Friday, 30 November 2012

Monday, 26 November 2012

Book review: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Every so often when my boss and I discuss literature, she tells me that Anna Karenina is her favourite novel and is shocked and horrified that I have not read it. 'Magnificent', I believe, is her favourite word to describe the work.

Last month, spurred on partly by her recommendation and partly by the impending release of a movie adaptation, I borrowed the novel from my sister-in-law and knuckled down to read.

This is what I expected from Anna Karenina;
  • Reading exhaustion. That feeling you get when you’re a third of the way through a book and you suddenly run out of steam or lose all interest but you have to keep going. For hundreds more pages.
  • Confusion from the Russian names, which I cannot pronounce let alone remember.
  • That it would take me months to read and I would most likely read 2 other books in between just to give myself a break.
None of that happened.

All that happened was I fell for this story utterly and completely. It is tremendous. It is at every turn of the page the epic Russian novel you think it will be. A host of characters flow in and out of the story, as Tolstoy deftly switched between storylines and points of view, bringing the reader in to see every angle and become acquainted with the thoughts and emotions of each unhappy individual.

For those who want the three sentence overview of the novel; Anna Karenina is set in the lives of the nobility in the last decades of grand imperial Russia. The titular protagonist is the social ideal of a perfect wife and mother until she meets and falls passionately in love with Count Vronsky. In abandoning her respectable life to be with him, she leaves behind her hated husband, her beloved son and her place in the world to be an outcast. Anna's story is interwoven with those of a host of family and friends whose stories run the breadth of the human experience.
Keira Knightly as Anna and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Vronsky.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Seeing the world through rosé coloured glasses

I am not going to pretend for one moment that I 'know' about wine. I don’t. I cannot talk about varied acidity, late blooming fruits or undercurrents of earthiness. I am, however, pretty good at picking a good bottle from the shelf, I care about what I drink and I hate drinking rubbish.

And I firmly believe that wine is one of life's great pleasures.

Rosé Revolution is in effect a marketing initiative to introduce the Aussie wine-drinker to the growing selection of dry rosés being produced in Australia. The 'Revolution' was launched at events all around the country last Wednesday, 14 November and unofficially lasts all summer. Or until we all start drinking rosé.

At Kettle & Tin.

This is not a tough sell for me. I am a fan of rosé and have deplored the tendency of Australian wine makers to produce pink that is sweet and girly. Rosé is the perfect drink for the south of France, Italian summers and sunny Queensland afternoons on friend's balconies.  I would buy rosé all through summer if I knew I could get hold of a decent dry drop. So when I found out about the Rose Revolution and the free wine tasting at Kettle & Tin, I was there in a pink flash. 

Friday, 16 November 2012

NaNoWriMo week 2

Cups of coffee drunk as a direct result of NaNoWriMo: 7 
Glasses of wine alcoholic beverage drunk as a direct result of NaNoWriMo: 3

Ok, now I am officially behind. As I write this it’s late on the night of Thursday 15 November. I am exactly half way through the month but nowhere near the half way mark in my word count. The very helpful calculators on the NaNoWriMo website tell me that at my current rate I will finish on December 12 or else I can write 2,023 words a day to catch up and finish on November 30.

This is starting to get overwhelming.

I was at Maleny over the weekend and I thought that would be the perfect chance to catch up on my word count. Quiet, no distractions, no excuses to focus on other things, it was perfect. I did get a bit of writing done early in the morning but then eating and drinking got in the way and worst of all, I started reading a book I couldn’t put down. Self-discipline fail.

 Garden sculpture in Maleny. 
Because a photo of my computer wouldn't be very interesting.

Five for Friday no. 45

First world problems of the 1990s. Unnervingly, I can related to most of them.

Hipster baby names: find your own. Mine is Argyle. Which I think might be easier to deal with than my real name. 


Thursday, 15 November 2012

The Glass Books Of The Dream Eaters

In September, I was given a Kindle for my birthday. In October, I finally got it out of its box and started to use it (it always takes me a while, I'm not one of those people ripping it open and booting it up on the day). I went through the set-up, then started looking through the catalog to find a book to read while travelling to Melbourne. I searched on a few authors whose writing I knew I liked, and came across The Chemickal Marriage, by Gordon Dahlquist. At that point, I'm pretty sure I made a noise only dogs could have heard. It was the third in a series of books I had been dying to finish.

Because, you see, way, way back, in the beginning of time (in 2006), I worked with a woman and we talked about books a lot. We'd read promos for this book called The Glass Books Of The Dream Eaters, and thought it sounded like a good time. Then we discovered that the publisher was releasing the book as a serial; once you subscribed, they would mail you an installment, one week at a time - similar to the way Victorian folks used to get Charles Dickens books, for example. These special installments were only available in the UK, but my friend had an aunt there, so after a few months, I received a lovely package of slender blue volumes in the mail.

The fabulous binding was only a preview: The Glass Books Of The Dream Eaters is a classic adventure-mystery, with bits of steampunk science fiction/fantasy and erotica thrown in. Set in a psuedo-Victorian-era city, the story follows three main characters - Cardinal Chang*, an assassin with bad eyesight and a fondness for poetry; Miss Celeste Temple, a stubborn, independent plantation heiress; and Doctor Abelard Svenson, a chain-smoking army surgeon attached to the prince of his country as he travels. Separately, the three come into contact with a sinister cabal intent on enslaving the upper eschelons of society and taking control of Europe, and when our heroes' paths' inevitably cross, they team up, intent on thwarting the plot. The glass of the title refers to the cabal's main weapon; a blue alchemical glass that can be used to steal memories and record them for others to experience. Using the glass also produces a feeling of erotic euphoria, ensnaring the hapless user in an addictive hallucination. As the story progresses, so does use of the glass, until a shocking and astounding alchemical transformation takes place!

And so, this began my interest in these books. The sequel, The Dark Volume, came out in 2008, and was an intriguing continuation of the story. It had an infuriating Empire Strikes Back-style ending, though, hence my excitement about the 2012 release of The Chemickal Marriage. And now I've finally read them all, and honestly, I found the conclusion totally satisfying. I thought the style and quality of the story and writing was consistent all the way through (it's always so disappointing when the end of a series is crap compared to the beginning, but that's not the case here) and overall, I find these books such an entertaining read!

They won't be what everyone wants in a novel, I suppose. The story is packed with a million characters, and driven by a crazy series of events - death-defying escapes, betrayals, encounters with members of the cabal, plus the detective-style work the three heroes are doing, trying to uncover the cabal's plot. Each chapter throughout the whole series is also told from the perspective of a different main character, rolling through them in a cycle, which has the advantage of uncovering a wider view of the overall conspiracy than a single perspective could portray, and also exploring how the main characters appear to other people, which is always intriguing. Of course, Dahlquist ends just about every chapter right on a cliffhanger, which is completely infuriating (and excellent). The books are also written in a slightly Victorian style, very much after Dickens, or maybe HG Wells or Jules Verne, and the language sometimes contributes a certain convolutedness for the modern reader.

However, if you can get used to the mannered writing, free-wheeling story and the perspective switches, there's plenty to reward you. Conspiracy, steampunk science, dissolute aristocrats, masked balls and murders. The villains, dastardly though they are, are a lot of fun - there's the Comte d'Orkanz, aristocrat-slash-artist-slash-mad-scientist and the creator of the science behind the blue glass. There's Francis Xonck, younger brother of a wealthy arms maker, who plays at being another dissolute aristo but has a greater ambition within the cabal than he pretends. Then there's the Contessa di Laquer-Sforza, a beautiful, enigmatic con-woman, orchestrating and manipulating even within the cabal. There are others, each convinced they are in control of their conspiracy, and the whole thing is naturally a house of cards, just waiting for the co-conspirators to betray each other.

I also really liked all the main characters. Miss Temple isn't a cookie-cutter heroine, and she refuses to be anyone's damsel in distress. She does start out searching for the fiance who threw her over, but continues to fight the cabal long after her interest in him has dissolved. Doctor Svenson is more reserved, even when the story is from his perspective, but his dry wit and ongoing loyalty, even to those who may not deserve it, becomes a welcome relief in such a mad-cap story. His chain-smoking and fear of heights also humanize him in appealing ways. And then there's Cardinal Chang, the consummate antihero; a talented assassin with a well-hidden reserve of courage and self-sacrifice.

So, if you feel in the mood for a thrilling, action-packed story, of sinister villains and a conspiracy that accelerates like a runaway train until it threatens to unseat an entire country, escalating to a horrifying, epic yet deeply personal climax at the end of The Chemickal Marriage, maybe these are the books for you...

(The Guardian has naturally written a better review than mine, if you need further convincing.)

Note: I hope they don't try to make a Hollywood movie out of these books. They'd have to tear them apart, and that would be such a shame. A really well-produced miniseries, on the other hand, akin to Game of Thrones or something, could be amazing.

*Not a real cardinal.

The beautiful game

No matter what you say, goals as surprising and spectacular as this could not happen in any other sport.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

My favourite annual festive sweet treat, a road test.

Christmas is coming fast. We all hate to admit it, but the decs are up in David Jones, the carolers at Indooroopilly Shoppingtown are warming up their tonsils and it is finally time to start thinking about what the hell you're going to buy Dad this year.

I'm not a 'christmas' person. I don't object to the festivities, but it's all become so commercial and torturous. I'm not a grinch but I'm not Mademoiselle Claus either. There are however two aspects of christmas that I ADORE. Cannot get enough of them.
  1. Tasteful christmas decorations.
  2. Fruit mince pies.
I cannot eat enough fruit mince pies for the season. I can easily buy one of those six packs from the supermarket and devour them by myself in one night. I'm not even that fussed on quality. I'll eat Coles brand so long as they don't have any candied peal in them. In fact, cheap in better because their manufacture budget doesn't stretch to luxuries like orange rind.

Don't judge me.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012


Late on Thursday, I got a text from my sister, asking whether I wanted to buy a ticket to Radiohead's Friday night concert at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre. My answer: HELL. YES. I hadn't managed to get a ticket in the regular sale, and this ticket was perfect - seated and oh so close to the front.

It was a great concert. They played a great set-list - a good mix of newer stuff, plus a few old classics. Thom Yorke and the rest of the band were really on form, and seemed super happy to be there. Thom danced!

The set design was also impressive, actually, and probably one of the best concert setups I've ever seen. The lighting and backdrop changed with every song, displaying colours and patterns and graphics that seemed designed to fit the 'vibe' of the music. They also had twelve screens suspended above the band, which were moved around, integrating with and complementing the visuals. Overall, the setup really fit the style and sound of the band. It was awesome!

Below are some very dodgy camera-phone pictures, in which I am subtly bragging about how excellent my seat was. (Seriously, second row in the section right behind general admission. Amazing!)

They used a great range of colours; red, blue, indigo,
pink, Matrix-green and black, with great patterns and
occasionally blinding strobes.

All those white blogs are screens; each was displaying
a close-up of Thom Yorke's face. (There was a camera
set up right near his microphone.)

A zombie love story

I am not good with zombies. I'm not good with any horror genre, I can't stand the tension and I am bad with gore. So yesterday I was stunned to discover - a zombie movie I actually want to see!

It's a zombie rom-com. Yes. A zombie rom-com, complete with guns and eating people. Coming to cinemas near you in a few months' time.

Monday, 12 November 2012

I love Judi Dench...

Half-arsed book review: Curtain by Agatha Christie

I spent the weekend last visiting my parents up at Maleny. I love weekends up there. I do little but eat, drink wine from my Dad's cellar and read for three days. It is very peaceful and slightly fattening.

The other thing I am great at doing with my time in Maleny is buying books. Maleny has more than its fair share of excellent book shops. Rosetta Books is one of my favourite book stores and places to spend money. One of those fabulous book sellers that has one of everything, organises author talks and supports the entire Maleny writing community. There are also a couple of great second hand booksellers with resident dogs who let you scratch them behind the ears.

This trip I limited myself to two titles. From Rosettas I bought The Best of Women's Travel Writing vol. 8 (can't wait to dive into that one!) and from Maleny Bookshop I bought my first ever Agatha Christie. I am a huge fan of the BBC adaptations of Christie's novels; Marple or Poirot with David Suchet. I re-watch them, even after I know exactly who did it in the library with which poisoned tea cup. But I have never read any of her original works. So I bought myself a hard copy of Poirot's last mystery Curtain, which upon completion was hidden in a safe and not published after the Christie' death.

As much as I enjoy watching mysteries on TV I never read them, because I can't stand not knowing who did it. I skip to the end of the book because I can't stand the tension. So I confess – I already knew who did part of the mystery of Curtain before I bought my copy. Then when I inadvertently read the first page, I found I couldn't stop. I read for 4 solid hours without a break. I was completely taken in. I now understand the universal appeal and popularity of Marple's novels. The mystery is seductive and brilliant, the language is simple, the writing concise. It is the sort of book almost anyone could pick up and enjoy on a lazy Sunday afternoon just as I had.

In Curtain, the incomparable Belgian detective Hercule Poirot – the star of so many Christie mysteries and a character she came to hate – returns to the scene of his first ever case The Mysterious Affair at Styles. He is again accompanied by his close friend Arthur Hastings as he hastens to solve one final puzzle - perhaps his most devilish case yet. 

 Hercule Poirot, portrayed by David Suchet. The only literary character to ever be given a full-page obituary in the New York Times

I'm not a mystery novel aficionado, though may be this is a turning point for me. I also find I cannot write a review on such a classic. I'm reading Anna Karenina at the moment and have no intention of writing a serious review of that tremendous work of classic fiction either.

The most intelligent comment I can make about Curtain, or probably just about any Christie mystery  is if you see a copy, indulge yourself. You will enjoy it a lot more than you think you will.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Five for Friday no. 44

The British are great at invading other countries. 

Things people say to graphic designers as a series of posters

In 2013 NGV will be hosting an exhibition of Monet, with all 60 works inspired by his stunning garden at Giverny. 

I love this slightly odd dating tip.
 In an effort to raise awareness of the plight of ordinary citizens in countries without freedom of speech, freedom of movement or rights to education, Trial By Timeline will analyse you and see just how many international crimes you might have committed if you hadn't been born in Australia or New Zealand. Warning: if you wish to participate, you give Trial By Timeline the right to access your Facebook timeline.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Old friends and chicken soup

I've had a tough year for a few reasons but I am lucky to have wonderful friends and family around me to help 'fix' things.

I had dinner last week with two of my oldest friends. We've known too much about each other for 16 years now. After dinner, as I was driving home, I realised:

Old friends are chicken soup for the soul. 

Thanks to my chicken soup.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

NaNoWriMo: week one

Cups of coffee drunk as a direct result of NaNoWriMo: 1
Glasses of wine drunk as a direct result of NaNoWriMo: 4

Day 1.
I had a terrible sleep for no reason, so at 5am I was lying in bed, staring at my desk and thinking ‘What the Fuck was I thinking. Why do I think I can write a novel? It’s going to be awful and unreadable and even I won’t like it. WHY?!

So it was a really positive start to the month.
Overall, over the last 7 days I have written every day except one. You read about how hard it is, you know that the requisite daily 1,667 words is about 2 A4 pages. But until you have tried to write that much per day on a continued theme or story, you cannot imagine how difficult it really is. Between my job, a blog and personal writing, I can write pages and pages every day. All of which flows easily in comparison to a Novel.

I have been getting up early to write. I am reluctant to wake myself up but I think it is best to write when my brain is fresh. I even write before I have had my first morning coffee.

Having seen this quote by Hemingway many times;

I decided to try it one night. That did not work. After 4 glasses of wine I am in no mood to do anything except have a 5th glass. I certainly could not have pulled out several hours of creative writing.

So far I am unhappy with what I have written. Any spontaneity has gone and I feel myself getting formulaic, as if my individual voice has drowned under the supposed sea of words. But I suppose that is the real gift in good writing – to have a voice, to communicate your thoughts and feelings succinctly, and ultimately, to transmit emotions over the page. I think humour must be one of the most difficult emotions to get across the page, but that is how I would like to write – humorously. Rather a big challenge I have set myself.

So. Word Count. 

Total goal / where I should be at one week / current total
50,000 / 11,669 / 8.585

I'm pretty far behind, if I'm honest. I just better sit down and have a productive writing weekend.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Melbourne and the Very Big Meals

Ah, Melbourne. So many things to so many people. For my father, for his birthday, it's all about the food. And the wine. And sometimes the art. But mostly the food. So, for a very significant milestone birthday, he decided nothing could be better than a trip during which we would eat. A lot. We arrived late on Thursday night, freeing up the whole of Friday, Saturday and Sunday for outings, galleries, restaurants and cafes.

Friday Breakfast - Cumulus

This well-known Melbourne Cafe is set in the front of the same building as Arc One Gallery, and features a large, open room with a bar on one side and cafe counter on the other. The coffee is super-strong, and the ham and cheese toasted sandwich is actually Kurabouta leg ham and gruyere. The clientele include your classic inner-city Melbourne foodies, trendier yuppies, and business people getting a coffee injection before work. Even so, the food is pretty delish, and I could definitely get addicted to the strong, bitter coffee...

Friday Lunch - TarraWarra Estate Winery

TarraWarra Estate is about an hour outside of Melbourne, in the Yarra Valley, in very pretty, classically rural countryside. The main building is on a hillside, and at first the ultra-modernity of the building seems incongruous, especially above the pond-weeping willow combination just below it on the hill. But when you actually get into the complex, it's easier to see how the building has been designed for outlook, to showcase the view of the landscape, rather than to present a visual image on the hill. Not that the building itself isn't striking, but it seemed to me that it was designed more for the people inside it.

We arrived at around 11.30am - slightly too early for lunch - so we had a wine-tasting first, with a very helpful and friendly sommelier. Of course, none of us could agree on which wine we liked the best, so it was probably for the best that we were able to order flights and wine by the glass when we had lunch. (A flight is three glasses, of about 50mLs of wine each. This lets you have a taste of various wines, matched to your three course meal, without overdoing it.) (Honestly, though, we had a flight each and then another glass, so I think we might have been missing the point...)

TarraWarra Estate also includes a privately funded art gallery, which we visited after our meal. It was showing an exhibition called Sonic Spheres, which had key themes of music and sound, and featured contemporary artists including Eugene Carchesio, Ross Manning, Marco Fusinato, John Nixon, Sandra Selig and more.

Friday Dinner - The Press Club

Do I even really need to say anything, here? This famous bar and restaurant is in the city, on Flinders Street, just up from the back of Federation Square. The fit-out is beautiful, the food is amazing. I doubt I could say anything that hasn't already been said; the food was excellent, and the wine delicious. The modern gastronomy - infusions, jellies and foams all over the place - isn't something I prefer to eat, and my asparagus entree wasn't really to my taste, but even that part of the experience was interesting. I had the chicken for main course, and it more than made up for it, with a delicious collection of flavours and perfectly cooked meat.

The restaurant also has a wine list with about forty pages, which comes in a binder. The Press Club offers wine from across the world - Greek, French, Italian, Australian... Our poor sommelier had to put up with a lot, however, as my father is fairly picky and wanted to discuss the dinner bottle in depth. He also had to try not to look horrified when I wanted red wine first, regardless of whether or not it matched my food (we'd had a lot of white wine at lunch, and the last thing I wanted was yet another glass!), so I'm pretty sure I got written off as a total heathen right around then. But after the meal he provided us with a complimentary shot of Skinos Mastiha liquer, which has quite an amazing taste and was a delicious finish to the meal, so perhaps he didn't dislike us too much.

Saturday Lunch - Gypsey and Musquito

This is a small cafe down on Bridge Road in Richmond, and was an excellent place for lunch. It has mismatched, rustic furniture, a slight bush/outback theme to the menu, great-looking muffins and cakes on retro cake stands, and again, super-strong coffee. The food was delicious - I had something called a box, which was essentially a square-shaped pie without a lid. There was a steak and potato version, but mine was organic chicken and corn, and it was absolutely delicious. It came with broccoli, avocado and green bean salad. The clientele ranged from people picking up coffees, to hipster kids with piercings, to an old lady reading a book at the table next to us. I was a little jealous of her, as it would have been a great place to sit and drink coffee and read something for a while.

Saturday Dinner - Cutler & Co. Dining Room

Cutler & Co is on Gertrude Street in Fitzroy, close to the city but just outside. The front is very unassuming, with big windows and a small logo painted on one door, to let you know you're in the right place. Once inside, though, the beautiful design and fit-out of the restaurant is immediately obvious, with a variety of dining spaces, intriguing lighting, and an impressive glass wine cellar. The staff were professional and accommodating - including the sommelier, who had slightly more success with my father than the poor guy at the Press Club - and the restaurant experience was great before we even tasted the food.

And the food, honestly, is amazing. I had an entree of peas, broad beans, sunflower seeds, onion and
bergamot, which does nothing to describe the small, adorable collection of ingredients I received, which the waiter proceeded to dress with an onion reduction. My main was chicken again; a slow-roasted chicken breast with pancetta, braised turnips and onion, and we also had roast potatoes with garlic dressing. I managed to make room for dessert, which is always worth it when there's a chocolate ice cream sandwich with vanilla parfait and salted caramel sauce on the menu.

From the helpful yet unobtrusive service to the delicious food, the whole meal with Cutler & Co was
absolutely worth it, and made it clear the place deserves every accolade it receives. (Incidentally, it's owned by the same folks that run Cumulus.)

Sunday Lunch - The Hellenic Republic

By Sunday, my personal desire for another big meal was flagging considerably, but I braced myself - and didn't eat breakfast - in preparation for a classic Sunday lunch with the extended family, in final celebration of my father's birthday. And I was glad I did - the food here is fantastic. It's owned by the same folks who run the Press Club, but the Hellenic Republic is far less gastronomie, far more family-style shared food. It's down at the far end of Lygon Street, for starters, miles away from the Italian section near the city. The restaurant is in a white-painted low building with lots of windows, and overall the atmosphere is casual and relaxed. It also has an open kitchen like the Press Club does, so you can see the rotisseries of grilled meat, and occasionally get a waft of barbecue smoke.

We ordered one of the banquets - because too much is never enough, apparently - and were inundated with food. We had grilled meat, fish, prawns, pita, taramasalata, tyri saganaki, lahano salata, delicious Cypriot Grain Salad, and a lot more. It was all excellent, and was topped off with a dessert of Hellenic Mess - broken meringue, orange blossom jelly, vanilla crema and strawberry ouzo sauce - and watermelon, feta and mint salad. I had also decided, by that point in the weekend, that I was totally sick of white wine, so I drank a beer and had some Greek red. I didn't regret it!

So, our weekend of meals was finally over. And you know, while I really enjoy having the occasional gastronomically-fabulous meal, it's not something I prefer to do on the regular, and for me, this many huge eats in one weekend was a bit of a stretch. Which is not a complaint! More a lament that we can't all live in Melbourne, so as to go to these amazing restaurants with a bit more space between visits. I suppose some of us just have to eat too much, then spend the plane ride back to Brisvegas digesting. Which I did. I did not require dinner on the plane at all. Or breakfast on Monday, come to that...

Monday, 5 November 2012

Brisbane on a Sunday

Sundays fall under one of two categories;
  1. Sundays when you do nothing but recover from the week/end, drink coffee then beer on the couch and watch television.
  2. Sundays when you get out and have lazy social time with friends.
Neither is better, each is wonderful in its own way. Personally, I find when I spend Sunday afternoon out, it distracts me from thinking about the impending work week. Oddly though, I can feel guilty when I’m out enjoying myself on a Sunday rather than staying at home ‘resting up’. Find the logic in that.

Anyway, I’ve had a great couple of Brisbane Sundays recently.

Last Sunday I paid my first visit to the Eagle Farm markets. Now that I’m a north-sider these are my new local fresh food markets and being a lover of markets in all forms, I couldn't put off my first visit for long. So I dragged myself out of bed on a cloudy and windy Sunday to get to the markets and pick up weekly necessities like baby roma toms and smoked bacon. 

When I arrived, the cheap-skate in me grumbled a lot about entry into the markets costing Twice As Much for Eagle Farm than Rocklea ($2 rather than $1. $2!). So cheap sometimes.

Eagle Farm is significantly smaller than either the Rocklea or West End markets. However, many of the stall holders are the same and there is one of just about everything. 

I had lovely chats with Black Sheep Coffee Guy, Jus Oils Couple, the Bacon Ladies and Egg Man. I'm a chatty person. The two separate food stall sections were giving off the most wonderful aromas of baked and fried breakfasts, but I got seduced by a mars bar muffin, which I took home to enjoy with my freshly ground Black Sheep Coffee. Good espresso puts me in an expansive mood.

This Sunday I tripped into the CBD to check out Suitcase Rummage. This ingenious idea for a market has been happening in Brisbane for a few years now. Held on the first Sunday of every month, it is an opportunity for people to ‘sell like their Grandmas’. You take along suitcases full of stuff you no longer want, lay it out and wait for someone to decide your trash is their treasure.

Book review: Civilization by Niall Ferguson

How did it come to pass that a tiny percentage of the world's population came to dominate global culture and the global economy for half a millennium? That is the big question posed by Niall Ferguson in Civilization: the West and the Rest. How did this dominance become so universal and accepted? And as the world changes and new global powers arise, where and when did this supremacy start to fall apart?

No one can argue that 'the West', itself a hugely outdated term, is in trouble. Capitalism, that great builder of wealth and power, has stumbled and with it caused great economic hardship in those countries so dependant on free-market free-spending to circulate and grow national wealth. America is in trouble, the Eurozone is in trouble and though here in Australia we sit smugly proud having braved the worst and come out seemingly on top, we are none the less hugely dependant on the uncertain fates of our economic treaty buddies and former colonists.

Where we are fortunate is that our proximity to Asia has caused us to form close economic ties with countries such as Indonesia, China and Japan. China is our largest two-way trading partner, Japan number two. In 2010, 7 of Australia's top 10 trading partners were Asian countries. Countries that an 18thCentury traveller would have viewed as undeveloped are booming and with that boom comes the power of money to spend and goods to sell.

No one can argue that global economic supremacy is drifting away from Europe and its (former) colonies to China, India and even parts of Africa, where economic development may have lagged behind 'first world' countries, but in a tortoise vs hare race, the Asian tortoises are now equipped with jet packs and rocket launchers prepared to overtake the US, Australia and Germany within decades.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Five for Friday no. 43

Today's Five has a theme: TUMBLRs!

Fiction bucket list. No, it's not books to read before you die.  

 Thug Kitchen. Jane's new favourite tumblr.  

Research in Progress.A tumblr for my scientists friends. Of which I have almost none. 

Tumblr of a professional cartoonist and illustrator. Off-kilter Disney Princess, My Little Pony and Superhero comics. Adorable.

Images are the original artwork of Amy Mebberson.

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