Monday, September 15, 2014

Priorities

To get to Bali I flew on Jetstar, Australia's favourite low-cost, no-frills, no-self-respect airline. One of their tricks for saving money is to use the least popular timeslots for arrivals and departures at the airport. Hence my wonderfully cheap flight to Bali departed Perth at 4am.


This wasn't too onerous - I just got a taxi out to the airport around 1am and after the usual check-in and security rigmarole I just had a couple of hours to read before the flight. However, the flight got in to Denpassar airport at 8am, and my hotel room would not be available until 2pm. So I took a taxi to my hotel, left the bags at the desk, then wandered off to find breakfast. Fortunately my hotel was right in the centre of Seminyak, within strolling distance of most things I wanted to do. Or, more specifically, to eat.


One of my priorities on this trip was to visit the local foodie hotspots - every celebrity chef in Australia and New Zealand seems to have a restaurant in Bali, producing Rockpool food at Red Rooster prices. Bali has also recently acquired a small but bustling coffee culture, with snazzy little espresso bars popping up between the surf shops and the massage spas.


With this in mind I set off for the first cafe on my list: Sea Circus, a relaxed hippie surfie hangout famous for its breakfasts.





I had ricotta pancakes with banana and palm sugar caramel, and coffee, because it was now around 10am and I had not slept for more than 24 hours. I took a selfie at this point, and my face and posture both scream, "I am currently being held together by caffeine, grime and willpower!"


I got back to the hotel just after midday and parked my grimy, caffeinated body in the lobby. Soon after, the staff either took pity on me or decided that I was lowering the tone, and let me check into my room early.


Like all good four star hotel rooms, mine had an enormous bed with crisp white sheets, a spacious bathroom, cool tiled floors, and a view out over the frangipani-fringed pool.





And the worst painting ever committed to canvas, possibly by Satan...





...assuming that the Prince of Darkness was both colourblind and feeling very depressed that day.


After a good nap, I was ready to resume my foodie experiences. My travel buddy and I had drinks at Ku De Ta, then set off north trying to find a famous restaurant called Sarong. But the map was hopeless, it was getting late, I was getting hungry, so when I noticed a sign for another restaurant on my list, I decided to go for it.


It turned out to be the best meal of the entire trip. Salt Tapas, housed in the Peppers Sentosa Resort, is part of the empire of Australian celebrity chef Luke Mangan. It's way off the main street, down several hundred metres of dark and twisting laneways, but once you get there it springs up with that solid wall of luxury that characterises all of the best places in Seminyak.


As the name suggests, the menu is modern Australian tapas with a local twist. We had mushroom and feta arancini balls, fried potatoes with truffle oil and parmesan, beetroot and asparagus salad, tomato and mozzarella salad, and, as a highlight, tuna tartare with lime and wasabi on homemade tortilla chips.


It was incredible, and unlike many tapas places, there was no skimping on the plates. And at the end of the evening, huge amounts of fine food in a stunning high-end poolside restaurant cost $30 a head.





Just one more thing to love about Bali.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sidekick

The last time I went to Bali I swore that I would return, since I'd found it vibrant, beautiful and deliciously inexpensive. That return came sooner than expected, when I found myself bundled off to Bali with little notice last week. It was a happy confluence of cheap flights, a special hotel deal, and my boss being sick of the sight of me.


As is my wont, I took a friend with me. Behold the Ninja!





Ironically the very phrase "Behold the Ninja" demonstrates that said ninja is pretty terrible at ninjaing: ninjas are, by definition, not beheld, unless they've seriously screwed up. Unfortunately judging by the number of photos of him on my camera, my travel companion was The Worst Ninja in the World.





Luckily I had no immediate plans to assassinate my many enemies or stalk anything more threatening than a mango daiquiri, so having the Worst Ninja in the World around wasn't a problem. And he had my back as I commenced a week of food, sunshine and indulgence.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Deathwish

Am I the only person to look at Charles Bronson in his later years and think, "Shave off the moustache, and he could be somebody's favourite twinkly-eyed old auntie"?





Have a cookie, dear. Or I'll kill you.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Report

While cleaning out some old files tonight I discovered something I wrote a few years ago. It is undated, but it must have been before July 2012, which is when those glory-hogging bastards at CERN announced that they'd found the Higgs boson. Personally I won't believe it until I have a Higgs boson in the palm of my hand, but the rest of the world seems to have fallen for their lies.


Anyway, my report into the then-current state of particle research at Blandwagon Self-Indulgence Enterprises is as follows:


The Search for the Elusive Higgs Boson Particle


By Blandwagon


In the world of particle physics, no field of research has captured the public imagination quite like the search for the Higgs boson.


The Higgs boson, or, to give it its full name as designated by the media, the elusive Higgs boson, has been at the centre of multi-billion dollar research drives at the CERN facility in Switzerland and Fermilab in the United States. The Large Hadron Collider at CERN, built at a cost of $4.4 billion, was designed specifically to isolate and identify the Higgs boson. However even with billion dollar budgets and the contributions of the greatest particle physicists in the world, the Higgs boson has remained hidden.


It is for this reason that I decided to join the search, and, in my own small way, contribute to the furtherment of science and our understanding of the universe.


I began my search for the elusive Higgs boson in my living room. I often discover bits of lost crap between my couch cushions, along with fragments of popcorn, loose coins and buttons that pop off my brother-in-law’s shirts when he parks his fat arse on my couch and then scratches himself like an itchy gorilla. After I pulled the cushions off the couch I discovered any number of gluons, the occasional photon, a Mintie wrapper and the tweezers from my swiss army knife that I’ve been trying to find for, like, forever. But no signs of the Higgs boson.


The junk drawer in the kitchen, another useful source of subatomic particles and duct tape, also yielded no positive results. The space under my bed did not contain any Higgs bosons, unless they were being held captive by the dust bunnies and denied all access to the outside world and an independent media. As for my toolbox, in which one can usually find everything from gravitons to broken hacksaw blades, there was nothing but fermions. Stupid fermions. Of course they’re everywhere; unlike bosons they cannot occupy the same quantum state, so they’re scattered all over the place like the crumbs after my brother-in-law has eaten half a tray of my sister’s shortbread. The fat pig.


I looked under the seats in my car, but all I found was a pen, some receipts, and a Rihanna CD that my brother-in-law ripped for me. Seriously, Rihanna. What are we, fourteen year old girls? I thought I felt a meson under the passenger seat, but it turned out to be an M&M. And it wasn’t even a peanut one.


Dispirited but unbowed, I got in my car and drove to the Imperial Hotel, where I searched for the Higgs boson in several dirty vodka martinis. Then I searched for it under the barstools, on the floor in the ladies toilet, in the armpit of a bouncer named Terry, and finally in a doner kebab at Midnite Munchies on Pakington Street.


So at the end of this exhaustive study, I cannot state that I have found the elusive Higgs boson particle, but I can at least prove the hypothesis that it’s always in the last place you look.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Wild

For the 'Better Late Than Never' edition of AndressFest, I made all of the usual Ursula-themed snacks to keep up the strength of AndressFesters who hungered for tastiness as well as terrible movies.














In addition, there was the traditional debut of the latest AndressFest cocktail. Joining the Creamy Ursula, the Sultry Ursula, the Golden Ursula, the Spicy Ursula, the Cheeky Ursula, the Perfect Ursula and the Dirty Ursula, I can now present...


The Untamed Ursula





In an ice-filled shaker, combine 30mls citron vodka, 30mls grapefruit juice, 30mls pineapple juice, a dash of orange bitters and a micro-dash of orgeat. Shake vigorously, then decant into an ice-filled collins glass. Garnish with a spiral of orange peel. Drink to the health of the woman who put the "wild" into "wildly untalented".

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Beastly

Our second and final movie for AndressFest'14 had the dubious honour of being our first ever streaming AndressFest movie. Yes, YouTube is now so dense with video dreck that even Ursula Andress movies are popping up on it. The movie was actually the feature-length pilot of the 1983 TV series 'Manimal'.


Brooke McKenzie is a cop, and she's a damn good one. Assuming, that is, that the hallmarks of quality in a cop run to looking like a knock-off Melanie Griffith and being perkily annoying.


We meet Brooke when she and her 104-year-old partner are on patrol. They pull over a suspicious van and, in the ensuing melee, the elderly partner is shot while Brooke chases one of the bad guys. She almost loses him, but he's brought down by a mysterious black panther, which flees as soon as she catches up.


In the next scene, Brooke been inexplicably promoted to detective, a job for which she dresses in fluffy pink cardigans and pastel blouses.





As part of her investigations she meets Professor Chase, an urbane English police consultant, and it doesn’t take her long to realise that Professor Chase and the black panther are one in the same. Professor Chase has studied the ancient art of turning himself into any animal (despite the laws of physics regarding the conservation of mass and other such trivialities), although it’s almost always a black panther since the production company expended their entire makeup and latex budget on that.


Together Brooke and the Professor search for her partner’s killer, who turns out to be a henchman in an international arms smuggling gang lead, somewhat improbably, by Ursula Andress. Ursula was about as convincing as she usually was when playing a criminal mastermind... that is, not very. Unless we presuppose that being the leader of an international arms smuggling business involves no skills other than stalking about in a fur coat being disdainful, it's hard to see how any actual arms smuggling got done.


One of the classification vagaries of silly, high-concept action TV shows in the early 1980s was that they couldn't show people being killed or visibly injured, lest it traumatise the eight year old boys who would be buying the lunch boxes and action figures the next day. So while Professor Chase can turn into a panther and stalk bad guys, he can't employ a panther's only weapons - big sharp teeth and claws - to actually harm them. Thus there are many scenes of a bad guy pressed against a wall in terror of a snarling panther, who presumably keeps him there until a random passing policeman notices him, or until he starves to death, whichever comes first. In the climactic scene the entire criminal enterprise, full of men holding actual assault weapons in their very hands, is thwarted by nothing more than a panther leaping onto a coffee table.





'Manimal' was a tedious, ridiculous piece of 80s tat, so much so that it made Ursula look like an accomplished actress: she stole every scene she had. In fact, the best scene in the entire movie was the most quintessentially Ursulan one, in which Professor Chase infiltrates Ursula's apartment in the guise of a fluffy white cat. Ursula finds him, and happens to be holding him when she takes a call from one of her clients. The scene was meant to show Manimal listening in on Ursula's plans, but the cat, perhaps being a bit spooked by all the cameras, sticks his head into the front of Ursula's bathrobe and keeps it there.











The audience is thus left with the impression that Manimal's dedication to fighting crime is nowhere near as important as his dedication to snuffling boobies. Somehow, that seems less heroic.


Unless you're Russ Meyers, of course.


I can just imagine what Ursula was thinking. “I'm 47 years old, I'm doing a shitty TV pilot, and I'm being motorboated by Mr Bigglesworth. It's time to retire.





'Manimal' lasted all of eight episodes before being cancelled. When the Curse of Ursula strikes, it strikes hard.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Tribulations

Our first film for AndressFest’14 was 'Les Tribulations d'un Chinois en Chine', or 'Tribulations of a Chinaman in China'. The film was marketed in English as 'Up to His Ears', which actually makes a lot more sense as a title, since the hero isn't Chinese and almost none of the action takes place in China. But having a title that bears no relation to the actual content of the film is a proud tradition in Bad Cinema, so this is only to be expected, given that 'Les Tribulations d'un Chinois en Chine' is worse than dysentery.


Millionaire Arthur Lempereur (Jean-Paul Belmondo) is a member of the idle wealthy, living on his yacht moored in Hong Kong Harbour. He is so overwhelmed with ennui that he spends his days attempting complicated suicides, such as cutting the brake cables on his Bentley and then driving it over a cliff. His manservant Leon and his mentor Mr Goh do their best to keep his spirits up, but it doesn't help that his fiancé, her mother and her mother's companion are shallow, empty-headed reminders of the futility of existence. Even the news that his vast fortune has been lost in a stockmarket slump doesn't rouse him much.


Faced with penury and wanting to die anyway, Arthur agrees to take out a short term life insurance policy, with a payout of a million dollars each for his fiancé and Mr Goh. Of course the policy would be void if he suicided, but Mr Goh offers to arrange a little "accident" some time in the next month. He'll be dead, and his nearest and dearest will be cared for, so this arrangement suits everybody.


Within a day, however, Arthur's life is turned around when he meets vivacious French stripper Alexandrine (our Ursula), whose kindly thoughtfulness and hot naked thighs make him realise that life is worth living after all.





But by this stage Mr Goh has already arranged the hit... then set off to a Himalayan retreat for a little holiday. And further complicating matters, the fiancé’s mother, upon learning of the scheme, has independently organised with a local crime lord to hasten the job. Soon every two-bit crook with a gun in Hong Kong is chasing Arthur, while he runs to preserve the life he suddenly, desperately wants.





'Les Tribulations d'un Chinois en Chine' was released in 1965, right at the peak of Ursula's career, and it's an odd choice for someone who'd been working with big name Hollywood actors, directors and writers over the previous twelve months. She has top billing, but apart from the last quarter of the movie she's almost absent from the screen. But then one of Ursula's charms (apart from the obvious ones) was that she was game for pretty much any role in any genre, from westerns to costume dramas to sci-fi... whatever put fondue on the table. So why not do a silly French caper movie, which could be knocked off in a couple of weeks and gave her a free holiday in Hong Kong?


Most of Ursula's role involved little more than her running away from gunmen and/or explosions and squealing girlishly. But the big draw card for most punters would have been her striptease scene. Unfortunately, however, the concept is so criminally wasted that it should be brought to the Hague as a Crime Against Testosterone. Ursula's strip act involves her appearing nude on stage (but for an artfully draped cape) and then gradually (and magically) acquiring more clothes. So it's not so much "stripping" as "dressing".





I'm all for creativity in the arts, but there are some foundational concepts in striptease with which one does not tamper. Taking the clothes off is one of them.


The movie ends with Arthur discovering that his fortune wasn't lost in a stockmarket slump after all... which plunges him right back into ennui so thick he makes Jean-Paul Satre look like a My Little Pony. One would think that having millions of dollars and an Ursula Andress would be enough to keep one's thoughts afloat, or at least preoccupied. But then one isn't French.


About the only good thing I can say about 'Les Tribulations d'un Chinois en Chine' is that at least it was made in 1965, when Ursula was 29 and hitting her peak hotness. Sadly our second film for AndressFest’14 was just as bad, but made eighteen years later.