Saturday, 25 September 2021

Movie review: Hal and Minter, dir Ram Devineni (2021)

A relaxed sort of “New York state of mind” pervades this short film, which is available on YouTube and which includes a series of segments showing Hal Sirowitz, a poet who has Parkinson’s Disease, and his wife Minter Krotzer, who cares for him. Sometimes the pair read from their work and sometimes friends of theirs are included in scenes of dialogue. 

I loved how this movie talks about the importance of making art and how it can give meaning to lives that might otherwise lack coherence. Sirowitz and Krotzer see and understand the world though the things that they make, which allows them to meet challenges with a subtle grace and with a fortitude that is inspirational. 

Making art does help you to avoid such negative emotions as regret, envy, and spite, it lifts you up because, by holding a mirror up to your life, one that you control, you are able to see what it is that’s really important. This knowledge anchors you and helps you to weather the inevitable reverses that many are prey to giving in to lacking something to sustain them in their trials.

Friday, 24 September 2021

TV review: Cocaine Cowboys, Netflix (2021)

Last year I watched ‘Narcos’ and reviewed it, not overly positively, but ‘Cocaine Cowboys’ is much more entertaining as well as true. The earlier show relied too much on stale use of a few settings – you see Gallardo sitting around a room talking to someone or answering a phone call, or a group of his buddies in a luxurious mansion somewhere in Mexico City – while the documentary relies mostly on TV news bulletins chronicling the exploits of importers Willie Falcon and Sal Magluta. 

Running to five episodes, the average viewer will not be able to predict how the story develops. There are plenty of twists and turns in it to keep you on the edge of your seat as the monied excesses of the pair – who for a time are involved in high-performance speedboat racing – develop into a tale of corruption and cliquey loyalty among the exiled Cuban population of South Florida. It’s almost as though the ethos of South America had been imported into the United States, upturning centuries of practice and delivering dozens of dead bodies for stateside authorities to deal with.

Magluta and Falcon are not interviewed for the show but many of their associates appear on-camera to give their side of the story, each segment of monologue intercut with police surveillance footage or with a TV news broadcast, building, layer upon layer, a complex edifice describing how hundreds of kilos of the drug were imported from Colombia in aeroplanes and boats and distributed to all parts of continental USA. I love a good documentary (as readers of this blog will recognise) and this one ticks all the right boxes.

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Take two: The Diaries of Miles Franklin, ed Paul Brunton

For a full review, see my Patreon

This book came from mum and dad as one or the other of them bought it at Dymocks for $39.95. I presume it was the branch in Brisbane. The book contains, pressed in the front before the first page, a clipping from the 30 July 2005 edition of the Sydney Morning Herald. The article is a “Take two” feature about Barbara Blackman and Rebecca Gambirra Illume, who were friends when the author (the painter’s wife) was still alive. It was significant that I took this book off a shelf where it had been sitting since my move from Queensland because Barbara’s youngest son Barnaby, who was a pal of mine when I was at school, had just died. I learned about this event on Facebook. 

Either mum or dad had evidently cut the article from the newspaper and placed it there to keep. I’m not sure why it was done like this but it might’ve been that they just wanted both to keep the article for future reference and to have a bookmark to use in the present.

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Movie review: Schumacher, dir Hanns-Bruno Kammertöns, Vanessa Nöcker, and Michael Wech (2021)

This is a slower production than ‘Drive to Survive’ (which I reviewed recently) and its more poetic tendency goes right through to the end. Less dedicated to the speed of racing, it misses making some key points about Schumacher’s life (which I’ll get to later). 

The TV production has shorter segments and relies more on music to generate atmosphere but like the makers of that show Kammertons, Mocker and Wech also rely on friends and family to develop the plot leading up to 2000, the year Schumacher won the world title for Ferrari. While there are similarities between the two productions I felt that the TV show is more about the industry because it doesn’t take sides. 

‘Schumacher’ is firmly on the side of the protagonist, a shy and reclusive man who was dedicated to his wife, a woman who accompanied him around the world to complete races held in different countries. 

His modest background makes him stand apart from many Formula 1 drivers, though like his competitors he knew early on what he wanted to do with his life. Starting out with the Benneton team Schumacher quickly made his mark until he transferred to Ferrari which, at the time, was weak. Helping the team to rebuild its standing in the rankings, he continued to win even after he won the top prize. He left the team in 2006 but was restless and hungry for speed – sometimes parachuting in Dubai with his wife in tow. They remained inseparable – and this continues down to the present.

It’s his need for speed that brought Schumacher back to Formula 1, when he joined the Mercedes team. He met his match in France skiing – still searching for that elusive experience governed by speed – and has since been recovering. The filmmakers do not show Schumacher as he looks now, so viewers and fans have no opportunity to really reflect on mortality. This might’ve been an additional gift (to people with disabilities) he and his family could make but they declined. Corinne, his wife, saying that just as Michael protected them when he was capable, now that he’s not they are protecting him.

Ayrton Senna crashed and died when Schumacher was an up-and-coming driver. Unable to take a turn at speed Senna crashed into the barriers and didn’t make it out of the car alive – or if he was alive when the emergency crew extracted his body from the wreck, he soon succumbed to his injuries. It’s hardly surprising to learn that a similar – if less dramatic – fate awaited Schumacher, a man who in truth lived life in the fast lane.

Monday, 20 September 2021

TV review: Myth and Mogul: John DeLorean, Netflix (2021)

This show is very short but it’s nicely made with lovely retro establishing shots that use large-format numbers to indicated the year to which the narrative is about to turn. The numbers are set up on the screen and the years change with support from the soundtrack, scrolling until the correct year is selected. The numbers in these cases are red and in a large, bulky font that reminds you of the shape of the car, which came out in a production model in the early 1980s. 

The car had a stainless steel body and gullwing doors – they opened upward instead of outward – which, in the first batch delivered to the US for a waiting market, failed to open in some cases. This was potentially catastrophic for DeLorean but even more damaging was the change of government in the UK in favour of Margaret Thatcher. DeLorean had secured financial support from the previous (Labour) government to set up his factory in Northern Ireland and to fund initial production but Thatcher pulled the plug on supply. DeLorean subsequently got involved in an FBI sting but a couple of years later won a court case in California, saved from incarceration by a jury who felt the FBI had enticed him into the “crime”.

DeLorean’s life was epic. His wife finally left him when confronted by certain aspects of his personality that she didn’t like. From living the lifestyle of the rich and famous, DeLorean ended up selling watches online and living in an apartment in New Jersey. His legacy is cemented by a film and he was, while working for GM in the 1960s, intimately involved with the movie business. 

He had cosmetic surgery done to strengthen his jaw so that he could better fit in with the jet set, and his wife was a model. DeLorean’s poor upbringing – at least in an economic sense – probably helped to forge his narcissistic personality and his tendency to sociopathy didn’t endear him to some he had dealings with. The series might’ve been longer (it only runs to three episodes) in order to flesh out some details, including his embezzlement of funds from his motor company and in order to better explain a failed business venture involving a cooling system for cars. Overall I was happy with this show and the soundtrack is suitably vintage.

Friday, 17 September 2021

Take two: Where Shall Wisdom Be Found?, Harold Bloom

For a full review, see my Patreon

I bought this on sale for $14.95 at the Co-Op Bookshop in or just after April 2007. The book has since gone with me (unread) to southeast Queensland, and back to Sydney, accompanying me mutely in my travels around the east coast of the continent. The sketch in the background is by me and shows Henry Miller, with whose novels I was frequently enamoured as a youth.

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Take two: Night and Day, Virginia Woolf

For a full review, see my Patreon

This is a 1978 Panther paperback and it was sold at some time in South Australia but I probably bought it 30 years ago second-hand. In pencil on the first page of the book is written “50c” and “Lit”, in order to both price and classify the item. The etching behind my head in the above photo is by an old family friend who died in the 1980s. It shows a mermaid on a beach and a prince walking nearby.

Monday, 13 September 2021

TV review: Clickbait, Netflix (2021)

Punctilious and austere, Detective Roshan Amiri (Phoenix Raei) is one of the standouts in this police procedural that has a very contemporary edge because driven by an idea centred around social media. The search engine the characters use (“SearchNow”) might be fictional but the ways that people lower the tone online in the show is true-to-life. In fact all of the leads do a good job of rendering this little world in living colour, including Zoe Kazan as Pia, the sister of the dead man, Nick Brewer. Nick’s wife Sophie (Betty Gabriel) compels, bringing a soft but steely charm to muscle out Pia’s nervous abruptness. 

The writing is also good, with clean and effortless sophistication bringing the viewer up to date while, almost at the same time, pushing the plot along relentlessly. As soon as you think you’ve got a handle on things, something else comes along to disabuse you and to inject a dash of madness into the mix. Episodes are subtitled – for example episode 1 is “The Sister” and episode 5 is “The Reporter” – and as each one opens you’re given a different character on whom to focus more completely. 

The casting is more than competent, and Abraham Lim as Ben Park crackles with suppressed energy, the reporter going the extra few yards to get his story, elbowing aside obstacles in his eagerness for the promotion, for the headline, for the exclusive. I was mesmerised Park, who is gay, and by his ambition to succeed at all costs, a tendency in journalists that is all too common. His boyfriend’s (Jake Speer) reticence in this regard created a distinct contrast to highlight his forward motion into a chaos that the public sphere must seem to form for victims of conspicuous crimes, such as the Brewers in their comfortable suburban Oakland house. 

Though much of the filming was done in Melbourne, the capital of the Australian state of Victoria, Sacramento gets a show-in in this series, adding novelty that other aerial views rarely match because used too often; how many helicopter pans over Manhattan can one Netflix subscriber tolerate? The writers have gone to town also with the variety of people Nick got involved in in his truncated life, with associated characters including a health insurance manager (Jessica Collins) and a content moderator (Daniel Henshall). But it’s more than just a concise snapshot of the United States of America in all of its West Coast glory, it’s a compulsive thriller.

Sunday, 12 September 2021

TV review: Drive to Survive, season 1, Netflix (2019)

A nice, distracting show about a complex and controversial sport, ‘Drive to Survive’ is an excellent artistic production mixing vicarious pleasure with an intense melange of visuals and sound. Beginning with some plotting around the career of Australian Daniel Ricciardo, the show delivers plenty of watchable drama. 

I never watch Formula 1 racing though when I was younger and interested in all sport I paid attention to some highlights and I vividly remember a friend of mine at secondary school (now a lawyer) who’d rattle off the names of F1 drivers with apparent gusto, forming their syllables as though repeating an incantation that could open a view to understanding the secrets of the world. I never really in my heart saw its value (though we’d stand waiting for the bus to come announcing the marques as cars passed us on the main road), but ‘Drive to Survive’ allows you to understand that the sport is full of characters and that the names of teams that have once been linked with greatness can still lure spectators. 

The backward glance, the taking in of old newsreels, the fast cars, the superyachts, the beautiful women all generate this sense of unreality, as though the problems of the world – many of which German author W.G. Sebold in his masterful ‘The Rings of Saturn’ slates down to the matter of combustion – were too boring to be of interest. 

Motorsport is an undertaking where extreme expressions tend to be used, making it particularly suited to the medium of video. This show proves that sport certainly can be made into a temptation for spare time even for someone like me. Like sailing, it is rooted in hardware and high-tech so it attracts a certain type of person for whom such concerns as literature, fine art, and the inexpressible delight of the ephemeral can only seem to lack a certain requisite form. 

The show also allows you to see how talent and money can come into conflict. The tension that the two things create can be rich with meaning, for example when the Force India driver Esteban Ocon was forced out of the team after a rich businessman whose son drives cars bought it. “In Formula 1 you do feel lonely sometimes,” said Romain Grosjean after crashing in qualifying during in the 2018 French Grand Prix. But while the competition that can arise between two drivers on the same team is compelling this cannot account for all of the show’s appeal. 

I think that the key lies in something Ocon said about driving in the rain when he was a child; his hands were freezing but “while I’m driving I wasn’t feeling anything”. Participating in this sport – even as a spectator – has this anaesthetic function, in that the stakes are so high – a driver can die at any point in any race and the rewards of success, like the penalty for failure, are extreme – that every moment seems precious. Danger focuses the mind. “It’s all these emotions and then you jump into the car and all that just goes away,” said Marcus Ericsson about the Singapore GP. “You are a bit like in a tunnel,” said Charles Leclerc about the same race. “It’s extremely intense.” 

Motorsport, though destructive, also reminds us of the sanctity of life. It’s also an international enterprise, with races held in different spots around the globe at different times of the year. A third benefit of course comes from technological advancements made as a result of finding ways to make cars go faster on the track. Though BMW, Honda and Toyota withdrew from team racing in 2008, production car makers make engines for some teams so innovations settled as a result of competition logically find their way down the chain of production to consumer products. 

Saturday, 11 September 2021

TV review: Turning Point: 9/11 and the War on Terror, Netflix (2021)

For someone, like me, who distinctly remembers the events of September 2001 and the years that followed immediately afterward and who was, at the time, as involved in monitoring the public sphere as anyone who watches the news at night and who, to get more information, reads the broadsheets regularly, this series, which runs to five episodes, will make compulsive viewing. I recall vividly the moments after I learned about the attacks when, cigarette in hand, I was standing out in the lush garden of my uncle in Beecroft, a leafy suburb of Sydney. I’d just come back on a plane from Japan where my life had been interrupted by illness, and had travelled back on a Qantas flight occupying three linked seats as a courtesy and in consideration of my vulnerable state. I don’t know how to think about the airline’s conduct in this matter but I remember that I was glad to be back in my home town. The events of the day in question resembling my life in that the scale of the disaster was shocking and unforgettable.

Al-Qaeda did more than supply the world with visually stimulating imagery, however and, as the events of recent weeks show, many countries lost additional treasure and additional lives in the conquest of an unconquerable country, a place where tribal allegiance is far more powerful than attachment to any putative national government. The speed with which the Taliban took Kabul testimony to the strength of the appeal of Islam in the lives of Afghans.

Regardless your own personal views on nation building, this Netflix show delivers much of what I expected though I would’ve liked to hear more from the people of America. And more from the people of Afghanistan and Iraq. A long segment of vox pops could have added variety to the mix, though you are given time to hear from a range of different participants, including the families of first responders, Defense Dept employees, government lawyers, and soldiers in the Afghan Army. 

The makers of this series did some of the work that one might’ve wished had been done closer to the events: describing a state of affairs where the CIA failed signally to pass important information about the plotters to the FBI. Refreshingly (irony alert) the CIA operative who appears on-camera posits that even if they had the outcome might’ve been the same. I doubt it, and the failure at the level of law enforcement was compounded by embarrassed elected representatives who, after the conclusion of the immediate period of political fallout, gave into their worst instincts and, almost to a person, supported the call for retaliation. We know now how futile that was, and hopefully America will have learned another bitter lesson.

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Tweeting better stories, episode nine: August 2021

Wanting to find a lighter-hearted way I offer readers this ninth post in a series.

On 18 August at 8.14am I saw this:


To start with, here’re some topical tweets (I know I promised to omit topical content) which are a little funny. Funny in a gentle way. This appeared on 20 August at 2.43pm:


And this one appeared on 25 August at 5.17am:



Sun

On 1 August at 11.02am I saw this in my feed:


On 2 August at 5.43am I saw this (and responded to it):


Here’s the poem complete:


On 8 August at 4.36am I saw this:


Translation:
Above
The sky
I take
Flight
Above
The blue
I join you again

On 16 August at 5.12am I saw this:


On 31 August at 10.01am I saw this tweet and image:




Plants and animals

On 3 August at 3.53am I saw this tweet in my feed:


On 5 August at 9.59am I saw this:


On 14 August at 4.39am I saw this in my feed:


On 26 August at 9.59am I saw these twinned tweets:


On 29 August at 7.15am I saw this in my feed:


Mind

On 2 August at 7.22am I saw this tweet:


On 9 August at 5.54am I saw this in my feed:


On 10 August at 3.51am I saw this:


On 15 August at 3.36am I saw this tweet:


Hope and home

On 4 August at 12.08pm I saw this in my feed:


On 7 August at 5.27am I saw this tweet:


On 11 August at 4.16am I saw this:



On 20 August at 6.13am I saw this:


On 28 August at 7.16am I saw this:


Horror

On 6 August at 4.27am I saw this tweet:



On 19 August at 5.13am I saw this:


On 13 August at 6.18pm I saw this tweet:


On 17 August at 6.34am I saw this:


On 21 August at 5.53am I saw this:


On 22 August at 6.50am I saw this tweet in my feed:


On 23 August at 9.29am I saw this in my feed:


Translation

Like a demon in a cloud
with howls of affliction,
with the night I advance
   and with the night I will leave;
I turn my back to the East
where comforts have increased;
because the light takes over my brain
in frantic pain.

Desire

On 12 August at 4.22am I saw this in my feed:


On 26 August at 7.10am I saw this in my feed:


Mechanical

On 24 August at 8am I saw these two twinned tweets:


On 30 August at 8.10am I saw this in my feed:


Flight

These two twinned tweets appeared in my feed on 27 August at 5.44am:

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Take two: The Glorious Revolution, Edward Vallance

For a full review, see my Patreon

This paperback has a Queensland Book Depository sticker on it (reduced from $29.95 to $6.99) that dates the sale to January 2011, when I was living on the Sunshine Coast. The store is in the shopping centre, which was a short, 15-minute walk along the estuary from my place. So I bought it when I was living in that state and looking after mum. The book has sat unread in my collection ever since.

Monday, 6 September 2021

Movie review: The Social Dilemma, dir Jeff Orlowski (2020)

This movie was talked about on Twitter when it first appeared but since then its messages haven’t made much noise in the public sphere. To criticise the business model of companies such as Instagram and Facebook you need to use the same sorts of complexity and sophistication that these companies use, and this probably accounts for the relative silence. Complex ideas aren’t much commented on on sites such as Twitter, simple responses that are expressed in an extreme fashion get all the “likes” and retweets. Certainly, people haven't responded to the movie by stopping using their apps.

To talk about how Facebook engineers the news feed, or how YouTube engineers recommendations is to get to the core of the way these sites work: by rewarding the evolved systems the human body has developed over millions of years of development and refinement. We’re just not designed to cope with the addictiveness of the modern news feed with its constant appeals to our sympathies, its neverending search for the next response – just one more “like”, just another comment, or even a “share”. The dopamine rush we get from being recognised as we post and comment is what brings us back to the screen time after time.

The movie uses interviews as well as fictionalised enactments to get its message across. The people in front of the camera are mostly former employees of the companies involved. Many of them are still in the IT business, but others are fronting nonprofits. There are also the usual sort of talking head that current affairs programs bring on-camera to give their expert view of things. The package is neat and concise and entertaining. Well worth the time need to watch.

Sunday, 5 September 2021

Movie review: The Minimalists: Less is Now, dir Matt D’Avella (2021)

Last month I watched this documentary’s companion piece, from the same director but coming out six years earlier. Both are good, and I don’t have a preference either way but the two movies are different though the message is the same. The earlier movie is more of a coming-of-age story, charting the emergence of the two men who are the subjects of the pieces.

‘Less is Now’ tells the same story but with more detail. Here you learn more about the childhoods of Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn, who are the Minimalists (they have a website you can visit for more information about their project). Millburn seems to have purchased a new Toyota to replace his old Toyota, which tells me that his idea has borne fruit in a material sense – though you don’t now get to see the outside of the car, the interior finishes are too new to go with the bodywork that was evident in the 2015 movie.

I watched the movie with friends, and the experience sparked controversy. This is a debate that we all must have even though, for many, the message of Nicodemus and Fields will be unnecessary. A point one of the interview subjects raised is that minimalism is really a first-world luxury. For recent migrants, the idea that you’d need to reduce the amount of belongings you own must seem like something strange, especially considering the fact that you might not have everything that you need to live life well. A spoiled society would find comfort from reducing the number of items owned and a struggling man might still need to buy his own vacuum cleaner or rice cooker.

The fact remains that we’re overtaxing the planet, the problem being that there’s no such thing as world government, so getting action on an issue as comprehensive as climate change is always going to cause us problems. Let the message of the Minimalists become more widespread and we might all have a common referent. I wonder how intrusive they really are, however. It seems to me that we’re more focused on the latest Netflix drama, the more recent Abba album, the latest Hollywood blockbuster.

Friday, 3 September 2021

Take two: The Life of Kingsley Amis, Zachary Leader

For a full review, see my Patreon

This book was bought in early 2007 at the Co-Op Bookshop. On the back cover is a sticker with the price ($6.75 marked down from RRP of $75) and the sticker has the date of January 2007 printed on it to indicate when the sale started. I’ve had this in my collection unread since those days.

Thursday, 2 September 2021

TV review: Making the Cut, season 1 (2020)

This quirky Amazon Prime show has reality TV roots but is more serious than most of the genre because designers are being judged on their skills and creativity so it’s a bit more like ‘The Voice’ than ‘Survivor. Though I’m not a fashionista (I recently got 10 pairs of old outsized trousers taken in so they’d fit) I was able to identify with the creatives featured because they were trying to do something meaningful and because of the vulnerability the shooting reveals.

This is an aspirational drama and part of what makes it so watchable is the awfulness of the values of the people involved, especially the judges. When Josh gets cut in episode three it’s partly because of the weakness of the designs he and Troy made for the collaboration, but it’s also partly because, when asked why he thought he should still be in the competition, he said, “I don’t think I should be here.” Troy, on the other hand, gave a desperate speech when asked the same question, and it was Naomi Campbell’s change of heart that kept him in the game. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

What struck me most about the show after watching about half of the first season is how the introvert (creative, a loner) is mixed with the extrovert (the fashion world with its celebrations). I was also struck by how this show compares to the dozens of cooking shows that are currently available to view on commercial TVs around the world. While cooking is something that most everybody does every day, making clothes is a specialised practice that requires a rarer type of skillset. But the makers of ‘Making the Cut’ have managed to make the drama of tailoring accessible by mixing segments in the workroom with more routine segments where the garments are paraded on the catwalk, so you get a melange of high and low, rarefied and workaday. Meanwhile the magic of individual personality combines with a bit of voyeurism – Paris highlights like the Moulin Rouge conspiratorially get time on-screen – to create compelling TV.

The other thing good about the show is its global relevance. Everyone’s seen news segments where the evils of disposable fashion are visible – the acres of cast-off first-world clothing that gets shipped to some out-of-the-way corner of Africa to be sorted and recycled – but fashion has a wide appeal because everyone wears clothes. Furthermore, the use of fashion to cement the borders of identity make it something that we all can get involved in. Even just the selection of a range of types of individual for this show – Ji Won is Korean-American, Troy is black, Esther is German – signals how important the claims of identity are for both the show’s makers and for people in the community who’ll watch it.

While the former take a risk by making the show, the latter get to indulge their own fantasies while consuming it, and while the voyeuristic tendencies of reality television are a bit overwhelming sometimes (Naomi Campbell is almost certain, every time she opens her mouth, to say something cutting) I felt relieved by the lightness that it made me feel when it happened, as though, when a contestant had the burden of drama to shoulder, my own problems were, as a result, somehow less onerous. Because reality TV is so common these days – and so popular – I often felt that I was part of a scene, which enabled me to feel included, to feel with-it, to feel capable. I’d forgotten how reality TV can affect the viewer, making them feel good because the weight of circumstance is temporarily transferred, within the spirals of the thinking mind, to someone else. When Sabato was cut at the end of episode five he said, “But I’m leaving as a winner because I felt so much love from everybody,” masking his pain with a bit of positivity (temptingly bordering on passive aggressiveness). The head-to-head between Megan and Jonny at the end of episode seven – held to establish the day’s winner – was cheap, as though the show’s makers thought that it needed something to beef it up, but I understood how this kind of shallow posturing can make for a solid deliverable.

I’d only myself ever watched reality TV far back in my past, in fact when I was living in Tokyo and would see ‘Iron Chef’ in the evenings after work on some nights during the week. Watching ‘Making the Cut’ I was struck by how differently the contestants saw the city, compared to my experience, their observations about the fashion of Tokyoites giving a new dimension to my own awareness while a resident there. I was able, now, to see the city with new eyes, helped by people who spend all their time thinking about and doing fashion. Not only am I the least fashionable person you’re likely to meet, but when the garments of young people seen in Harajuku were labelled “anti-fashion” I was intrigued, as though my own tastes were being commented on. In fact my own fashion style is conformist: I blend in with what is entirely mundane and run-of-the-mill, with what is expected. The young Harajuku natives are making a comment on fashion, but because they are trying to be provocative at least they are engaging in the process. My own comments are almost that fashion doesn’t exist, and so in a sense I’m more “anti-fashion” even than the youth of Harajuku.

How clothes look on the human form, an outfit seen as a person you don’t know is walking down the street in front of you, is the central drama of this engrossing show. To add piquancy, its makers have conscripted the cachet of influencers, fashion industry leaders, and brand representatives. This is a very modern show that not only touches on the sublime – how that suit of clothes looks when you see it – but that asks us to question who we are. For what is it that I care about so deeply that I would humble myself in order to be acclaimed a leading exponent of the art? How committed am I to my ideals? What lengths would I go to in order to achieve fame and fortune? The lineaments of desire are held within your grasp as you watch ‘Making the Cut’.

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Grocery shopping list for August 2021

This post is the thirty-second in a series and the eleventh to chronicle diets. 

3 August

The effort required at the beginning of last month to make the shopping list for my blog exceeded the (admittedly not always very broad) limits of my patience, particularly because of all the rigmarole involved in locating files to include along with the text, and I decided to put a stop to the practice. I wrote in my end-of-year memorial for 2021 some words outlining my reasons for quitting the exercise I’d religiously kept up since December 2018 (with only May the next year missed because I was out of the country). You can read more of my reasoning when the time comes for that post to go up on the web.

The present blogpost will chronicle, for old times’ sake, highlights in my weight maintenance though I’m not really putting my heart and soul into it anymore; habit compels me to write each morning, so what you’re reading is like the final wriggles of a fish landed on a pier, its mortality escaping in futile change and turns, the thin air failing to sustain its quest for life, although a new idea might bring me to turn the direction I navigate for a route through the contravening currents in the shoals of obloquy.

4 August

After eating something early in the morning, before dawn, at a time when I’m usually up writing, I had an urge to update the app on my mobile phone in order to record what I’d just consumed, and was forced to check myself with a reminder – “I’m not doing that anymore.” The day before I’d also checked myself when I picked up the supermarket receipt as, by this point in time, it wasn’t necessary to snap a photo of these stray pieces of paper with their faint thermal traces that show the date of purchase, the name of each item bought, and the prices paid at the checkout. In the past I would load such images with their files to the cloud so that I could open them on my PC and store them in a folder ready for when, at the beginning of the new month, I would do the painstaking work needed to get everything uploaded so that it would be available for public scrutiny.

9 August

Went for milk today at the IGA, as well as other purchases, most of which I picked up because I knew at some point that I’d run out. Milk is probably the most important single purchase I make in any month, as, without morning coffee – I couldn’t possibly operate! 

Here’s a snapshot of my progress for the part of the month. I continue to record my morning weight using the scales and the Fat Secret app – the screen grab showing how it’s evident that 82.9kg was the lowest reading I’d ever seen. Even though 85kg was my target I’m tempted to sit just a little under that level in order to allow myself to be able to enjoy the occasional indulgence.

So for example you can see a spike on 2 August, as the first of the month saw me eating with friends and consequently putting on 900g overnight. When I’m alone I can regulate my weight – for example on 8 August I had, for my main meal, a serving of about half-a-kilo of chicken wings, and lost 700g overnight. A cheap alternative, chicken wings also reliably let you drop kilos (and I adore the crispy flavoursomeness of this wholesome treat).


Overall I was resting at a point that was reasonably static even given some unnerving peaks and satisfying troughs. In fact, just by eating an extra handful of cheese and one apple more I can put on half a kilo without even looking at any other item of food, a tendency that just goes to illustrate my susceptibility to weight gain. Some people are naturally liable to putting it on, while others can add any number of casual morsels to their daily intake without negative repercussions. I had a comment from a friend with whom, a generation ago, I worked at an automation company in Tokyo, who commented on a Facebook post that he’d never had occasion to even think about limiting carbohydrate intake and, despite that fact, had with age grown no bigger at his middle. Tim’s thoughts were a tonic for me, showing me how obesity isn’t necessarily universal though, as Dr Nanda, my general practitioner, noted when he spoke with me on more than one occasion, people who make up the population are heavier than they ought to be, and he blames Coca Cola for this trend. Like an old-time Presbyterian elder considered by coevals as one of the elect Tim is to be fair one of a lucky but small number.

13 August

Went to Woolies in Wolli Creek to do some shopping for a friend and at the same time picked up low-carb snacks and nuts. They have a good selection of nuts at this branch, including Brazil nuts and pecans – both of which I bought in separate packets.

15 August

I’d needed to order more medicated shampoo, so had earlier on called the pharmacy I use in Pyrmont and made a mental note to pick up the new bottle at the same time I went to meet with my psychiatrist. But due to the new lockdown regime I decided to do my psychiatrist’s appointment via Skype. I also placed an order on Sunday night at the Woolworths website (see below) where they actually have a low-carb bread option in the database, adding a number of other things to my shopping basket to fill up the order so that it would be worthwhile (the delivery charge is $15). 


16 August

My weight chart as it stood this morning:


If you spend a moment looking at this image you can see a low point of 82.9kg that fell a week prior and, on subsequent days, eating a bit too much – without being egregiously silly – I disappointingly gained weight. Minor lapses, I assure you! Nothing as dramatic as, say, a trip to a Thai restaurant for a plate of pad see ew (which I love but which my diet proscribes) though it was possibly due to the fact that I’d stopped charting consumption on the FatSecret app, or maybe because I’d stopped using the kitchen scales (on the 15th I put them away with the teapot and the toaster). Whatever the cause of the increase, a week of concerted effort was required to get me back to my “new normal”.

17 August

Just before midday an email had arrived from Woolworths notifying me that the swedes I’d ordered weren’t in stock. As a result of this discrepancy as well as a few others, the final charge would be revised downwards, the email saying “The pending charge on your credit card used for payment will be reduced by $6.10 prior to payment finalisation”. 

At 1.40pm the delivery happened, a young woman leaving the three bags next to the front door and skedaddling quick. She’d arrived in a regular, dark blue hatchback, unlike in the old days back at Pyrmont when a uniformed driver would come in a badged two-tonne truck. Shortly after this occurred I went to IGA with my houseguest to buy more food (including a swede) and especially to get kitchen paper towels, which were in short supply and which I’d forgotten to order on the weekend at the website.

18 August

I’d seen a charge on my credit card and thought that, because of this fact, I’d expect a refund, and when nothing came through, hoping for clarification, this morning I got onto the website and started a chat with someone at Woolies. I gave my order number and was told that a downwards revision had already been applied to the charge, so I signed off and went back to my usual browsing and my social graph. 

22 August

Drove to Pyrmont to pick up the medicated shampoo as my panic attacks had, with the use of antidepressants, fallen away. While out that way I stopped at Coles in Broadway Shopping Centre to buy some food, including chicken wings, meat, and low-carb snacks. The purchase total was about $143. I also bought a loaf of low-carb bread while I was in the store as most retailers don’t stock it, for example Woolies in Wolli Creek (which is closer to my home).

23 August

My house guest bought milk on this day as the 1-litre bottle I’d bought a few days earlier had almost run out. I messaged him to get some while he was getting his Covid inoculation. On this day my weight chart looked like this:


29 August

Went to buy milk from a bread shop as I had houseguests. My weight loss chart looked like this: