They Say Great Minds Drink Alike

Soon after boarding the Air New Zealand 777-300 from the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles Airport I was taping, swiping, and pinching the seatback touchscreen. There were hundreds of hours of movies and television shows to choose from as well as a selection of games. I knew I could find something to entertain me for the next 13 hours. I waited until the plane was at cruising altitude before swiping to the inflight live flight tracker; we’d left US airspace and were flying at 500 plus mph. I decided I would check back between movies to watch the small plane’s progress as it inched slowly along its flight path on the flight tracker touchscreen.

image source:jmcadam

The cabin staff had just pushed the food trolley past me when the aeroplane shuddered because of turbulence. My chicken tikka masala and steamed jasmine rice and peas jostled in the tray. The turbulence caused me to lean back in the seat and sway back and forth as the plane dipped and bumped; that’s when the food on my clothes problem happened. I checked if my napkin had a buttonhole or if I could attach it to my shirt to reduce the possibility of chicken tikka masala dropping on my clothes. A thrust from the engines caused me to swipe the seat-back entertainment touch screen to display the flight tracker, we were climbing and increasing speed. Just as the chicken tikka masala stopped its jostling, and the drink trolley with its selection of wines, beer, soft drinks and juices appeared beside me.

Air New Zealand Flight Attendant: (in a chirpy tone) Something to drink sir?
Me: (with confidence) Beer please
Air New Zealand Flight Attendant: What type of beer sir?
Me: (with a smile in my voice) What do you have?
Air New Zealand Flight Attendant: Stella Artois, Steinlager, Heineken, Speights, and Victoria Bitter
Me: (feigning expertise) I’d better have something New Zealand
Air New Zealand Flight Attendant: Steinlarger or Speights?
Me: (disguising my NZ beer ignorance) Would you mind sharing the difference?
Air New Zealand Flight Attendant: (in an affable constructive manner) Speights is a full-strength bitter ale with a hint of grassy undertones that add to its complexity and allows the full flavour of the malt and hops to shine through. Steinlarger has a robust hop bouquet of fresh-cut green grass and delivers a full flavour that’s perfectly balanced with a dry, tangy finish and crisp clean bitterness.
Me: Oh!
Air New Zealand Flight Attendant: That would be a Steinlarger then sir?

image source:airnewzealand.com

I finished my chicken tikka masala and adjusted the wing-like arms on the headrest. I was soon musing about when a simple “pot of whatever’s on tap” was all it took to get a beer. Now when you walk into your favourite watering hole you’re asked to choose between an ale, a bitter, porter, wheat, IPA, stout, or pilsner. And beer doesn’t just taste like hops anymore; there’s coffee, chocolate, banana bread, pumpkin, or any flavour you can imagine.

The pretension and pomposity that some say is associated with wine drinking seem to have inched its way into swilling the suds. The wine sommelier has been reincarnated as a cicerone; a professional who’s experienced in selecting, and acquiring and serving today’s wide range of beers. I’ve always thought that ducking into a bottle shop and asking for a slab of VB stubbies or downing a few with the mates at the local, qualifies you to be a cicerone, but if you want a piece of paper to frame and hang on the wall there’s a couple of certification programs now available. One program claims to provide everything you need to know about beer’s history and cultural heritage, the traditions of selecting and acquiring beer, and the practice of serving beer; it offers four levels of certification.

  • Beer Server: you learn how to be a master of beer service and styles
  • Cicerone: you acquire a professional body of knowledge and essential tasting skills related to beer
  • Advanced Cicerone: you receive a solid understanding and distinctive expertise of beer as well as an excellent ability to detect and describe beer flavours using both consumer and brewer vocabulary
  • Master Cicerone: you gain an exceptional understanding of brewing, beer, and pairing; combining outstanding tasting abilities with an encyclopedic knowledge of commercial beers

image source:jmcadam

You’d have no worries mastering the four levels of certification if you spent a few Saturday arvos studying beer at the local by downing a few pots with the mates; how hard would it be to come up with a few practice questions for the Master Cicerone certification test.

  1. How many VBs can the average bloke throw down before going for the liquid laugh?
    a. a slab of tinniesb. half a dozen schooners
    c. half a dozen longiesd. all of the above
  2. After downing ten stubbies most people crave a
    a. chicko rollb. dim sim
    c. souvlakid. all of the above
  3. Which of the following is not a beer?
    a. frothieb.stubby
    c. eskyd. all of the above
  4. What beer would you pair with a chicken parma with chips and salad counter lunch?
    a. Carlton Draughtb. Coopers
    c. Boagsd. all of the above

We were back in The Land Down Under last year. After we had settled into our Airbnb Albert Park, single fronted, fashionable weatherboard Victorian house one of the owners dropped over to check the barbie’s propane tank.

image source:jmcadam

Somehow our conversation turned to beer. After the usual VB and a “good cold beer” banter, I confessed how excited I was to see Melbourne Bitter back in the bottle shops, and that I was bowled over by all the craft beers in public bars and bottle shops. With a smile, he shared that he worked for an inner-city microbrewery. And so our beer banter turned to craft beers. The next day he called in with a filled propane tank and a 6 pack of 3 Ravens heirloom 55 American Pale Ale. He offered the six-pack with “enjoy em mate”.

I opened a 55 after it had spent a few hours in the fridge, angled the glass and slowly poured the golden ale down the inside; allowing a frothy head to form on the beer. I walked with a slight swagger as I carried the ice-cold beer to the kitchen table. I instinctively knew I had mastered the Beer Server level of certification.

image source:jmcadam

The first sip of 55 allowed me to surmise that it possessed a structured maltiness and clean finish; probably from five assertive hops meeting a blend of barley, corn, wheat, oats and rye grains. An uncontrollable smirk interrupted my second slurp of 55 suds; I had achieved Cicerone certification.

After a couple of days of catching the tram into town, walking the leafy streets, and shopping the local shops I was back living in Albert Park; it was as if I had never left thirty plus years ago. It was a warm, late afternoon when I set off for a pot of whatever’s on tap at the old watering hole; just as I would leave work a few minutes early to down a few with the workmates. Alas, the Albert Park Hotel had closed. The closest I could find to a bottle shop was a Vintage Cellars in the main shopping centre. It sold mostly wine, spirits, and liqueurs, but there was a small selection of craft beers. And soon I was engaged in an informative chat about Australian craft beers with a helpful associate.

image source:goodfood.com.au

Vintage Cellars Associate: (in a chirpy tone) We describe Little Creatures Bright Ale as a filtered, top-fermented ale with a striking clarity in the glass; it’s a smooth, full-flavoured beer that’s clean and refreshingly balanced
Me: Oh!
Vintage Cellars Associate: The Cricketers Arms Keepers Lager is made with sun-dried Australian malt, and infused with Amarillo Hops to impart an intriguing citrus character to its aroma and flavour
Me: Oh!
Vintage Cellars Associate: We like to say that Collingwood Draught is a chestnut coloured lager with a malty aroma and subtle toasty sweetness; a dash of the finest hops gives this refreshing beer a superbly clean finish
Me: I’ll have the Collingwood Draught
Vintage Cellars Associate: ‘Carn the pies
Me: ‘Carn the doggies

image source:jmcadam

A smile crossed my lips as I left the Village Cellars. I had just ascended to Advanced Cicerone certification; I was now able to describe any beer. I kept chanting the mantra; balanced malts, subtle toasty sweetness, aroma and flavour, clean finish.

It was early evening when we walked into the Steam Packet Hotel. The Steam Packet sits on the corner of Aitken and Cole Street Williamstown; a dropkick up from the cafes and restaurants of Nelson Place. The two-storey structure was built in 1863 to replace an earlier building called the Ship Inn; Williamstown’s first hotel. During my late adolescence, I spent many hours on Saturday arvos in the public bar of The Packet. You could say my time growing into an adult at The Packet was beverage driven.

image source:dimmi.com.au

My visit to The Packet this time wasn’t to uphold the tradition of wetting the whistle with the boys; it was for a counter tea before partaking in a two-hour walking ghost tour. Whilst waiting for my order of lamb cutlets to arrive I wandered into the old Saturday arvo sanctuary. I didn’t recognise the remodelled space; time and tide wait for no man. I asked for a pot of whatever’s on tap, and the bartender gestured toward eleven craft beers and ales. And I saw the 3 Ravens.

Me: Ravens thanks mate
Steam Packer Bartender: No worries mate
Me: (in an intellectual tone) That 55 American Pale Ale pairs well with lamb cutlets. It’s crafted using five assertive hops and a blend of barley, corn, wheat, oats and rye. I’d say it has notable floral aromatics that lead to a structured maltiness and a clean, crisp, refreshing finish
Steam Packer Bartender: (placing a pot on the bar) No worries; that’ll be seven dollars mate
Me: (in a discerning tone) It boasts a full flavour and a serious hit of bitterness
Steam Packer Bartender: (in a discerning tone) No worries; cheers mate

image source:taste.com.au

I turned, and there was a buoyancy in my walk as I headed back to my lamb cutlets. Deep down I knew my 3 Ravens 55 American Pale Ale chat with the Steam Packet Bartender had advanced me to Master Cicerone certification level.

You’ll have to excuse me. I need to pour myself a kölsch and let it sit until it reaches a temperature of 44 degrees Fahrenheit and then settle back and peruse my latest The Beer Connoisseur Magazine.

 

3Ravens

Steam Packet Hotel

The 20 Best Australian Craft Breweries

You Get Out Of Something What You Breathe Into It

image source:jmcadam

Last year the forgotten memories of my travels through the circles of Industrial Chemist Hell were roused from the deep recess of my mind. Soon after boarding the Air New Zealand 777-300 I was nestled into my seat and tapping the seatback touchscreen; cycling through the hundreds of hours of movies and TV shows, hoping to find something that would entertain me for the next 13 hours. I kept coming back to Wonder Woman. I read, and reread the plot summary until I had it memorised; she was raised on a sheltered island and trained to become a warrior, and then the Amazon Princess, Diana Prince, discovers the endless war going on in the outside world. She embarks on a journey to end the war of all wars whilst discovering her true power as well.

And then I became lost in thought; how closely did my life follow Wonder Woman’s. I was raised in an idyllic age of innocence in the sheltered city of Williamstown and trained to become an Industrial Chemist; a scientist who mixes chemicals to create new synthetic polymers and compounds. My white lab coat would be stained, and frayed with acid burns, after the second day on the job. I would be my own discovery team and wallow in complex research projects. I discovered the seventies, the world of change and uncertainty, and embark on a journey of discovery; searching for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary whilst uncovering my true self. The bumping of the approaching drink trolley distracted me from my ruminations.

My first job when I finished at Footscray Technical College was as an Industrial Chemist at Spartan Paint’s West Footscray factory. The laboratory I was in didn’t have beakers, Bunsen burners, test tubes or any of the apparatus usually associated with a chemistry lab. It was a Process Control lab in which scaled-down formulations of proposed automotive paints were mixed, and tested to assess if they met car makers’ specifications. The paints were tested for orange peeling, viscosity, flow, metallic solid suspension, natural and artificial weathering, and adhesion. To test for weathering a paint sample was sprayed onto small metal panels. Each day I took the small painted panels to the weather testing racks that were in a paddock over the road from the factory; I also collected the panels from the racks that were ready for lab testing.

image source:sheffieldmetals.com

As a Paint Scientist, I collected samples when a truckload of paint solvents was delivered to the factory and took the samples to the lab for quality control testing. I must have been a Paint Scientist for about nine months when I started thinking that there must be more to being a Paint Scientist than changing painted metal panels and carrying solvent samples to the lab; when will I mix chemicals to create new synthetic polymers and compounds, and invent new products. I started to find reasons to leave the lab and I would wander aimlessly through the different areas of the plant. I found myself stopping to talk to the lone worker in the solvent holding area. The air he breathed was thick with the smell of benzene derivatives, and organic ketones. There was no ventilation, and no one was required to wear protective clothing or use a respirator. Every conversation I had with my solvent caretaker confidant was always interrupted by his constant sniffing of a folded scrap of material. One day he shared that he soaked scraps of material in different solvents; spending his days at work, and at home sniffing solvents.

image source:californiadetoxhelpline.com

I left Spartan Paints within the year; I never did develop new and improve products, or invent new automotive paint formulas.

My second job as an Industrial Chemist was in Process Control at The Olympic Tyre and Rubber Company. Olympic Tyre was also in West Footscray; across the railway line from Spartan Paints. Process Control tested and analysed the raw and process materials, and the finished tyres to ensure everything met Olympic’s standards and quality. I still remember the first time I saw the laboratory; beakers, flasks, measuring cylinders, condensers, and other lab glassware glistened in the stark laboratory light. And I thought how I wouldn’t be shackled to the mundane, routine, day to day testing of melting point, moisture volume, dry mass volume, percentage of heavy metals, tensile strength, density and refractive index of raw materials and different rubber mixes. I would be my own discovery team, creating new synthetic polymeric compounds, and reinventing the world of automobile tyres.

image source:jmcadam

I sat at a desk in a huge open area, upstairs from the lab. The desks were arranged in groups of four; a clerical worker sat facing me and another clerical worker sat alongside him, and my supervisor sat beside me. I was a Tyre Product Scientist. Twice a day I would go into the factory and collect samples of raw materials at the rubber mixing mills, and samples of batch rubber at the different mixing and extruder machines. The factory air was laden with the smell of sulphur and rubber, and the scent of polymers and monomers; it was dense with fine particles of suspended carbon and moist from the heat of the curing presses. It was the era before earplugs, safety glasses and helmets, protective clothing, and respirators and ventilation. I took the samples to the Process Control lab for quality control testing. I sat at my desk between the morning and afternoon sample collection walkabouts reading trade magazines about the tyre manufacturing process; it was an era before the Internet. The days were a duplicate of each other, and after several months I started thinking that a Tyre Product Scientist has to do more than collect samples of raw and process materials and carry samples to the lab; when will I create new synthetic polymeric compounds and reinvent the automobile tyre.

image source:buerolandschaft.net

I found other reasons to leave my desk and the trade magazines, and I wandered aimlessly through the different areas of the factory. The operators of the milling and extruding machines were dwarfed by their mechanical masters. It started with a slight wave and nod of the head as I was passing, and soon I was stopping for a short time; I watched in silence, spellbound as he became master of his tyre building machine. In perfect synchronisation with the moving drums, and levers and foot pedals, he reached for the different sheets of rubber; he layered the inner rubber, bead, sidewall, and tread. I watched him build Olympic tyres. My brief stops grew into long delays, but we only exchanged nods and an occasional thumbs-up; he didn’t speak English. We shared the smell of sulphur, antioxidants, and rubber, and breathed the damp, powdery carcinogenic air. I don’t remember his name. The days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months; I wandered the factory floor, stopping to watch in silence, the tyre builder. That afternoon was no different than any other; I left my desk tidy, hung my white lab coat in my locker, clocked out, and walked out of the Olympic building.

image source:pixabay

And for the next forty-plus years, I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking back to when I wanted to be a scientist who mixed chemicals to create new synthetic polymers and compounds; a scientist whose white lab coat would be stained, and frayed with acid burns after the second day on the job, and who would be his own discovery team and wallow in complex research projects.

I was so immersed in Wonder Woman that the bumping of the approaching meal trolley didn’t even distract me from the colour and movement on the seatback touchscreen. We had just arrived at Dr Poison’s lab. The disfigured, diabolical chemist was pioneering a deadly new form of toxic mustard gas; it couldn’t be stopped by protective masks. And my forgotten memories came flooding back. I was the scientist who was going to mix chemicals to create new synthetic polymers and compounds; my lab coat was going to be stained and frayed with acid burns. I had inhaled air laden with biohazardous pollutants and powdery granular particles of synthetic compounds. I had breathed air dank with the heavy mist of evaporated ketones, aldehydes, and benzene derivatives. I pushed pause, and was soon in deep thoughts about Dr Poison’s facial prosthetics; had she suffered a severe injury from inhaling toxic, radioactive chemicals, or had she just made a dreadful mistake when mixing chemicals in her lab.

image source:screenrant.com

I wondered if two years of continuously breathing toxic air could cause tissue or cell damage and if your body heat, and the natural pressures inside your brain, could cause a catalytic polymerisation reaction of contaminants transferred to the blood in your lungs, causing them to become bio cellular regenerative reactant. If that was the case then the lungs would be able to hold incredible amounts of air; was I able to hold my breath for hours, able to breathe out massive gusts of air to create gale-force winds, and suck in air to generate vortexes. On the seatback touchscreen, the mind-boggling, computer-generated, green screen digital finale of Wonder Woman was unfolding.

The one thing I took with me from the years studying chemistry at Footscray Tech was to live life according to the scientific principle; observe, create a hypothesis, and experiment to test your theory. I had to test my bio cellular regenerative reactant hypothesis. I needed a controlled environment with calibrated instruments to measure my breath flow and lung capacity. Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction. Two weeks later we were confronted by bright flashing lights and arrows, and a line of waving torches escorting cars into a corridor of cones; a booze bus stop. The policewoman politely explained that I was about to undergo a random alcohol breath test; she was going to request a sample of the air in my lungs to determine the concentration of alcohol in my body.

image source:scramsystems.com

Police Woman: Sir, please take a deep breath and blow into the mouthpiece.
Me: No worries.
Police Woman: (questioning the reading on the calibrated breathalyser and replacing the mouthpiece) Sir, would you mind taking another deep breath and blow again.
Me: No worries.
Police Woman: (after looking at the second reading; with a puzzled looked, and replacing the mouthpiece) Sorry sir, but it doesn’t seem to be working correctly; would you mind-blowing into the mouthpiece again.
Me: No worries.
Police Woman: (quizzically looking at the reading on the calibrated breathalyser; conferring with another team member and replacing the mouthpiece) Sir, we’ll give it one more try; I’ve never seen this before, a deep breath, sir.
Me: (after taking an incredibly deep breath and with a knowing smile) No worries.
Police Woman: (after checking the calibrated breathalyser) It just doesn’t seem to be working properly; thank you sir for your cooperation; have a wonderful evening, or what’s left of it.
Me: No worries, see ya.

As I drove out through the cones and onto Westgate Bridge’s Williamstown Road Yarraville on-ramp I smiled, and repeated several times; observe, create a hypothesis, and experiment to test your theory.

I think I’ll start blowing up a balloon with my nose. Sureshgaur from Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, India claimed the record of 10.62 seconds in 2014 for the fastest time of blowing up a balloon with your nose before it bursts; it shouldn’t be a problem to crush Sureshgaur’s record.

image source:jmcadam

 

Olympic Tyre & Rubber Co.

Victoria Police Fake Alcohol Breath Test

The Origins Of Wonder Woman

I Think There Was a Change In The Voltage

Our house, described by some as a charming two storey revival brick English Tudor, was built in the early thirties. It was designed and built with an alcove for a telephone. On one side of the doorway that leads to the kitchen from the dining room is a phone nook. It’s more than just a hole in the wall; it’s a small sculptured private space that could be mistaken for a prayer niche. The nook is styled to match another nook above the fireplace in the lounge room. The curved arch of both nooks matches the curved arch of the opening that separates the dining room from the lounge room. When we moved into our house the nook was empty; the phone that once stood there had been removed by the sons when they were preparing the family home for sale. We had been told that their dad was in his nineties and was found in the basement at the bottom of the steps from the kitchen. The phone would have rested in the nook as a statue does in a church niche. The nook was the answer as to where to keep the big, heavy, cumbersome telephone and keep it’s mess of cords out of sight.

image source:jmcadam

I don’t remember much about the first phone I had that didn’t attach to a wall; except that it was a flip phone. But you had to attach the phone to the wall to charge it; a phone charger plugged into a powerpoint plug. Since that first flip phone, I’ve lived through a couple of generations of mobile phones. I presently have an iPhone 7 that is already superseded by the next generation of smartphones. Each generation of new phones called for a fresh collection of different cables and charging accessories; a wall charger, a USB power adapter, a Lightning connector to USB cable, and a Micro to USB charging cable. The superseded cables cast aside from previous phones exist as a tangled mess in an old Vionic sandals box; I might need them someday. And now attaching a phone to a wall charger to charge it is passé; mobile devices are charged anywhere anytime using the ubiquitous USB cable. We carry a USB power adaptor, our houses now have combination duplex and USB outlets, and our cars are our personal charging stations.

image source:jmcadam

If fifteen US states have a distracted driving law prohibiting drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving, and more states are considering similar laws, how long will it be before charging phones while driving will become illegal? Attempting to plug your phone into a USB cable connected to the USB cigarette charger adapter in your car’s cigarette lighter receptacle forces you to switch your attention away from the road. How dangerous is that? And, if you have rested your phone in your lap, or between your legs, and have it set on vibrate to announce incoming calls or texts, then what happens when you receive a text or phone call; a serious vibration attention distraction. How dangerous is that? When charging a phone in a moving vehicle becomes a primary offence the cigarette lighter receptacle will return to its original glory and be used to house a cigarette lighter.

image source:pixabay

There’s a lot I don’t remember from the sixties and seventies but I do remember the cigarette lighter in my Mini Cooper. I had chosen to smoke Kent cigarettes. I decided on Kent because of the glamour of an all-white cigarette with a micro-nite filter. What also helped was that the Kent cigarette advertisements suggested suaveness and sophistication, and an allure of worldly charm and magnetism. Holding a Kent between the first two fingers of my right hand, as I rested it nonchalantly on the steering wheel of my black Mini, I would double clutch to change down a gear, and then accelerate to change lanes into the half a car space ahead. I was the height of chic; I could never be without my Kent. I was forever pushing the cigarette lighter into its socket on the dashboard; as soon as it popped out, the spiral end glowing orange hot, I would hold it to the white cigarette already between my lips, and double-clutch to change down a gear.

image source:jmcadam

On a recent sojourn back to The Lucky Country we chucked a voltage converter and power adaptor, and a one to four outlet adaptor into the Vionic sandals box, and taped the whole thing shut before packing it into our Spinner Suitcase. Australia’s electricity is 240 Volts, and the wall power point sockets are designed to take a three-pin monster plug; two flat metal pins with a third flat pin that forms a vee. A switch on the wall socket turns on the electricity; up is off and down is on.

We needed to change the Australian 240 Volt electricity to 110 Volts to be able to charge several devices so we developed, and refined, how to connect and plug in a Brisbane hotel room; power adaptor plugged into the monster plug wall socket, voltage converter plugged into the adaptor, and the plugin one to four outlet adaptor plugged into the converter. But before anything was plugged into the one to four outlet adaptor the combined weight of the interlocking devices caused the arrangement to angle down, and separate away from the monster plug; the interlocking polyhedron’s weight would have to be supported. Through trial and error, we discovered that a packet of Tim Tams on top of a box of Arnotts Shapes, Pizza Original Flavour, and a packet of Allens Minities on top of the Tim Tams provided balanced support. And in Hobart, we assembled a support truss from a packet of Arnotts Tic Toc, a bag of Twisties, and a box of Jam Tarts.

image source:jmcadam

And then came that fateful day in Melbourne. For the next three days after checking into our hotel we were down at the front desk remonstrating about their standard of housekeeping, the shoddy condition of the room, and their neglectful customer service; each visit escalated in belligerence, verbal aggression, and combativeness. On that fateful day, the polyhedron was braced by a stacked combination of, a bag of mini Cadbury’s Cherry Ripe, a packet of Mint Slices, and a few cans of VB. Three devices were plugged into the one to four outlet adaptor; there was a popping noise from the monster plug and a black powder appeared on the voltage converter and the devices plugged into the one to four outlet adaptor shut down. And the room wall lights were now off; the desk lamp and electric clock radio were also off. I plugged in the electric kettle and flipped the powerpoint switch down; nothing. The television plugged into a powerpoint on the other side of the room was still on.

I had no other option but to go down to the front desk and face the staff who had been my adversaries for the last three days; the foe that I had berated, harangued and castigated. I walked timidly toward the desk; they saw me approaching and attempted to look busy. I looked at no one in particular and casually started the conversation

Me: G’day, guess what.
(They looked at me with a blankness; they just kept looking at me, waiting for another harangue. In a friendly conversational tone I matter of factly said)
The electricity just went off on one side of the room. I think a circuit breaker must have tripped
Front Desk Staff: What were ya doing
Me: Nothing.
(Attempting humour)
I didn’t plug in a garage door opener or impact spanner or anything.
(I smiled)
Front Desk: She’ll be right mate; we’ll send maintenance up to the room to have a Captain Cook.
Me: No worries, whenever they have time. No rush.
(And I kept smiling)

I didn’t wait for the lift; I took two steps at a time up the staircase until I reached the second floor and our room. I wrestled the polyhedron from the monster plug and quickly disassembled it; the voltage converter into a sock, the power adapter into the laundry bag in the suitcase, and the plugin one to four outlet adaptor onto the tea and coffee making facilities tray. I pushed the tray behind the television. I swept the stack of mini Cadbury’s Cherry Ripe, Mint Slices, and the few cans of VB recklessly with my arm and let everything stay where they landed. I didn’t have a minute to spare when there was a knock on the door. It was hotel maintenance to check the electricity; to see if a circuit breaker had indeed tripped. It was only a couple of minutes after they had left when the electricity came back on. They knocked again on the door; circuit breaker mate.

image source:youtube

I retrieved the parts and assembled the polyhedron; except the plugin one to four outlet adaptor. For the rest of our stay in the Melbourne hotel, we only plugged one device at a time into the polyhedron. The only other time I visited the front desk was to finalise the bill. I greeted them with a smile and bid them a warm and friendly see ya later.

Android and Apple phones now support wireless charging; you only need to throw your phone onto a wireless charging pad. And now resonant induction charging is the new wireless charging; no cables and the phone doesn’t have to rest on anything to be charged. This suggests that we could harvest the energy from the movement of our bodies to charge our phones. Next time on my morning or maybe during my laps around Westroads I’ll wave my phone in circles to see if its gyroscope produces enough magnetic or electrical energy to self-charge it. Or maybe I’ll just hold my phone onto my stomach to harvest somebody energy.

I suppose I should throw away the Vionic sandals box.

 

How to Choose Electricity Adapters, Converters and Transformers

Mini Cooper Cigarette Lighter- ebay

Cherry Ripe

Before the Movies there were Pictures

When we thought we were too old for Market Day at the Dandenong Market our cousins Andrew, Peter and Bruce would each take the Blue Harris from Dandenong and stay for a few days of the school holidays with Nanna in Eliza Street. I don’t remember very much about Andrew, the oldest cousin, coming to Newport but Peter and Bruce’s stays in Newport combined a coming of age without a loss of innocence. Bruce and I would watch television all afternoon causing our young teenage minds to be shaped by the daytime schedules of channels nine, seven, and ten and the 1940’s American movies they broadcast.

Peter was the middle cousin and I think the couple of years difference in our ages and how old we were gave us school holidays without a loss of innocence; the days were filled with two major undertakings. One was designing and constructing complex Hornby O Gauge train layouts on one side of the Peel Street backyard, and the other was taking the train into Melbourne to go to the pictures.

We didn’t just go to the pictures we went to the one-hour newsreel shows. On the elected day of the newsreels, we would be anxious to catch the first off-peak train into the city: the first after 9:00am. And we knew we had to be on the return off-peak back to Newport before 4:00pm. We had about six hours to navigate the central business grid of Melbourne to choose the best two newsreel offerings and have sandwiches or a meat pie at Coles Cafeteria.

Coles Cafeteria
coles cafeteria

The newsreel theatres were small theatrettes in the basement of buildings housing retail shops or tucked below picture theatres. The concept of the newsreel was to screen back to back an eclectic blend of short featurettes. A one hour program was made up of one or two weekly newsreel, cartoons such as Tom and Jerry or Donald Duck, Popeye, a Pete Smith Specialty, the 3 Stooges, or a Scotland Yard mystery. The program would run continuously through the day with no intermissions and you could stay in the theatre as long as you wanted to: even all day. In the late fifties Melbourne had six newsreel theatres; Century, Albany, Star, Times, Savoy and Tatler.

Tatler
Albany
Tatler albany theatre

We knew the location of each theatre and would walk the Robert Hoddle grid comparing the programs at all six theatres; a Pete Smith Specialty versus a 3 Stooges comedy, Bob Dyer’s record shark catch versus a Trade Fair opens in Melbourne, or a Casper versus Sylvester. The decisions while not causing grief or distress were agonizing. We would go to one newsreel in the morning and then head to Coles for lunch and to digest what we had just seen. In the afternoon we would sometimes sit through one and a half of the program just to see the Pete Smith Specialty a second time. And then back to Flinders Street for the off-peak return to Newport.

I only knew movies as pictures, and pictures were no longer than twenty minutes. The exception to the twenty minutes was the Saturday afternoon matinee feature after the intermission and the serials. The feature was usually a Tarzan, Lone Ranger, Robin Hood, or a Western and the serials or cliffhangers were Zorro, Roy Rogers, Rob Roy, a G-Men thriller, or some other thriller. We would go to the matinees at the Hoyts Regent in Ferguson Street; the theatre would inhale a collection of excited pre-teen boys on Saturday afternoons who quickly found their seats downstairs and waited in anticipation for the lights to dim and the curtains to open.

theatre inside

It was a regal picture theatre: reserved seats in the upstairs balcony with ushers with torches to take your ticket and escort you to your seat, a ticket box, and a concession stand to buy Jaffa’s, Minties, or a Peters ice cream. The ice cream could never be taken into the theatre and had to be purchased and eaten in the foyer or outside during intermission. There was a milk bar over the road from the Regent and sometimes we would go there because of the varied choices of ice creams and lollies.

A  Hoyts Regent
theatre1

The matinees added to the fine print to my definition of pictures; you could never eat anything in the theatre when you are watching a picture.

Several years later as a teenager, I would go to the Friday evening pictures at the Regent with Andrew Lambrianew and we would meet up with a collection of other rebellious pubescent teenagers. We would start off sitting in a row of seats and the lights dimming was a signal for action to the ring leaders; their intent was to outsmart the torch-carrying ushers. They would provide enthusiastic loud comments to the images on the screen, roll Jaffas down the aisle, or throw Minties and Fruit Tingles at the projection screen. As soon as the rear door opened and the torch-wielding ushers appeared everyone in the row would crawl under the seats and rows to disperse. If you were caught you were escorted from the theatre.

Peer pressure caused me to sit with the daredevils and I suffered embarrassment and fear at this Friday night at the pictures rite of passage. If only I could have looked into the future: I was being initiated to what is now the tradition of audience participation and callbacks of the Rocky Horror Picture Show and the Sing-a-Long-Sound of Music.

The Regent was demolished to make way for the North Williamstown Library.

st george theatre

The St Georges in Yarraville became a picture theatre in 1910 and projected its last picture in 1958. In 1960 it became the Universal Dancing Classes Ballroom. I was a young teenager when I first caught the train to Yarraville and walked into the St George with Andrew Lambrianew. We were there to learn to dance. Under the guidance of Pat McGuire and his wife, Marjorie Andrew and I would no longer have two left feet but would glide across the floor showcasing the waltz, pride of Erin, foxtrot, progressive barn dance, and evening three-step. I think we also thought we would meet girls. So off we went: I think it was Thursday nights.


Mum made most of our clothes and she made a blazer and slacks for me to wear when I was dressing up to go out. I think that she had made them so I would grow into them or maybe the loose, baggy, fit was some cool late fifties early sixties look that I didn’t know about. But she was the seamstress. The boys lined up behind Pat and mimicked his footwork as he counted off the beat. The girls were lined up behind Marjorie. There was some magical communication between Pat and his wife because they both knew when we had conquered the dance step and it was time to practice: the boys were sent to one side of the hall and the girls the other. Most time it was boy’s choice and you had to go and ask a girl to dance. I was very shy and bookish and still in scholarly competition with John Colville and Robert Ballard when I was learning to dance, and my best going out clothes didn’t help my self-image. After refusals from various girls, I would be back sitting by and learning against the boy’s wall listening as the speakers introduced Max Bygraves crooning Any Dream will Do.

Everyone danced the progressive dancers. I spent my first progressive dances stepping on every girl’s feet, forgetting when to change partners, and not knowing if there was a difference between the beat of the barn dance or the three-step. I was never asked to dance when it was girl’s choice.

If only the St George’s lights would have dimmed and the curtain opened to show Tarzan travelling to India to save hundreds of wild elephants who were in danger. Andrew spent most of the time dancing and hitting on the girls. I soon didn’t like going to UDC and must have talked Andrew into also not wanting to go. My mother was disappointed when I told her I wasn’t going to dance classes at the old picture theatre anymore. I don’t think I wore my dressing up going out blazer and slacks ever again.

I still don’t dance. When I saw the movie Strictly Ballroom I wondered why Pat and Marjorie never taught us young boys, the paso doble.

Rocky Horror Picture Show

Strictly Ballroom

Matinee

I Love the Smell of Penny Bungers in November

A few years ago it became legal for people living in Nebraska and inside Omaha city limits to purchase and shoot off fireworks between June 25th and July 4th. Just before July 4th I trawled one of the many fireworks for sale tents that have mushroomed in Omaha. It was my first venture into a fireworks tent. I did go to a fireworks barn before it was legal to shoot off fireworks in Omaha. It was across the Nebraskan border in either Missouri or Kansas. I hesitated to buy anything fearing that when I crossed back into Nebraska I would most likely be stopped by a state trooper and upon the vehicle search the fireworks would be discovered, not so well hidden, under the spare tire in the boot. Surrounded by fireworks it was difficult to dismiss thinking of the Gunpowder Plot and some say the traitor Guy Fawkes; the thought of buying whiz bangs and blowing up Parliament was with me as I left the barn and I adopted a swagger as I walked toward the car. I spun the wheels and sent a cloud of dust sky ward and I was soon pounding down a dirt road alongside the interstate; bootlegging and moon shining, a fireworks runner outsmarting and outdriving the law.

There were no Catherine Wheels, Tom Thumbs or Penny Bungers in the Omaha fireworks tent but I did find boxes of Sydney Harbour Bridge for thirty plus dollars. I wondered if a Paul Hogan aerial repeater was in the box. Hoges had been a painter on the bridge before Crocodile Dundee fame. It is normal for all Melbournians to possess antipathy for anything Sydney. I knew there had to be a bigger and better Melbourne Federation Square box somewhere in the fireworks tent. All of us who hung out together called the milk bar on the corner of Douglas Parade and Bunbury Street Dashers: named after the owner who we thought was so slow and deliberate at doing anything: maybe he was just old but we never thought of that. You would have never found a box of Sydney Harbour Bridge at Dashers.

All in a Box
Sydney Harbours
johnfireworks2 fireworks tent

For weeks before cracker night we would save our pocket money and forage the neighborhood for Tarax bottles or any other soft drink bottle that had a refund. Sixpence or a shilling would buy a large assortment of mixed crackers at Dashers. The crackers were stock piled for bonfire night but some were set aside to practice the cooking of the spuds celebration on some of the days and nights leading up to bonfire night.

Bonfire night, also know as cracker night, is observed on November fifth to commemorate the capture of Guy Fawkes and by burning an effigy of Guy Fawkes who was a member of the Gunpowder Plot. We didn’t really care about Guy Fawkes and the plot to blow up British Parliament. It was just an excuse to blow up letter boxes, throw penny bungers down street drains or at each other, lob tom thumbs anywhere and everywhere, shoot sky rockets from milk or beer bottles, build a bonfire, and bury potatoes in the ashes of the bonfire.

We built our bonfire on the grassy area on the Strand where we played end to end football and pick-up cricket games. In the weeks leading up to the lighting of the bonfire and cracker night the gang: Andrew Lambrainew, Ray Cowmeadow, Alwyn Robertson, my brother Peter, and sometimes Froggie Norton, and Butch and me, would spend after school until teatime and all day on weekends knocking on neighbors doors asking for anything that was flammable. Some neighbors had been saving combustibles for months. We dragged and hauled car tires, paint cans, mattresses, furniture and anything wood; anything burnable: anything that burnt with a thick acrid black smoke. The neighbors also lugged their own rubbish and piled it onto the bonnie. We wanted to have the biggest and best bonfire on the Strand. The bonfire grew and stretched into the sky and seemed to spread out as you watched it. After tea we would sit into the night guarding our bonnie from other gangs intent on stealing and plundering to better their own bonfires.

On November fifth, as the daylight dimmed, the neighbors converged on the bonnie. The little ones would be dressed in their pajamas and dressing gowns and they would be made to hold their mum’s hand to watch the lighting of the bonfire. We would throw and spray petrol and any other flammable liquid on to the base to help with the lighting. There was no choreographed to music pyrotechnic display with the sky always full of fireworks for twenty minutes ; the Catherine wheels would spin, the little ones free from their mums hands would write their name with sparklers in the dark, and sky rockets would burst randomly in the sky and we would throw a few tom thumbs and penny bungers.

It must have been a genetic DNA inheritance because over the years our simple actions with sparklers were transformed into rituals and cracker celebrations. No one taught or told us but we knew we had to keep a cache of bungers, sky rockets, and tom thumbs for the cooking of the spuds celebration. When the fire had burnt down and everyone had gone home we would throw our potatoes into the ashes and let the ritual of the cracker fight and the spud celebration begin. You just sort of knew how to hold tom thumbs between your fingers and when they started to explode be able to throw them accurately at your best friend. Aiming a sky rocket in a milk bottle and lighting it while your human prey ducked and weaved took a steady hand and a keen eye. You never just threw a lighted penny bunger during the celebration; you would quickly put it in a can and then throw the can with the bunger. It took skill and timing to heave the can and have it close to your target when the bunger exploded.

New Type Sky Rockets
Where’s the Milk Bottle
sky rockets john&skyrocket

After fishing the spuds out of the ashes we would sit together as a small band of brothers. We used our soot covered hands to wipe the specks of burnt rubber, paint, black carbon, charred fabric and ashes away. We didn’t taste all the carcinogenic dioxins, hydrocarbons, mercury, lead, chromium, and arsenic; the spuds just tasted of burnt rubber and smelt like petrol.

I think a lot of things that we did were just preparing us for some later similar occurrence or transformation that we will experience; we just didn’t know it at the time. The cooking of the spuds celebration was laying the ground work for me looking at the burning bodies on the Varanasi ghats on the banks of the river Ganges. I remember my eyes stinging from the smoke and the smell of sandalwood scented smoke and barbecue. None of our spuds exploded and the spud soul was never released.

Those were the days: the days we didn’t have to license our fun hormones.

 

Sydney Welcome 2015 Fireworks

Man Killed Launching Fireworks off Head

The Gunpowder Plot

The Tooth Fairy Left Me a Cyborg

When I read the headline in the Age Fake dentist operating in Melbourne’s northern suburbs I at first wondered why anyone would want to be a dentist so bad that they would just do it without any schooling. As I read further it was about Mr Velipasaoglu who was trained as a dentist in Turkey but was not qualified to practice in Australia. So I wondered what makes a person a qualified dentist; and where do dentists come from.

Throughout the fifties and sixties, dental hygiene and management weren’t really practised in Australia; it certainly wasn’t in my family and the catchphrase about teeth was if they start hurting get them taken out. But I think there was a degree of hurt that would concede a visit to the dentist was in order and curative work could be considered.

I thought back to what I remember about my early dentist experience. I don’t remember his name but my mother kept repeating that he was a relative of ours; some distant cousin, or something as obscure and that he wouldn’t hurt us. We rode our bikes everywhere in Williamstown, even to the dentist; 72 Electra Street Williamstown. The building was a non-descript double-fronted cream brick veneer structure, the second building down from the corner of Douglas Parade and Ferguson Streets.

There was a waiting room to the right as you went in and the surgery was on the left. I vaguely remember waiting in the waiting room wondering what the strange odours were. I didn’t smell chloroform or ether again until I was studying chemistry at Footscray Institute of Technology. I know my mother would never tell us an untruth, but it did hurt. Sitting back in the chair you knew when the drill would stop spinning because you would watch the chains and pulleys slow down as the drill was pushed into the tooth. And that’s when you had the different levels of pain, and there was also no escaping that burning smell. How I dreaded each visit but I did have more fillings. I think that this dentist relative of ours wore rimless glasses.

When I was old enough to no longer listen to my mother I never really went back to the dentist again. Fillings fell out and new cavities appeared, and I ate a lot of soft foods. Whenever we journey back to Australia the meat pie and sausage roll are the first on my list of must-eats. Some habits just die hard.

They say that America is the land of opportunity. So I decided I was going to save my teeth and give them a new life. And I would eat hard foods that needed severe chomping: the chewing of sound and fury. I braved bone implants, bridges, caps and root canals, fillings and extractions to reach crunch domination. Three dentists a periodontist and an endodontist have been part of the save the teeth team. I remember my first visit to the first of the three dentists. I don’t think he looked in my mouth; the hygienist pushed a probe between the gum and the roots of my teeth and she repeated numbers as she wrote them on a chart. Two four, four eight, eight eight, sixteen two and so on. She then cleaned my teeth. When the dentist came into the room the hygienist shared the chart she had written the numbers on and all I overheard from their hushed conversation was; bicuspid, bite and bifurcation. We made two follow up appointments: to extract a front tooth and prepare a bridge and then to struggle with three fillings.

Save the teeth was set in motion.

I think the dental office was in a building on South 17th street but has since been demolished to make way for the Omaha skyline landmark First National Bank of Omaha Corporate office. But all I could see, my body tense and rigid and my hands clenching and gripping that arms of the chair, as I lay facing the window, was a huge ceramic pot containing a lonely amaryllis bulb. I was referred to the periodontist by my first Omaha dentist, Dr Steve Wachter: it was soon after when he saw his last gum tree.

On my first visit to the periodontist, the hygienist pushed a probe between the gum and the roots of my teeth and she repeated numbers as she wrote them on a chart. Two four, four eight, eight eight, sixteen two and so on. Dr Swain was committed to saving my teeth; he peeled my gums back to expose the jaw bone for bone grafts and then stitched the gums back in place with the sewing dexterity that I thought only my mum could ever have. Swain deadened my jaw and most of my face with abundant amounts of lidocaine, articaine, and epinephrine but I was still tense, rigid and skittish. I would spend several hours in the dental chair on each visit and it was during my second visit that I thought about the heavy use of the numbers that were factors of two: two four, four eight, eight eight, sixteen two. And all the dental words that had the prefix bi. Maybe it was the lidocaine but my mind went back to form 5AB at Williamstown Technical School.

williamstown technical school form-5AB

Form 5AB. John McAdam 2nd from right top row. John Colville 4th from right top row. Robert Ballard 5th from right top row. Gunter Jergens 1st from left 2nd row. Kevin Thompson 2nd from left 1st row. John Savory middle 1st row.

We were two years past Mr Stonehouse’s class but John Colville and Robert Ballard and a lot of the form 3AB boys were still classmates. We were introduced to the concept of the new Math; Venn diagrams, intersection and union of sets, matrices, and numbering systems that were not base ten. It was the time of Sputnik and the Explorer satellites and we were told that computers were going to engineer the future of humankind and they used binary, octal or hexadecimal numbering systems. We mastered the subtleties of only using ones and zeros to express numbers and became masters of the binary number system; a numbering system that uses the base two.

I never put it all together before now. I started to look forward to my doses of lidocaine, articaine, and epinephrine because it unloaded my mind of daily occurrences and allowed me to focus on the fact that dentists and periodontists communicate mostly with a binary number system and in a language that contains a lot of bites. It was like a computer talking to a computer; they were humanoids. I mused over my epiphany every Swain visit; he had done all he could with bone grafts and scaling of the jaw bone and I was getting comfortable in his presence and was preparing to confront him about my humanoid theory when just like Wachter, he saw his last gum tree.

So I’m now back with the dentist I should have always been with: even though he has had to extract a couple of teeth he has also capped and filled others. He is a loyal save the teeth team member. Whenever he adjusts the chair so I’m in an upward prone position I turn away from the blinding white light and just whisper knowingly: convergent evolution humanoids. As soon as the instruments are put in my mouth I say things like; did you use a laser blade to shave this morning, or isn’t it around your lunchtime, are you going out for a byte. And when I leave the dental office; there is so much roadwork on Dodge Street I’m going to have to take the R2 detour home.

The drive to my dentists’ office takes me down two of Omaha’s major streets. Depending on my route I can pass; casual fast-food drive-throughs, coffee shop drive-throughs, pharmacy drive-throughs, furniture pick up drive-through, a bank drive-through, a library book return drive-through, a job fair drive-through and a pizza drive-through. Maybe they should have a dentist drive-through.

 

Crazy Alien Dentist App for Android

Frank Zappa Moving To Montana:Dental Floss Tycoon

Universal Numbering System

Standing in the Corner Watching Television

If it weren’t for Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of television, we’d still be eating frozen radio dinners. Johnny Carson (1925 – 2005)

I really didn’t grow up with television. I first saw television from the footpath outside the windows of the Patersons Furniture Store in Ferguson Street, Williamstown. It was a small black and white television; at that time thought of to be extremely large, and I together with a large crowd that spilled onto the road watched as former 3DB radio announcer Geoff Corke who later was known as Corkey King Of The Kids introduced GTV9’s first test television broadcast: Everything’s fine on GTV Channel 9. We watched the black and white static mesmerized. The 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games were broadcast as a test transmission. Australia did well at those games; Murray Rose won three gold medals in swimming, and Betty Cuthbert became the Golden Girl by winning three gold medals in track.

image source:nma.gov.au

It seemed as if every shop window had a television set in it and every television was showing a black and white grainy image. The footpaths became congested places. I only knew that television sets cost a lot of money. Programming was only for a few hours each day and the test pattern was broadcast for the rest of the time that the three channels were on air; Melbourne had GTV channel nine and HSV channel seven and the government channel ABC channel two. So we were like many families and didn’t get a television when they first came out. Each afternoon after getting home from school and before tea I would sit glued to the wireless listening to the Air Adventures of Biggles, Superman, and the Adventures of the Sea Hound. Sometimes we would have a special night out: the family was invited to friends of mum and dad’s up the street to watch television.

image source:nostalgiacentral.com

After tea, we would walk animated up Peel Street and do all we could to contain our anticipation and excitement. We would only stay and watch TV for a couple of hours: bedtime was early for me and my brother and besides television stopped broadcasting around ten o’clock. Sometimes we would stay and watch the test pattern; it always followed the playing of God Save the Queen and the Australian flag.

And then we got a television set. The inside layout of our house in Peel Street was typical of a lot of houses built in the early nineteen hundreds. It had a central passageway with my mum and dad’s bedroom and lounge room in the front of the house and a few steps down the passage opposite the dining room the bedroom I shared with my brother. The kitchen was at the end of the passageway and a spare room that became my bedroom was off the dining room.

Peel Street
Lounge Room
Passage
Peel-st Peel-st-lounge-room Peel-st-passage

The lounge room was reserved for entertaining guests; it had a couch and a couple of large soft chairs and a glass door cabinet that housed and displayed my mother’s crystal, silverware, and other collectables. His Master Voice television sat supreme in the lounge room; the tube and those big valves were inside a honey-coloured wood cabinet that was on legs. My mother insisted that we had to turn the volume down when we turned the tuner knob to change channels otherwise we would break something.

Nanna and Granddad would walk down Peel Street after tea from Eliza Street every weekday night and stay until about 9:00 o’clock before walking back home to bed: just as we used to walk some nights up Peel Street years ago to watch TV. Nanna would sit at the kitchen table and do the Australian Post crossword while my mum sewed, ironed or knitted. Mum would sneak words into the crossword while she ate her dinner and at other times during the day. The Australian Post was a weekly picture magazine and was read by all of Australia; it was a curious blend of scandal, human interest stories, sensationalism, entertainment and pin-up photos. You always read last weeks and earlier Post’s when waiting for a haircut at the barber’s shop. While the ladies spent their time in the kitchen granddad sat with me in the lounge room. I’d stretch out on the couch and he would sit in a chair to soak up the television. I didn’t understand it at the time but within twenty minutes his head would drop to his chest and he would be asleep.

image source:pixabay

We always thought that cousin Bruce was too young to play in the paddock or go with us on Market Day to the Dandenong Market. Years later he would take the Blue Harris from Dandenong and stay for a few days of the school holidays with Nanna in Eliza Street. He would walk down Peel Street and together we allowed both of our young teenage minds to be shaped by daytime television; we watch it all afternoon.

That was the last that I remember of strenuously watching television. I do remember Eric Pearce announcing the Cuban Blockade. I was drifting into my teenage and professional student years and was deciding to watch sometimes only cool television. I entered the world of change and uncertainty; rock and roll, sixties and seventies women, alcoholic oblivion, The Masters’ Apprentices, The Twilights, and more: I gave little thought to television until London. Friday nights in London became must be home by 10:00 pm to watch Monty Python Show and must also be home on other nights to watch the Benny Hill Show and Steptoe and Son.

Kitchen Sink OWH

image source:johnmcadam

In 1991 the television show Everything but the Sink was created. It was broadcast on an educational television channel: the channel was one of the public, educational, and government access channels in Omaha provided by the cable franchising authority contacting with a city. The set was a 1960’s kitchen in limbo. I talked to my guests, read the paper, watched television, ate doughnuts and drank coffee. It became an Omaha cult favourite. I did radio talk shows and the daily paper tried to explain Everything but the Sink.

Everything But the Sink
Playful Talk Radio

People still recognize me and acknowledge the program 25 years later. I suppose I was some sort of video viral blowout before YouTube and on-demand high definition digital video started narrowcasting across inter-connected devices. I wonder if all those people who watched the Sink were trying to become active participants in the stories that unfolded in the kitchen.

I still remember the great 1979 movie Being There; adapted from the 1970 novella by Jerzy Kosinski. Chance is a simple-minded, middle-aged, man and has lived his whole life gardening. Other than gardening, everything he knows has been learnt entirely from what he has seen and sees on television. When his benefactor the Old Man is discovered dead Chance is told by the lawyers that he must leave the townhouse he lives in so he packs a suitcase of clothes and takes his remote control and heads out into the world.

Maybe Grandad fell asleep in front of the television so he would forever hear God Save the Queen and watch the test pattern, or maybe he was channelling the concept for the future 1980 studio album Glass Houses and the lyrics for Sleeping with the Television On to a teenage Billy Joel.

 

I’m going to try going to sleep watching my smartphone.

Skyhooks Horror Movie

The Twilight Zone

Being There

You Can Take the Boy Out of the Market

Spring 2015 has arrived in Omaha Nebraska: the Omaha Farmers Market is celebrating its twenty two years in the old market neighborhood. Five years ago the market expanded on Sundays to the streets of a redeveloped AKSARBEN Village. We have lived in the AKSARBEN neighborhood for more than 25 years. Our house is a Bernie Quinlan drop kick away from the Village. Before the Village, the area was the Ak-Sar-Ben Race Track and Coliseum. The immediate area is still dotted with the Trackside Lounge, Turf Lounge, and the Fan Tan: providing a cold Metz, Storz, or Falstaff after a hot losing day at the races.

image source:jmcadam

Each Sunday morning sometimes over a hundred vendors and growers create a walkway down the center of parts of 67th Street and Mercy Road. Consumers can choose from seasonal fresh produce, free range organic meats, baked goods, and artisan breads and cheeses. The meats; lamb and beef are grass fed free range, and the steaks and chops are packaged in protective plastic film and are sold frozen.

The immortal race horse Omaha is buried at AKSARBEN beneath the Market; not all that far from the Parthenon Greek Pastry and Erick’s Enchiladas stalls. It took many years for me to appreciate the hallowed tradition of the name Ak-Sar-Ben: it is NEBRASKA spelt backwards. I think that man’s best friends are also eager for the Market. Leashed and outnumbering humans, they seem to enjoy themselves as much as the shoppers and are quick and impatient to make friends with each other.

My Aunt Peg lived in Edith Street Dandenong. My mum also had a house that she rented in Edith Street; the paddock as we called it separated my mother’s and Aunt Peg’s house. All I remember of our family visits to Dandenong was the 20 mile drive down the empty Princess Highway in the Austin A40 or Vanguard. It was sort of suburbs to Oakleigh and then country. Past Oakleigh the Springvale crematorium was a faint silhouette from the highway.

John & Brother Peter Dandenong PaddockI didn’t want to look at the distant building where they burnt bodies; I closed my eyes and pressed for the Austin to accelerate and bring us closer to two of my Dandenong cousins Andrew and Peter, and the hours we would spend playing in the overgrown paddock. As we got older we spent less time in the paddock and more time at the Dandenong Market: founded in 1866 it is Melbourne’s second oldest and second largest market. Aunt Bet, my mother’s younger sister, moved into my mother’s Dandenong house just after her marriage and my brother and I would be allowed to stay with Bet and Uncle Ken for a few days during the school holidays. I think my mum and dad would drive us at first, but as we got older and what was the last few market years we would take the train; over an hour ride on the red rattler from Newport to Dandenong.

Andrew, Peter, sometimes young Bruce, my brother and I would spend all Market Day Tuesday at the market. It was another Bernie Quinlan drop kick from Edith Street. Early morning we would rush down Market Street and into the cattle pens; we would walk atop and balance on the wooden planks that formed the chutes, pens, and gates. We would run along the wooden tunnels leading to the loading bays: closing and opening gates and sometimes being met with sauntering pigs, sheep, or cows. After going home for lunch we would share time between the stalls in the show grounds and what seemed the capacious roofed area crammed with tables groaning under the weight of fresh fruit, vegetables, clothing, shoes, jewellery, handbags, and all types of haberdashery. Around 3:30 we would amble slowly past every stall asking if they wanted any help today packing up. Sometimes we were lucky and they wanted help and we knew we were guaranteed at least a threepence or maybe a sixpence. Late afternoon we would walk, exhausted, down Market Street to Edith Street. I was unknowingly preparing for future market days at the Grand Bazaar Istanbul, the Isfahan Bazaar Iran, the Covent Garden Flower Market London, and other street markets of the world.

By the late 1960s, Dandenong was officially a suburban area of Melbourne and the Lonsdale Street area was being transformed by modern buildings; Steve De George’s Café and the market were another era, and market day had become a memory. And Aunt Peg and Uncle Ian built their new house on the paddock.

The Queen Victoria Market began in 1878 and was built atop land that was part of the Old Melbourne Cemetery. It is said that the Queen Victoria Market is the largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere. The Queen Vic is a vibrant shopping mecca for Melbournians and a major tourist destination. The market is made up of the Delicatessen and the Meat Halls, and 600 retailers in shed laneways and streets; you are tempted with fresh produce, clothing, shoes, jewellery, handbags, haberdashery, meat, poultry and seafood, gourmet and delicatessen foods, and more.

I don’t remember the first time I overloaded my string bag at the market but I do remember the Meat Hall. A variety of sausages, mince, chops, legs, and shanks were displayed in trays at the front of each stall. Within the stall and above the serving counter carcasses hung from hooks on metal rails and could be swung and tugged to a butchers’ table for cutting and chopping. The floors were awash with sawdust; to absorb any liquid that dripped from anywhere in the store. Shoppers navigated walkways framed with swinging meat. Each shop had a butcher out the front dressed in the traditional apron slimed with blood from the morning’s killing screeching the day’s specials.

Meat Hall
Fresh Produce John at the Queen Vic
Meat Hall VictoriaMarket JohnAtVictoriaMarket

These visits to the Queen Vic must have been the early seventies; the elapse of time can dilute a memory. I am confident that all Australian food and safety standards and practices were being followed. Maybe my memory is not diluted and I am just mashing the Meat Hall stalls with the street butcher shops and meat stalls of Afghanistan and Thailand. I didn’t appreciate the Delicatessen Hall when I shopped at the Vic. I would just rush through it picking up some cheese or bread not aware that I was walking the streets of a 1927 art deco village. The shops still have the same marble and limestone counters and the old wooden window frames and signage from when they were built. From an eclectic mix of thirty plus stores you can experience; bakeries and patisseries, artisan cheeses and breads, continental cakes, specialist tea and coffee, European sausages, and cured meats and more. At the top end of I shed is The American Doughnut Kitchen doughnut van. It has been parked at the edge of the market for over 50 years selling small, round, hot, jam filled donuts. It is a tradition to scald your tongue on the hot jam inside the donuts and to lick the sugar from your fingers and lips.

Dandenong Market was the first urban village where I walked among and atop grass fed and free range animals, watched the different vegetables appear in their growing season, talked to the farmers and producers, and touched just picked fruit and asked for free samples. I still enjoy meandering the markets and relish touching the non-irradiated, the non waxed or gassed in transit, and pesticide free produce; I wonder if that is my Australian Royalty descendent, a poacher sentenced by the English court to transportation to the Australian penal colony, ghosting his presence.

But I think Framers Markets should have shopping trolleys.

World’s Most Beautiful Markets

This Little Piggy Went to Market: The Wiggles

Omaha Farmers Market

Looking at the Dead

I just don’t like looking at bodies. I think I was around eighteen when my father died. I vaguely remember the coffin in the front of the room at the funeral parlour. It was open. I sat in the back of the room so I wouldn’t have to look in the coffin. The service was at Nelson Brothers. The building is still there; it’s a really cool art deco structure at the corner of Douglas Parade and Stevedore Streets Williamstown.

image source: jmcadam

I think the next time I sort of looked at a body was on a Varanasi ghat on the banks of the river Ganges. I couldn’t see the body because it was wrapped in white sheets, like an Egyptian mummy, and just visible through clouds of wafting sandalwood scented smoke. I remember my eyes stinging from the smoke and the smell of incense and barbecue. I didn’t go to Varanasi to look at bodies. It was a magical mystery tour with our friend Colin Stevens because we thought that George Harrison had studied and learned to play the sitar when sitting at the feet of Ravi Shankar in a small room in Varanasi. We thought it would be really cool to see the room. There was a lot of misunderstanding in the late seventies.

Hindus believe that casting the ashes of the deceased into the Ganges leads to salvation and the guarantee of a good afterlife. If the mourners and deceased are lucky the skull of the burning body will explode and release the soul to heaven. If this doesn’t happen then the chief mourner must crack it open. After the cremation, any remaining bones are thrown with the ashes into the river

image source:tripsavvy.com

We gave a small number of Rupee’s to a boatman to be taken onto the river in a small boat for a from the river view of the cremation ghats. Black vultures were perched on these floating things pecking at them furiously; others were diving straight at them as if they were heat-seeking missiles and after piecing the object with their beak soaring heavenward. We were told that many of India’s poor can’t afford to buy enough wood for a complete cremation so many half-burnt bodies are thrown into the river.

At the foot of the steps people were bathing in the sacred waters: submerging themselves and splashing their bodies; their sins washed away. Cows were wallowing and enjoying themselves in the same holy Ganges waters.

We visited the hospital room on an early 2015 spring afternoon. My brother in law was in a two week prolonged coma. Doctors had diagnosed that he would not wake and estimated that his departure would be in twelve to twenty-four hours. I allowed myself a furtive glance. He looked peaceful and restful as if in a deep sleep. There was a wadded bandage taped across part of his temple. Doctors had drilled through his skull to drain blood that had formed on his brain. Twelve hours later he succumbed. It was April 4th.

The family viewing was two days later. I had a surreptitious searching glance at the body in the coffin: and the glance became a goggle. And I goggled and goggled. There was no wadded bandage on the temple and there was no sign of a hole drilled through the skull. The embalmer had created magic; I thought of the chief mourner at a cremation ghat on the banks of the Ganges.

Some time ago I had decided that I wanted to be cremated: half my ashes left in Nebraska and the other half scattered from the Strand into and onto Port Philip Bay, Australia.

One of my granddads had his ashes scattered over Port Phillip Bay. Grandad Bob rented a room at the Customs House Hotel in Nelson Place. Through the window of the public bar of the hotel, you could see the pilot boats tied at the Gem Pier: a short walk across the Commonwealth reserve. He died as a result of hitting his head on a steel bulkhead or a door on one of the pilot boats. He was an engineer on the small boats that took the marine pilots onto the bay to meet the cargo ships. They exchanged pilots; swapping the pilot who successfully guided the ship through the rip, a dangerous stretch of water in Victoria connecting Port Phillip and Bass Strait, with a skilled wheelman to guide the ship up the Yarra River.

I spent many Saturday afternoons at the Gem Pier with Andrew Lambrianew. We would jettison our bikes on the pier and somehow balance on the edge to swing under the Gem to climb and balance and walk along the stringers and braces to discover nooks where we could sit for hours to talk and watch. We would also walk the pier asking if we could board the pilot boats as they were leaving to meet the waiting cargo ships.

The Gellibrand and Breakwater Piers were further along Nelson Place.

The request in my will is simple: a sprinkling around the seagulls and black swans. I have no wish for sandalwood or ghee or being wrapped in gold or silver. But maybe I should consider a sarcophagus: I could then be discovered by an eminent archaeologist and made available for viewing.

Dead Poets Society

Day of the Dead

The Day the Music Died

It’s just not Cricket

On April 10th 2015 the Australian newspaper headlines screamed that Australian Cricket great Richie Benaud was dead at age 84. He was the first cricketer to reach a Test double of 2,000 runs and 200 wickets and it is said by many that after Don Bradman no Australian cricket player is more famous than Richie Benaud.

Cricket is a game played between two teams of eleven players each. To win one team needs to score more runs than the other. Depending on the runs scored and the wickets taken a test cricket can be played over 5 days. In every cricket game there are two sides; one out in the field and one in. Each man that’s in the side that’s in goes out, and when he’s out he comes in and the next man goes in until he’s out. When they are all out, the side that’s out comes in and the side that’s been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out. When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in. There are two men called umpires who stay all out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out. When both sides have been in and all the men have been out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game!

Benaud blended deft leg spin bowling with artful batting prowess. He became Australia’s Test captain in 1958 and led the team until 1964. It must have been the 1956 ashes series in England, before Benaud was captain that I remember. The five tests were played June through August in a tepid English summer but a typical dank, chilly, Melbourne winter. On foggy winter nights, cocooned in woolen blankets at Peel Street, with the radio down low I was put to sleep by the erudite and snobbish descriptions of play and the mournful fog horns warning cargo ships of the close foreshore as they navigated the Yarra estuary.

England retained the Ashes winning two tests. Australia won one test and two were drawn. Jim Laker for England captured 19 wickets: 10 in the second innings of the 4th test at Old Trafford Manchester.

Benaud bowled 47 overs: 17 of those maidens and took 2 wickets for 123 runs.

1956 was a big sporting year for me: I remember a summer afternoon in November sitting in the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) watching track and field Olympic events. The 1956 Summer Olympics were the catalyst for the start of commercial television in Australia. The Olympics were broadcast as a test transmission. And that summer there was also the pick-up cricket games on the strand with Andrew Lambrainew, Ray Cowmeadow, Alwyn Robertson, my brother Peter, and sometimes Froggie Norton and Butch: in bowling we tried to master the googly, yorker, full toss, and leg cutter and when batting the silky skills of Bradman, Harvey, and Miller.

It was also around that time when I played in my only cricket game. One afternoon a week I would stay back after school for cricket practice. Alan Self and Ray Cowmeadow were always the captains of the 2 teams that were formed for the practice: Alan for his fast bowling prowess and Ray for his artful batting. I was never a captains pick and ended up with a couple of the other leftovers who were sent out to field the ball when either team batted. I never got to touch the ball or bat during practice but I often got to collect and carry in the wickets.

The historic day of my first and only cricket match was when North Williamstown Primary School was to play some other primary school. As well as the firsts team they had to field a seconds cricket team to play the leftovers from the other school. We played the game at what was left of the old historic Williamstown Racecourse.

I remember going into bat: the wind was blowing in from the nearby bay and the blue sky was filled with puffy white clouds. I know I didn’t take stance or center for the crease but just hit my shoe with the bat a few times. I do remember that we were not padded up. I don’t remember what ball it was and I don’t remember what shot I tried to play but runs were scored. I made a few more runs and was not out when the days play ended.

On that day I became the world’s greatest cricketer, a sporting legend, but still Alan Self and Ray Cowmeadow never picked me for one of the practice teams and every practice I went out to field the ball that never came to me. But deep down I knew that I was a cricket prodigy.

The grassy area on the Strand where we played end to end football, built bonfires an, pit ourselves in pick-up cricket games with Andrew, Ray Cowmeadow, Alwyn, Peter, and sometimes Froggie Norton and Butch is now a baseball field reserve.

Australia is the current 2015 Cricket World Cup Champions. Teams from England, South Africa, India, Australia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, West Indies, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Ireland, Afghanistan, Scotland, and United Arab Emirates played 49 matches of one day international cricket in 14 different venues to decide the World Cup. Baseball World Series is a seven game playoff between the American League and National League pennant winners.

I suppose it makes sense for a baseball field reserve to be on the Strand.

In July 2015 Australia ventures to England defend the ashes after humiliating England in Australia winning five 5 tests to none. There are no more Jim Lakers in England but there is Mitch Johnson for Australia.

I still check the scores when ever Australia is playing in a test series.

“The slow-motion replay doesn’t show how fast the ball was really traveling.” Richie Benaud (1930-2015)

Rules of Cricket.

Cricket great Richie Benaud Dead

Sir Donald Bradman: The Don.