May 2007

Well, after saying that I was done with reviews, people have been asking for them. And seen as I don’t write entirely for myself, why the heck not.

OK. Scoop. Woody Allen has presented us with something like a romantic comedy wrapped in a murder mystery. Think, Scooby Doo with less… well, less everything.

And while we’re on the subject… anyone else noticehow much “Scooby Doo” sounds like “Nancy Drew”? Perhaps the cartoon was something of a dogwhistle? Heh. Dogwhistle.

You might notice that i’m veering off on a tangent. That’s because it’s more interesting that the film.

But, go if you’d like to see Scarlett Johansen in a Sexy Drown Watch Baywatch swimsuit.

Well, it’s not every weekend you get to see a dominatrix spanking someone live on stage in timid wee Wellington. You can imagine my suprise then when the rack with the three different types of paddle is lowered and a volunteer called from the audience.

And no. It wasn’t me.

The first time I saw Ivanja was at last year’s Heavenly Burlesque, a rip-roaring night that made me pine for the burlesque of supremely decadent Paris. The show was great, and the performers fantastic, but sometimes you just wish you’d had a chance to see what it was like back in the day. The kids of hippies must get like that.

Ivanja was walking through the really crowded Paramount theatre, and she cut quite a figure. Black patent leather, horse-whip and all.

The same character was put on show at Bats theatre last Friday and it was hilarious. Who ever thought making Strawberry lamingtons could be so fascinating?! And delicious! They were actually better than the last ones I remember having at a tea rooms in Taihape!!

So, I’ll not spoil the show, but make sure you get along and see her next time she performs. Make sure you’re not too timid or tame to be offended by the mention, but not demonstration of lurid sexual acts though. No point getting wowsers into the audience.

Oh, and Ivanja, you speaking to ‘Neal’ still rankles in my memory. I’m glad you said good bye to him, he doesn’t deserve you.

i think something that i seem to have lost sight of since leaving public address was the reason i wanted and needed to blog in the first place.

i’ve been get to business by writing wee reviews and the like, but i think i’ve lost what it was that made me really enjoy the writing. it wasn’t until i found this post on kung fu monkey that i realised it. what’s great about blogging is the careful consideration of posts, but the ability to channel passion and thought into something.

there’s been a lot of consideration of blogging and web2.0 that i’ve been privy to lately, and i think it’s kind of drawn me away from the potential of the medium. if you’re thinking a lot about formal processes for blogging, and ways to communicate messages, there’s the tendency for the humanity of the tool to be lost. we end up using it as yet another means to get across a programme, educate, disseminate. but what this is supposed to be about is the human voice; raw, unedited, natural, and whole.

so. i think i’ll leave off with the reviews and the like unless people are genuinely wanting to read them. of course, if i attend something that you might really like to read, or if i finally figure out how to post to separate pages (thereby leaving the front page free of “review clutter”) , i’ll put them up there.

otherwise, i’ll see if i can’t recapture some of that old style. as john says,

Why? Because it brings me a bit of joy, and that may be what blog-length is for — transmitting bursts of thought rather than full ideas, but those bursts still have the rough edges of raw passion. Your mistakes are your style, I once had an old writer say to me. Blogs are where we can throw down some of the filters and gift more of our mistakes to strangers.

It always begins like this. A favour traded to secure a good deal before a loan can be made to see your dish on a menu or a name shouted across a dinner rush. When your entire life was a hundred square metres of red hot chef and ice cool front of house those complicated arrangements are the oil to grease the wheels that roll you out of tedium.

The next is your suppliers. All places run on good supply. If you can’t get the fish your competitor is laying out, or you can’t pour the booze your punters want, you’ll be putting out the welcome wagon to the all-you-can-eat student drug-fucked fiesta before you can say franchising. A good place finesses their suppliers and screws them in equal measures.

Gerald walks in the kitchen delivery door every Tuesday. He’d come Mondays, but we’re closed Mondays. So whaddya gonna do?

His parents were refugees-cum-market gardeners out of Otaki, and every week he fills his truck up with choice seasonal greens and hauls them down here to Tory Street, just to make our day with some of the best deals you can imagine. Citrus, dollar a kilo. Brassica, 30c a head. Tubers, depends. Only an refugee thinks they should let themselves get ripped off like that. Must be something to do with the debt to society. Or maybe they just aren’t paying taxes. Who knows? Who cares?!

Glenis spots him first. You can see him flinch when she starts in on the latest favourate gripe. Kaffir lime. But then, when she shouts like that, everyone flinches.

“Gerald you sorry-assed son of a bang bang me love you long time two cent immigrant show pony cock target… WHERE THE FUCK ARE MY LIMES!”

She’s standing behind the servery glaring through at Gerald. The heating lamps are lighting her face from above and it leaves her eyes in partial shadow, which accentuates her otherwise usual terror-inducing glare to a mere grimace of permanent dissatisfaction.

To his credit, Gerald laughs, “We don’t do Kaffir limes chef!” he shouts over the sound of clattering pots and the huge kitchen extractor fan, “You must be thinking of the last suppliers, the ones you threw out on their asses for trying to pass off imported Navel oranges on you! We don’t do limes!”

I can hear her mutter as Gerald begins to stack boxes in the delivery door, “Fucking Navels…” She she turns away for a second to check her stove-top then resumes the verbal assault, “Well for fucks sakes you slimy little cabin boys bunk mate, why don’t you find some goddamn Kaffirs, and their leaves, and goddamn well bring them to me to buy off you? Christ!” she exclaims, “Can’t you see we’re trying to fucking buy something off you!” She turns away again, muttering about the stupidity of bumpkins.

I’ve walked across to the delivery door and I’m grabbing a couple of 20kg sack of potatoes and I’m hauling them upstairs to the dry store. Gerald says gidday with his eyebrows and I flick him the chin. By the time I’ve come back downstairs again Glenis has him bailed up near the dishwashing station on his way back from out back and is berating him about “some Asians” who sell Kaffir leaves for a dollar a bunch at the Sunday markets near Waitangi Park. I grab a box of lettuces to be taken to the coolstore, and walk between the two of them, giving Gerald time to make good his escape to the exit. He says see-ya with his eyebrows again and he’s out of there.

I’m carrying another load to the coolstore, it gets stuffed under shelves so blood from the dead things can’t spoil it, and ask her, “So why so much shit about Kaffir limes?

She laughs, “Keeps the little fucker from getting too friendly.”

I laugh in reply and head out to the Charnel house with a final box of citrus. Inside, away from view, I take the lid off the box. And there it is. A bunch of leaves.

On the back of a recent and positive DomPost article on public sector blogging, this Daily Mail article was brought to my attention. Now, if you read the article cold you’ll think the guy has been undermining the government by writing potentially seditious posts and generally acting like some kind of deviant.

Naturally it’s a media beat-up and venal exaggeration, and a fisking of the Daily Mail article demonstrates pretty clearly the dangers we face as blogging public servants. It’s also generated some heat among British public sector bloggers. Mostly in a very polite kind of way, but there you go.

What is obvious is that Jason Ryan’s recent post on ‘your blog as a resume’ is all too pertinent. The things we write in jest or haste have never been more accessible or mis-quotable.

Here in godzone I experienced a rather obvious and annoying use of misquotation when I was writing for Public Address, courtesy of our resident right-wing doyen David Farrar. At the time I wasn’t too concerned, pissed-off certainly, but had the issue been taken to the levels that Owen Barder has experienced it could be another matter altogether.

Russell Brown pointed out awhile ago that the first thing people seem to do when a person hits the media in a negative sense is look for a MySpace page. The expectation is that lunatics are highly likely to have recorded their decline in some such social networking site. And sadly, they all too often do.

But… most of us just write a blog as a form of socialisation and communication. Consequently, there is a strong need to ensure that we’re careful about what we put online because it is so easy to misrepresent written content. This is especially pertinent when it comes to not having readers conflate our blog interests with our work interests. Problematically, the risk of conflation seems no greater than the same type of interests being conflated in the real world. But that is a misnomer.

The Barder example demonstrates very clearly that web2.0 of any variety needs to be approached very carefully if you are planning on taking public office or a public service position. Where drunken crazy youth is something we’ve all come to expect, it’s hard to dredge up hearsay about a person’s actions from 10 or 20 years ago. Drunken crazy youth online is a different matter altogether.

As an aside… it seriously annoys me that I’ve become something like a voice of mature adulthood in this matter. The internet used to be all about guerrilla information. That it’s become far less cyberpunk and far more cybernanny should be regarded as one of the great tragedies… The cold reality we’re left with though is that everything we place online can now be used as a megaphone with which to slander us.

The best strategy seems to be the careful avoidance of things that can become bludgeons in the hands of bruisers like the Daily Times. If you’re the kind of person who engages in political commentary on your blog, podcast, whatever, then you’re also highly likely to be the kind of person who’s going to become involved in politics or public office. Consequently, once you get past the angry yoof stage of your public awareness, the things you have written will be laid bare for critics. But you need to publicise your anger in order to establish a public voice, learn the ropes, etc.

Bit of a catch-22 really.

Does this mean that all we can ever talk about is lolcats and sports? Possibly. Until some sense of the ground rules about cherry-picking blog content are properly determined then everyone is at risk of having their thoughts or opinions laid bare and misrepresented (or accurately represented in the future, when they’ve evolved or changed). Doubtless the courts will determine what is permissible and what is not in this issue.

So what to do in the meantime?

Well, if you’ve got a blog you really don’t want people to read, then take it down. It’s cached somewhere, but at least the more stupid of your detractors won’t find it easily. You can’t remove old comments from other people’s sites, but at least they’re less accessible than a big aggregation of the same embarrassing thought.

If you’re new to blogging? Then just be warned, a hot-heated morning with too much coffee can, and will, become a permanent record. If you’re a public servant who wants to blog, try to avoid typing anything at all around heated events in the political cycle. That means elections, s.59, foreshore and seabed…

Otherwise? Jump to it!!

i got to sir humphrey’s to see if the account is still suspended.

it is making my day, every time.

Big spiders in bigger webs. Finding out what was grinding Grant would take more than a quick word to the people in power, and sure as hell more than a favour owed.

It was two more night shifts before I could catch her out back cleaning the casi.

“I blimmin hate this blimmin job!” I could hear her shout as I walked out from the rear door of the kitchen. Sarah backed out of the small toilet she’d been spraying some worthless disinfectant into, and scrunched up her nose in disgust. The toilet wasn’t particularly stinky, but when you’re as well-heeled as she, anything other than roses or fresh lavender was something straight from hell.

University students on a furlough between Daddy and sugar-Daddy, we’d seen a bundle of them pass through the front doors of this place, as had ever other gig in town. I laughed, “You find anything valuable in there?”

“Blimey!” She exclaims, “It’s amazing we even get customers with these loos the way they are?”

I stop and lean against the way near to where she’s working. It’s the wall to the Charnel House, and I can feel the buzz of the coolers through the faux-oak panelling. Gary had given this particular job to the front bunnies long before I came on board, and it was the one thing that always reminded them of their place in the world. While I scraped plates and burnt myself daily, they got the shit from customers in all ways possible.

“Well, surely your job is to get them into the right kind of state then?” I ask inquisitively.

“I’m not a bloody miracle worker!”

We laugh and she glances over her shoulder to me. ‘You have that look like you want something.” She says.

“Well… maybe I do” I answer coyly.

She stops what she’s doing and pushes one of her locks off her brow with her wrist, the rubber gloves making her the iconic domestic goddess. “You know, getting me cutlery is only ever going to get you so far, dishy.”

“I know” I say, reaching out and lifting a lock of hair gently, and pushing it back behind her ear.

Her eyes smoulder. She steps towards me, her chin raised, one shoulder dropped, and says, slowly, cautiously, “I know Grant thinks I’m his Christmas Turkey, and if you can prove it, I’ll tell you everything. Micky. Nina. I’ll give you everything I have.”

For a farm girl, this one was alright.

Back in the day we had a flatmate who used to joke about “taking a good dick to bed”. It was a couple of weeks before I realised she was talking about Philip K. Dick. At the time I seem to remember reading a few short stories, but never getting the attention span together read a whole novel.

Well, more fool me. (more…)

back in melbourne i was eating at a german restaurant and ordered something called the farmer’s platter. now, it was in german, and was called something like “bauenteller”? i dunno. all i can be certain of is that is was a huge heap of different chunks of pork, sauerkraut, potatoes, and dumplings.

it was a big, big meal for a big bloke. they served beer in one litre handles.

at the end of that i was both pissed and not hungry.

you can imagine my surprise then at finding a recipe called choucroute garnie in my new anthony bourdain cookbook. now, i prepared this dish last night after hunting around for outlets last weekend, and they’re not too difficult to find. and to my delight it is very easy to source most of the ingredients of this particular dish.

as a service to pretentious gourmet’s like myself all over wellington, i thought i’d relate exactly what you needed to make this extremely delicious dish, and more importantly, where you can find them.

i only went to two places. mediterrean warehouse in newtown, your one-stop shop for any spice you can imagine. and, moore wilsons, everyone’s favourite over-priced outlet.

ok. so from med. warehouse i bought a huge bag of juniper berries. this is all. i also bought other stuff like harissa paste, sumac, a giant jar of green olives (no kalamata in stock…) but juniper berries is all you need.

moore wilsons was a bigger shop. the bourdain recipe calls for a bunch of different types of cured pork, but i figured that we could get away without quite as much, because we were only feeding two of us. what this means is that where you’d normally buy frankfurters, white veal sausages, smoked pork loin and salted pork belly, all you actually need is at least one type of sausage, and at least one type of whole pork.

pretty much everything else you need for this dish you can buy at the supermarket. except one no-so-secret but extremely luxurious item. duck fat.

from moore wilsons we bought:

  • duck fat (it only comes in a 300g punnet, but no worries. duck fat is good for all kinds of things)
  • smoked pork loin (this is vacuum-sealed. if you can find decent smoked loin at the supermarket, buy it. it usually comes as a slab of pork, so chop it long-ways into 1cm wide slices)
  • polish sausage (veal sausage is wankery. just buy a smoked sausage of some kind. we would have bought frankfurters, but you have to buy too many, whereas polish sausage, or rookwurst, you can buy fairly cheaply to get the same effect. the whole idea of this dish is that it’s peasant food)
  • sauerkraut (now this is very important. do not buy cheap sauerkraut, especially that crap in a can. it tastes bloody awful, and if you’re experimenting with this type of food you’ll spoil it for yourself. moore wilsons sells these 500g imported bags that are just the ticket.)

and that is all.

other stuff you’ll need is, a bay leaf. now, never ever buy bay leaves. the things grow in peoples front gardens all over wellington. i knicked my from a tree on tasman street. coriander seeds, from the supermarket. a bottle of white wine, such as a riesling. a finely chopped garlic clove. half a small onion, finely chopped. salt/pepper. grainy mustard as a garnish.

so here’s how to make it.

  • first, rinse half the bag of the sauerkraut generously in cold water to take away the pickling agent (or all the kraut, depends how hungry you are). drain thoroughly in a colander and set aside.
  • melt half a tablespoon of the duck fat gently in a biggish pot, and when it’s warm add the onion. heat gently till the onion is translucent.
  • add the garlic, the coriander seeds, the bay leaf, the juniper berries, 1 and 1/2 cups white wine, the salt/pepper and the half bag of sauerkraut to the pot.
  • heat gently till simmering, then add the chopped smoked pork loin. bring back to a simmer, then cover and leave to cook gently for 1 and a half hours.
  • seriously. one and a half hours. in the meantime you can drink some of the remaining bottle (or cask) of riesling, and, put the spuds on to boil.

the trick with this dish is that the simmering brings all the flavours together, and reduces down the ingredients to a “glassy” sauce. so don’t be too literal with the time-frame. as soon as your spuds are cooked drain the water off them into the sink, set them aside, and start keeping an eye on the sauerkraut.

  • when the liquid in the pot is starting to look a little sparse (not too sparse, if this runs dry you’re sunk), whip the polish sausage out of the packet, cut it into two portions, and pop them in the pot. continue the simmering, until the sausage is warmed through.
  • if your spuds have gone cold, this is the time to pop them back into some boiling water for a sec.
  • the sausage is cooked when you prick it with a fork and clear liquid (*cough* fat *cough*) runs out of it.
  • to serve, pop the spuds on two plates, pile half the sauerkraut in the middle of each, and give both plates half the sausage, and half the beef. garnish with a little grainy mustard.


(and, here’s the ingredient list again, for your convenience)

a tablespoon of duck fat

half a small onion, very finely chopped

a clove of garlic, chopped

a bottle of white wine (riesling?)

maybe half dozen juniper berries


1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 bay leaf

one bag sauerkraut

an amount of smoked pork loin, as much as you prefer

one polish sausage (or rookwurst)

spuds. as many as you need for two people.

PS. if you’re a vegetarian, just don’t add any meat, and use olive oil.

Anjum Rahman was kind enough to send me a copy of her paper from the recent SPRE conference, and on reading it I was struck by how much things never really change for migrants.

I’ll qualify that statement by saying that my personal experience of migration is living in two countries where my only point of different was a distinct accent and a mild cultural genuflection (when in Rome, as they say). That said, while I studied in Australia I found myself having to canvass a lot of material on migrant assimilation, and mostly because of it’s central role in defining the race and culture of Australian citizenship.

My study of the migrant experience in Oz provided a couple of interesting lessons for me. The first is that regardless of the culture into which a migrant tries to fit, the experience tends to be very similar. This is of course dependent on the degree to which the migrant differs culturally, linguistically or religiously from the host society, but also on the degree of xenophobia exhibited by the host. Very generally though, alienation, social isolation and the like are ‘normal’.

The second, and more interesting thing the study revealed is that a benign policy environment is essential to the mitigation of this negative migrant experience. And strangely enough, though you wouldn’t believe it after Tampa, Australia has had such an environment.

Anjum’s paper discusses the experience of a woman called “Mei Lin”, who came to New Zealand in the 1960s with her husband. They settled and had a family, but without her familial support network began to to suffer mental health issues. I’m paraphrasing far too much, but essentially Mei Lin’s condition can be attributed to her experiences of social alienation and New Zealand xenophobia.

I’m not in any position to comment on improvements in settlement assistance for migrants in contemporary New Zealand, I simply don’t know anything about what’s happening here these days, but I can say that Mei Lin’s experience has been well documented in Australia among migrants there. And, especially in the time before the implementation of multicultural policies.

What Mei Lin’s experience demonstrates, as does the poor experiences of hundreds and thousands of migrant women in 50s and 60s Australia, is that difference does count. There is a tendency for host nations to assume that migrants can just “work hard” and “fit in”, but this expectation is actually quite unreasonable. Migrants can often want to fit in, but be prevented from doing so by “business and usual” alienating behaviour of the the host culture, let alone by the differences between their own culture and the host’s.

Or, put another way, any migration and settlement policy built on an assimilation and mono-cultural model simply does not work in the real world.

It’s a pity then that I missed Anjum’s paper at the SPRE conference. I’m sure their was plenty of subtle commentary in the presentation that doesn’t translate into written English!

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