Gripes of wrath – My first look at The Global Mail

I was up late so I switched on the new Australian bastion of Independent Journalism, The Global Mail (TGM).

The website only went live last night but after twenty minutes or so I felt I had a good enough grasp of their plans to share my thoughts. And all my thoughts were about sharing. Because that’s what we do.

During the next day, today, I have seen some nastier reviews of TGM. This kind of spontaneous chatter, the fleeting engagement that social media elevates into conversation is still worthwhile and I am confident the editors won’t see the negatives as carping but as people wanting to be proud of a standout moment in our media culture, to make a good thing great.

My email to the editor went something like this.

Hello,
Thanks for launching your new venture – it has already kept me up past midnight so that can’t be a bad thing.

Having read a few articles, each of which I appreciated, I found myself wanting more, more links to topics raised, more options for looking at the source material and a chance to delve further into the life of the author. Sadly, none of these options are present on your site. My hopes were that TGM would bring a fresh new look to independent storytelling – which it does, I am enjoying the interface and typesetting – but also that it would nail the sharing mentality that is now spearheaded by social media. As for me and my generation, this is how we consume media; it is second nature to ping our friends as we read a story, to tweet a thought, to grab a quote (preferably out of context) or to drag a photo to show our followers.

I hope that your site is already aware of these trends and plans to roll out such solutions in coming weeks. It is, after all, our first night together and I realise it’s unfair expecting everything to be just right.

So, how about it? How about a Google+ button, hyperlinked issues within stories, article tags and photos that link to more photos from that event or photographer. Right now TGM feels to me like a broadsheet copied onto a website.

I look forward to seeing where else you take it – and where I can take it.

Cheers, Luke.

A Book Review: Sydney by Delia Falconer

cover of Sydney Delia Falconer

When I recently returned home from overseas – a five week stint in Europe and the UK – I felt immensely proud of Sydney and glad to be home.

But I was aware that this feeling was, in part, artificial. I knew what I really liked was the familiarity. Travelling abroad, for me at least, is like the discomfort you feel having to drive someone else’s car or use their pantry. From the first day back I wanted to embrace the inner west, smell Glebe’s dankness, gaze wistfully from the Anzac Bridge and have a brilliant Newtown coffee.

So when I saw this book and read a few paragraphs in Kinokuniya, it suited my state of mind – I wanted to know what made Sydney a shiny world-class city but also to understand how it differed from the other grand metropolises of the world.

Sydney answered my first desire wonderfully. (Just like when you visit Manly and always think these people have it all! It’s like always being on holiday!) And for many good reasons, I’m certain, the book avoided the comparisons of my second desire. (Ten minutes on the corso and you want out.)

Sydney, Delia suggests, is a mass of contradictions, all revolving around a central failing that it wants beauty but more readily embraces ugliness; It’s urge is to play and be playful but it is in fact an angry workaholic, Sydney delights in the finer points of life but also adores debauchery. Delia has a point. She has many and perhaps too many. There are myriad metaphors for Sydney and she writes with a colour that does the metropolitan area proud, but, like Darling Harbour, she just tries a bit too hard.

The author has an intriguing history herself and perhaps because of that, she feels at one with Sydney in many deeply profound ways. She grew up playing with the kids of Brett Whiteley and her parents knew Patrick White. She seems like something of a socialite but thankfully doesn’t get too high-brow on the reader. (She’s the Chatswood of writers.)

Delia has many fascinating sidelines about how our city functions and its people oscillate around our festivals and routines. She exposes our bigotry and our generosity equally. She draws on Kenneth Slessor’s great old poems and splices little known colonial history with recent memories.

Towards the end of the book, it all starts to unravel – like when Anzac Parade reaches La Perouse “Where are we?” I remember thinking. “It’s Mad Max meets Blacktown!” – and the book’s editor’s get sloppy as the author starts navel-gazing.

Maybe it’s all supposed to resemble a walk across the Harbour Bridge. It begins wonderfully, then half way along you realise the fences spoil the view and by the end you think it’d be fabulous if they’d just finished it right.

Other notes
Delia Falconer is the author of two novels, The Service of Clouds and The Lost Thoughts of Soldiers; both were shortlisted for major Australian and international awards, including the Miles Franklin and Commonwealth Prize.

Get Sydney at Boomerang Books

Why Jamie Oliver’s Italian will deliver for Sydney

It’s just a restaurant, yes, but if you are a foodie on a budget, the appearance of Jamie’s Italian in Sydney’s Pitt Street should already have you salivating.

My young family and I recently had two meals at the Jamie’s Italian restaurant in Bath, England, a restaurant that combined so many good things that it was one of the most memorable meals in a five-week trip across four countries.

From the outside, it wasn’t much, and in the ancient, historical theme park of Bath, it was disappointingly modern. But once inside, any disappointment waned in response to the clever layout and countless cool touches.

From the entrance, you can already see more meat than your local butcher, framing what appears to be the first of three kitchens. It’s an Italian restaurant – vegetarians are welcome but ignored…

Next delightful touch we saw was a display of fresh bread – like all the pasta used, it was baked daily and on the premises. Not half bad.

The vibe is fast-paced and noisy but the good was quick and the crowd young, so it any kitchen noise seemed intentional – the customers were supposed to notice the food being created, everything designed to give you an immersive food experience.

Next thing we noticed was how well the place took care of kids. The waiters were professional without being uptight, so our spills and demands were all fine. They had a high-chair waiting for us at our table. The waiter fell in love with our son. And then he brought….

KIDS’ CRAYONS!

Seriously, some joints hate you from the moment you walk in with kids so this was blowing our collective minds. Cafe owners of Sydney take note, if you appreciate and cater to the children, then like adults, they will like you more and be more compliant! It’s not brain surgery.

So our food hadn’t even arrived and we all had huge Dolmio grins.

And then the food did arrive. I can’t recall exactly what it was but each choice delivered and was less than $AU20.

Kids were happy – and drowning in good spicy sauces. We enjoyed the delicate tastes of fresh herbs with Jamie’s flourishes hidden somewhere on every plate.

I should point out that Jamie wasn’t there and staff said he had only ever dropped in once when they chalked his outline on a ready-made wall.

This IS a franchise. Oliver is good at it (he made $30,000/hour last year and he’s about to make a move into Facebook games) and this food chain certainly cashes in on his popularity, but unlike the Tefal saucepans that bear his name yet you can still ruin a meal with them, the restaurants can claim to deliver on a menu that he has created and tasted.

Plus, I believe they deliver on his mantra – good food for everyone, all the time.

He recently established a Ministry of Food – Australia including a centre in Ipswich, Queensland, that will help to ’empower, educate and engage as many people as possible to love and enjoy good food.’

But let’s not forget dessert.

These were also on display as you walked in. So the decision was taken care of earlier on.
Wifey went with a chocolate tart but I loved the sound of baked nectarines sprinkled with brown sugar and nutmeg. I chose it because I thought, “I have all those ingredients, why aren’t I making this?”

And so, Jamie’s Italian had delivered on a third Oliver mantra; ‘Keep Cooking Skills Alive’.

I was inspired, not to eat out more, but to be more creative when cooking at home.

Bish bash bosh, sorted.

Jamie’s Italian is set to open later this year at the location of 107 Pitt Street, Sydney (where Industrie wine bar used to be).

twitter.com/jamieoliver http://www.jamieoliver.com/

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