Cafe of Nightmares

Book-club this month had selected the book Cafe Scheherazade, which it turns out is actually based on a real cafe in St Kilda. Not unusually at all for Melbourne, it’s an eating establishment created by migrants for migrants (and anyone else wanting to sample traditional food from the motherland). But as this was a novel, it focussed on all the stories of those migrants…

Cafe Scheherazade

Intermingled tales of escape from war and oppression

This book by Melbourne literary author Arnold Zable is a set of stories within stories. It is at a superficial level the story of a journalist trying to capture the stories of the founders of a Jewish restaurant/cafe in St Kilda, but this is really just an excuse for characters within the novel telling their own tales. And they are not exactly pleasant tales.

The characters (all based on real people) have endured World War II and the subsequent atrocities, and journeyed to Australia as refugees. It was eye opening to read about life in Russia, life as a guerrilla fighter, and the role of Japan and China in the migration of Jews out of Europe.

Unfortunately, the sheer number of stories, and the style used in jumping between them, doesn’t make it an easy read. The lyrical style used principally at the beginning of the book allowed me to treat the writing as poetry, and let the words wash over me without spending too much effort keeping track of the story. Towards the end of the book the style changes into more of a linear narrative that was easier to follow.

I found it an okay read, certainly educational, but probably wouldn’t recommend it to most.

My rating: 2.5 stars

A good telco analysis

Telstra’s pretty good at internal comms – almost every article or TV story about Telstra gets sent around the company in no time flat. However, it has emphasised to me the amount of confusion that is out there about the current situation with Telstra, the ACCC, the G9 and the Government. It’s not surprising – it’s pretty complicated.

But then I came across an article written by Greg Peel at FNArena that summarised the Australian telco debate all in lay terms. I’d never heard of FNArena before, but it seems that they have people who appreciate the messiness of the current messy situation. Not that I agree 100% with it all, but it’s the best writeup I’ve seen in the mainstream media. If you’re a little confused by it all, I do recommend a read of it.

And recently Greg Peel’s written another piece; a shorter one this time. It basically brings the previous article up to date with the recent government announcement. It will be interesting to see if his forecast comes true.

Anyway, I’m going to be keeping an eye out for his writing in future.

101 Entries!

99sauces LogoA few of us having been working on a new sort of food website concept, called 99sauces, and today it passed the 100 entries barrier. In fact, it’s now 101 entries, which is a lot better than 101 dalmations, I’m sure.

“What makes it new?” I hear you ask. Well, unlike the hundreds of other food and dining based websites out there that relate to Melbourne, this one is based on the wiki principle, which is that anyone can contribute and edit the contents, even if they haven’t registed. (You may be familiar with this sort of thing from Wikipedia, which is also a wiki).

But that’s not all. It’s also not just about places. More importantly, it’s about people – the people behind the places. There are entries for the chefs, owners, and anyone else of note. When your favourite cafe goes downhill, you can find out that the chef has left, and where they’ve gone to!

But that’s not all. It doesn’t contain any reviews itself, but it refers to reviews from elsewhere, even old reviews. So, you can see a variety of opinions about a place, and whether people think it’s improving, or something’s going steadily wrong.

Since this is the first time I’ve mentioned this anywhere publically, I’d like to thank everyone who has helped us (my co-moderator Cathy and I) with this project, by providing advice, contributing entries/comments to 99sauces, and even designing our logo. You know who you are, and I won’t list all of you here. But a heartfelt Thanks!

No, it wasn’t French

Last night, we went to the movies. I thought we were going to see the French comedy My Best Friend. It seems I was the only one who thought that. The rest of my friends, and indeed the whole cinema, was there to watch the latest Australian film…

Romulus, My Father

Beautiful tension in rural Australia

This is Eric Bana showing how he can be the Everyman. You’ve seen him in Black Hawk Down, Hulk, Chopper and even The Castle. But here he’s not comic nor an action hero, simply the title character. Told through the eyes of Raimond Gaita, the young son of Romulus, who is trying to cope with life in the country when his family is quite insane.

Not quirky insane, actually insane. It’s quite tragic at times, and there are periods of sustained tension where you really don’t have a clue what’s going to happen next, but the whole film is quite beautiful. Australia (specifically the state of Victoria, or even the town of Maldon) is shown off very nicely indeed too.

Kodi Smit-McPhee, who plays Raimond, pulls off an impressive performance. The whole cast handles the themes with a dramatic yet sensitive touch. Expect some award nominations here.

If you want a comparison with another recent film, it is probably closest to Richard E. Grant’s Wah-Wah, which is also about a boy living in the bush and having to deal with some crazy family issues, although its setting is Swaziland rather than Victoria. It’s a good film too.

My rating: 3.0 stars