The Horror of Hostels

There’s a particularly gruesome horror movie out there called Hostel. Some of you may have seen it already. Like most movies featuring gratutious torture, I refuse to watch it (severed achilles heels—sounds like a lark!). But from what IMDB tells me, it’s about a small group of backpackers travelling throughout a Slovakian city “with no idea of the hell that awaits them”. Needless to say, the film deeply upset the Slovekian tourism department.

Besides the senseless violence—severed fingers, brutalised corpses—my main gripe with the film’s premise is this: Aren’t backpackers’ hostels horrifying enough already? Do we really need to imagine guests being cut up and left to bleed, when most of us find giant bloodstains on our sheets upon arrival anyway? Do we need to see someone disembowelled in a hostel, when Balinese food poisoning does the same thing? Is there not enough horror already in backpackers hostels without making it worse? Continue reading

How to Start a Book Club

Keep It Tight

No less than five members, no more than 10. Too few people and you may as well be lighting candles, laying out yoga mats and passing around hand mirrors. Too many, and it ceases being a bookclub and officially becomes a party. Unless, of course, that is exactly what you planned all along, you diabolical scamp.

Talk To Your Local Bookshop

Bookshops run their own clubs, but they’re also invaluable if you’re starting your own. Smaller independent bookshops will often have staff members who specialise in clubs. It’s worth making an appointment with them to see what they can offer you. Depending on the bookshop, some can even host your book club in their café, or hold mini presentations of new releases that might suit you for next month’s title. Some shops can organise discounts if your members buy a minimum number of books too. Just ask. Continue reading

I Shouldn’t Have Done That

Even now, my father tells me there is no point in regretting things. “If you’ve done something bad,” he says, “what can you do about it now? You can’t undo it, so learn from whatever you did and move on. There’s no use dwelling, is there?” It’s good advice, but Dad never made it clear how far this philosophy should extend, like whether it should include things like murder, bestiality or joining the Young Liberals.

Either way, it didn’t work: I’ve grown up to become an expert dweller and professional regretter. Most of my regrets are about offending people. I don’t mind grossing people out (everyone is so uptight nowadays, you’d think they’d never seen their own anus), but making people legitimately upset or causing emotional distress when they don’t deserve it? Well that’s an entirely different thing altogether. Continue reading

Queensland Raw: Nude Beaches

Conducting interviews in the nude can be difficult. For starters, you need a pen, notepad and dictaphone, but when you’re naked, you don’t have pockets for any of these things. It’s also hard presenting yourself as a hard-hitting professional when your interviewee has just seen your butt and can now see everything else. And on a day like today—white hot sunshine; barely any clouds—it can be hard to concentrate. Soon enough, you are overwhelmed with a paranoia that you haven’t applied enough sunscreen to parts of your body that don’t usually see natural daylight, and are therefore—you now realise—susceptible to burning. Continue reading

Typewriters & the Men Who Love Them

Reports of the typewriter’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Newspapers all over the world might run headlines of their extinction (“Last Typewriter Factory Left in the World Closes Its Doors!”), but hey: newspaper editors love stories about extinction, as long as they’re not about newspapers. Even now, small office supply companies quietly manufacture typewriters, and boutique businesses now devote themselves to restoring the old beasts like prized antiques. As recently as 2009, the New York City Police Department spent close to $1 million on typewriters (though this is more evidence of gross inefficiency, probably), and “type-ins”—special evenings where people gather to tap out hand-typed letters—are becoming big amongst hipsters.

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The Refugees Are Coming!

Edited version originally published in frankie #43 (Sept/Oct 2011)

Lock your doors, my fellow Australians! Shut your blinds, crawl into your bomb shelters and sandbag your daughters. For there is a collective menace lurking our island shores, and they come to ravage our country, take our jobs and plague our communities with crime, disease, headscarves and delicious ethnic food. Their transport of choice? Loathsome ocean-faring vessels of sophisticated design—‘boats’, they’re called—and when our federal politicians’ highest priority is to stop them no matter what, you know we have a problem. God help us all. Continue reading

When I Was 20-Something: Jenny Kee (interview)

We were part of a gang who all knew there was a world out there. Only a tiny pocket of it was in Sydney. Sydney had been pretty boring. I’d been at East Sydney Tech doing dress design, and it was a very old-fashioned type of design school where they wanted you to make little shirts, and it wasn’t at all inspired. It’s an inspirational place now, but it really wasn’t in the early 60s.

Me and my girlfriends knew what we wanted was in London. It was a need to express ourselves and we just wanted action. Heading to London was just the thing. You didn’t fly then, so you had to get a boat—six weeks to London—and sailed on the high seas. There was no stopping us. Continue reading

Gourmet Gore: Our Animal Instincts for Eating Meat

Here is how you cook a pig’s uterus. First, visit your local abattoir’s Vietnamese section, where they will happily take requests for ‘special offal’ – which includes intestines, gall bladders, warm blood and reproductive organs. Sows’ uteri come blanched, with a similar colour and texture to tripe: creamy and soft but with a cartilagey bite. Braise them in pork stock, along with smoked ham bones, onions, garlic and wine. Simmer on low heat for two-and-a-half hours, add peas and butter, and serve with jus. The uteri should now have the texture of squid, with a slight crunch.

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When I Was 20-Something: Jimmy Little (interview)

I moved to Sydney when I was 16. It was like I was being pulled by a magnet to explore a future I had in my mind at school: to venture into the city, as a country boy, in the search for a music career.

I liked the whole variety of Sydney: the trams; the double-decker buses; people from all walks of life. There were about eight cinemas in the city. I’m a movie buff, so I had all these movies to go see. And I’m a big milkshake drinker, and there were milkshake bars everywhere. And hamburgers! So all of this was tripled and doubled and you-name-it, especially when you come from a town where you had one or two cinemas, and one or two milkbars. Continue reading

A Letter to My Future Child

Dear Future Daughter/Son/Non-Specific-Gender-Identifying Trans Child,

Take a seat. Daddy has some things he’d like to get off his chest. And no, it’s not just the piles of festering plates and clothes that have piled around him over the years, because boy, parenting sure does lower your standards over time. No, the things Daddy would like to get off his chest are more philosophical and emotional than that. I would like us to have a heart-to-heart—even though, over the years, you have slowly broken mine.

Oh shut up; you so have! And before you continue on with your terrible whining (a noise that has always made me gag), go out and ask any mother or father out there and I guarantee they’ll say the same thing: All children break their parents’ hearts. It’s just what children do. In fact, it’s what Daddy’s own mother continues to remind him still, to this very day, every time they speak on the phone. (Will she never die?) Continue reading