Dare I say it… I don’t like beer

When you’re an Australian male, beer is the only socially acceptable drink. We talk about going for a beer, not a wine, and certainly not a soft drink. And we only admit any desire for an evening of fancy cocktails to close, trusted friends who won’t mock a beverage that arrives adorned by a maraschino cherry and a pink umbrella.

Aussie blokes are supposed to operate under the working assumption that any time we drink a beverage that isn’t beer, we wish it was, even if we’re sipping a coffee at work or downing an energy drink after pumping iron. (Come to think of it, anyone who can invent an electrolyte-restoring beer is going to make a fortune.) If Jesus had been Australian, we know very well what he would have turned that water into.

When blokes are out with mates, and go up to the bar to get a round, it’s beer unless specified otherwise. And if otherwise is specified, there’s often a need to justify it. So I’ll say something like “beer doesn’t always agree with me”, or “I’m a bit hung over so I’d better stick to the mineral water”, implying that beer was the culprit the night before. Continue Reading →

Rocking out in Thainatown

Once upon a time, the pubs of inner-city Australia were full of music. Or so we’re told by those lucky enough to have lived through those halcyon days. Global names like Midnight Oil, INXS and Cold Chisel blazed a trail for local heroes like Regurgitator, the Whitlams and, for all I know, Frenté (hey, they were big when I was in high school). And they packed out many a local from the Seventies through to the Nineties.

Then the pokies came. Publicans decided that live music and the beer its audiences consumed weren’t lucrative enough, and cordoned off part of their establishments to become windowless dens full of banknote-devouring ‘gaming’ machines.

In a pokie room, the only original compositions you’ll hear are the dinky electronic bleeps played on the rare occasions when players defy the heavily-stacked odds and win something. But nobody ever took home an ARIA Award for a pokie jingle. Continue Reading →

I’m disorganised. Pity me

In Year Seven, I went to a high school where I didn’t know a soul, so had to make a name for myself from scratch. I was like Rabbit, Eminem’s character in 8 Mile when he first goes to the rhyme battles, only instead of baseball caps and baggy jeans, everyone was wearing a tie and what Scott Morrison would call an ill-fitting suit.

I’m proud to say that it took me just a few weeks to establish the identity that stayed with me until the end of the year. I was the Kid With The Messy Desk.

I was also the Kid Who Looked Ridiculous While Singing In The Choir Because He Opened His Mouth Too Widely, as some kind older kids were delighted to tell me, but the Messy Desk brand proved to be the enduring one. Continue Reading →

You need to eat idli

I once thought I knew a bit about Indian food. Back at uni, I regularly dined at those North Indian bain marie joints, and not just on butter chicken – although I have to admit that I always got butter chicken as one of the three selections.

Sometimes I even got lentils. Which I knew were called ‘daal’, because I was a man of the world. Or so I thought.

On other occasions, I even went out for proper, fancy Indian at restaurants where they serve the curries in little metal bowls and there are unlimited pappadams and various pickles on the side.

Years later, I went to India for the first time, and feasted on Goan fish curry, as well as the thali meals, a selection of lots of little curries and other delights on a metal plate, each in its own slot. I even had a favourite vegetarian dish, aloo gobi, which is cauliflower with potatoes. I know now that it’s about the most unsophisticated thing you can order, tantamount to asking for mac and cheese – but back then, I proudly proclaimed it as my thing. Continue Reading →

The promising debate that nobody watched

This election campaign still has five weeks to go. More than a month left, and we’ve already slumped into the contemptuous torpor of Johnny Depp in a quarantine apology video.

And to give you an idea of how long we still have to endure, that video was posted six weeks ago. Depp’s marriage to Amber Heard didn’t survive as long as we’ve still got to go in this campaign, and I’m beginning to wonder whether we will, either.

In an election where even the leader of the supposedly irreproachable Greens has been accused of paying people peanuts – or in peanuts; I don’t know what food they serve at the Di Natale Ranch – it’s no wonder that the opinion polls have been registering dead heats. Presumably everyone hangs up when they hear the word “election”, and stomps on their phone so it can’t happen again. Continue Reading →

A week our leaders will want to forget

When voters walk into polling booths in roughly one million years time, by which I mean on July 2, they will be thinking about their houses, and not just because they may well resent being asked to leave them in order to head down to a polling booth.

As I’ve already argued on this august website, the choice of housing policies provides an unusually clear contrast between the two major parties on one of the most fundamental and tangible of subjects.

Our houses matter to us. They’re the stage on which we live out our lives, and are generally the most important investment we’ve made for the future.

The same is true for our politicians, except that the houses in which they live at least part of their lives are often owned by their spouses, meaning that the mortgage is helpfully paid off by us taxpayers. Continue Reading →

Why’s Australia ruining Eurovision?

Today, Australia rejoices, because for the second year in a row, we are in the final of the Eurovision Song Contest. Our contestant, Dami Im, smashed it in the semi-final, and will go on to potential Eurovisual glory later this weekend.

I hope she does well. Her song is ideal – it sounds like she assembled scientists in some high-powered audio lab and asked them to blend Adele with Stock Aitken and Waterman, plus a twist of ABBA. Perfect for Eurovision.

But even more sincerely, I hope that her performance in the final achieves another landmark for our proud, musical land. I hope it’s our last-ever appearance in the Song Contest. Continue Reading →