66 shades of grey

66 shades of grey
66 shades of grey ... this pic of me was shot by Kim, of Kim Thomsen's Photography at Daly Waters in the Northern Territory. Kim just wandered over and asked whether it was OK to get some character shots.


The cross is in front of the church in Karumba and it seems TV antennas have a greater reach for the sky.


I went fishing out of Nhulunbuy on the Gulf of Carpentaria. We anchored in a bay about 10 hours from Nhulunbuy and went ashore. This poor fella had been snared in the locals' overnight net and then had a run-in with the resident 14-foot saltwater croc - named Nike by the local indigenous fellas - and came off second best.

the rock

the rock

oodnadatta track

oodnadatta track
What a tough place to live ... this is out on the Oodnadatta Track


My photo
G’day, I’m Michael and I have two fantastic grown-up kids. I’m a jeans and singlet/T-shirt, cowboy boot, tattoos sort of fella, who knows a bit about this and sometimes a lot about that. I'll have a crack at most things, although having a relationship? ... well that ship has sailed. I'm past my use-by date anyway, so I'm gonna make it all about me and surviving life as I know it ... or make it.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


There is an annual contest at the University of Arkansas calling for the most appropriate definition of a contemporary term.

This year's was political correctness.
The winner wrote:

“Political correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a piece of shit by the clean end.”

I'll cop the fact that it's OK for people to bang on at their blog site about the trials and tribulations of trying to get a good result in a restaurant when the put their hard-earned on the table, just as I did the entry before this one.
Ditto for whatever else floats your faluka, just as long as it isn't presented as news presented by someone basking in the limelight of calling themselves a journalist. Sure, everyone has an opinion (some more than others), but that’s just what it is … an opinion. It’s neither right nor wrong.
News, in its purest sense, is the domain of a professional journalist (tips notwithstanding, which is where social media is a help), one who has trained (and I’m not just talking university degree or whatever) on the road and in a newsroom. Someone who has street smarts, not Sesame Street smarts, and who knows how and when to use them. One who gathers the who, what, when, where, why and how of the story and then checks and rechecks, interviews, checks again and then shapes it into a clean flowing story. One who phones sources, and one who doesn’t rely on the internet as gospel. Wikipedia is a great example. It’s a useful tool, but so is a spokeshave (yeah, look it up if you’re not sure). Wikipedia is not an authority. Sorry, it’s just not in the ballpark. For example:

Citizen journalism should not be confused with community journalism or civic journalism, which are practiced (sic … try practised) by professional journalists, or collaborative journalism, which is practiced (sic … try practised) by professional and non-professional journalists working together. Citizen journalism is a specific form of citizen media as well as user generated(sic … a professional journalist would have hyphenated this, given that it is adjectival) content.

Yep, good on you, Wikipedia, three basic mistakes, one par. An authority … not.
Crikey media commentator Margaret Simons recently wrote this:

The panels in both cities covered the same, tired old ground. The new “participatory media” and “citizen journalism” would never be Real Journalism, because Real Journalism is an Art/Craft/Profession. Real Journalism involves research and fact-checking and sub-editing. There’s a Code of Ethics. But “these people”, as bloggers get labelled, these people just sit around in their pyjamas and write whatever comes into their heads.
What’s tiring about this false dichotomy is that it compares the highest ideal of journalism with the lowest grade of personal blogging about what the cat did yesterday and — lo and behold! — they’re not the same. Gosh.
How much everyday journalism actually conforms to the high ideal? Not much. For every Walkley-nominated episode of Four Corners there’s a hundred tawdry yarns about miracle fat cures or shonky builders with a camera shoved in their face. For every investigative scoop there’s a thousand mundane little 5-paragraph yarns that merely quote what someone said at a press conference, and then quote their opponent. Or recycle a media release, putting the journo’s byline where the PR firm’s logo used to be. Or misappropriate statistics to beat up some shock-horror non-existent “crime wave”. Or either fawn or tut-tut over some “celebrity” and their antics — more often than not because that same celebrity is appearing in a TV show or movie that’s completely coincidentally owned by the journalist’s employer.
And you know, some “bloggers” actually know what they’re talking about, interview people, and link to their references to boot.
Dear Journalists, how can you spout all that stuff about “standards” and then go back to your mucky business?
Oh, that’s right. You’re a proper journalist. It’s all the others…
Actually, I know why you’re so bitter about “those bloggers”. You worked hard on that student newspaper or street rag while living in uni-student poverty, put up with the abuse of grumpy old chain-smoking subs who bawled you out over trivial spelling mistakes, put up with the unpredictable patronage of editors who promoted everyone else to A Grade but you — you endured all of that hoping that one day you’d get the plum posting. But no! The newsrooms are now being decimated, and the masthead’s adorned with photos of celebrity chefs. And bloggers — bloggers! People with no professional training are leaping into the limelight. Some of them are even being paid! How dare they!

Simons’ question “How much everyday journalism actually conforms to the high ideal?” deserves answers. Please, there are organisations other than the ABC to be nominated for Walkleys. And it seems to me that you are being dismissive of the many genuine news stories … I’m assuming this (yes, I know we should never assume) given that you made no mention of them. Little 5-paragraph yarns? You mean as opposed to large five-paragraph yarns? Sorry, that’s the sub in me. Margaret, your columns in Crikey are full of newspaper celebs; Mark Scott seems to be a perennial favourite. How long since you’ve interviewed someone on the newsroom floor, someone at the nuts-and-bolts stage of the process?
Yes, some bloggers do interview people and link to their references. So what? Do you ever read all the links to ensure that they’re on the money? Methinks not, but that’s what we should all do.
Why would a journalist be bitter about those bloggers? There is more to journalistic life than working on a student newspaper … read one and tell me where the writers on same are learning anything about balance in their reporting. And as for putting up with grumpy old chain-smoking subs who bawled you out over trivial spelling mistakes. Jesus wept. It believe it’s a form of mentoring. Help them out by pointing out their mistakes and perhaps they won’t make them again. Spelling mistakes in reporting are anything but your dismissive description is trivial. How dare you. One wrong letter in a word can cost plenty … think lawsuits, etc.
Allow me to indulge in a story about the Melbourne Herald. The deputy editor was sitting at his desk when one of the comps arrived, as he did daily, and placed that edition’s poster on a nail on the wall. “You OK with this?” asked the comp. A quick scan by the deputy and he said “Yep, thanks.”
A few minutes later the deputy glanced again at the poster and his blood ran cold. It read something like “I’m not guilty: Sincliar”.
The story goes that all the available staff chased the Herald delivery trucks throughout Melbourne to retrieve the offending poster, which they did successfully. Sinclair. Sincliar. Just a trivial mistake? I think not.
Oh, and unpredictable editors? That’s tautology.
Maybe there’s a reason why people don’t get the posting or promotion they thought they deserved. Perhaps they just weren’t up to it.
I’ve recently worked on two pieces written by people who are lecturing in journalism at the moment. Both pieces were badly written, full of stupid spelling mistakes, misused words, bad grammar … and these people are teaching others how to do it. Jesus is still reaching for the tissues.
I discussed this issue with an old journo mate recently and he came up with a great response.
"Accuracy is not pedantry; I have never been aware of Glenn McGrath bowling pedantically." Thanks Des.
Anyone who writes is not a journalist, otherwise it means that the shopping lists my mother used to write qualify her as a journalist. So too, a sign writer, a waitress who takes an order in a restaurant, a sky writer in a plane … take your pick.
I’ve heard recently a couple of high-profile ex-AFL players, both now radio and television commentators, referring to themselves as journalists. Sorry boys, an AFL media pass does not a journalist make, no matter how well you may or may not write. In the case of one of them, not particularly well
It’s all well and good to have a fantastic set of tools, aka mobile phones, laptops, iPads, whatever, but mostly the ubiquitous social media with these tools, good and all as they can be, has bred nothing but a generation of people who in the main, cannot spell (I blame shorthand on phones, Twitter, et al (et al: it means “and others”, in case you were wondering), who say things such as “yeah, no, it was good but”, who think that grammar is a parent’s parent, or people who are oblivious to other people’s presence and to the meaning of the word courtesy, and who walk aimlessly down the street reading that latest best place to buy a latte or who’s shagging who among their friends, bumping into or demanding a clear right of way.
Bloggers are called just that … bloggers. Can everyone please stop trying to elevate them beyond their station. They are not … and never will be … journalists.

Monday, April 18, 2011


Recharging batteries. It’s something most of us need to do, be it for the car, the phone, the remote control … or just for yourself.
Given that the batteries in the aforementioned devices are in fair nick, I figured it was time for me to recharge my own batteries. They’ve had a fair workout of late, so the human RACV equivalent in my case became Port Fairy in the middle of last week.
To ensure a decent recharge, I snaffled an almost new townhouse right on the ocean at Pea Soup Cove. Cracker of a house it was … called Rockpool.
A friend and I had locked in a four-night stay that would afford us time to sample some good food, wine and to take in some of the many geographical features that are within the area.
During our time there we managed to try several good/decent wines, not the least being some Italian sparkling wine … Ca'del Bosco Cuvee Prestige was the moniker … and at $55 a bottle it was worth every cent and then some. If I had my druthers, I’d take it before many higher-priced French versions. There was a loaf of bread in every sniff (the yeast was bountiful and beautiful), a bowl of fruit in every mouthful and a fine, fine bead … not sweet, not dry, just right. The only problem for us was that we had just one bottle (although there were a couple of lesser-light Frenchies in our fridge as back-ups … and they were OK).
Ca'del Bosco is 75 per cent chardonnay, 10 per cent pinot blanco and 15 per cent pinot niro. On the shelf in the bottleshop, it is housed in orange/yellow cellophane to protect it from ultraviolet rays. It works.
We also along the way sampled some NZ Robinson sauvignon blanc, Pepperjack Shiraz and what we deemed an excellent chardy – Secret Stone, again from NZ. There was also the odd glass of something indefinable with a steak dinner at the pub on the first night … even a pot of fabulous Kilkenny.
We managed to squeeze in some Thai food that was good without being great, a day of antipasto picking after a local shopping expedition, but in the food race, dinner on the Saturday night was so bad it was good in a funny way.
We weren’t in great nick to start with for dinner, given that we were still having a chardonnay and a smoke on the beach at 8.30 Saturday morning (yeah, it was a long night) and maybe it was the tiredness, maybe not, but the farcical dinner had us in stitches for the last part of the torture in the restaurant.
I won’t name the restaurant … the owner/chef would be unhappy in the extreme … and he’s a young battler who doesn’t deserve to have some mug punter such as me kick him about publicly.
Originally we tried to get into a restaurant that was named Victoria’s country restaurant of the year last year (look it up yourself if you want to know), but it was Saturday … no booking, no deal. A very helpful woman suggested another where she said the food was good.
We drove around and spied one that we’d talked about earlier in the trip and thought, damn it, let’s give it a try.
We got a cosy table, illuminated (just) by an oil burner (perhaps there was a reason for the dim lighting, but more of that later).
It was a good wait (OK, it wasn’t good, it was bloody slow) before we got a wine list. It took even longer to get a menu … bear in mind the joint wasn’t packed … but we opted for a couple of glasses of Mother of Pearl chardonnay, which, at 10 bucks a glass, was overpriced. Oh, and we ordered some still, bottled water given that the tap water in this neck of the woods is terrible … OK, it’s not even that good. Still, the wait gave us some time to try to figure out why the forks on the tables were set with the tines pointing down (yeah, they were upside down). Still don’t know why. Never seen it before, probably never will again … although when the oyster fork arrived later, it was placed on the table in the usual way. Go figure.
After weighing up the dinner options, there were to be freshly shucked oysters on one side of the table (no entrée on the other side) and they were to be served with pickled ginger and wasabi – a little bit of fusion sounded like a good idea. Mains, after dismissing everything else, again was beef – 30-day aged Black Angus (medium-rare please) on the other side of the table and for me some grass-fed sirloin (rare please, even still with a pulse is OK by me).
So far so good. Some free bread, dipping oil and balsamic was a pleasant surprise … although not to be the last surprise of the night.
Eventually we got our glasses of wine, a healthy pour into wine glasses that I’d deem too large for white, but no doubt they were to be used for red, or whatever we had ordered. Oh, and the still water (jeez, these still water mentions run very deep with me).
The food being delivered to other tables looked OK and they were no apparent signs of despair.
Then, the oysters came. Now you’d reckon that a chef worth his or her salt would have perhaps finely diced the pickled ginger and mixed it with the wasabi and laid a dollop on top of each oyster. You’d reckon.
No, these each had a largish (compared to the size of the shell) slab of ginger under the oyster on top of which sat the green wasabi. Green is important here. The wasabi wasn’t the only thing on the verge of verdant.
The first oyster my friend attempted was difficult inasmuch as she could get the ginger and the wasabi-clad oyster onto the fork. She picked up the shell to get a better shot at a clean lift only to be greeted with something that smelled the way I’d imagine a shit carter’s hat would smell at the end of the week. The oyster’s soul had gone to God, but the remains … Jesus. It was none-to-freshly fucked, not shucked.
Once my friend had recoiled from the offending shell (or should that be smell?), she suggested that I smell it and handed it to me. I made the mistake of taking it at an angle that imparted some of the offending liquid from the shell onto my hand. Oh, it was off and so too were the surrounds of my hand. A subsequent smell of the other oysters realised that another was on the verge of meeting its maker and it was hard to tell with the rest. I could actually smell the really offensive one from my side of the table.
The waitress was surprised to hear` the news, but after my friend’s suggestion that she too smell it, it was a done deal. The plate was kitchen bound with a message … this is awful.
“I’ll get you some others,” the waitress suggested. “No thanks.”
I headed to the bathroom to wash the stink from my hands. Damn. No soap, although I did dismantle the soap dispenser and get just enough to do the job. The waitress seemed surprised that there was no soap in the bathroom. Jesus, it just gets worse, eh?
Within five or so minutes, the waitress appeared again at our table with the wine bottle and hastily (after rudely reaching in front of us) gave each glass a slurping top-up.
“That’s on the house,” she declared proudly, without for one minute thinking of whether we actually wanted more chardy or perhaps a change or even wanted more wine at all (yeah, right, like that’s ever happened).
But Jesus, it was big-hearted gesture, not … more like a half-arsed one.
So we sat there in the (almost) dark, although not in the dark as to the quality of the oysters and we wondered out aloud (but not too loud, mind) about the chef’s temerity in sending them out in the first place. Did he have a blocked nose or for that matter a sense of smell? Certainly, he didn’t posses any sense in his action. What would the rest of the meal be like? Carrion from the Great Ocean Road perhaps. Nah, that’s carrion things just a bit too far, isn’t it?
The steaks eventually (another too long a wait) arrived and despite one being a sirloin and the other a scotch fillet, they looked remarkably similar. Mine was meant to be served with fresh green beans, broccolini, potatoes and a red wine reduction … although on closer inspection (did I mention it was dark?) I found some asparagus too. Lucky I wasn’t allergic to it, although it could be seen (or not) as a bonus of sorts.
My friend’s was meant to be served with potatoes and other assorted veggies and a reduction, but hers was mostly green beans.
Each piece of beef was cooked rare, medium, well done, depending on which part we could managed to machete our way through.
Now, we know that fat is flavour but there’s just so much flavour you can cope with … but both steaks had never been near a trimming knife. And the gristle on and within each. You could actually hang them at Christmas time … oh wait, that’s mistletoe, not gristletoe, eh? About halfway through what for each of us was becoming a losing battle with the fat and the gristle, it seemed that we each had the other’s dish. Did I mention that it was dark? And no, we’d had just the one glass of wine so our senses were functioning, the memory of the smell of the oyster notwithstanding.
We soldiered on but without a chainsaw (or the aforementioned machete) and perhaps a cast-iron stomach, it all got just a bit too much.
On each plate there was more matter left than we had each managed to consume, but the battle was over. Gristle 2, us 0. The gristle had won handsomely.
We sat there peering through the darkness (I did mention that it was dark, didn’t I?) at our plates and suddenly laughter was the order of the day. Not just any laughter, but deep, deep laughter that was hard to curtail. And stare we did for quite some time before the waitress (who had lobbed earlier with another bottle of water that I’m not sure we ordered) finally deigned to take away our still-laden plates. Oh, the last of the bread sat there for a long time after, no doubt soaking up the darkness.
I’m pretty sure that we were laughing (it was dark … and no, not the bread) so much that it helped make the disaster into a fun thing.
For 38 bucks a steak, it wasn’t to much to expect better. A lot better.
The waitress finally rediscovered directions to our table to check whether we fancied dessert.
“Err, just a bill, thanks,” was the only response permitted. I was keen to have a crack, but common sense from across the table prevailed.
When the bill arrived … it was the quickest delivery of the night … there was no charge for the oysters, but there was a charge for the still water. $14 a litre (two 500ml bottles). Did I mention I was dark?
Jesus, I’d paid $1.49 a litre for petrol before the trip.
And now $14 a litre for water. Still it may have been, but it was still worth laughing about in the end. It was just another joke on a night that delivered plenty.
Oh, and it wasn’t that dark outside.
And after a few days of recharging, what the hell difference did one unexpected charge mean in the overall scheme. After all, we got a laugh out of it.

Monday, April 4, 2011


There has been a fair amount of single survival (with the emphasis on survival) going on since the last posting … including revisiting the pub up the road for a steak that I have labelled the best pub steak I’ve ever had.
No such luck this last time. The eye fillet was not on the menu (it’s not the be-all and end-all of flavour, that’s the realm of porterhouse) … that’s not to say that there was anything wrong with the aged beef on the night … it was well on the good side of OK, it just didn’t live up to the wrap that I’d given to the friend with whom I had dinner. The sides, including the house-made chips got a huge thumbs up.
It was grand prix time in the area and the joint was busy early on, but soon became a quiet suburban pub, something missing from most similar establishments and something that stands The Montague apart. If you get a chance, try it. It’s friendly, has good tucker, a good wine list, the staff is great and it is, well, good. It’s on the corner of Park and Montague streets in Albert Park.
One area of this blog that I have to get cranked up is the recipe section. I have collected so many over the years and they should be shared. Just getting the time and the inclination to do it is something to be worked on. Promise I’ll have a crack.
I seem to be working lots … I’m having all sorts of trouble starting work at 8.30am each day (instead of 9.30), not least because I get out of bed before seven. I normally only recognise one 8.30 a day and it’s not the first one. But such is life at Crikey.
And there is still a getaway on the agenda … just a few days before the Easter break … to hopefully get out of town to recharge the batteries … God knows, they need it. Dunno where yet, but something will give along the way.
I was having a glass (OK, a bottle or so) at Lina’s, my local wine bar a week or so ago, and I mentioned to Ben, the manager, that he should listen to my friend, Andrew (McUtchen), strut his stuff. Andrew is a singer par excellence, who literally made the last dinner party at my house one of the great nights of all time. The man is a TALENT.
I finally took a CD there to give Ben a listen. A few days later, he sent me a message that was nothing short of a rave.
There’s good reason for Ben’s attitude. Young Andrew is very, very good. He writes songs, plays all the instruments, sings … sheesh … the first time I heard him sing was when her lived in the house behind mine and he was sitting on a kitchen chair on the footpath, can of bourbon and Coke at his feet, playing guitar and singing … sweetly. He’s a class act. Reckon his website is http://www.andrewmcutchen.com/about-us/ … visit please.
For what it’s worth, Andrew is playing Lina’s (search the web, it’s in Albert Park) on May 1. Be there because it will be worth listening to.
I managed to spend some time with the same Andrew this past weekend (OK, it was Friday) who was nominated for an award at the Quills … the Melbourne Press Club’s night of nights.
Reckon the night may be my swansong, in terms of awards nights … enough is enough, although it was a great night, in terms of catching up with some friends from many and varied pasts.
Great to see Jill Baker, formerly of The Age, win the journalist of the year (read gold Quill) for her amazingly personal piece on how cancer turned her life upside down.
I remember drinking with Jill in a bar at her farewell … she was leaving The Age … and I cried because she was going. There aren’t too many bosses who have that affect.
Lots of good people on the night.
A 3.30am homecoming wasn’t the ideal preparation for a day of proof reading for a job that had to be finished at the weekend, but there you go. What does any self-respecting person do when they arrive home at that time … they pour a glass of red. Good thing too.
I managed to get through the proofing on Saturday and even fitted in a trip to the market to buy flowers and food ... not necessarily in that order.
A bottle of chianti saw me out on the Saturday night, again, not the ideal preparation for working in the AM of Sunday.
But it worked OK.
On Sunday morning I actually hooked up with my friend Jane (she’s a very good wine writer), who manifested on Twitter.
Check these two tweets.
First it was: Fantastic day spent at Villa Mathilde in Campania ¬-- tasting/drinking fiano, greco di Tufo, falanghina & aglianico not all at once
Then she followed up with: Dinner Da Dora in Naples drinking Mastroberardino greco di tufo '10 - very snappy, delicious drink. all good on this greco tour of Campania.
I fired off a tweet to her, suggesting that life was pretty kind. Like she said, “someone has to do it.” Sure.
It has been a while since we’ve shared a glass of the fruit of the vine and in a couple of weeks when she gets back to the fair land of Oz, we have a date.
Dinner with Jane is always good and I’m looking forward to it.