Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Hi Allister!

Hi Alli,

have been listening to the boxing day test live on ABC online...thinking of you and Graham and Ray and Troy and all my other absent Queensland cricket loving buddies as Andrew Symonds cuts loose at the G giving all those guileless dunderheads in the press something to think about. I hear the man strode to the wicket and then proceeded to smack the SA captain back over his head for six! Go and fetch that you smart bastard! He's just passed 60 too! Ahhh two big Queenslanders at the pitch together one past 50, the other past 100. Happy days! Hope you are all enjoying the cricket too...thank God for the internet.

Speak soon,


Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A Christmas Feast To Remember

Happy Christmas Fair Australians!

Despite recounting this story for many of you on the phone this last couple of days, our Christmas feast was so delightful the tale bears repeating. Besides I'm sure to have left out some of the more interestings details, not to mention the innumerable opportunities for embellishment! As you know (and can see in the photos), Andrea and I cooked up a three course Indian vegetarian feast for our Christmas dinner - there was a great deal of food and it was of course a shame not to have family and friends around to share in this bounty. Still we enjoyed a wonderful meal together with samosas, and dahl and palak pannir and aloo ghobi with roti bread and mango chutney all made fresh from scratch for the occasion (OK I lied about the mango chutney but the rest I swear is true!).

Yet the story really begins with a quick dash to the Indian grocer thanks to my new found work chum Rashpal. Upon hearing that Andrea and I intended to cook up an Indian feast for Christmas, Rashpal insisted that we obtain only fresh and authentic ingredients to prepare this repaste. She was also mildly offended at the thought that we would not be making our own breads up, so before I really had time to defend myself Rashpal had insisted that we drive over to her friend's grocery store in our lunch hour...this turned into quite the adventure...Rashpal had lived next door to the proprietor for some time and was on very friendly terms with him, which very quickly meant that I was also on very friendly terms with him given Rashpal's introduction. From this introduction and armed with a long shopping list in hand Rashpal proceeded to show me around all the various sections and departments around the shop - from the fresh spices to the Indian teas to the condiments to the obscure flour preparations and so forth.

Now the shop has for a long time supplied many of the local Indian restaurants and so almost everything available in the shop comes in bulk - one can quite easily purchase 25 kilos of cumin seeds for example. Being unsure as to whether I would use such a large number of cumin seeds in this life or indeed in any other of my various reincarnate lives I decided perhaps a scoop of each available spice and herb would be more appropriate. It was here that Rashpal's assistance really became invaluable!

Rashpal watched me like a hawk as I perused the various crates and tubs of dry spice, leaning over my shoulder and advising which particular batches were fit for consumption and which were "not really very good Cameron". And so we picked over different brands of tumeric looking for just the right aroma and orangy-yellow hue; poring over cardamom pods trying to find the strongest tangy fragrance. We next spent quite some time trying to find the best roti flour. Of course I thought flour was flour - this observation was met with the kind of withering contempt usually reserved around these parts for American tourists. Naturally, I decided from that point to shut up and listen and trust Rashpal's judgment in these matters.

It turned out to be quite the education as I was delivered lessons on the different attributes and qualities to search for in selecting lentils and legumes; how to prepare chickpeas before they are boiled and how to make the perfect leavened roti bread. I was just trying to soak up as much of this wisdom as possible - I had never seen many of these spices and ingredients before and here I was being told only the most lazy of Indian men refuse to make their own roti bread. Well one can scarcely allow such a slight to pass now can one! So challenge accepted I allowed Rashpal to stock high my basket with all manner of exotic new ingredients...lazy indeed, hardly a reputation one would wish to court.

Now lest you think that Rashpal and the store keeper were in cahoots goading this gullible and increasingly docile Australian into buying out half the shop and thus permitting the early close of the store for the day, I'll have you know that Rashpal drove quite the bargain once it came time to settle up our accounts. I mean everything was as cheap as chips anyway - half a kilo of cardomom pods for $1.20 for example hardly seems worth haggling over, but as I recall from our trip to India last summer, this part of the wheeling and dealing over the bill seems to be some kind of national sport Indians seem to revel in. So I let it all play itself out thinking that really a couple of dollars at this time of year seems mean to squabble over. But no, Rashpal hammered out a fair arrangement and so I left with bags and bags of wonderfully exotic and aromatic spices and condiments for what seemed like a criminally modest sum. So happy was I that Andrea and I arranged flowers for Rashpal the next day to thank her for the wonderful help. She seemed to think that we were a little crazy for not driving a harder bargain -seems we Australians have much to learn in these matters!

Yet the flowers were also to thank Rashpal for the sure-fire, never fail chai tea recipe that she left me with. After delivering another long disquisition on the various tea growing regions in the Himalayan foothills, Rashpal selected for me a fine black tea from the Assam region (apparently the best in India though I'm sure like everything else in India that this is the subject of centuries long fueding). So just add in all the ground spices to the steeping tea over moderate heat, plus a truly heart attack inducing quantity of brown sugar and hey presto you have chai tea. Very easy but ridiculously addictive (the cloves and ginger, cardomom and fennel make for a very satisfying and aromatic tea). Anyway I made some up on my last day of work before the break for all my workmates and was sponteneously made employee of the month! Though in the absence of any of the unit managers I think it was a largely hollow gesture - still I was promised a plaque of some description early in the new year and one really shouldn't quibble over these things.

All this before I even get to our Christmas feast but really all of this background is essential to telling the story see the very drawn out process of making all the various dishes was made immeasurably more enjoyable given all the experimentation with new spices and ingredients and the thrill of making up these curries from scratch using authentic ingredients and authentic Indian recipes. Starting on Christmas eve with the preparation of the samosas, which took nearly four hours though the red wine really didn't help, and then running through most of christmas day preparing the three curries and the roti bread, the whole experience was a triumph if I do say so myself. The right ingredients really do make all the difference with the curries each wonderfully spicey and bitey without being overwhelming. The samosas too are grand (fortunatley we have some left over for lunch today) and I have to say the satisfaction with making them up from scratch including the dough and all the ground-spices is really quite something. As you can gather I'm feeling pretty proud of the whole business particularly as I was able to give Andrea leave of the kitchen for the entirety of the day. With Andrea able to relax on the couch changing the CDs at intervals whilst offering her usual mix of sparkling conversation and witty repartee, Christmas day proceeded at a very happy pace.

With the ensuing success of the meal and Andrea's relaxed demeanour I am now pretty popular around these parts (I might even get husband of the month to go with the employee achievement gong if I'm lucky). Anyway the whole thing was just grand, as you can see from the photos below.

The tray of dry spices is my absolute favourite. This handy tin was on special at the Indian grocer and I just love it...I wheel it out every morning in preparing the Chai tea and it's just great. As you can also see from the photos Andrea has been enjoying the chai tea on the couch most mornings...very nice. Our christmas feast was a very happy affair, with the champagne flowing (a little too liberally perhaps but hey it's christmas!) and the good times rolling. We enjoyed the meal immensely though of course we very much missed absent family and friends - wasn't really the same without you guys and we certainly had enough food for all. That said it is nice now having leftovers to pick over - nothing like it for the lazy days post christmas.

I've also posted Andrea's fine home art installation - in homage to our distant homeland we now have a full kangaroo costume hanging in the hallway...who knows when the need for it will arise yet we are now ready for all contingencies. Besides it's a wonderfully off-beat thing to run into in the morning! Do you want a cup of chai this morning skippy - of course my good man, chai for all! In fact I might just have to go and refill my mug now!

With all of our bountiful enthusiasm and good will for the holidays!

Much love

Cameron amd Andrea.

This Makes So Much Sense Here...

DSC00398, originally uploaded by cameronduff.

every home should have a kangaroo suit at hand just in case...

Chai Tea!

DSC00401, originally uploaded by cameronduff.

My New Favourite Things

DSC00395, originally uploaded by cameronduff.

The start of a magnificent feast...

Happy Days, Happy Christmas

DSC00405, originally uploaded by cameronduff.

doesn't get much better than this friends - we hope your Christmas day feast was just as grand!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Test Team of the Year

I know another bloody cricket related post, but it's Peter Roebuck's test team of the year!1 I mean how like, you know, important and stuff.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Moon Setting English Bay

DSC00386, originally uploaded by cameronduff.

A nice reflection of the odd light in Vancouver this time of year...this is the moon setting over English Bay at around 830 in the morning.

OK Shaun, Hourly, Daily is the Best You Am I Album!

Hello Friends,

Merry Christmas dear absent antipodean chums! Happy days are here again; I've finally discovered a Canadian beer worth drinking (OK actually it's Belgian but it's available here at the same price as the local swill so that kinda counts right?!); You am I are playing in my loungeroom; Angie's cooking her justly famous tofu'n'greens happiness on a plate specialty and I now have just three more days work before the Christmas break...allow me to back up a couple of days to our Saturday night.

Andrea and I had the most wonderful weekend; almost unprecedentedly for this time of year, Vancouver had 5 days straight sunshine last week which led to an unexpected spike in general good cheer round these parts. Funny how the world over a couple of days of sunshine can turn even the most misanthropic of malcontents into peace-loving "hail fellow well met" funsters! Anyway, the only down side of all those clear skies was the plunge in over night temperatures to well below freezing. Still the sight of so many heavy frosts morning after morning was pretty damn special. Anyway I'm starting to lose my thread as Allister would say.

So late Saturday afternoon our grand Vancouver friends Elizabeth and Alison took us over to Commercial Drive for a very novel Christmas arts and crafts party. For Andrea, the drive is a lot like Northcote (for our Melbourne buddies) and a bit like Paddington for our Brisbane pals. The party was actually held over the whole apartment block. Each of the six or so apartments in the building is occupied by artists of varying enthusiasm and interest and each opens their doors once a year for this fantastic arts and crafts party. So a block party with all doors open across a sprawling and ramshackle art deco building with artists in each apartment laying out their wares for sale and/or barter. Very cool. One of Andrea's painting teachers lives in the building so we spent some time admiring her beautiful paintings (she currently has a wonderful series depicting local mountain ranges in varying degrees of abstraction). Andrea was very impressed and is naturally looking forward to taking classes with her next semester. I very nearly left with one of her mountains but that would have unduly infringed on the night's drinking money, hmm problematic given the wonderful homebrew being sold in one of the other apartments.

At intervals I would leave the painting competition taking place to pop next door to speak to the neighbour about her dogs. She was so happy to enter into said conversation that she would reward me with a mug of the pale ale for my troubles. Wonderful folk these Canadians, handsome too.

Smart too as it turns out with another neighbour, sensing an opening in the market, providing tasty baked snacks in another of the apartments. As you can imagine I was keen to support the local arts community and seeing it as my sworn duty, I proceeded to try most of the said treats on offer. Very good guv'nor! Wandering with homebrew and pastry in hand I set off to explore the other apartments.

Downstairs I discovered a suitably distracting sound and light installation in one of the bedrooms. At this point I decided perhaps I had made an error in turning down the woman wandering around the party in full 1920s cigarette chick attire with a tray of all manner of local home grown cigarettes if you catch my drift...some of that good stuff would certainly have enhanced the aural and visual impact of this young man's light installation. No matter I set forth again into other parts of the house to be confronted with more interesting objects and curios for sale.

Of course we also met any number of curious locals from artists, to film makers to set designers (seems everyone's in the film business up here in Holywood North) to the fabulous Mr Friggin' Science!! Saving the best to last, I must share some of Mr Science's schtick with you.

Deciding I suppose that he had no special artistic talents, though being the beneficiary of an unusually sound education in the natural sciences, Mr Science decided to take advantage of the milling throng of happily inebriated party goers whilst also creating an opportunity for a nice little earn. And so for the princely sum of $1 one could ask Mr Science any science related question in the anticipation of receiving at least one dollar's worth of answer.

Mr Science also was in possession of a rather snazy white lab coat so one was not about to begin questioning his credentials. After questions on precipitation and the water cycle someone piped up with a question on hailstones and what allows them to remain suspended in the atmosphere for so long. Mr Science dismissed this bagatelle with the airy arrogance of one who has mastered high school science to the amusement of all present. He did even better on the next question concerning the origin of earthquakes. As it turns out Mr Science was trained in Geological Sciences so he managed this one with aplomb. It also turned out that Mr Science had worked for a time in the mines in Kalgoolie and being a man of fine judgment had come to love Australians (who doesn't I ask you!), so much so that he entrusted the Mr Science enterprise to Andrea and I whilst he repaired upstairs to enquire into the health of one of his neighbour's dogs. One can scarcely blame the man, science after all is mighty thirsty work!

I'm afraid we did a little less well with the custody of Mr Science's brand, though we were offered two dollars after providing a passingly satisfactory account of Mr Science's "five dollar brain explosion question". This mystery was listed at the bottom of Mr Science's elaborate advertising hoarding, just below the invitation to ask Mr Science to prove God's existence; the invitation to have Mr Science disprove God's existence and the advertisement for Mr Science's 75 proof tequila. Andrea and I surmised that if one proceeded to ask Mr Science to both prove and then disprove God's existence and then availed oneself of a shot of his 75 proof fire-water then one was sure to suffer the aforementioned brain explosion in all the ensuring confusion. Anyway, this piece of manifest wisdom earned Andrea and I one dollar each which we held in trust until Mr Science's return. After all we felt that we were trading on his reputation in the market place...this candour elicited great guffaws of laughter from Mr Science that for a moment seemed to lift the whole party up another notch. Very fun. A man with a booming laugh is surely something to seems that everyone gets swept up in the general humour and merriment.

Alas, the myriad other adventures undertaken last Saturday will need to wait for another day...the DVD train is pulling out of the station next door and if I'm not on it then let's just say that the doghouse awaits. Either that or my lovely wife will simply start the movie without me. Do or do not as I'm often reminded.

Much love and fond wishes - merry Christmas.

2005 Favourites

Seems it is the season for the narcissistically crtical among us! As pre-Christmas drinks hot up with endless back and forth banter, man and beast alike are confronted with the indulgently self serving spectacle of end of year lists...but hell, everyone loves an awards show right kids!

For no other reason than dang it this is my blog and I'll cry if I want to, here are the albums that have worked their way to the top of the pile on my CD player this year.

Seems it's been a good year for maudlin, soft spoken bearded folkies...what does that say to you Cameron...hmmmm. OK, in no particular order

Sufjan Stevens. Illinoise

Get up from where you are sitting and go straight to the store and buy it; if you are among the recently converted, walk over to the stereo and put it on: if you are so prescient as to be already listening to this fine disc then pat yourself on the back mate, you're a champ!

Smog. A River Ain't Too Much to Love

One word: colts. Best drinking song of this or any other year. Gold.

Bonnie Prince Billy/Matt Sweeny. Superwolf

Every now and again someone comes up with a way to make guitars sound vital again. This is the album this year. Andrea must have heard "My Home Is the Sea" 100 times in the last month...even she stills loves it.

Boards of Canada. The Campfire Headphase.

Yes enough already all you jaded hipster chin-stokers. This is not as good as Music Has the Right to Children. Is anything!?

The New Pornographers. Twin Cinema.

Like everyone else who grew up in the 1970s listening to their Mums singing along to AM radio, I have a certain soft spot for sing-along verses, rousing choruses and handclaps. There's one track on this album that makes me happy no matter what kind of mood I'm in. You can't ask for any more than that.

Murcof. Remembranza.

Like the whole history of electronic music exploded into fragments and reassembled by order of unknown preferences...more unsettling illbient soundscapes for wet days and grey skies. Perfect for Vancouver really!

Wolf Parade. Apologies to the Queen Mary

Well half of it's good, the other guy needs a haircut and a good talking to.

Bright Eyes. I'm Wide Awake It's Morning.

I'm tempted to say that this is the best example of thoughtful, non-polemical political enagagment in popular music for many years...but then most of you think that I'm a wanker already.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.

This is the album Anj puts on the hi-fi when she wants to feel better. That's as good a reason as any to rate it so highly, but the fact that Anj dancing in the loungeroom makes me as happy is an even better reason. Clap your hands say yeah!

Antony and the Johnsons. I am a Bird Now

I don't love this as much as other people but it's still close to the most original music I've heard all year. And it's got Lou Reed and Boy George on the same album. Spooky eh?

Oh and to the poor wandering soul who ambled in here yesterday, it's spelt I-R-O-N-Y!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Nothing Makes Me Happier Than A Maiden 200

Ohh how I miss the cricket...nothing bespeaks summer more powerfully than two Australians batting all day in the sunshine. What a marvellous feat, 200! Summer's here friends! Time to load the fridge with cold beer, tune into the ABC coverge and mute the TV. Twist lid on beverage of choice and relax.

Or something...not quite so much fun in -5 rain and snow, but hell I'll turn my imagination to the task. Merry christmas!!

Andrea and I had a most enchanting weekend, including a fantastic arts and craft block party on the drive. Will post a long blog tonight about it all.

Hodge arrives at the double
By Chloe Saltau, Perth
December 20, 2005

Brad Hodge spent most of Sunday night "lying awake thinking of the possibilities", but they scarcely could have included the kind of magical double century with which the 30-year-old Victorian truly launched his Test career yesterday.

Hodge did not know whether to "cry or scream out" after he steered a ball behind point to become the first Victorian batsman to score 200 in a Test since his idol, Dean Jones, more than 15 years ago.

South Africa was 2-85 at stumps last night and remains 405 behind with eight wickets in hand.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Gimme Shelter!

DSC00359, originally uploaded by cameronduff.

The Couch I Intend Becoming More Acquainted With

DSC00384, originally uploaded by cameronduff.

Our New Loungeroom

DSC00385, originally uploaded by cameronduff.

And the sun's shining as well! Happy days

Look at our lovely new home!

After this afternoon's intemperate rant regarding the travails in our (un)fair harbour city let us move on through the blogosphere to more enchanting subjects...after many moons waiting (and waiting and waiting) our long lost Melbourne possessions have finally arrived here in Vancouver. Appararently the trip around the moon has done them all the world of good! Andrea and I have been up to our necks in boxes unpacking our books and clothes, marvelling at how we have survived for so long without this bounty. A yoga teacher once told me I should treasure opportunities to learn the evils of possessiveness, but I'll leave that to the wandering sages of the I like stuff. I especially like my stuff! So have posted a photo of our newly decorated lounge room - nice one. I've also included a natty pic of me inhabitating Andrea's latest tour de force...a temporary play shelter in Vanier park. We were each amazed that the installation lasted the night without being molested by local ne'er-do-wells. Perhaps there is greater appreciation for art amongst local yoof than we had realized. Anyway, we had a swell time marching out to install said work under leaden skies at 7 in the morning. My god was it cold, but I've already told you that story.

When's the bloody cricket going to start again? All this news from Sydney is in danger of leaving me distraught at the state of my fellow citizens...

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Dumb, Dumb, Dumb

Jesus what the hell is going on down there!? This Sydney stuff is making news all over the place over here; naturally commentators here are comparing the weekend's events with Paris burning. The whole sorry business looks ugly and more than a little frightening. I just finished reading David Marr's oped piece in the SMH criticizing Alan Jones and 2GB for whipping up an unseemly hysteria all last week on his talk back slot - apparently he had been openly exhorting listeners to descend on Cronulla beach 'to send a message'; well I got your message you dozy fucker and we all stand diminished this Monday morning! God this makes me so angry. Howard has his messy fingers all over this as many of you know Andrea has still yet to forgive Howard for the Tampa debacle (has anyone?) though she always insisted he might yet be held to account for his supremely pusilanimous politics. That might yet be the only good that comes from this madness. I know these kinds of cultural moments always have complex histories and mixed causes - still they always demand political solutions.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Youth 'too stoned and fat' for the ADF

Found this wonderful article on the Australian website - it seemed so Aussie that I just had to post it. See the wonderful thing about being here in Vancouver is the manifest confidence the local culture inspires in one. Canadians are such PC peace loving, consensus building, dialogue encouraging folks that it really doesn't matter if all fit young Canadians are like we Aussies too stoned and fat to fight a decent war anyway. Leave it to the diplomatic among local Canadians to get us out of these scrapes. Hell maybe all those stoners around here are right - twist one up, sit back and just 'increase the peace'! As they say around here, right on!

Youth 'too stoned, fat' for ADF

December 12, 2005

YOUNG Australians are becoming too drugged and too fat to join the military.
Overuse of recreational drugs - particularly marijuana - among 15-year-olds and junk food-related obesity are expected to worsen over the next decade, according to an Australian Defence Force (ADF) internal recruiting plan for the next five years, obtained by The Australian.

"The high incidence of non-medical drug use among young people (recent studies suggesting up to 50 per cent of 15-year-olds smoke marijuana at least once a month) severely limits the pool of recruitable candidates," the recruiting report said.

The childhood obesity problem is "expected to worsen over time as Australian society reflects the phenomenon found in developed nations". The rate is "one of the highest among developed nations", with 25 per cent of children assessed as overweight or obese, up from five per cent in 1965.

Increasingly unhealthy lifestyles - coupled with the ageing population and private sector competition - is making it hard for the ADF to attract enough physically and mentally fit recruits to defend the nation, the newspaper says.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

muppet snow

muppet snow, originally uploaded by hellhouse.

OK I stole this from Dellie's blog - it is after all her homage to Andrea and I and our recent winter wonders. We saw much snow on the drive out to Richmond Ikea this afternoon...the south side of town looks very beautiful at present. Still I didn't set a burt snow man...let's get to it right kids!!??