". I have two questions: why does anyone search "mice+guts" and why am I number one on the Mice Guts Google Greatest Hits? You Americans are weirdos! But I guess that's not unlike the odd-bod person who searched "boobs+party" and found me. Boobs party? What the hell is a boobs party? Does everyone come wearing fake breasts a la that episode of Blackadder where the puritanical Whiteadders visit in the middle of a beer paty?

Really, it's all making the person who searched "boy stuck in a dress" look pretty normal, really. Especially since I discovered it was part of a short story by someone called David Ebershoff, who is apparently a Proper Writer (ie, he has books published - the hack can only dream of such joys.)


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The red flares of hell

Have a look at this this. (Sorry, couldn't get my embedding code from Google Video working, so you'll have to follow the link. Don't forget to come back afterwards, though.)

Allegedly, it's a Finnish music video from the '80s, but since I'm in the middle of reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, I'm prepared to interpret it as the result of a four day acid and mescaline trip in an interpretive dance class. I have no idea what the makers of this clip had in mind. It seems to be Star Wars meets Grease with some zany Wiggle antics thrown in. And drugs. Lots and lots of drugs.

So, meet Armi and Danny and their Androgynous Red Pants Dancers.

The Red Pants Dancers start proceedings with some sort of happy aerobics. Grapevine, guys, grapevine! Happy, happy, happy! But then into the mix wanders the hapless Danny. Considering the starfield screensaver behind him and his uber-blond pudding basin haircut, I think he's meant to be Luke Skywalker. In a medallion and a Pirates of Penzance Shirt. Danny starts whining about how he wants to someone to "love him tender" (does this involve a meat mallet?) and "be his sweet surrender" (Christ on crutches only knows what this involves). Armi appears next, looking a bit like the choirgirl lovechild of Sandra Dee and one of the Sweet Valley High twins. "How can I be sure you are not pretender?" Armi asks, smirking wholesomely all the time.

But never doubt that the Pants People and their red flares of hell are the real stars of this show. They have this funky little line dance happening that's either a mime of someone pulling a handbrake or something much dirtier. I think it's something ditier, because there seem to be some very suspicious hip movements. And they looked so clean and Christian! Tut, tut. Now we have a great multi-armed Shiva routine, closely followed by all of them suddenly grabbing their groins. Obviously they grab them too hard, because they all have to hop away on one foot.

Perhaps in response to the pain, they all start doing some weird stuff that I can't even begin to understand. Someone dances past with a mirror, someone else appears to be carrying a small dog and two of them seem to be having sex while running. With their bright red pants on. There's also a guy who is giving a fairly decent impression of Lurch from the Addams Family doing a Monty Python silly walk. Are the Pants People actually zombies? Or is this the free movement section of the film clip, to be followed by a nap and then a Little Lunch of brains and bong water? Instead, they all perform some drug-fuelled star jumps. Aw, aren't they energetic?

While the Pants People aren't looking, Danny and Armi take the chance to jump into their red convertible, drop the shields of the Death Star and float away into space. They may be about to be turned inside out in the icy void, but at least they've escaped the Pants People. Not that the Pants People seem to care, of course. They just give a cheery wave and pop some more uppers.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Cinque Sexy Lagers, s'il vous plait

Bloke and I had a barbecue on Saturday night. It was his birthday and he had a spanking new barbie that was just begging for a work-out. I should point out here that this barbie is immense. If you added a little motor and a steering wheel, you could hop on the sucker and drive it around the neighbourhood. "Yeah, think you're pretty tough in that Monaro? Well, I think my barbie might have something to say about that! Eat my dust!" When we bought it, I tried to talk Bloke into the smaller one. Not having a bit of it. We ended up with a six burner monster with a wok burner, a roasting hood and a written guarantee that if you buy it, you'll never feel sad, lonely or sexually inadequate again. And wheels. Obviously wheels. If it only had a deep fryer, you could flash fry an ox in this thing.

So, we invited a few mates around. It was a nice night. But the party taught me several things:

1. Sexy Lager is a real beer.

Look, it's true!

Sorry it's blurry - the camera on the Palm Pilot is a bit shite. I found this on Sunday morning when I was emptying out the enormous vats of ice on our back verandah. (This wasn't the only thing in the ice vats - I also dragged out about a slab and a half of Coopers Pale, some Carlsburg, a few cans of Dr Tim's and an arseload of James Boag's. No-one ever leaves our parties because the booze is out. I think this is because Bloke thinks it is unhospitable to start off with anything less than three slabs, four bottles of vodka and various bottles of wine and other spirits, but all our mates still bring booze.) Anyway, Bloke says the Sexy Lager was a birthday present from one of his mates. It's Belgian and apparently, you can scratch the chick's bathers off with a coin, like a scratchie ticket. Ooh, look, I've won some boobs! Yay! I could do with some of those! Can't you just see yourself walking into a nice little bar in Brussels and saying, "Je voudrais un Sexy Lager et des pommes frites, s'il vous plait"? No, me either.

2. The lovely chaps at Cooper's use far better glue on their labels than James Boag does.
Why do I know this? The James Boag labels all soaked off in the water, but the labels stayed put on the Cooper's Pale Ale. Yes, Pale might have chewy stuff at the bottom, but at least you'll know what you're drinking after it's been floating overnight in melted ice.

3. Never, ever drink a Red Bull if you aren't used to it.
I hate Red Bull. It smells and tastes like cough syrup. But by the time the party shopping was done, I was fading fast. Nothing for it but a Red Bull, right? Wrong. That stuff's like speed if you're not used to it (and you're not a speed freak). I spent the next three hours with white showing all around my irises. Under its influence, I ended up making a potato salad with about 19 potatoes, seven eggs and sundry cucumbers and onions because I kept saying, "What if it's not enough? Everyone likes potato salad! What if we run out?" Needless to say, we're still eating that damned potato salad.

4. Taking a "power nap" at your own party at midnight because you are "tired and emotional" is not a good idea.
No. Bad idea. I woke up at 4.30am. Bloke was cooking more sausages and there were only three guests left, one of whom had taken over as hostess and distributed coffee and brownies while I was asleep. (Thanks Trace - you rock. Go visit her Bunny's Flickr site. Bunny is extra cute and has fans around the world.)

5. Brownies containing 250g of dark chocolate, 1 1/2 cups of assorted chocolate chips AND cocoa are like heroin.
Ooh yeah, baby. You could mainline these things. (If you want the recipe, just ask.) The amount of chocolate and fat is awesome.

6. Somehow, if you barbecue meat of any sort, your kitchen floor will look like someone has wrestled a lamb on a spit.
Yes, I do know what this looks like and It Is Not Pretty. Some years ago, there was a New Year's Eve party at a share house. It is The Most Memorable New Year's Eve Party Ever for a number of reasons. First, one of the hosts traded clothes with his sister. She looked cute in his safari suit and pith helmet, but even though he's a top bloke, it has to be said he looked like crap in her form-fitting red dress with its circular cut-outs down the side. You could see his blue jocks through the cut-outs. Not good. Second, the girlfriend of another of the hosts returned home from a very long night shift as an intern medico to find the lawn on fire. One of the cintronella flares had failed, spilling burning oil all over the grass. Last, but most certainly not least since it's the point of this story, the beer snacks were supposed to be chunks off a whole lamb on a spit. It's a revolting concept, even in principle, since I prefer not to have to think that the meat I eat once had big sad eyes, a tail and hooves. Ultimately, though, the real problem was that by the time the lamb was finally cooked, everyone was too trashed to work out how to serve it. "Put the fire out and carve it straight off the spit", I hear you say. No. Someone decided to remove the whole damned lamb from the spit and take it into the kitchen to carve, despite the fact they didn't have a plate anywhere near that size. Oddly enough, the lamb was fairly hot at this stage and it ended up being dropped it on the kitchen floor. I walked through the kitchen to find someone writhing on the floor with a whole cooked lamb. The burns must have been horrific. When I returned, the kitchen was wall-to-wall with lamb fat and dirty footprints and naturally, someone had slipped in the fat and gone arse over tit. Double plus ungood. So, this is what my kitchen, laundry and back hall looked like. I have no idea how it happened, since the closest thing we had to a lamb on a spit was dinky little lamb koftas on satay sticks. How? (And while we're talking about lamb, what the hell is with those damned spring lamb ads trying to market lamb like designer perfume? "I love looommmb?" What the hell?)

7. Couscous travels.
Couscous is the Superman of carbs. It can travel faster than a speeding bullet, I swear. Stir it very, very carefully. It's hard to clean up because it sticks to the floor like shit to a shirt.

On the whole, though, the party was fairly successful. Mr Furpants didn't come racing into the backyard with a half-dead mouse and proceed to pull it to bits in front of the guests. (Yes, this has happened before.) No-one threw up in the kitchen sink, or indeed anywhere else in the house. No-one peed in the kitty litter. No-one passed out on the lawn. So, mission accomplished, really.

Eh madame, voudriez-vous un Sexy Lager?

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Why I love people #132

Some days, I just hate people. Here is the beginning of a phone conversation I had today. (Apologies to Audrey for doing one of these so soon after her hilarious telephonic encounter with Deaf Twat.)

I've changed the type of business to protect the innocent (that would be me, not the person on the other end of the phone - half-hearted I may be, but it's probably best that none of the people who employ me twig to that just yet).

(Ring, ring)

Cheese shop lady: Hello, cheese shop.
Me: Hello, this is redcap calling from Publication Name Deleted. I'm writing a story about cheese and I was just wondering whether there was someone there I could talk to.
Cheese shop lady: About what?
Me: Um, cheese.
Cheese Shop lady: Oh!



Monday, October 09, 2006

The end of the affair?

Dear SBS,

What happened? I know I hadn't visited for a little while, but you have to admit that was largely your fault for not screening Iron Chef and Rockwiz on Saturday night. You know I don't like soccer. But I take my eyes off you for a moment and you do this? Ads during the shows? I'm heartbroken.

I had become resigned to ads between programs, even though they went for five minutes at a time. I understood that a TV station has to do what a TV station has to do, so I forgave you, but this! It's like when Col Blake's plane was shot down in MASH, or when Stuart Littlemore left Media Watch. It's very nearly as bad as when Bruce Springsteen sacked the E-Street Band. Must I now watch Dateline interspersed with McDonald's chicken propaganda? It just doesn't seem right.

Please reconsider, SBS. We can pretend this regrettable incident never happened.




Sunday, October 08, 2006


Ah pizza. Toasty, cheesy goodness. It's the ultimate in lazy bastard food: you phone for it, it's delivered to the door and you can eat it straight from the box. No washing up. It's also appropriate for every meal. You can have hot for lunch or dinner and cold for breakfast. Great!* The only problem is the variation factor. Apart from the fact that most non-Asian restaurants have pizza on the menu, there are so many topping choices. Purists refuse to admit the existence of anything but the Margherita, but other people are willing to try gear like this:

Yes, there are cheeseburgers, french fries, extra ham and about half a kilo of cheese on that baby. The builders even took the trouble to brush the burger buns with extra tomato paste. I'm kind of hungry at the moment, so I have to admit, covered with cheese like that, it doesn't look that bad...

But where to find the best pizza? Everyone knows that you don't want to go near something from Haven Hut because they have as much in common with good pizza as the phrase "Mama's makin' Kanton" has in common with Iron Chef.

For example, I had a rather nasty pizza experience in Malaysia a few years ago. The pizza arrived topped with sweetcorn. Sweetcorn. Apparently seaweed was also an option, but I didn't realise that when we ordered. At the other end of the spectrum was The Best Pizza I've Ever Eaten, a fantastic seafood pizza from Nico's at Port Campbell on the Great Ocean Road. We were in town for two nights and we went back for that seafood pizza both nights. Damn, it was fine. Hello, Nico's? Can I get a delivery please? Um, yeah, we might be a little outside your delivery area...

I have had some fine pizzas here in Adelaide, of course. Manto on The Parade and La Trattoria are both to die for. But in the interests of science, I've decided to embark on a great pizza survey. I'm happy to take suggestions for places to visit and obviously I'll go to Good Life and Russell's at Willunga sooner or later. I'll even review one of the abominations on offer at Haven Hut, just for balance (and amusement value). I'll be marking out of five stars, with points for toppings, base, cheese and grease factor.

I thought I'd start with an ordinary old suburban pizza. (It was easy and I was feeling lazy.) So, here we go with Pizzodyssey #1.

Place of origin: Pizzas 4 You
Topping: With the lot, no pineapple, extra pepperoni.

Obviously this is no gourmet explosion, but it's fine for a Friday night just-crawled-home-from-the-pub sort of pizza. The base is thin and fairly crispy and it has a good base-to-topping ratio. The capsicum is a mix of red and green, which I don't usually like because green cap is crap, so to speak. But the I guess beggars can't always be choosers. They can, however, be whingers. It's pretty damned meaty, but I guess I did ask for extra pepperoni.

As for the rest of the topping, olives: whole kalamata by the look of things, not those nasty ones that have been picked green and turned black by some evil process that I don't want to try to understand; ham: it's that shredded stuff, which isn't great, but oh well; mushrooms: fresh, thinly-sliced, pretty yummy; cheese: pleasingly stretchy but fairly bland; pepperoni: it's not exactly the peppiest pepperoni in the world; sauce: a bit bland - I wouldn't mind a few herbs or some garlic; grease factor: average.

Overall: It tastes good and it has all the standard pizza elements, but I wouldn't tell anyone to cross town to get one.

Verdict: ***

* Please, please don't spam me, killjoy nutritionists. I'm telling you now, I just don't have the energy to argue. Obviously I'm not suggesting that anyone should eat pizza for every meal. In fact, I'm watching Supersize Me as I type this. I'm also extremely fond of spinach. OK? Are we good?


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

I've got culture, damnit.

Would anyone like to hazard a guess as to what this is?

I'll give you a few options:
(a) an extremely expensive yak's milk cheese that is considered a delicacy fit only for Nepalese royalty;
(b) politically-conscious modern art - it's a representation of Australia in decay under the Howard Government;
(c) an unemptied ash tray into which someone spilled red wine;
(d) some Philadelphia Cream Cheese that I found at the back of my fridge.

All right, that one was sticking out like the proverbial. It's obviously Option D (though I would also have accepted Option B). I found this baby when I was making lunch today. I had a fancy for cream cheese and tomato on toast. For some reason, there were three cartons of cream cheese in the fridge. The first one had a few patches of penicillin and something reddish growing on it, so I said "euww" and binned it. The third carton was new, unopened and still usable, but behind door number two, we had the thing of beauty you see above.

It had a use by date of August 12, which probably means I opened it in June or July. I'm pretty impressed by the way the mould has completely engulfed the cheese. Look at it, it's crenellated and wavey and it looks velvety soft! There could be an entire society in there, a la that episode of the Simpsons.

Obviously, I'd be lying if I said this was an unusual occurrence. I only throw cream cheese out when it's mouldy, so it's just a matter of when I notice it. In this case, it's a real champion effort and I'm tempted to just return it to the fridge and see what happens. It's a bit wiffy if you take the lid off (which I did for your benefit, to take the photo), but then you don't actually need to take the lid off to appreciate the effect. A cream cheese container is the perfect layman's petrie dish because it comes with a clear lid.

Anyway, once I'd found my little science experiment, I started hunting through the fridge and pantry for other prehistoric shopping. So far I've found:
  • Three tubs of wildberry (what exactly is a wildberry?) yoghurt that should have been used by July 18.
  • A half-used jar of green tomato pickle that died in November 2005.
  • One zucchini that had turned to green sludge in its plastic bag (think of squashed caterpillars and then add water).
  • Some carrots that were so elderly they'd grown hairs.
  • A bag of apples that have been Around For A While, but since they'd probably been in cold storage for a year before I bought them, I guess that one doesn't count.
  • One bottle of gourmet olive oil that was bottled in 2003, but that I have yet to open (and now I'm not game - who can spell "rancid", children?)
  • A few sachets of yeast that weren't going to be raising bread any time soon.
  • A jar of some odd-looking mixed spice that included whole peppercorns and mustard seeds; I didn't remember buying it, so it must have been there a looooong time. I think it might have been chutney mix, in which case it was at least six years old because that's when I realiesd life was too short to arse around with preserves.)
  • A bag of bread mix that ran out six months ago and had some sort of crawlies in it. How did the little bastards get in? It wasn't even opened. Do the manufacturers drop in a scoop of weevil eggs as a biological use by time bomb to make you buy new ones every six months?
  • An unopened bottle of Caesar salad dressing that ran out in November 2005. (It was full fat, so I didn't really care.)
  • One unopened jar of tartare sauce that ran out before everyone realised Mark Latham was a freakshow. (Ditto Caesar dressing.)
  • A half-bottle of raspberry cordial that was packed in November 2004, but (creepily) has no use by date. (I guess it does explain why some little kids have pupils that wouldn't look out of place on a speed freak on a five day bender, though.)
  • A full box of taco shells that ran out in November 2005.
  • An unopened packet of fortune cookies from the local Thai takeaway that were delivered Ford-knows-when. Obviously we didn't feel like a reading that day.

I think I've already found all the weird stuff in the fridge, but the pantry might take a little longer. But if you get an invite to dinner Chez Hack, don't worry. The booze never gets a chance to get out of date and the takeaway is always fresh.

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