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Archive for the ‘Biographies and Reviews’ Category

(For one of the multitude of restaurant reviewing sites out there. E.G. Restaurantica, Eatability Food and Drink Guide, or Restaurant Rants)

Some would say the USA doesn’t have any good healthy food. I’m not going to argue that point. I’m sure there is some out there, but in the meantime here in Melbourne, Australia, I was interested in finding some ‘greasy spoon’ fare (as we like to call it back in Atlanta, Georgia, USA where my biological father still lives.)  After visiting several establishments around town, where either the burgers were too small or too expensive, I found and enjoyed the Soda Rock.

greasy spoon

A typical 'Greasy Spoon' diner in the good ol' USA.

(Thanks to Omar Omar’s Photostream for use of this image via Creative Commons.)

Now let it be known this reviewer has been diagnosed with fatty liver disease, and the fact I lived my first ten tender years in the States may have something to do with it. However, on occasion I get a hankering for some junk food, and on this particular day my desires were happily satiated.

The Soda Rock is a typical American style diner, complete with plastic-covered booths and mini-jukeboxes at each table. It costs a dollar for two songs and the music is all 1950’s pop, soul, rock and country. A life-sized Elvis Presley stands watching over you as you attempt to digest chilli dogs, Sloppy Joe’s, onion rings, BLTs and chilli fries. Don’t try and dance right after eating this kind of food! Speaking of dancing, every once in a while a specified song will get played from a jukebox resulting in the entire kitchen crew taking to the floor to trounce about singing well known lyrics like Aretha Franklin’s, ‘R, E, S, P, E, C, T, Respect yourself!’

I ordered a Hubcap Burger combo with a side of French fries and Dr. Pepper drink. The burger tasted like a burger should, unlike most hamburgers served around Australia, or the rest of the world for that matter. I’m not saying I haven’t had awesome burgers elsewhere. In fact, the best burgers I’ve ever eaten were in Japan and Bali! But this kind of burger has a certain greasy taste melded with a squishy bun and American mustard, raw onions and ketchup, which is just plain unique.

Burger

This is a BURGER, a real hamburger, American style.

(Thanks to the Pointnshoot’s Photostream for use of this image via Creative Commons.)

The fries were good too, so I decided to order a chilli dog. Most Aussies won’t know what American chilli is, and if it’s made well, it’s a delicious treat. I can’t tell you how great this one was, because I was already too stuffed and should have stopped eating earlier. This is the curse of ‘greasy spoon’ cooking. You often can’t stop eating until you’re full. After a big night of drinking and liver destruction, this type of food binds all the crud in your guts so you can live another day. Hopefully, it’s more than just one day.

You can eat a Big Bopper, a grilled cheese and ham sandwich, American pancakes, cheese fries, tater tots, a chocolate malted, a blue heaven cookie shake, a raspberry float, a banana split or a rocky road sundae. If you don’t know what any of these things are, go check it out, but beware, there’s a reason Americans are the most obese people in the world!

obese

If I ate a Hubcap burger everyday...

(Thanks to Tobyotter’s Photostream for use of this image via Creative Commons.)

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(For one of the multitude of restaurant reviewing sites out there. E.G. Restaurantica, Eatability Food and Drink Guide, or Restaurant Rants)

I’m the kind of creature of habit who often goes to the same place for food or drink if I’ve found something good there. I’m always willing to try something new, but if all else fails I know there are certain places on the Melbourne map where signature dishes or drinks will be ready for degustation.

I am a chai fiend, a connoisseur, and a maniac for the Indian spiced tea with honey and soy milk; sorry, but I can’t drink the traditional milk because of my lactose intolerance. I began drinking chai on a daily basis long before it became popular in cafes and coffee shops. The first time I ever tasted it was at the Nimbin Mardi Grass festival where I was visiting to experience strange herbs, not spices. One morning at daybreak a monkish Hari Krishna-looking man came round to my tent calling out the fateful words, ‘Chai, chai tea, chai tea, great way to start the day!’

chai

The makings of a great chai.

Bleary-eyed for more reasons than simple lack of sleep, I paid the two dollars and tasted the cup of spicy soy milkiness. Needless to say I’ve never turned back to my old habits of Earl Grey or English Breakfast. I’ve now sampled chai all over the globe, and had an extensive range of experiences ranging from the nearly instant vomit variety to the ecstatic epiphany type.

After spending a fair amount of time sampling chais around various areas of Melbourne, I happened upon the Degraves Espresso Bar in the tiny alley called Degraves Street near Flinders Street train station. This area has a plethora of cafes, restaurants and eateries, all constructed in a European style with tables outside so people can have a chat whilst watching the many different kinds of human walk by.

I ordered a soy chai for two with honey (I wasn’t alone) and was presented with a massive teapot full of frothy goodness. It seems to be an unwritten rule amongst Degraves Espresso workers that skin must be inked if you are to work there; maybe it’s a subtle form of anti-discrimination. ‘Sorry you don’t have any tats, we don’t trust your kind here.’ My heavily tattooed waitress told me they made their own chai from scratch, a rare commodity in a city strewn with powdered chai, weak tea bags and pre-packaged mixes.

tattoo woman

Don't be surprised if your waitress at Degraves is this colourful.

(Thanks to the Alaskan Dude’s Photostream for use of this image via Creative Commons.)

The teapot, which cost $6.20, provided around eight full cups of tea, but it wasn’t the cumulative caffeine affect that made an impression on me; it was the chai. I’ve probably been back there three hundred times, and I can honestly report that the quality of the tea, in terms of flavour, texture and temperature, rarely wavers from the high water mark set on that first auspicious day.

Using a traditional honey dipper (you know, the ridged wooden ball on a stick) I drop spoonfuls of amber glory into the cinnamon, ginger, cloves and touch of aniseed black tea soymilk mixture. Having made its indelible mark on my soul, I know if fate is compassionate I will be sitting at one of these vintage, cramped hotchpotch art deco tables with blaring pop, rock, jazz or hip-hop tunes filling my ears again soon. The food’s pretty good too…

teacup

It's funny how far one can go for a cup of tea.

(Thanks to David Light Orchard’s Photostream for the use of this image via Creative Commons.)

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One of the changing points in my life was twelve years ago when I met my good friend and teacher Matthew Ceeda ‘Takdeem Proceedor’ Andersen. He proceeded to teach me how to play the didgeridoo, or as the Australian indigenous creators of this mystical and spiritual instrument refer to it: the yirdaki. My good friend Ceeda passed away suddenly about two and a half years ago at the tender age of 34 years (the age I am now), but I still play the didgeridoo, and I dedicate the songs to him whenever I play.

If you know anything about didgeridoos in Australia (you probably don’t!), you would have heard the name, Djalu Gurruwiwi. Djalu is known amongst yirdaki makers and players as the true master of the trade. He was also a very renowned player in his younger years, but in old age has lost much of his ability due to a debilitating condition to his vocal chords. Djalu has said the misfortune was the result of his refusal to pay a clansman who then placed a ceremonial malediction upon him.

Here are a couple of interesting articles about this little-known legend living under the noses of an otherwise unaware Australian populace:

‘I got more power, not enough for everybody – the life of Djalu’ Gurruwiwi and yirdaki.’

‘Djalu Gurruwiwi – Abridged Biography’

This is Djalu making a didgeridoo from scratch:

Djau’s son playing one of his father’s creations:

After one minute in this video, you can see and hear the man himself blowing life through the hollow tree:

 

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Recently, I stumbled upon ‘Post of the week’ as we all do on our blogging travels. That is, we stumble around endlessly searching for good writing. For that’s what this blogging journey is, isn’t it? We traverse through the ‘human mind ether’ searching for people’s words on the screen; people’s words that hopefully will connect with our own way of seeing the world. Where you go, you never know, and the kinds of people you’re relating to, you’ve really no idea – except for one tiny aspect of their personality which for some strange reason you believe you can relate to. I read some weird blogs on occasion, but I don’t judge them…It’s just so interesting to see how many different ways human beings interact with their mind-borne realities. ‘Post of the Week’ is a very new venture that intends to highlight great writing out in the Blogosphere by bloggers that otherwise mightn’t be getting much recognition.

So far there’s been three winners (one per week), and I was able to access two of the posts…that’s the thing with the Internet and technology – it doesn’t always work for us now does it? Still, it’s in its infancy…the blogosphere needs to be toilet-trained. Both posts I read were quite powerful forms of online writing. I can’t say that they’re the type of reading that I usually search out for, but they were enlightening nonetheless. At dervala.net the author wrote a post called ‘Against depression’ that gave some real insight into what having the disease of depression is like. There were some interesting links throughout the narrative, one of which went to a summary of a book about depression in Japan called, ‘Shutting out the Sun’ by Michael Zielenziger that caught my eye, as I’m quite interested in Japanese culture.

The other winning post I read came from the Overnight Editor, and was called ‘The 000-999 of London’. It’s a down and dirty social-realism genre/stream of consciousness look into a contemporary life that is led by chemicals/alcohol into multiple parallel universes of London. It’s interesting stuff.

I think this kind of site will grow a lot and be a really good place to find out about great blog writing, as its mission is to do just that. It’s making me realise that many more bloggers are indeed actually ‘real’ writers (But what is a real writer?), and that we could be on the cusp of a whole new way of interaction in our world. Through writing, we are meeting others, sharing opinions and ideas, and probably most importantly, inspiring each other’s creativity by expressing what we have to say in a style all our own, and by seeing the magic of how other people put words on their own ‘page’. The Blogosphere is an actual place (Not virtual!) where our collective social consciousness is being fed by each and every individual mind that chooses to participate in discussion.

Could the future ‘classic’ writers be the bloggers of today?

Jesse S. Somer wonders how many bloggers also aspire to be considered ‘writers’.

Copyright MiContent.com.au

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I’m feeling just a little bit weird right now. Yes, I know, I’ve always been a little bit weird, but today in particular I’m feeling exceptionally strange. Why, you ask? Of course, it’s because of a blog. I’ve just spent the last few hours being totally sucked in by Ze Frank at his blog. This is definitely not an ordinary blog. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen a blog constructed in this way. Oh man, it’s a super-strange place from a funked-up mind, but an intelligent mind nonetheless. Besides the written post aspect that usually accompanies blogs, there are a whole bunch of sections linking to other ‘work’ (a very happily debateable term for what he does I’m sure). He’s a busy guy. There’s a ‘Games’ section where you can play at being a Buddhist , Christian, or Atheist. Check them out, quite amusing to say in the least. There’s also a link to ‘The Show’, Ze Frank’s videoblog, which he updates 5 days a week-but he’s not just talking into a camera. There’s some real creativity going on here-music, film, and documentary being just a few aspects of his repertoire.

Ok, when it comes down to it, Ze is a master wordsmith who excels in the new sphere of the videoblog in an unparalleled fashion. If you want to know what the man is like, how he thinks, and how he relates to the world, you only need to have a quick view of some of his ‘popular shows’. I’ve spent some time going back through the video archives and there’s hardly a moment when I’m not astounded by his maniacal, yet coherent, and precise humour. Although Frank does spend a lot of time analysing American politics (not one of my favourite or passionate subjects) he disseminates ‘newsworthy’ information in such a way as to shed a quirky, ethereal, yet slightly pungent light on his chosen topics. In essence, he parodies or satirically evaluates general information that any one of us could find in the local paper, thus giving him a huge amount of information and an incredibly broad field of subject matter to cover, yet he can make a rotten pear taste as fresh as a pack of newly opened cigarettes.

The blog’s front page has different sections of content available under the category titles ‘Stuff Stuff’, ‘Educational Videos’ (I haven’t checked these out yet, but I anticipate trouble for the children of the future), ‘Participate’, ‘Interactive Toys’ (Oh God, these are pretty silly. Check out the one called ‘The Frog’), ‘Mini Things’, ‘Stuff to Read’, ‘Games’ (It looks like he actually created these.), ‘Stuff to Watch’, and ‘Other Stuff’. Hmmm…stuff. He then separates the page into 7 areas. One blank white space says, ‘this is the space where you imagine beautiful things. Each time you come here, try to imagine new shapes and colours. Then tell all of your friends how beautiful this part of the page is.’ Another space says, ‘I’m not sure what goes here yet, maybe a flower?’ You get my drift…the guy’s either missing some screws, or he’s got a couple extra bolts in the cerebellum department.

If you go to his actual blog link from his main site it’s called ‘Miss(ed) Manners’ and after posting ‘What I did over Christmas Vacation’ he became one of the hottest blogs on WordPress. So what did he do over the holiday period? He, his younger siblings, and his girlfriend, built a scale replica of the battle of ‘Helm’s Deep’ from the ‘Lord of the Rings’ ‘Two Towers’ novel, the second instalment in J.R.R Tolkein’s famous trilogy. Why is this so significant? It was built out of candy! Freak! No, I’m just jealous.

Ze Frank’s got a ‘thing’ for ducks. The one on the left looks genuinely amazed and friendly, while the duck on the right seems a little bit mischievous, don’t you think?

This posse of ducks definitely knows the cool part of town to hang out. Don’t mess with Ze’s friends. They too don’t put up with ‘small talk’ from the mouths of politicians or soapbox evangelists.

Jesse S. Somer went to Ze Frank’s blog and ‘The Show’ videoblog. He’ll never be the same.

Copyright MiContent.com.au

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I’m not joking.

If you’ve been blogging for awhile, you may have come to a realisation that it’s not quite as easy as you might’ve thought to get people to come and read your opinions, facts, and ideas. No matter how great your content is people first have to know about it. With over 50 million blogs and growing on planet Earth, not to mention all the other incredible aspects of the Internet that can take up one’s time, it’s no wonder that people just don’t know you exist. I like writing about the social and human side of blogging, what blogs can do for our evolution as an intelligent species. However, if you want to know about how to get readers or make even money from your blog, one place to go is Problogger. Now a small team of writers, but once a one person affair (Darren Rowse of Australia), Problogger has made quite a name for itself (Rated 69 on Technorati and growing daily) as the place to go for detailed information on how to get your blog out into the community.

With its tagline as ‘Make Money Online with Problogger Blog Tips’ you can see what part of the market this blog is aimed at, and with its current popularity and respectability it’s not hard to see that it’s been right on target in its mission to help people become popular, money-making bloggers. Darren Rowse makes a living from Problogger so he stands as direct evidence that his tips and beliefs about blogging work well. Most people want to make money, and as blogging is a new place/way of achieving some financial success, a lot of people are interested in hearing ways of ‘making it’ in the Blogosphere.

I can be a sceptic at times, and upon my first visit was actually a bit put off by Problogger’s very forward approach to money-making. A lot of people in this day-and-age want to tell us easy ways to ‘get-rich-quick’…we have to be very wary of con-artists and fraudulent gurus. However, refreshingly, Darren Rowse tells it like it is-making money from blogs is not easy. It will take you a lot of time and hard work, so if you’re not willing to roll up your sleeves and get ‘dirty’, don’t even bother trying to make a living from blogging. Of course my focus on blogging has always been more about the awesome new relationships, connections, interaction, and sharing of ideas and information that blogs have got to offer. To be part of this new social process you don’t need to have a focus on money…or do you? It’s a paradox. The only way people will know you exist is if you stand out from the crowd, attracting traffic, links, and comments. Thus, you have to become popular.

You’ve got to be known to interact with the world, and you’ve got to be known to make money from advertising etc. Therefore, you may as well make popularity your goal for all intensive purposes. Problogger has a huge archive of articles, but just on the front page you can find very useful boxes of popular linked posts in the areas of ‘Introduction Key Articles’ and the ‘Tips and Hints Toolbox’. In the introductory section there’s a great list (Mr. Rowse loves making numbered lists!) entitled ‘Lessons I’ve Learnt’, which is a huge fountain of knowledge derived from all of the Problogger’s previous experiences packed into 18 handy lessons. Read it. I’m not joking.

Another couple of cool links were the ones for ‘Top 20 posts at Problogger’ and from the ‘Tips and hints toolbox’, ‘Writing Content Tips’. Have a read and see if any questions jump out at you. Some of the tips he mentions involve going to a lot of different websites/social networking tools and getting set up at each. For some of us technophobes, this can all sound a little daunting at times. Still, one step at a time, and if your content and style are interesting, I can’t see why so many more of us can’t become ‘Pro Bloggers’. Do you think you can make it ‘Pro’?

Flying through the blue skies, this pro skateboarder is taking his skill to the limit. Can you do the same with your blog?

Jesse S. Somer is an amateur blogger (Darren Rowse had 1,500 posts after 1 year and still considered his blog to be a ‘baby’) who would like to connect more with others of similar interests. Anyone interested in the social effects of blogging?

Copyright MiContent.com.au

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If you haven’t heard of Mena Trott, although she’s quite young (28-years-old), she is one of the most influential and innovative people to have taken part in the Blogosphere. As founder of leading blog software company Six Apart (Creators of Typepad, Movable Type, LiveJournal and Vox) there probably isn’t that much that she doesn’t know about blogging. That’s why it came as quite a surprise to me that when she did a TED Talk presentation she chose to focus on the magic of personalised blogs, as opposed to blogs relating to specific topics or communities. I mean, what’s so great about hearing some stranger’s everyday life stories?

In her talk Trott does touch on the positive power of some blogs in the community, referring to the incredibly fast updates people received from big media as well as independents concerning the hurricane situation in New Orleans. She also mentions Interplast, a group of blogging plastic surgeons who work to help disfigured people in developing nations. However, strangely enough she starts out her speech talking about the ‘scary’ power of blogs-using the Kryptonite bicycle lock story (bloggers discovered that a ballpoint pen could open locks, therefore the company was forced to recall their stock), as well as the infamous ‘Rathergate’ scandal where intense political bloggers discovered that falsified documents were used in the coverage of a mainstream media story. Trott seems to think that this invasive power some bloggers now have mightn’t be the best scenario for humankind. What do you think?

Trott takes a more ‘micro’ approach to the world of blogging (at least in this talk). She likes ‘people that just tell stories.’ She looks at personal blogs as a new form of human archive, a place to store our life stories for future generations. ‘Blogs are basically an evolution. They are a record of who you are; your persona.’ She tells stories about a day-to-day diary written by a man whose child was born prematurely, describing the emotional connection she felt to people she’d never really met. When the child was ill she could sympathise with the parents’ pain, and when it ended up being a healthy normal kid, she vicariously experienced the relief and joy that they felt.

As well as writing so that our great-grandchildren can know who we were, Mena emphasises about how blogs can be helpful for ourselves. She takes a photo of herself everyday and posts it on her personal blog which only a few people have access to. (She tells a story about how sometimes you don’t want too many people reading your ‘real’ personal stories. After cheekily complaining that her boyfriend wouldn’t ‘let’ her buy a banjo, she received all kinds of comments that took her words way out of context-some people saying that she should leave the ‘selfish bastard’.) She says the photo as well as the text can let you know exactly what you were doing in a day of your life. Capturing a moment in time, reflecting upon these visual cues, she feels that all kinds of revelations, memories, and new ideas can be born to help us in what we do today.

It’s interesting because at some points she almost seems to contradict herself, saying that blogs don’t have to be attacking and scary, that they can help people to open new dialogues and inspire helpful attitudes. Whereas at other points she says that she doesn’t want too many people reading her stories, preferring to only have close friends and family access her life online. A few questions for you: What do you think about this seemingly paradoxical situation? Do you think there are other reasons personal blogging is good or bad? Do you think topical blogs are more relevant to society’s needs? How many people do you want reading your personal life stories? Are we able to become more ‘open’ and helpful with others if we aren’t willing to let anyone and everyone read and comment on our blog posts? What kind of blogger are you?

If you write a personal blog, how many people would you like to have reading your life story?

Jesse S. Somer thinks when writing about a specific topic, you can integrate aspects of yourself in the story. Maybe there is a middle ground here…

Copyright MiContent.com.au

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