Never Lick A Touch Screen With A Mouth Full Of Coffee

I started shopping at a big box supermarket about six months ago; shopping means buying one each of the same two items. Every few weeks I push a shopping trolley through the aisles of the big box and fill it with a large 80 oz bag of Dunkin Donuts Original Blend ground coffee, and a 12-pack of Victoria beer. Victoria beer is brewed by the Mexican brewery giant Grupo Modelo; the company responsible for introducing the world to Corona. I’m not a beer aficionado yet I’m going to drink Victoria, which some might call a dark golden pilsener type beer, in preference to Budweiser or Miller; and I’m going to drink any type of bock or porter over Victoria, Budweiser, and Miller. However there’s still nothing better than knocking back a cold Melbourne Bitter.

image source:carltondraft.com

I’ve got used to shopping at the big box supermarket. I think some shoppers are intimidated by the never ending aisles, the astonishing number of different products, and the overall starkness of the big box. I’ve developed a routine whenever I visit the big box; on each visit I greet the mature big box customer host with a nod and a G’day, wipe the handle of my empty shopping trolley with a sanitising wipe taken from a small container on a stand by the anti theft alarm security system, and push my trolley through and around the grocery section; always down the same two aisles. The first aisle is the coffee, tea, Milo, and hot cocoa aisle, and the beer, and wine and spirits is second. In no time my trolley is loaded with a bag of Dunkin Donuts Original Blend ground coffee, and a 12-pack of Victoria beer, and I’m heading to the collection of stand alone, do-it-myself checkout systems at the front of the shop. Without waiting for the automated greeting from the stand alone, do-it-myself checkout system I insert my credit card into the system. I patiently stand, staring at the screen, watching an animation of something moving over a little black hole. I follow the moving something; back and forth, back and forth, and back and forth. I absentmindedly wave the bag of Dunkin Donuts Original Blend ground coffee back and forth across the scanning bed; regardless of how I wave there are no beeps, and so I beckon an associate to the do-it-myself checkout system to finish the scanning, and navigate the lurking options of the payment screens.

image source:jmcadam

I’ve only managed to successfully check in three out of the four times I’ve used an airport self-service check-in. I didn’t really manage the three check-ins; they happened only after I beckoned a check-in agent to the self-service check-in kiosk. The agent navigated the series of touch screens needed to confirm my flight information, seat assignment, and print my boarding pass; after check-in they gestured toward the check-in counter. The counter associate requested my name, destination, boarding pass, and identification; keyboarding my responses into a computer. After checking my bag I was handed a bar coded luggage claim ticket. Sometimes I’m a little slow, and not process orientated; as I walked away from the check-in counter I pondered, except for checking in the bag, didn’t I just do all that stuff at the self-service check-in kiosk.

The fourth time I used an airport self-service check-in kiosk was in the International Terminal at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport. I approached a collection of kiosks pushing a trolley loaded with two check-in bags, and an assortment of carry-on items. The first self-service check-in kiosk was out of order; I chose another, and waited behind a fellow traveler. We were soon chatting, and before long our chatter became questions without answers; we were a problem solving team trying to decode the digital hieroglyphics on the touch screen. We left the self-service check-in kiosk together and headed to the check-in counter. I stood ready at the check-in counter with my eticket, ePassport, and US permanent resident alien card.

image source:jmcadam

I first travelled on an ePassport a couple of years ago on a visit back to the The Land Down Under. The Australian ePassport has an embedded microchip which contains the information on the passport’s photo page as well as a digital image of the bearer. As we approached a stand alone kiosk in the arrivals concourse of Brisbane Airport’s International terminal the airline associate assisting us asked

ave you used SmartGate mate; give us yu passport. no worries

Before I could answer they had taken my ePassport and pushed it into a slot in the front of the kiosk. I responded to a couple of questions that appeared on the touch screen; had I been exposed to any contagious diseases, and was I carrying quarantine contraband. The kiosk dispensed a ticket.

grab yu ticket mate, we’re goin to the gate; you’ll see why they call it SmartGate.

The gate part of SmartGate is like an anti theft alarm security entrance system at a big box supermarket, but with a gate and a camera. To navigate SmartGate you push your ticket from the kiosk into a slot near the gate, stare at the camera, and when the gate opens grab your ticket and through you go. After collecting your luggage you hand over your ticket and your completed Incoming Passenger Card, to an Australian Border Force officer.

image source:couriermail.com.au

A year after SmartGate I was greeted at the Auckland International arrivals terminal by an associate directing arriving passengers to different immigration stations.

Associate:G’day; where yu from mate, what nationality
Me: G’day mate, Australian, but I live in the states now
Associate: Yu poor bugger mate, but go through eGate anyway
Me: Cheers mate, no worries

I had SmartGated and now I had eGated.

I’ve since learnt that SmartGate uses a form of facial recognition technology; it compares the image that it captures of your face, to the digital image it uploads from the chip embedded in your ePassport. Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection is in the process of introducing a contactless system of SmartGate at Australian airports. You won’t show your passport; instead you’ll be processed by biometric technology and facial recognition. The roll out out should be completed by March 2019.

image source:disruptionhub.com

As I thought back to my ePassport entry experiences at Auckland and Brisbane airports I pondered; why don’t supermarkets use grocery recognition technology. It wouldn’t take much to adapt the facial recognition technology used at airports to grocery shop recognition. In this day and age an image of every grocery item; fruit, booze, breads and bakery products, house cleaning and laundry supplies, and whatever else is on a supermarket shelf has to be already somewhere in a cloud database. All it would take for grocery shop recognition is to attach cameras around the inside perimeter of the shopping trolleys so as to capture an image of what’s put into a trolley. Software would compare the image from the trolley’s cameras to cloud database images. When a match is made the price would be electronically added to a shopper’s digital account; and to check out just insert a credit card into the trolley’s card reader.

image source:chicagotribune.com

The big box super market associate who finished the scanning, and navigated the touch screen options of the payment screens, loaded my bag of Dunkin Donuts Original Blend ground coffee, and 12-pack of Victoria beer back into my shopping trolley. I stuffed the receipt from the system into the 12-pack, pushing it between a couple of bottles, and steered the trolley toward the anti theft alarm security system. As I passed the mature customer host they rewarded me with smile, and a thank you for shopping at the big box; and then transformed themselves into a theft prevention agent with, “do you have a receipt for the bag of Dunkin Donuts Original Blend ground coffee and the 12-pack of Victoria beer”. I gestured into the shopping trolley and replied, “in the 12-pack mate”. The recipe inspection went smoothly, but it caused me to puzzle about checking a customer with nine bulging plastic shopping bags. How long would it take the customer host to rummage through nine shopping bags and match all the items to the receipt, and does the customer host have a special magnetic imaging bar code OCR wand they whip out on such occasions.

image source:occupy.com

I looked up at the security camera as I walked through the anti theft alarm security system and smiled. The captured image of my face was no doubt already digitised and uploaded to a cloud database, waiting to be called upon by facial recognition technology.

Apple has now rolled out it’s own face recognition technology. They claim Face ID will recognise a face in the dark, if you’re wearing glasses or a hat, or if you’ve grown a beard. Many people already use Apple Pay as a digital wallet for purchases in shops and online. I’m taking bets that Apple Pay and Face ID will soon be mashed, and we’ll have Face Shopping; swipe right for a digital payment, take a quick selfie, and select PayNow from the Face Shopping app. So whenever you shop at a brick and mortar, or on line, you’ll need to have your selfie stick handy. I would also suggest an app, or an Instagram filter, for a quick bit of digital smoothing out of the wrinkles, reshaping the nose and eyes, and body shaping, or adding virtual koala ears, nerd glasses, a butterfly crown, gold crown, or bunny ears to the top of your face before you select PayNow.

image source:jmcadam

Smile to Pay will also be a feature of credit cards. Credit cards databases will soon warehouse facial images, and facial recognition technology will be seamlessly integrated into all card payments. Ordering at a macca’s drive through will be as simple as inserting your card and announcing,”I’ll have a tomato relish brekkie roll”, looking into the menu camera and smiling to be authenticated for Smile to Pay, and then pulling up to window one.

I need to start practising taking selfies when I’m watching the shopping channels on the iPad; getting the angle of the head right, doing a quick whitening of the teeth, getting rid of any red-eye, recolouring any grey hairs, resculpturing the jawline, and adding a warm, neon glow to the selfie. Who knows when I’ll next see an Allan Moffat signed XY GTHO Falcon pencil sketch on one of the shopping channels.

 

Good news, hipsters: Melbourne Bitter to go on tap

Aussie airport Smartgates to be ditched for facial recognition

Singapore to test facial recognition on lampposts

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Never Bite The Hand That Holds The Camera

There’s a large cane basket that sits on the floor in the front room; it’s used to store most of our photo albums. I don’t remember the last time an album was taken from the basket; they sit in the basket as if they were a game of Stack Tower. The basket’s duty these days is to serve as a decorative piece and occupy the negative space in front of the didgeridoo. At one time the albums were kept within easy reach on a bookcase shelf or a side table. They were searched at random, or each page of an album was methodically turned releasing treasured memories of long ago holidays, family gatherings, birthdays, and special events. Most of the albums have plastic pages with six pockets on each side holding the pictures; some have a clear plastic overlay coated with an adhesive to hold the pictures onto the page. And there may be an album where the prints are held in place with decorative photo mounting corners. I remember when the pages of photo albums were always sheets of black paper. You’d carefully put a photo mounting corner onto a black and white photo, lick them, and then hold the photo in place on the page until the glue spit stuff on the photo corners was somewhat dry.

image source:jmcadam

Years ago we licked a lot of stuff. You never worried about where a stamp for an envelope had been; you’d just lick the back of it and stick it onto an envelope. If you collected stamps you’d use a stamp hinge to mount them in your stamp collectors album. The hinge was a small piece of transparent paper with glue on one side. You’d lick the side with the glue and try to put half of the licked sticky side onto the back of the stamp, and then fold the hinge so it would stick onto a page in the stamp album. And you did this all before your spit dried, and the stickiness stopped being sticky. Licking stuff was just second nature. You always licked the icing off a Tic Toc biscuit before eating it, and you always licked you fingers or wherever the sauce and meat had dropped when you were eating eating a pie and sauce, and you always licked the beaters after mum had whipped the cream for her cakes with the Mixmaster.

Back then you never really knew what you had taken a picture of until you picked up your printed photos from the chemist shop. You’d point the camera at something, look down and through the view finder to see what the camera was pointed at, and then push the shutter button on the side of the camera. I think I had a Kodak Brownie Flash II. You got your Kodak black and white film at the chemist shop; 8 pictures to a roll. The film was wound on a spool that would slip into the camera.

image source:skmcadam

You’d take the exposed film back to the chemist to be sent away for processing and printing; it would seem like an eternity, but the next week your photos were in a Kodak envelope waiting to be picked up. Before you left the shop you’d breathlessly reach into the envelope for your black and white memories; most times only half of the eight were in focus, well framed, or properly exposed. And you would carefully put a photo mounting corner onto the corners of each black and white photo, lick them, and then hold the photo in place on the page of a photo album.

I think at one time photo’s were somewhat personal. Photo albums weren’t passed around or given to friends to enjoy; they were personal keepsakes. You never really knew what attractions, buildings, scenes, or destinations your friends had preserved from their holiday’s as personal memories. When relatives or friends did share their albums it was unusual to find two identical photographs; a well known attraction may have been photographed from the same viewing place but there was always a difference in the angle or direction. It’s different today. It seems that images are captured, and then immediately shared on the myriad of social networks, or uploaded and distributed through cloud based databases. A quick search through these online resources shows that most people have photographed the same buildings, attractions, and landmarks from the same viewing place, at the same angle, and from the same direction. Data suggests that 35% of the online photographs of the Eiffel Tower are taken from the same three angles and that 85% of the photos of Machu Picchu are from the same spots; creating nearly half a million identical images on Instagram. It would seem that Instagram and TripAdvisor are not only used for inspiration of where to go for a holiday, but what to photograph and visit.

image source:jmcadam

And so I started musing. Why not provide different images of the same attractions and landmarks for all those bored with seeing the same images; and what if there was an online database of images of the world’s finest beaches, mountains, rivers, lakes and glaciers, rain forests, cultural monuments, heritage sites, important historical and political sites, and architectural structures taken from different perspectives. And to ensure the integrity of “a not the same old images” database an image would be subjected to a content analysis script before it could be uploaded. If the content analysis script determined that a similar image already existed in the database, then the image awaiting uploading would be rejected; no two images would be the same.

The iconic Flinders and Swanston Street intersection could be thought of as Melbourne’s Time Square, Piccadilly Circus, St Mark’s Campanile, or the Fontaine Saint-Michel; there’s always people going places walking up and down the street, and others stopping and waiting to meet under the clocks. On each corner of the vibrant intersection is a quintessential Melbourne building.

image source:gigapan.com

Flinders Street Railway Station is Australia’s oldest train station, and the busiest suburban railway station in the southern hemisphere. Before Melbourne’s underground was built all suburban trains would finish and start from one of Flinders Street sixteen platforms. The clocks under the main dome have always shown the departure time of the next train; if I was living in Melbourne I would be meeting under the clocks. There’s always an urban myth attached to an iconic building, and Flinders Street is no exception. The firm that won the design competition for Melbourne’s new station was also building the Mumbai station and it’s rumoured that the plans for the two stations were mistakenly switched. India got a Gothic style station, and Melbourne an East-Indian design with a flashy dome, an arched entrance, a tower, and clocks.

image source:lovellchen.com.au

Young and Jacksons has welcomed Melbourne drinkers since 1875. It’s not only legendary as a watering hole, but also for a nude painting. Chloe was a 19 year old Parisian artist’s model named Marie, and was painted by French figure painter Jules Joseph Lefebvre. Chloe was showcased at the Paris Salon in 1875; she has graced the walls of Young and Jackson’s since the early nineteen hundreds. Who didn’t have a few pots of the amber in the public bar whilst waiting for their train; looking through the windows, and across the street to the Flinders Street clocks to check their time. There was always time for another couple of pots. Today you can relax with a beer, wine, or a cocktail, and steal a glimpse of Australia’s most famous $5 million nude in Chloe’s Room on the first floor.

image source:melbourne.vic.gov.au

The neo- Gothic St Paul’s Cathedral was designed by the British architect William Butterfield. The building’s foundation stone was laid in1880. The church is unique for several reasons. Instead of using the traditional blue-grey Melbourne Bluestone of the time a warm yellow-brown coloured sandstone from Geelong was used. The three spires that were added thirty years later were never part of the original design; they’re a different colour from the rest of the building because a stone from Sydney was used for their construction. Before construction of the church started it was discovered the traditional east west orientation design wouldn’t allow the cathedral to fit into it’s block of land; it was flipped, and the north-south orientation makes it unique from all other Anglican Cathedrals.

image source:cv.vic.gov.au

In 1967 the Prince’s Bridge railway station was demolished, and the seventeen storey Princes Gate Towers twin towers office buildings were built over the still functioning train platforms. The towers became the headquarters of Victoria’s Gas and Fuel Corporation. When mum and nanna went into town they would start their day at the cooking presentations at the Gas and Fuel’s demonstration kitchen. Thirty years after being built the stark blocks of concrete were flattened, and the railway lines covered over. Federation Square, a modern piazza was created; a civic and cultural space where Melburnians would gather to celebrate, share, learn, and be inspired. Fed Square’s open spaces, galleries, restaurants and bars have become part of Melbourne’s heartbeat.

If you Google Flinders Street Station, Young and Jackson Hotel, St Paul’s Cathedral, Federation Square, or Flinders and Swanston Street intersection you’re presented with countless identical images; all taken from the same angle, and the same point of view. The following are the beginning of my “a not the same old images” database for the iconic Flinders and Swanston Street intersection.

image source:jmcadam

image source:jmcadam

The more I mused the concept of “a not the same old images” databases the more I became convinced that

the ones who see things differently; they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do. steve jobs 1997

And now I need to put the kettle on, sit back with a cup of tea, and look through the albums to find photo’s of my svelte self.

 

15 Tips for Taking Great Vacation Photos 

Michaels Camera Shop; Melbourne

Modernism Lost

You Can Lead A Horse To Water But How Do You Park It

I think the first time I drove a car with a reversing camera was a couple of years ago on a visit back to the The Land Down Under. We arrived in Melbourne from Hobart around mid afternoon, and after picking up a rental car motored to the historical gold rush town of Beechworth. It was late at night when we checked into our Motor Inn. Early the next morning I stood outside the room and was absorbed by nostalgic memories of yesteryear; when motels catering to the motorist started to appear in Australia’s cities and towns. A room’s parking space was directly outside the door, and when breakfast was delivered the food tray was passed through a slot in the wall. We had parked outside the door to our room, and there was a food tray opening in the wall beside the door. To leave in the car it was just a quick reverse with the front wheels turned, to be aligned and facing the Motor Inn driveway. I remember the morning the tradies ute was parked behind the car; as I got into the car I gave a g’day nod and a one finger wave to the 2 tradies on the roof.

image source:jmcadam

After starting the car I allowed myself a quick furtive look at the tradies; they had downed their roofing tools and were staring fixedly at the car. I pushed back into the seat and took the steering wheel with one arm; my arm travelled smoothly and continuously as the car moved backward and forward between the Motor Inn and the tradies ute; left, right, right, left. With the car facing the driveway I looked back at the tradies, and gave them a nonchalant one finger wave. As their heads tilted to one side the nods were an acknowledgement to the masterly reversing they had just seen. There was no reason for them to know the car was equipped with a reversing camera.

The rental car we drove on the last visit to the The Land Down Under was a Nissan Versa. It didn’t register at the time, and I can’t remember when I connected the dots; but I was driving a Nissan Cube. The Cube I’ve tootled around Omaha in for the last 6 years is the same as all Cube’s; a funky box plonked onto a Versa frame, or as some have said, a 50’s refrigerator atop a shortened Versa platform.

image source:jmcadam

The rental Versa didn’t have a headliner with concentric rings, or the dashboard circular shag carpet thing, ebay has Nissan Cube shag carpet dash toppers for $25.00 to $30.00, but it did have a reversing camera. And so I searched for every problematic parking space in Melbourne and it’s suburbs, the Mornington Peninsula, and Castlemaine; any cramped or obscure space that meant multiple backward and forward tight turning manoeuvres. And now reversing cameras alone are passé. Park assist systems combine cameras and sensors to determine the size of a space; and they guide and warn you how close the car is to an object. Active park assist or auto park systems, actually park the car in a parking space.

image source:honestjohn.co.uk

Some say technology is developing faster than our culture, and that we should step back and ask questions about this constant, unrelenting change. And so I ask myself these three active park assist questions.

1. Can active park assist park a car in the car stacker at the boutique style Salamanca Wharf Hotel.
Because parking is scarce the Salamanca Wharf Hotel provides parking in a car stacker that’s inside, and at the back of the hotel; it’s Tasmania’s first stacker. The friendly and helpful front staff are there to guide you down the small lane, walk you through the stacker intricacies, and to share your first stacker experience. The stacker can be somewhat daunting; it’s a machine of horizontal and vertical steel beams, chains and geared wheels, and gridded metal racks. Cars are assigned to a gridded rack. You squeeze the car onto the rack; which is an extreme tight fit.

image source:jmcadam

On leaving you push a big button at the entrance door to cause the chains and gears to move the rack around to create a space for other cars. The stacker has 10 spaces for small cars; stacked in pairs on top of each other. To retrieve your car you punch it’s rack number into the key pad by the entrance door, and push the big button; the gridded rack holding your car will be waiting for you.

2. Can active park assist stop a car from running into a parking meter in Argyle Place, Carlton.
For a short time in the early seventies I had a pale green EH Holden station wagon. I can only remember a couple of noteworthy events during my ownership of the EH. One was a long weekend trip to the Barossa Valley in South Australia; all I can recall is hauling a few cardboard boxes of wine back to Melbourne. The other event also involved alcohol. Foolishly, back in the seventies I would drink and not give a second thought about driving. Drink driving was just starting to be recognised as a serious danger, and a major cause of carnage on the roads. The breathalyser was first used in Melbourne in the early sixties and random breath testing wasn’t introduced in Victoria until 1976. Most times police assessed if you were drunk and impaired by your behaviour; how you walked, the state of your clothing, your speech, and if you were hiccuping. The state of Victoria now has some of the strictest drink driving penalties and procedures in Australia.

image source:gggiraffe.blogspot.com

Back when, Jimmy Watson’s Wine Bar outdoor courtyard was a place to spend a Saturday, spring and summer late morning early afternoon; a great place for cheap, good, red wine. Because of the new licensing laws in the early sixties Watson’s had to have a kitchen; you ordered simple cheese plates and assorted grilled steaks. On some Saturdays we would leave a collection of empty wine bottles in Jimmy’s courtyard, and head for one of Carlton’s Italian cafés. Regardless of the amount of wine consumed you would turn the key in the ignition, confident in your driving ability. I remember the Saturday afternoon I turned into Argyle Street. Parking was in the centre of the street, and the parking meters formed a long straight line that divided the street into traffic lanes. I turned and steered the EH into the parking space clearly marked by the painted lines on the road. The EH hit a parking meter with such force that the front bumper bar was bent into a U, and pushed back into the radiator. The radiator was pushed back into the fan.

3. Can active park assist cause interference with in-ground parking bays sensors.
The Rotorua Museum is housed in the Bath House building on the grounds of the Government Gardens. As we approached the Elizabethan style building a wire fence appeared; a high wire fence around a museum seemed somewhat unusual. A large sign on the fence proclaimed; A comprehensive assessment of Rotorua Museum has shown it falls well below earthquake safety standards and will need to remain closed to the public for the foreseeable future.

image source:heritage.org.nz

I eased the car into a parking space on Tutanekai St. It was the closest parking to the Rotorua Visitor Information Centre I could find; we had 120 minutes of free parking. Chatting with an Information Centre associate rewarded us with several Rotorua attractions to explore. I think it always helps to ask locals where they eat; she recommended the Fat Dog Cafe & Bar just around the corner, and handed us a voucher for 2 complimentary lattes, cappuccinos, or flat whites. After lunch, we were in no hurry, so sat back with a flat white, and people watched. The leisurely inactivity was only interrupted by the thought that it must be getting close to 120 minutes; the end of our free parking. As we approached the car a parking inspector was lifting the windscreen wiper; a parking infringement ticket in the other hand. Some might say I was obsequious, others would say courteous and polite

Me: (deferential pleading tone) G’day, is it possible for you to take the ticket back
Parking Inspector: Gidday, fair go bro, you’ve overstayed your time eh
Me: (effusive toady charm) But I didn’t know that I was over the time, and I was just about at the car; and it’s a rental car, and I don’t live in New Zealand, and if I have to pay the fine I have to convert American dollars to New Zealand dollars, and if I use my visa they add a foreign transaction fee; and I’m a tourist
Parking Inspector: We’ve got bloody sensors in the ground bro; they record when you park and they tell us the second you overstay your time
Me: (feigning attentiveness) Where are they; that must make it easier than marking the tyres with chalk
Parking Inspector: Right there, bro; in the asphalt, just in front of the bloody gutter; they’re wireless and we’ve got them in heaps of the parking spaces eh
Me: (fawning strong interest) Yep, technology and computers are every where; cars have active park assist and you have active park desist; so if you still used chalk, you could let me off; can I give you the money for the fine
Parking Inspector: Do you reckon you could take the ticket to the council office eh; sometimes they waive them for out of town visitors
Me: (ingratiating humility) Cheers; is there a place to park at the council office

I handed the associate at the council office the parking infringement and started to explain my indiscretion.

image source:old.rcg.co.nz

I learned from the Melbourne speed camera incident, and my appeal to the Civic Compliance of Victoria to request an Internal Review of the offence, that the best defence is to take responsibility for your actions, admit the infraction, and then bridge into the reasons for the circumstances. I spoke in a clear calm voice

I was aware that I exceeded the generous time limit the town of Rotorua allows in the P120 parking bays. I applaud the council in it’s efforts to ensure a healthy turnover of free parking for visitors to the central part of their city. Providing fair access to parking is an admirable demonstration of

The associate silenced me with smile and passed the voided parking infringement ticket back over the counter.

I remember the recent claim of a White house senior adviser; there are many ways to surveil each other now. There was an article that week that talked about how you can surveil people through their phones, through their; certainly through their television sets, any number of different ways. And microwaves that turn into cameras, et cetera. We know that is just a fact of modern life. And that caused me to wonder if active park assist cameras could turn into microwaves; if so we could heat up frozen TV dinners inside the car on long road trips.

 

Fat Dog Cafe & Bar

The Bath House Story

Salamanca Wharf Hotel

Sometimes I Wonder If The World’s Too Interesting

I think one of the best ways to acquire an overview of an unfamiliar city when you only have a limited number of days in that city is to take a city highlights tour. Most cities now have hop-on hop-off explorer bus tours, as well as luxury coach sightseeing tours. For the hop-on hop-off experience you buy a one or two day pass; the buses complete a circular route, passing the city’s attractions every thirty minutes. It seems that every explorer bus is a double decker with it’s top roof cut off, and they all have the same prerecorded, cheerful and informative commentary. I have a small collection of throw away explore bus ear buds; usually handed out by the driver, with the caution that as a courtesy to other passengers please don’t talk over the commentary.

image source:jmcadam

The 3 hour Auckland City luxury coach tour whipped us around the Auckland Domain, home to the Auckland War Memorial Museum and the tropical Winter Gardens, and across the iconic Harbour Bridge; then past the super yachts, the New Zealand Maritime Museum, and the upscale apartments and eateries of the vibrant Viaduct Harbour. Most tour buses stop at Takaparawhau-Bation Point; at the top of the Point is a memorial to the Aussie born, 23rd Prime Minister of New Zealand. Kiwi’s have a soft spot for Mike; he foundered their Welfare State and was responsible for setting right Maori land issue and equality claims. The park has great views of Auckland city and Waitemata Harbour; a great place for just sitting under a tree with some fish and chips, or playing a game of pick up cricket with the mates. If you add conquering the AT HOP public transport fare card, licking Tip-Top hokey pokey ice cream from a cone at Mission Bay, drinking copious cups of lattes in and around Queens Street, a Fullers Ferries trip to Davenport, and walking the old North Head military tunnel complex and gun emplacements, then there wasn’t much left to do in Auckland. I wasn’t interested in the Harbour Bridge climb or bungee jumping from the top of Sky Tower.

image source:skmcadam

As we crossed the Harbour Bridge our luxury coach tour driver made us aware of a must see attraction before leaving Auckland.

if you look at the concrete barrier in the middle of the bridge here you will notice
that there are only three lanes opened on this side, there are five on the other
side, we’ve got a machine that re configures the lanes for the morning and afternoon peak hour.

It’s a specially designed machine that moves the concrete lane dividers; it’s a zipper. Omaha doesn’t have a zipper. I don’t think any of the bridges over the Missouri River, or any of the freeways ringing the city are designed for a zipper. I longed to see the zipper. I diligently searched Auckland Transport’s website to find the Harbour Bridge zipper machine schedule; we headed for Rotorua without seeing the zipper.

video source:newshub &golden gate bridge district

As we motored the south motorway toward Hamilton I tried to remember back to the first time I was in Rotorua; it had to be the early seventies. I visited Christchurch and Queenstown, and spent a day on the Milford Sound fjord. I hitch hiked through the South Island; along narrow winding roads meandering through sprawling, lush pastoral farm lands. It seemed the Southern Alps were the distant horizon and you could reach out and almost touch Mount Cook. I remember taking the ferry from Wellington to the North Island, and downing a few beers with a couple of thirsty Kiwis. My Rotorua of fifty plus years ago was a landscape of geothermal, belching mud pools, hidden by drifting billowing steam, and shrouded in damp and sulphurous air. There were no fences and you were able to wander among the bubbling mud pools and hissing geysers.

Tirau nudged me from my faint memories of the past; about a forty minute dive from Rotorua, it was a great place for a lunch stop. The corrugated iron dog and sheep constructions, add extra charm to the quaint town. The information centre and the public toilet are in the dog, and a wool shop is inside the sheep and ram.

image source:jmcadam

Across the road from the corrugations is the The Twisted Café. I chose a slice of homemade egg and bacon pie, and as we sat eating and admiring the corrugations, mused over a customer’s question when they were choosing from the selection of homemade foods in the display cabinet

what’s in the asparagus courgette? and the answer was unexpected; asparagus
instead they chose an everyday steak pie

Because we went through a bottle of chilled water eating and admiring the corrugations, it seemed prudent for a pit stop before leaving on the forty minute plus drive to Rotorua. We were wracked with indecision; the The Twisted Café toilet, or the public toilet inside the corrugated dog.

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Most people know Rotorua for it’s geothermal wonders rather than queues. When you approach Rotorua on Highway 5 you’re cautioned that queues will activate the traffic lights at Ngongotaha Rd; Middle-earth is just a short distance from Tirau and queues must wander from their settlements. We had been driving somewhat close to the rolling grasslands of the Shire and Hobbit Holes so I stopped the car and checked for any queues that could have stowed away. And for the rest of the time in Rotorua I remained vigilant and alert, and on the lookout for any queues straying onto the streets, or hiding in unsuspecting places.

The people of the Whakarewarewa Valley have been guiding visitors through the geothermal attractions, and their village since the mid eighteen hundreds. We spent most part of a day in Whakarewarewa, The Living Māori Village; a traditional village where people live and use the natural geothermal resources to cook, bathe and heat their homes. As you cross the bridge into the village you’re encouraged to throw coins to the local children treading water in the river below. They dive for the coins, keeping found coins in their mouth, until your tour guide moves the group along; they’re known as the penny divers.

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It’s said the tradition of throwing money started before a bridge was built. Visitors were carried across the river by the villagers and in gratitude would give coins, and throw coins to the children who were swimming in the river. The Living Māori Village is an odd place to visit; you’re walking past peoples houses, boiling mud pools, thermal cooking pools, the community bathing area, and the cemetery. It’s where people live. The guided tour includes a Māori cultural performance; the performers share their dances, songs, rhythmic chants, haka war challenge, poi dancing, long stick games, and short stick games. And you can indulge yourself with an optional sweet-corn on the cob, and a Hangi meal that includes the world famous Whakarewarewa steam pudding.

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Some say that you don’t know what you don’t know; and what I didn’t know was I had been eating mum’s Hangi since I was a little boy. When our village tour guide whipped the top off the steam box, pointed down into the sulphurous vapour and asked, who’s having the Hangi meal, I was back sitting at our kitchen table as mum reached for her pots on the stove. Mum learned to cook from her mum. Her cooking was built upon Australia’s culinary beginnings; using cheaper cuts of meat, and simple vegetables. If the meat wasn’t roasted or grilled, it was boiled. Most times everything was thrown into a pot and boiled until it was soft. Tripe and pigs trotters were boiled, and smoked cod was simmered in milk; and a milk and flour white sauce with onion and parsley was spooned over it. The ultimate was mum’s Irish Stew; lamb chops, potatoes, carrots, and swede were thrown into a pot and simmered until soft. We ate the stew with slices of white bread and butter. Our Hangi meal at Whakarewarewa was steamed chicken, beef, carrots, sweet potato, stuffing, gravy, sweet-corn on the cob, and the world famous Whakarewarewa steam pudding for dessert. So mum knew about Hangi cooking way back when.

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Our guide shared living in Whakarewarewa; even encouraging us to feel the water of the community bathing area. The warm, mineral rich waters have a unique feel and cause your skin to feel soft and refreshed. Villages only bathe when their village is closed to tourists; families appear and bathe together without clothes in one of the sunken baths. And our guide mused as to the cleansing, healing, and restorative properties of the thermal waters, and talked of the tradition and history of the Māori guides.

Maori villagers acted as guides and boatmen to the visitors who trekked from Rotorua, to marvel at the eighth natural wonder of the world; the Pink and White Terraces of Lake Rotomahana. Visitors stayed at the Rotomahana Hotel in the village of Te Wairoa and were carried by boats across Lake Tarawera to Te Ariki village. After walking to Lake Rotomahana they were paddled in canoes to the foot of the terraces. The terraces, and the dramatic cascading pools were formed when silica rich water from hot springs and geysers cascaded down the hillside and the silica crystallised. The visitors bathed in the warm pools of silky clear, warm, mineral rich, thermal water. The Pink and White Terraces disappeared, presumed to be destroyed, when Mt. Tarawera erupted in 1886. Several Māori villages were also destroyed along with the town of Te Wairoa.

image source:newzealanddiscoverytours

And we learned more of the history of the Pink and White Terraces of Lake Rotomahana at the Museum of Te Wairoa. Sixty years after the eruption of Tarawera a family, known just as the Smith family, bought the land above the buried village and began excavating; looking for the remains of Te Wairoa. The museum is a private business run by the third generation Smith family. The museum has a rather small parking area so it appears the Smiths have never had many luxury coach sightseeing tours stop at their museum. The 12-acre outdoor grounds are suited to a lot of wandering; and you won’t be interrupted by abundant archaeological distractions. The museum building is home to relics of the Tarawera eruption as well as a 3-D diorama of the Pink and White Terraces. I puzzled over who made the diorama, and what it was made of. I fought the temptation to reach out and touch the diorama. Some may say the entrance fee is somewhat exorbitant, but it’s not everyday you get to stand alongside a 3-D diorama of the Pink and White Terraces.

image source:nzjaunt.blogspot.com

It would be really cool if they had some dry ice under the diorama to simulate steam rising from the staircases of waterfalls and boiling geysers. And just outside the museum building is a less majestic cement model of the terraces; the quintessential example of folk art.

I really should think about making a working scale model of a corrugated iron sheet making machine; imagine being able to make miniature sheets of corrugated iron. I need to google corrugated iron sheet making machine schematics.

 

Whakarewarewa, The Living Māori Village

Corrugated Creations

Pink and White Terraces of Lake Rotomahana rediscovered

Pilgrimage To The Porcelain Alter

The bone chilling record breaking cold that ushered in Omaha’s New Years Eve (fourteen below zero), and 2018 New Years Day (twenty below zero) caused me to retreat back into Westroads Mall, and once again become a Mall Walker. It had been over six months since I last walked the long mall corridors. In late March of 2017 when spring was dismissing winter, and the mornings were being warmed by the gentle spring heat I left Westroads for the streets of the neighbourhood; and when the November mornings first started to become dim and cold I retreated from the bleak start of winter to New Zealand and the The Land Down Under for a little over a month. When I set foot in Westroads I wondered if my old Mall Walker mates would still be walking. They weren’t really mates, I had never talked to any of them and I didn’t know any of their names; it was the unnoticed slight nod of the head, the indiscernible move of the index finger as we passed that bonded us as a band of Mall Walkers. I’m more vocal with my new Mall Walker mates. When we pass, we slow down our pace or speed it up so we can exchange banter about the weather, or the number of laps we have to go.

image source:jmcadam

The other day when I stood before a Westroads urinal I was mesmerised by the grout lines between the white subway tiles that were the wall in front of me. As my eyes followed the lines my head turned toward each of the four walls; my eyes started moving from side to side, and down, and then straight ahead. I was enclosed in a container of ceramic subway tiles. I stood inside the sterile white space, and as I followed the straight lines of grout between the tiles my mind wandered; I began to understand why the artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser was an opponent of a straight line.

Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser was an Austrian born, New Zealand citizen, artist and architect. In February 2000, seventy two year old Friedie left for the big art studio in the sky. He had spent most of his early life in Europe, but as time went by he hung out more and more in New Zealand; buying land in the North Island close to the small town of Kawakawa. Friedie assumed New Zealand citizenship in 1983. In 1998 the Kawakawa Community Board recognised that their forty year old public dunny in the town’s main street needed to be upgraded. Friedei came to the rescue by offering a design of wavy lines, irregular ceramic tiles, small sculptures, coloured glass, cobblestone flooring, grass roof, and a living tree. He thought of the toilet as a special place. A place where you meditate; somewhat similar to a church.

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Our first stop in New Zealand was the vibrant hipster Auckland suburb of Ponsonby. The main street, Ponsonby Road, is lined with bars, bistros, restaurants, galleries, and coffee shops. Crossing the international date line, and flying for twelve hours had confused my circadian rhythm, so I was awake enough to start an explorative stroll of Ponsonby the second morning we were in New Zealand. The first morning was spent straggling through customs and immigration at the Auckland Airport, navigating the airport rental car services, and wandering along freeways to Ponsonby without GPS. The air was still crisp when I set out toward Ponsonby Road. The morning commute into central Auckland had not started; as soon as I turned from Ponsonby Terrace on to the main street I was met with a parade of dog walkers, and lycra wearing joggers and cyclists. As I sauntered along, dodging and weaving the colourful lycra, I had serious thoughts about buying a pair of lycra compression jogging shorts to wear to walk the neighbourhood, or the long corridors of Westroads.

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I sat on a steel mesh bench at the back of a harbour ferry chatting to a couple of Kiwi pensioners as the Auckland skyline was defining itself. The pensioners lived just outside of Auckland, and because pensioners can travel for free on trains, and selected bus and ferry services, after 9am on weekdays, they were treating themselves to a day trip to Davenport. They were going to wander around the boutiques, galleries, parks, cafes of Davenport. I walked to the North Head Historic Reserve; the grassy cliff top looking out to Auckland City and the Waitemata Harbour is a welcoming resting spot.

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Mission Bay is a short drive from Auckland’s Central Business District; it’s a sheltered white sand beach with grassy areas alongside a vibrant strip of cafés, restaurants, bars, and a dairy. If I had only been told a dairy is a corner shop or milk bar, I would have tried a hokey pokey the first day in New Zealand. Kiwi’s love hokey pokey; vanilla ice cream that has small lumps of honeycomb toffee folded into it. Back in the early sixities I couldn’t get enough of hokey pokey; it was Johnny Chester’s and the Thunderbirds first record and was a top 10 hit in Melbourne.

After a few days in Auckland I had conquered the AT HOP public transport fare card, learned to recognise a dairy, and decided I had no interest in doing the Harbour Bridge climb or bungee juming from the top of Sky Tower. It was time to venture North to visit; the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, the birthplace of New Zealand and a museum of Māori tradition and culture, the township of Russell, New Zealand’s first sea port and first European settlement, the mythical Hokianga Harbour and Kauri Coast, or the Hundertwasser Toilet. We headed off to the Hundertwasser, Kawakawa mosaic marvel; it’s not every day that you get to visit a loo that’s a world renowned attraction. If you’re going to drive three hours to visit a public dunny, that’s crowded with camera toting sightseers and internationally recognised as a work of art, you have to make it worthwhile; you’d better be well prepared.

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Well prepared means a full bladder to ensure an all powerful stream to move the trough lolly across the irregular colourful ceramics. Doctors say that if you’ve got a healthy system your bladder can comfortably hold about two cups of urine for two to five hours. It was to late now to start any bladder training; if we had planned on visiting the Hundertwasser Toilet before leaving the US I would have started some sort of training to stretch the bladder muscle. I just had to improvise and prepare the best I could. It was a little over a three hour drive straight up State Highway 1 to the Kawakawa mosaic marvel, so I figured a few glasses of kiwi fruit juice and a couple of cans of L&P before leaving Auckland should put me right; and if I throw in a few extra cans of L&P to top up the bladder about 25 miles outside of Kawakawa then my bladder should be ready for the mosaics.

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Kiwi’s love their L&P; a light yellow fizzy soft drink that was traditionally made by mixing lemon juice with the special carbonated mineral water from Paeroa. Hence the name L&P. Coca Cola now makes L&P and I don’t think they use the original special mineral water; maybe that’s why I gave it the same taste rating as hokey pokey. Now I’m all for Kiwi’s claiming L&P and hokey pokey ice cream as their own, but it’s stretching it when they start claiming pavlova, Weet-Bix, lamingtons, ANZAC biscuits, meat pies, and flat white coffee; why not invent a Marmite smoothie to claim as their own. All it would take is whacking a couple of tablespoons of Marmite into a blender with a cup of milk, throwing in a heap of peeled kiwi fruit cut into chunks, a few chopped feijoas and dollop of manuka honey, and then blending until smooth.

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And that would be a perfect addition to two of the smoothies at Elaine’s Kitchen; Topical Happiness is a smoothie full of those vitalising nutrients that increase happy hormones, pineapple, peach, mango, chia seeds, passionfruit and coconut, and the Choco Engerizer is full of the energizing elements, banana, maca root powder, cacao powder, peanut butter and almond milk. Elaine’s is on Kawakawa’s main street just a few shops down from the famous public thunderbox. Elaine and her mum Shelly run the restaurant, and they focus on foods and cakes that are gluten, dairy, and refined sugar free. Elaine didn’t bat an eye when we ordered a lamb salad without the lamb, and a lamb burger with the lamb; the traditional burger egg and pineapple was replaced by whipped feta and beetroot, baby spinach, sautéed onions and nana’s relish.

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We chatted over a flat white and a few gluten free bliss balls and slices, made only with the good sugar, and because Elaine had at one time lived in Auckland we felt comfortable in asking if she knew how we could go by the black sand beach on the way back to Auckland; she consulted with her mum, and they gave us wonderful hand written directions. Knowing that we had at least a two hour drive to the black sand beach we bid farewell, and visited, for one last practical and philosophical cause, the Hundertwasser Toilet.

Even though three in four Kiwi’s live in the North Island it’s a sparsely populated landscape. State Highway 16 is a two lane road meandering through rolling rural countryside; without a lot of directional signage. We never did find the black sand beach. We should have trusted Elaine’s directions. After driving for some time and feeling lost in the rolling hills and lush farmlands we turned around so as to double back onto the main road leading to Auckland.

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Maybe I should start collecting glass bottles, ceramic tiles, computer motherboards, vintage cutlery, Tesla coils, and old refrigerator parts to create assemblages and a bench for the backyard. It would be a space for art, humankind and nature to mingle; a self reflection garden of whimsy. Just a thought.

 

Elaines Kitchen Facebook

Friedensreich Hundertwasser

Johnny Chester; The Hokey Pokey

If You Don’t Know What You’re Doing Then You’ll Do Something Else

I remember when you went to a travel agent to plan your holidays. After meeting with the agent, and talking about your holiday, you would leave with a handshake and a firm assurance of see you next week. Next week the agent, as you sat facing them, would open your travel documents folder and slide each document across their desk; it was upside down to them but facing you. They would explain your itinerary while unfolding a collection of three-fold brochures; local events and tourist attractions at each town, and day side-trips and excursions. They would have made overnight accommodation reservations, which always included a cooked breakfast, at holiday friendly hotels and motels, or booked you into a caravan park or a holiday flat. And then with a flourish, the agent would produce from the drawer in their desk your railway or airline tickets. Even though the jet age had arrived in Australia most Australians still took the train to their holiday destination; but they were starting to take to the road. Australia was falling in love with it’s own car; the Holden was the king of the road. Family holidays were becoming long road trips with a caravan in tow, and mum sitting in the front seat next to dad.

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I don’t remember mum and dad going to a travel agent for our holiday road trips to Sydney, Surfers Paradise, Canberra, and what must have been all of Victoria’s country towns. But I don’t think mum would have agreed to these holidays if she didn’t know where we were going to stay and how we were getting there. Dad was the one who wouldn’t have wanted any planning; but he must have gone into the city headquarters of the RACV and picked up road maps and pamphlets on the best routes to take and the condition of the roads, brochures on scenic attractions, leaflets about hotels that catered to the motorist, and handouts on the leading caravan parks and camping grounds. As a member of the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria you felt a sense of eminence and entitlement; it was as if our holidays had been approved by Her Royal Majesty. Dad drove the old Princess Highway to Sydney. I only remember the huge open pits of the SEC’s coal mines at Moe and Yallourn, stopping in Lakes Entrance, and the Jenolan Caves and Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains.

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The only planning I did when I went searching for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary was to buy a ticket for a berth in tourist class, below the water line, on Lloyd Triestino’s Galileo Galilei, and for the second quest an economy class ticket on Thai Airways. The journey to the US was done with the same amount of planning; a stuffed Adidas gym bag and a Qantas economy class ticket. In the last thirty plus years travelling to Australia, United Kingdom, and throughout the US has been for holidays; and for most of these trips, accommodation, car rental, places to visit, and the sights to see have been decided on before the journeys. Some say that planning the itinerary is part of the holiday. However, I don’t think the planning should be so detailed and absolute that it forbids any spur of the moment detours or flexibility.

On the most recent trip to the The Land Down Under we had planned to stop over in the North Island of New Zealand for a little over a week, and then head off to Melbourne and an Airbnb in Albert Park. We had reserved a rental car for the first week in Melbourne so as to meander around the Mornington Peninsula wineries, drive to Castlemaine, and then rekindle faded memories by cruising some of the Melbourne suburbs that we used to haunt. The itinerary also included a couple of walking tours, high teas, and building tours. Sometime during the holiday we were going to visit my brother and cousin Peter. We phoned my cousin when we arrived in Melbourne, and on the spur of the moment invited him on our day trip to Castlemaine; and so we headed off to the historic goldfields area of Victoria. On the drive back we spontaneously suggested we call on him next week for vanilla slices and cups of tea.

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My cousin Peter has lived in Moonee Ponds for over thirty years. I remember when he bought the flat; we thought he had a few kangaroos loose in the top paddock. Moonee Ponds was just Moonee Ponds; a nondescript inner suburb of Melbourne bordered by Braybrook, Maidstone, Brunswick, and Essendon. Back then, anywhere past Footscray was off limits for a Williamstown boy. Besides, Essendon was the home of the bombers; the rough and tough football team of the seventies. The only supporters of the bombers were those that lived within the shadow of Windy Hill; and if you were a true sons of the scray you hated Essendon. Edna Everidge also lived in Moonee Ponds. Edna is a character created by Australian satirist Barry Humpheries; originally a drab Melbourne housewife satirising suburbia. Edna is now a Dame, and is known for her lilac coloured wisteria hair and cat eye glasses. Her favourite flower is the gladiolus or gladdie, and she greets everyone with an affectionate Hello, Possums.

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After catching the train to Moonee Ponds we station met Peter at the Rusty Duck. Just as we finished our flat whites and latte, Peter in a casual way, suggested a walk to Queens Park. He guided us along, and through streets lined with well maintained nature strips and Federation style brick and weatherboard houses. And we crossed the traffic busy, tree lined Mt Alexander Road into Queens Park. We aimlessly meandered along the winding gravel pathways, across grassways, and around huge shady trees; past the rose and sunken gardens, around the swimming pool and the restored curator cottage that is now a café, and skirted the bowling club and lake. Queens Park was laid out to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Silver Jubilee. The original swamp that became the park was a camp site for gold seekers heading to Victoria’s newly discovered Castlemaine gold fields on their first night out of Melbourne; and explorers Burke and Wills used it for their first camp on their ill fated expedition. Today you can hop on board the #59 Airport West-Flinders Street Station City tram and it will take you right past Queens Park. Before leaving Moonee Ponds you shouldn’t forego the opportunity for a self guided viewing tour of the peds migrating to Queens Park; you’ll be amazed by this magical procession, but will need to refrain from using camera flashes. I imagine it’s only a matter of time before they build an elevated wooden viewing stand.

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And I had always thought Moonee Ponds was just Moonee Ponds; a nondescript inner suburb of Melbourne.

On the way back to Peter’s flat we made an impromptu stop at a Puckle Street cake shop for lamingtons and vanilla slices, and a spur of the moment pie and sauce. The kettle was soon boiling and my taste buds were reunited with the heavenly taste of the vanilla slice. It must have been the pleasurable encounter with the vanilla slice that caused Peter to make the off the cuff suggestion of watching Cinerama. As he fished around for the DVD we reminisced, and tested our memories about Melbourne’s first Cinerama theatre; the Plaza was underneath the Regent Theatre and  Cinerama was installed in the late fifties. Peter soon found the DVD and the travelogue style Cinerama Holiday on the big screen TV caused joyous gushings of Todd AO, 3 projectors, glorious technicolour and stereophonic sound, curved screen; and the point of view bobsled ride produced murmurs of; it’s just like 3-D, just like you were there. And that gave rise to Peter spontaneously finding 3-D glasses, and swapping the Cinerama Holiday DVD with MGM’s 3-D colour musical Kiss Me Kate; starring Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel, and Ann Miller.

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I sat spell bound on the couch, that at one time had resting on it the doilies from Prince Charles’s and Diana’s seats when they visited a Hoyts theatre in Melbourne. The sizzling Ann Miller spent time dancing on Fred Graham’s coffee table and throwing her chiffon scarf at the audience, and tap dancing in front of the three-fold mirror in Fred’s apartment; Too Darn Hot doesn’t advance or contribute to the plot, but it was great 3D.

It’s strange how the unplanned guides you with unexpected, but connected surprises. A few days after savouring Cinerama and 3-D at Peter’s we did an off the top of the head visit to the Melbourne Aquarium; my brother’s grandchildren prompted this free spirited decision. It was easy to forget about the aquatic animals, the mysterious stingrays and jellyfish, and seahorses, because there was the fully immersive, eye popping, high energy nine minute 4-D movie Ice Age: No Time For Nuts. Scrat, a nut crazed sabre toothed tiger battles a wonky time machine that has zapped his beloved nut. Now that’s a story line. The 3-D projection is combined with vibrating seats, water spray, snow falling, and strobe lights. The little ones really enjoyed the experience but I think it could have been enhanced with a 3-D Ann Miller dance routine from MGM’s Deep In My Heart.

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And when I think back and remember the highlights, and experiences of that recent time in the The Land Down Under and New Zealand I wonder if

  • an Art Deco dining experience at the 1932 Café and Restaurant in the Manchester Unity Building and then a formal guided tour of the building
  • a traditional high tea of freshly baked scones with jam and cream, exquisite pastries and finger sandwiches served on tiered stands, and freshly brewed tea at the Strangers Corridor restaurant in Parliament House of Victoria
  • being immersed in the history of Australian art by the The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia collection; it includes photography, prints and drawings, fashion and textiles, decorative arts from the colonial period and the Heidelberg School, through to the present day
  • sipping a chilled glass of white wine at the Pt Leo Estate on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula; a winery, restaurant and sculpture park with stunning views of Western Port Bay and a distant Phillip Island
  • strolling through eclectic St Kilda; home of Luna Park, the Victorian Heritage Register St Kilda pier, fine dining restaurants and old European cake shops, the Esplanade Market, and the colony of little penguins

or if taking in the lawn bowls at the Moonee Ponds Bowling Club in Queens Park, and watching Kiss Me Kate in 3-D will be the keepsake memories. I should put aside some random time in the next few weeks to start planning a spur of the moment trip to somewhere; I wonder if you can watch 3-D films in Liechtenstein.

 

Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium

Kiss Me Kate

Queens Park

I’ll Have The Takeaway To Go

Every time I wear an oversize pair of lobster claws I start thinking about crayfish stacked in neat rows in a fish shop window. Growing up I didn’t know about lobsters; only crayfish and yabbies. I remember going yabbing a couple of times; it must have been in my late teens and with a few mates. We had driven somewhere into the near bush just outside of Melbourne to find a fresh water stream. How to catch yabbies is just something you grow up instinctively knowing how to do; the same as you know what brussel sprouts taste like, that rain will make you wet, and kangaroos can’t walk backwards.

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I found the most successful method for yabbing to be:

  • Crack open a VB
  • Tie a piece of meat to a few feet of string
  • Tie one end of the string to a stick and push the stick into the bank
  • Throw the end of the string with the meat into the water
  • Crack open another VB
  • Wait until the string pulls tight; a yabby has grabbed the meat in it’s claws and is trying to make off with it
  • Crack open one more VB
  • Pull the string slowly back to the bank
  • When you can just reach the meat and the yabby scoop them out of the water with a net; or use a shoe box or anything from the car boot that can be used as a scoop
  • Crack open yet another VB
  • Repeat the above

Most times you’d buy a fresh cray to cook at home in a pot of boiling water, or to save yourself some work a red coloured cooked one, from the fish and chip shop. I didn’t eat a lot of cray; If I had to I’d crack open the claws for bits of fresh white meat. I never sucked the head to savour what some people claimed was the most moist and flavourful of the cray. I don’t think crayfish have a brain so I don’t really know what you’d be sucking out of the head when you did the head suck; probably chunks of crayfish fatty gel stuff that’s been spiced up with the seasoning’s from the boiling water used to cook the cray.

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Even though Australia was introduced to a new range of smells, tastes and ingredients at the end of the Second World War by Italian, Greek, Turkish and Lebanese immigrants it took time for these new ethnic cuisines to transform Australian restaurants, and culinary traditions. Instead, it seemed as if every fruit shop, milk bar, and fish and chip shop was owned by a Greek, Turkish or Lebanese family. And the Italian immigrants opened pizza shops. Australian takeaway was transformed; it became more than a pie and sauce. Takeaway fish and chips became a Friday night treat when we were growing up. Dad would drive to the fish and chip shop in Melbourne Road and come back with a newspaper wrapped parcel; the newspapers were moist with the frier fat from the fish and chips, and potato cakes, that had soaked through the papers.

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Newport’s Melbourne Road also had a pizza shop. Back then pizzas were exotic and mysterious; and the names only added to their mystic. I remember the Capricciosa and Neapolitan; we only ordered what we knew. The Capricciosa came with tomato paste, cheese, chopped ham, mushroom, and diced olives, but sometimes you would ask for no olives. And the Neapolitan was tomato paste, cheese, mushrooms, chopped olives, and anchovies, but you never ate the anchovies. The backup pizza was the Capri; tomato paste, cheese, chopped ham, and mushroom. And then the Italian pizza shop owners started to make the Hawaiian; tomato paste, cheese, chopped ham, and pineapple. I don’t think mum liked pizza. At first we didn’t have it as a Friday night treat; but as teenagers it was not uncommon to see a Capricciosa on the kitchen table.

I grew up with fish and chips and pizza as takeaways, and the pie and sauce from the corner milk bar or cake shop. I don’t count the Chinese shop in Williamstown’s Nelson Place as a take away. It was a sit down restaurant, but you could take your own saucepan into the shop and have it filled with your own takeaway. People would queue up on Friday nights for a saucepan full of their favourite takeaway Chinese food; sweet and sour pork, chop suey, or fried rice. The Chinese was also a great stop after a Saturday of consuming ice colds with the mates for a takeaway bag of steamed dimmies.

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There’s a lot I don’t remember from the sixties and seventies but I do remember the first McDonalds that opened in Melbourne’s Swanston Street. Macca’s had been building a presence in Melbourne’s suburbs since the early seventies, but the opening of an overseas takeaway shop in the centre of the city caused the next transformation of the takeway. A few years ago when I was back holidaying in Melbourne it seemed as if I came across an American fast food shop with every step I took, every corner that I turned, and every outing down a suburban street; Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Hungry Jacks (aka Burger King) and Subway were everywhere. I could have been in any main street USA. Last year when I was back in Melbourne the Americanisation of the Australian takeaway was all but complete. Not only was Krispy Kreme, TGI Fridays, Dunkin Donuts, Mrs. Fields, Gloria Jeans, Starbuck’s, and the Outback Steakhouse now on every second corner but most of the fast food shops had added a drive through and a playground for the little ones, and had introduced extended open hours. Seven Eleven was also on every third corner; each with an over supply of cellophane wrapped, tasty, corporate takeaway meat pies, pasties, and sausage rolls.

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The Outback Steakhouse restaurants in Australia have dropped some of the exaggerated, pseudo Australianisms that you come across in the American franchises; you’re not going to find a kookaburra wings party platter, Aussie cheese fries, or Alice Springs Chicken and Gold Coast Coconut Shrimp on the Down Under menu. The American Outback Steakhouses promote the Alice Springs Chicken and Gold Coast Coconut Shrimp as an 8 oz wood fired grilled chicken, topped with sauteed mushrooms, crisp bacon, melted Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheeses, and Honey Mustard Sauce, paired with shrimp that are hand dipped in batter, rolled in coconut and fried until golden. And it’s served with Aussie Fries.

Alice Springs is a remote outback Northern Territory town, rich with Australian pioneering history and culture, halfway between Darwin and Adelaide; it’s surrounded by red dirt and mountain ranges. You’re not going to find a lot of plump chickens or mushrooms around Alice; instead you’ll find bush tucker. Outback Steakhouse could easily introduce genuine Australian menu selections, table service, and takeaway traditions into it’s 1,000 plus worldwide restaurants. I would ditch the Alice Springs Chicken and replace it with a selection of either kangaroo fillet, crocodile patties, camel rissoles, or an Aussie burger with the lot; meat, lettuce, egg, bacon, pineapple, cheese, beetroot and sauce. And any menu selection should be cooked on the table with a make shift barbie.

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The Outback menu needs to be Australian; no Aussie is going to call a prawn a shrimp. Gold Coast Coconut Shrimp should be Gold Coast Coconut Prawn, lobster tails would become cray tails, Alice Springs Chicken becomes The Alice Chook, and Outback Center Cut Sirloin would be Back of Bourke Scotch Fillet. Ordering at the Outback would become something like:

Outback Steakhouse Server: G’day mate, how you goin!
Guest: G’day mate!
Outback Steakhouse Server: Wanna blow the froth of a few while yu take a squiz at the menu?
Guest: I’ll wrap the laughing gear round a VB; I’m as dry as a drovers dog
Outback Steakhouse Server: Only got Fourex or New on draught
Guest: No worries, mate! she’ll be right, just give us yu top drop
Outback Steakhouse Server: And for yu tucker?
Guest: Coat of Arms Burger; how much emu is on it?
Outback Steakhouse Server: No worries; fair size patty, same as the kanga

If Outback Steakhouse adopted these modest suggestions it would become more than the home of juicy steaks, spirited drinks and Aussie hospitality.

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Long John Silvers tried to make a go of it in Australia a little over 10 years ago. They thought they would be successful by just serving Fish, Chicken and Shrimp Platters with Hushpuppies, Baked Cod with 2 sides and Hushpuppies, and Family Meals made up of mix and match fish and chicken; and not follow the eleven rules of a dinkum Aussie fish and chip shop.

1. Owned and run by a hard working immigrant Greek family
2. Serves only own home made chips from their own potatoes; frozen chips from a bag are unacceptable
3. Serves only own home made potato cakes that are dipped in batter just before being dropped in the deep fryer
4. Only sells pickled onions out of a plastic jar on the counter; the price must be written on the side with a felt tip marker
5. Cannot sell any food that doesn’t live in the water; pizza, kebabs, green beans, corn, onion rings, and chicken is a no-no
6. Has a multi coloured plastic door strip to keep the flies out
7. Fresh fish is displayed on crushed ice in the front window
8. Must have fried and steamed dim sims that come from a frozen plastic bag.
9. Prices are written in chalk on a board above the fryers
10. Soft drinks fridge has a sign which says; please select before opening door
11. Only have salt and vinegar in recycled soft drink bottles with holes poked in the screw top cap on the counter; tomato sauce is forbidden

I’m sure that Long John Silver’s will try it one more time Down Under, and because Red Lobster, Captain D’s, or a start up US fast food seafood restaurant will want to expand into the The Lucky Country, my suggestion would be to Australianise the US franchise shops with the fish shop rules as soon as possible. Australianising would put them on a good wicket for a move into the Lucky Country.

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But there still are lots of family owned traditional fish and chip, pizza, Middle Eastern and Asian shops nestled in suburban shopping centres; and they uphold the tradition and heritage of the time honoured Australian takeaway. I really should think about doing a takeaway make over to my dinners. I could do a burger with the lot by adding a few lettuce leaves, beetroot, pineapple, and a few strips of bacon to a Jimmy Dean sausage, egg and cheese, English muffin sandwich. Even though a pizza with prawn cutlets and roast beetroot would take a bit of work I think it would be a winner:

Roast Beetroot: Drizzle a couple of beetroot with water, wrap them in foil and roast for 45-55 minutes. Let cool, then peel and slice thinly
Prawn Cutlets: Butterfly half a pound of tails intact, peeled, deveined prawns and whack each one with a rolling pin. Dip each prawn in flour, egg, and breadcrumb. Deep fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towel and sprinkle with salt
Preparation: Take a half cooked Thin Crust Lean Cuisine Margherita pizza and add the roast beetroot and prawn cutlets; finish cooking

 

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