Sick

I’ve been sick today.

I’m drinking wine now, and I feel a little better, so I may just have been hungover. There was a free beer related event I attended last night. I can’t help thinking these things may be connected, but I won’t make a judgement.

In other news, I’ve finally gotten my sense of smell back. As someone without much in the way of a sense of taste (this might cause you to ask after the veracity of my previously published recipes, but I use an independent panel of judges) the return was like the reopening of a forgotten world.

I wandered Smith St, my senses assaulted by the new layers of information. I knew the sewers beneath the northern stretch were acting up. I knew dogs were crapping on the pavement before I rounded the corner. People lit up with new layers like a colour filter, glows of beer or perfume or sickness.

So that’s a thing. One sickness in and another out I suppose… but as of next week I’m into actual full time work. Which I’m sure will be great for my health.

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Frying the Trickster

It was a thought that startled a friend of ours when we stayed with her in the UK.

I said that I had never seen a fox alive. I know they’re a massive pest here in Australia, but the only time that I had ever seen one before this point was as a mangled shape on the side of the highway. Usually the Hume Highway, between Sydney and Canberra. I don’t know if that’s significant.

So our host put out some chicken offcuts in her backyard, leaving a low light on and keeping a firm hand on her little West Highlands Terrier. Soon enough, to the Westy’s unhappy growls, we watched through the glass door as a trio of foxes, barely more than pups, hopped over the rear shed and dropped into the back yard. They warily snatched up the chicken before departing again, and I couldn’t help but feel like these strange animals were more like possums than dogs, leaping and clambering over fences and knocking over bins. Maybe I’m just more used to having possums near the house. For any imaginary readers who haven’t been to Australia or New Zealand, consider it a mercy to have not heard a possum’s voice at night. Scary shite right there.

Anyway, I was talking about foxes. I had met them in another context, in which they were neither flesh and blood creatures or flesh and blood road markers. Fox Shrines dot Japan, often in wild and partially forgotten places, or clinging quietly to unseen corners in the grounds of larger shrine complexes. There is a beautiful one to the side of Kamakura’s Hachimangu whose approach seems little more than a narrow forest path, leading to a flight of weathered stairs and, for me at least, a haunting sensation of being watched.

What all this fox related jabbering is leading to is the noodle recipe that follows.

Now there’s a leap of logic for you.

To explain: not long ago I attempted to make some Kitsune Udon for my partner and Ghorb, who is currently living with us. A rough translation would be Fox Noodles. I’ve never understood what appeal fried tofu has to foxes, but then I’ve never really felt much of an urge to delve into it either. Just sort of took it as given that the folkloric tricksters of Japan’s unforgiving ecosphere would , like me, be really into soy products.

So here’s how I did it.

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First, I chopped up a whole bunch of Shitake Mushrooms for broth. Because mushrooms are great.

Arrayed behind said mushrooms are my other ingredients; red miso paste, sesame seeds and firm tofu. You’ll be able to tell from these that I’m not making a traditional broth… this is really more an homage to a memory than a real recreation.

Because I’ve tried to arrange for silken tofu to hold its shape through the frying process before, and we all remember how that went.

Well, you guys don’t I suppose… it didn’t end well. Silken tofu just kind of disintegrates when you try to fry it, and this little blogger had to walk all the way back to the supermarket, which is… admittedly, right across the road, to get firm tofu.

So remember: Firm Tofu.

Here’s what you do with it.

You slice it into little steaks. I made triangles, but you could equally make rectangles or any other shape your knife skill wpid-20150629_183335.jpglevels allow.

Give them a quick skin mixed from flour, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

Fry in oil until crispy.

Fry the mushrooms, then drown them in hot water and add a goodly dollop of miso paste to make a tasty broth. Sprinkle in some finely chopped spring onions, and your golden. Throw in noodles for your audience and… hey presto.

Get those noodles and that broth into a bowl, place the nice little tofu guys on top, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Much more attractive than most of the foxes I’ve encountered, to be sure.

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Selling Out

Well, it happened.

It took a while. Hell, last time I worked I was on the other side of the world in a winter that we will never see on account of the odd vagaries of our planet’s hemispheres.

But I have finally sold out and jumped on the megacorp bandwagon.

Henceforth, imaginary readers, it appears that yours truly is once again employed. Once again a wage slave, a punchcard minion, a low level villain or shill in any cyberpunk set dressing. Unfortunately, the shadowy underground took their sweet time calling, and I gotta get tofu money to keep entertaining you guys somehow. And no matter what the 9 to 5 throws at me, you’re always gonna get something from me on my Saturdays.

So quorganism is now, during business hours at least, a travel agent. It could have been a lot worse. Hell, I was selling light bulbs for a fortnight and that was a lot worse. But I’ll certainly be busier.

And with that said, my computer remains, unfortunately, exploded. I’m currently typing this on my good friend Ghorb’s machine, so forgive any haphazard behaviour my apparent loss of connection with reality (aka the internet) causes.

Normal transmissions will resume as soon as possible, dear imaginary readers, and you’ll soon get your first teaser of my current super secret project. But for now, here’s a picture of a plane while we all think of bright and beautiful times.

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Photo “Plane Spotting at ORD”, courtesy of H. Michael Miley aka Mike_Miley on flickr. Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike

In Which Quorganism Finds Work, and Loses Energy to Write

I have begun to detest the suburbs.

I mean, there’s the obvious stuff. The lack of convenience, the obnoxious McMansions, the neighbours who won’t even say hello to each other when their out walking their dogs. More recently I’ve come to associate them with exhaustion, hunger, and vengeful ankle pain.

You see, my dear imaginary readers, yours truly has taken to selling light bulbs door to door to make ends meet.

Well, that’s not strictly true. I’ve been trying to give them away for free, complete with a qualified electrician to install them, which makes sense in the context of the State of Victoria’s emissions reduction scheme. This has been harder than it sounds.

That’s mostly because we’re clearly not the first to have this idea. It becomes difficult to give something away when the recipient already has said thing in abundance. The very selling point of these bulbs is their extremely long life, so with replacement not an option the market dwindles rather rapidly.

So that’s another way in which I feel that the suburbs have sleighted me.

Despite all this, though, returning to the city center still makes me smile. From the Hyatt hotel glowering down on us like a golden parody of a Communist Parliament, to the riverfront dredging up memories of London stowed half a world away, to the church towers nestled beneath the immense glass megaliths surrounding them,  like tiny remora between the teeth of a shark. At night the towers ascend into mist like something out of Disney’s Gargoyles, and the city blooms with a sky climbing garden of electric flowers.

I have also been making forays into getting back into radio theatre, for which I will need more material. You’ll know the outcome as soon as I do. I’m not holding out on you guys, just its not something I’m working on alone like the blog.

So that’s more or less where I’m at currently. Having had some decent interviews, I hopefully won’t be pounding the pavement too much longer out in the suburban sprawl. But I’ll keep you posted on that.

And you should have your usual fix come Saturday. Hoping the week’s been nice to y’all.

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Why the alley has its own flagpole, I have no idea.

Five Days, Four Beds and Two Thousand Klicks

Well, in the last week I’ve spent about five days driving.

There’s not a whole lot that can be said for that much highway.

But we’ve made it from Melbourne to Canberra to our childhood home in the Blue Mountains, and then back in the same direction.

Historic Chiltern, near Ironbark, Victoria
Historic Chiltern, near Ironbark, Victoria

The long haul through country New South Wales and Victoria is like a churn through Australian colonial folklore. We lunched in Chiltern, a town all too willing to cash in on its proximity to Ironbark, and we found no trace of any barber around. Chiltern is also incidentally one of the few words that has managed to stump me in Articulate.

We took the Road to Gundagai, and found a very quiet small town winding down on a Sunday afternoon, with hills surrounding that reminded me of the monstrous Sentinel Hill in H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror. It wasn’t so worrying, in truth, as Tarcutta, which touts itself as the true centre point between Sydney and Melbourne despite the popular myth being that Canberra was built in such a place, and I have to say the real median has a slow buildup of dereliction that evokes an inland Innsmouth. The place feels haunted for all the traffic it sees, though it stands on the false grounds of a mythic capital that never was.

Hilltops of Gundagai
Hilltops of Gundagai

There’s also about five turnoffs for Wagga Wagga, spread over maybe a hundred kilometers, which is a bit strange. Gives the feeling your going in a big circle.

My insomnia got worse across these myriad towns, though we stayed in familiar places with friends and family. Part of that must have been the strange exhaustion of driving that leaves your mind burned out but your body unable to rest.

There’s Glenrowan too. They have a monochrome image of Ned Kelly in his famous armour on the road sign. We didn’t stop.

Imaginary readers, I wouldn’t usually post something as aggressively referential as this, though I don’t imagine my analysis is anything particularly special.

The point is that this road is a terrifying object, to my mind. You move along it, and you and hammered with the scale of this place when you see just how much colonist culture is crammed into a thin stretch not far off the Eastern seaboard, what a tiny part of this country has provided so many of our stories and how much of our discourse.

There was more than once that I pondered just how much trouble we’d be in, how far we were from help, if the car were to break down along that road. I can cover ten kilometers in an hour at a run. For how many hours, I do not know. You ask yourself if that would be enough. You find yourself asking these questions, or maybe you don’t. Maybe that’s just me.

The land is huge and it is hungry and so many of its stories fail to reach our ears.

Strange how much can be said of a stretch of highway.

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Street Art I Have Wandered Past

Alright, this is something I’ve really enjoyed about Melbourne. A lot of the graffiti is really high quality.

I sort of made a habit of photographing street art during my long sojourn in Canberra, and followed Abyss‘ harlequin tinted, occultish murals wherever I could find them. I think part of the appeal for me has always been the temporary, transient nature of the art itself. Being illegal most of the time, its only a matter of waiting until its either torn down or usurped by something else.

I don’t think the lens captures what the eye sees, but I’ve made a go of it. Without further ado…

A lot of folks have taken to decorating council breaker boxes.

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But, as ever, the wall remains the favoured medium of operation.

wpid-20150515_111827.jpgwpid-20150509_160806.jpgwpid-20150515_113809.jpgwpid-20150515_113446.jpgGot some audacious stuff in there. It should probably go without saying that this isn’t my art, and I don’t actually know who did it. Just thought I’d share it with y’all before it disappears.

Kind of reminds me of a story in Prague, an example of street artists kind of winning out over local council. It may be apocryphal, but hey, most good stories are. There’s a statue – right outside the James Dean American Diner for those who want to find it – probably ten feet tall, a kneeling cubist fertility goddess, all chrome finish. Story I heard says it appeared overnight, and when the council found it they realised they couldn’t afford a rig big enough to move it. So they declared it city property, gave it a plaque, and as far as I know she’s still there.

Interesting thing is that it keeps happening. There’s more than one Kafka themed statue in the city erected without planning permission, which was kept on account of frankly impeccable craftsmanship. Probably a better approach than paying millions for public art of questionable quality, but hey, local councils here tend towards the bureaucratic and stupid, so I’m not surprised. Doesn’t really dull the disappointment, but that’s just the way some of this goes.

Hope y’all like the pictures, dear imaginary readers.

So… I Live In Melbourne Now

Hey again imaginary readers.

I probably should have warned you all before this happened, but I moved to Melbourne about a week ago today, and thusly lacking an internet connection my capacity to send my charming diatribes to you was reduced to naught. So, for I think the second time in the history of the Next Best Plan, I will say this.

I’m sorry.

Now, to mark my triumphant return to internet land, here’s a spooky black and white photo of Elizabeth Street! I’ve got some more Changelings of the Outer West coming up, as well as the return of the Young Thief to Scenes from the City, so thanks for sticking around!

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Kookaburra

I saw a Kookaburra mere minutes ago.

Given I’m in the Blue Mountains this should not be a strange thing. But it felt like it had been a long time since I had seen one, and then I realised that was because it was.

So the bird was, happily perched up on a power line, before flitting away into the foggy trees, and this returnee is watching something perfectly normal.

There was no time for me to take a photograph, and I find that the lens usually fails to capture what the eye sees in moments like these.

So instead, here is a much better picture from a much sunnier day, courtesy of Tatters (or tgerus) over on Flickr, and I hope you all have a good weekend.

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Also, I’ve realised that I’ve been slacking off, relying on a bit of a backlog of work I’d built up. You shall receive said work soon, as if I’m just resting on my laurels then the motivational element of this isn’t working.

Once again, having used Tatter’s photograph from Flickr, you are free to use any part of this article in your own work as long as the relevant folks are credited (and in the picture’s case if is isn’t for commercial use), so take that and run as far as you like with it.

Home Again, Home Again

Well, we did make it back to Australia alive. The heat is refreshing after the relentless cold of the Scottish winter and the plague pit that is 22 hours in economy class. So we’ve come to the end of our big adventure, for now at least. Back to what passes for reality here.

Anyway, we had some friends come in from out of town, so we took them around the cliffs of the Jamison Valley to see the Three Sisters. Figured I’d share the piccies with you.

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And finally… well, I told my buddies in the UK that this stuff didn’t exist in Australia. Guess fate showed me…

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