Archive | Articles

Freelance writing for SMH.com.au, The Glebe, Cleo, SundayLife and elsewhere

Why are we still paying for stuff with pieces of plastic?

Cash is king, the old saying goes. Well, it’s time that particular monarch was overthrown. How is it that in 2016, when we carry the internet in our pockets, we still conduct transactions by exchanging brightly-coloured pieces of plastic with numbers written on them? And how is carrying a jangling bunch of metal coins around in any way efficient?

Coins and notes were useful instruments in their day, but that day is over. Increasing numbers of us no longer carry notepads and pencils wherever we go, or look at the mechanical hands of a wristwatch when we want to know the time, and it’s time for the practice of carrying cash to follow these devices into the dustbin of history. Continue Reading →

How would Australia deal with President Trump?

Somewhere in Canberra, in a bunker that requires a retina scan for entry and is swept hourly for bugs, experts from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Australian Defence Force and the Advanced Hair Studio are undoubtedly war-gaming a scenario that was once unthinkable, but is now looking increasingly likely: President Trump.

Once best known for fake-sacking fake employees and writing his name on garish buildings, the billionaire’s candidacy has gone from enacting a joke from The Simpsons to becoming the Republican frontrunner, while remaining no less amusing. Continue Reading →

A ridiculously slow road to a fast train

For years, I’ve dreamed of sauntering down to Melbourne’s Southern Cross station and sliding into a comfortable seat on board a shiny new Very Fast or even Extremely Fast Train. I’d sit and work on my laptop, or read a book, or recline my seat to take a nap while the landscape whizzed by, faster than a Saudi diplomat being pursued by the AFP.

Occasionally, kind people would come past with coffee and snacks, and perhaps an in-seat massage. And then, less than three hours later, I’d alight at Sydney Central, and get on with my day. Continue Reading →

The piece on procrastination I’ve always meant to write

I’ve always been a procrastinator. I’ve been meaning to write about this problem for a while, but never quite got around to it. And then, out of the blue, Daily Life suggested it – presumably after several years’ experience with my work habits.

And yes, it’s true – my approach to any task is to work out how late before the deadline I have to start, and then start considerably later.

At uni, I got to the point where my standard approach to any essay was to start the night before – even the 6000-word ones. As the years passed, I began them later and later, until I wasn’t starting until dawn on the due date.

From the outset, let me be clear – this is a really bad idea. Continue Reading →

Is it too hard to be prime minister in 2016?

In the future, Andy Warhol said, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes. In Australia’s future, everyone will be prime minister for 15 minutes, before being brutally rolled.

We’ve had five prime minsters since John Howard powerwalked away after 11 years, and not one has served a full term. Our political system’s become as volatile as Kanye West on Twitter.

Voters are realising they rejected Labor’s musical chairs only to sign up for the Coalition version. Polls recently hit fifty-fifty and the PM is running against both the Opposition leader and his predecessor, who’s been dubbed “Tony Rudd“. Continue Reading →

How I’ve avoided cooking for the past decade

Any guest invited to dine with me is in for a treat. Maybe I’ll serve perfect xiao long bao (soup dumplings) as delicate and succulent as you can get in Shanghai. Perhaps a perfect pizza with a crust doughy enough to make a Neapolitan weep. Or maybe a perfect dal with a side of naan that’s still warm from the oven?

There’s only one catch. When you inevitably pass your compliments to the chef, I’ll have to add my own. Because if I’m responsible for the catering, anyone dining chez moi is likely to be eating takeaway.

Only the very best takeaway, mind you. Gourmet food cooked by recognised experts in a range of world cuisines. But certainly stuff I haven’t cooked myself. Continue Reading →

I outsourced my cooking

Any guest invited to dine with me is in for a treat. Maybe I’ll serve perfect xiao long bao (soup dumplings) as delicate and succulent as you can get in Shanghai. Perhaps a perfect pizza with a crust doughy enough to make a Neapolitan weep. Or maybe a perfect dal with a side of naan that’s still warm from the oven?

There’s only one catch. When you inevitably pass your compliments to the chef, I’ll have to add my own. Because if I’m responsible for the catering, anyone dining chez moi is likely to be eating takeaway.

Only the very best takeaway, mind you. Gourmet food cooked by recognised experts in a range of world cuisines. But certainly stuff I haven’t cooked myself. Continue Reading →

Forget mind-altering drugs – learn a language

Australians have grown lazy about studying languages while our own has spread inexorably across the world, but we should make it a national priority.

I’m regularly astonished by the multilingual skills of my Indian relatives. Their first language is Tamil, but they were educated in English, and switch between the languages constantly when they talk among themselves, sometimes forgetting that I can’t understand the Tamil bits because the mix comes so naturally to them. (Either they forget, or are joking about me – I’m not quite sure…)

They also speak Hindi because it’s the national language, and some Sanskrit, too, because it’s the language of the Hindu scriptures. Continue Reading →

How I invented the Asiavision Song Contest

Some things are worth waiting for. This week, Barack Obama became the first US president to visit Cuba in 88 years. Scientists saw the shockwave from a supernova for the very first time. And SBS announced plans to host an Asia-Pacific version of Eurovision.

I called for this in the pages of the Sydney Morning Herald way back in 2003, and obviously my wise counsel set the ball rolling, albeit extremely slowly.

And yes, I am taking credit for this; and no, I don’t care how many other people suggested it, nor how incredibly obvious it might seem. Continue Reading →