Cheeseburger Gothic

FAIL STATE chapter one

Posted 8 hours ago into Books by John Birmingham

The full audiobook hasn't dropped yet, but for anyone who'd like a sneak preview, the first chapter is on SoundCloud.

You can listen here.

1 Responses to ‘FAIL STATE chapter one’

she_jedi reckons...

Posted 6 hours ago
Squeeeeeeee!!! This dropping a week before Christmas is everything :)

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Hey man, it’s my bag

Posted 16 hours ago by John Birmingham

I’ve been using the same beaten up shoulder bag for just under twenty years. I picked it up for a trip to the US back 2001, and it’s served me well ever since. Indeed it it gave yeoman’s service just recently in Korea and Hong Kong.

I fear those days are coming to an end though. A couple of small holes have opened up in the corners and I can easily imagine my very expensive Apple Pencil slipping right through one of them.

I’m having a surprisingly difficult time replacing it.

There’s a few things that come come together to make a Goldilocks bag; as in - just right.

It’s not too big, or heavy, and yet in a weird Tardis-like fashion you can fit a lot of stuff into it. My big arse iPad Pro, for instance - with the Smart Cover and bunch of other things. Notebooks. Phone. Wallet. Headphones.

For a wonder there’s also, for such a small, simply designed bag, a surprising number of little pockets and hidden slots for documents, keys, coins, AirPods, Kindles and suchlike.

Stitched together from soft but durable canvas and cut just so, it’s very light and when empty moulds to my side so that I forget I’m carrying it. The strap is wide and fixed directly to the main body of the bag. (Buckles are an abomination, and thin straps the tool of assassins). The main flap seals with Velcro, making it difficult for pickpockets and direct marketers to gain access to the inner volume without my knowing.

I’ve got a new Crumpler coming for Christmas, but I doubt it will replace my much loved and far travelled old companion.

10 Responses to ‘Hey man, it’s my bag’

jl reckons...

Posted 16 hours ago
Do they still make this bag? Then it's no problem- order the exact same bag. I did this recently with the wallet that lasted through three tours and retirement- a SpecOps T.H.E. wallet. The best, toughest ever with a lifetime guarantee that actually means something. So I get it about being attached to a good piece of gear. Nothing beats the best.

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andrew mutters...

Posted 15 hours ago
That's a nice looking satchel! If you're fishing for alternative suggestions, I offer my well-worn Peak Design messenger bag. Not twenty years old yet, but hanging in there admirably. Has one feature that I particularly like: it fits exactly under the airline seat in front when standing up, even when full of camera gear and tablet and what-not. That means that you still have room for your feet. No velcro, except to hold the internal partitions in place. Lots of interior pockets and places. Canvas. Wide strap.

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John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted 15 hours ago
I will check out both of these fine product recommendations.

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insomniac has opinions thus...

Posted 14 hours ago
Have you thought about getting it repaired, or at least get an Apple Pencil pocket installed.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted 13 hours ago
Oh I would be totally up for repairing it with gaffer tape and using it another twenty years. But unfortunately the flaw has been noted by Jane. And she is made of sterner stuff. The bag must die.

Bondiboy66 mumbles...

Posted 12 hours ago
Surely a good tailor, bootmaker, backpack fabricator or some such could effect a decent repair. Perhaps enquire through a better camping shop for referral to a pack and tent repairer? Clearly this bag is worth keeping and repairing!

she_jedi swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted 11 hours ago
Yeah maybe they can reinforce the corners with leather corner wrap thingys? Like on a book bag? It seems a tragedy to summarily execute such a faithful workhorse...

FormerlyKnownAsSimon is gonna tell you...

Posted 10 hours ago
i also suggest asking at a shoe repairer. Leather and canvas being their . . . . bag

jl asserts...

Posted 3 hours ago
It is exceedingly difficult to find a real, honest to God repairer. My wallet, for example. I learned when I purchased a new one that SpecOps had a lifetime guarantee. So I sent the old one back, wanting a repair. Me and that wallet had a history, you see. Did they fix it? No. They pitched it and sent me a brand new one. Can't complain, brand new wallet. But the old one could have been saved. No one repairs anymore. A real shame.

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Barnesm mumbles...

Posted 12 hours ago
Good luck on your hunt. I would like to think that in 20 years bag technology would have improved better materials, better designs and of course cheaper- however, that has not been my experience. After using the same bag I picked up on an overseas trip well over a decade ago I have gone through three bags in the same period of time.

Currently trying to find an old grizzled merchant in a cursed store to purchase a replacement.

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Christmas party in TV land

Posted Friday into Writing by John Birmingham

I enjoyed a quick trip down to Sydney last night for a Christmas party with the TV guys I’ve been doing some stuff with this year.

Great night. The venue was a brew pub in St Peter’s - Willie the Boatman.

I had whatever lager was on tap, because I’m finding most other beers too fruity for my gnarly old man palate these days. There was an elegant sufficiency of nosh, including three different types of sausage sandwich. The company was excellent. And I want to be a TV writer now.

Seriously. I love this stuff. Not just the wide range of Frellman-approved complimentary sausage products, but the writing. There is something about the screenplay form that really appeals to me.

Earlier this year I talked a bit about writing a pilot episode for a black comedy set in the world of espionage. (Couldn’t sleep, seething, the night of the election. Got up at 3AM and vomited my rage into the screenplay software. Finished the first draft inside a day. It was very funny. Who would have imagined that deep existential dread and loathing would have an upside?)

I put my experience with the Felafel movie to good use. Sent off the script with my invoice and promptly moved on. I didn’t forget about the screenplay, but I consciously stopped thinking about it.

Writing for screen more generally, however, was a different matter. Having acquired some new skills I was keen to polish them. So when I got back from Korea I put aside some time to write another pilot. This time an adaptation. Since A Girl in Time was the first novel I wrote after studying screenwriting to get a better grip on story structure, I decided to rework it into a TV pilot.

Smooth transition. Or relatively smooth, with a couple of caveats. The dialogue and scene setting moved from page to screen without a hitch. An hour long pilot was the perfect length to move Cady and Smith from Seattle to London. The ep finished with them escaping London on a cliffhanger. All good.

The one issue I did have, and still have to address in any future drafts, was point of view. I write point-of-view novels, of course. I hadn’t realised just how pointy until I attempted the transition to screenplay. A lot of the humour and narrative power of that book, and probably all of them, comes from the very particular world views of whichever character is narrating a chapter.

But how do you do POV on screen? To be honest, I have no fucking idea. But I’m going to find out. One way it affects the transition if you just cut and paste? You find your characters standing, talking, and doing nothing. In a novel those sections can be surrounded by passages of internal monologue and reflection. But not on screen.

That’s why that party was so good last night. A room full of people who’ve done this stuff their whole working lives. It was like talking to a bunch of kung fu masters who had all of this arcane knowledge I needed to gather.

So I’m gonna do another quick screenplay next week. A conventional crime/adventure/martial arts story based on a book idea I had a couple of years back but did nothing with.

And then back to novels for a while. Still gotta pay those bills.

4 Responses to ‘Christmas party in TV land’

Bondiboy66 mutters...

Posted Friday
Smith and cady would be a great basis for TV! Be nice if it comes to fruition!

John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted Friday
Yes, yes they would.

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Therbs mumbles...

Posted Friday
Ask for a laugh track for the funny bits. Apparently its a TV thing. And a tag line at the end of each episode.
"Oh Cady, you sure do talk funny!" (cue laugh track, roll end credits).

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted Friday
Man, it’s like you’re looking over my shoulder.

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How to cook the perfect steak

Posted Thursday into Funny by John Birmingham

Before you start you will need land, lots of land, underneath the starry sky, and you will need to fence it in. Otherwise your tender juicy steaks will wander off. If there is no land available in your local area, you may have to send an invading army through the fence lines of rival steak lords, seizing their ancestral lands and women for your own. If they have yurts, burn them.
When the yurt coals are reduced to an even heat, extract your steak from its container. This will be messy and often distressing, but less so for you than for the steak.
Jamie Oliver recommends feather steak, also known as flat iron steak, but neither feathers nor flat irons are edible, which explains why so many of Oliver’s restaurants have closed.
A simple fillet steak, cut into the shape of a steak, always impresses.
Never cook your fillet cold, because the application of heat causes the molecules of the steak to rapidly move backward and forward in a process we call cooking. Applying cold to the steak will not cook it at all.
Make sure your griddle, fry pan or barbecue plate are similarly hot and cast from iron or you will need to go back to the Bronze Age and restart your civilisation if you want to caramelise your steak for a deliciously crusty outer crust.
When done, your steak must be medium rare, or else there was no point to any of this. If perfect steaks were just lying around all over the place and not even mediumly difficult to find, this whole exercise would collapse under the weight of its inherent contradictions.
Do not, under any circumstances, allow the steak to toughen up. It will learn Krav Maga and then it will be you on the iron griddle and the steak boasting to all its friends as it sticks a fork into your rump.
Rubbing the steak all over with olive oil is sexy.
So very, very sexy.
Add your steak to the hot pan and cook for six minutes, turning every minute to make sure nobody is sneaking up on you.
Rub the steak with half a garlic clove as you turn. Your screams as you burn the tips of your fingers will unsettle whoever was sneaking up on you. Put your burned fingertips into a knob of butter.
This is also a little sexy.
If you want to go the extra mile for your guests, walk a mile into the woods and create a herb brush by tying woody herbs like thyme and rosemary to a stick. Unless they followed you, your guests will never find out how you did that.
Once cooked to your liking, rest the steak. Some Netflix and a little day time drinking. We all need me time. Your steak will come back to the game refreshed and stronger than ever.
We all have our favourite ways to eat steak, but increasingly I’m turning to the old ways and using my mouth.

14 Responses to ‘How to cook the perfect steak’

insomniac is gonna tell you...

Posted Thursday
I agree with much of this, not all though, but only at the periphery. The fundamentals are strong.

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Spanner swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted Thursday
Medium rare? BLASPHEMY

We the TRUE eaters of steak have it rare or mildly frightened. I declare a jihad on you unbelievers.

spankee mumbles...

Posted Friday
Wipe its arse and walk it thorugh a warm room I say.

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andrew asserts...

Posted Thursday
My favourite steak-cooking involves the extra degree of difficulty that comes when the steak starts out as a Wagyu. These tend to burst into flames under the slightest provocation, and once alight are self-sustaining. So the heat needs to be just-so. The rewards for success are significant though. I tend towards freshly ground black pepper and a little salt, rather than herbs, but the choice is yours. Olive oil on Wagyu exacerbates the combustion, in my experience, so I avoid it now.

jl is gonna tell you...

Posted Thursday
What you suggest sounds truly amazing.

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Barnesm asserts...

Posted Thursday
"you will need to go back to the Bronze Age and restart your civilisation" damit! put this at the start of the instructions..

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Bondiboy66 mumbles...

Posted Thursday
Needs more salt. Olive oil, rub some salt in, Cook more or less as above. Drink beer while cooking - this is important. Or wine if you must. Hydration will save you from fainting over your hot cooking implement/fire/energy transfer device. Rest the steak in your belly!

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tqft mutters...

Posted Thursday
For science only of course I am going to try something newish next week.

Aldi is selling smoking bags (Mesquite and Hickory).

So when I have to entrain/cook for my brother in law next week I think, or even better just myself, going to put some steak, corn on cob and maybe some sweet potato in bag. Put bag in cast iron camp stove. Put camp stove on bbq hot plate burner and cook while drinking beer.

Then when the time (?) is up, see if it worked.

she_jedi mumbles...

Posted Thursday
We need a full report on this, including UAT and QA testing. For science, you know.

jl is gonna tell you...

Posted Thursday
This thread is making my mouth water.

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Ceramic reckons...

Posted Thursday
Haha, I love it "deliciously crusty outer crust." It feels like you're taking the piss out of "serious literary writers". Yeah? Nah?

OMG, turn every minute? I would have thought it would dry the steak out!?

Hmm yeah man, I grow thyme, and rosemary bushes are across the street. Got a wicked garlic butter recipe with fresh thyme, parsly, chives,, paprika and salt cuby things. My homemade lamb seasoning is salt, dried rosemary, chilli bits, pepper and fried onion. Soo good.

she_jedi mutters...

Posted Friday
Heston Blumenthal advocates turning every minute, and demonstrates with science (SCIENCE!) why this will a) not dry the steak out and b) locks the juices in and makes it more tender. Track down the beef episode of How to Cook Like Heston :D

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Ceramic asserts...

Posted Yesterday
Oh man. That thermal imaging camera made me understand the turning frequently. Cheers She Jedi!

she_jedi is gonna tell you...

Posted 11 hours ago
How good was it??? I was instantly sold on the turning frequently thingy.

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My year of not complaining

Posted Thursday into House keeping by John Birmingham

I had some thinky time while I was travelling. Getting ten thousand klicks away from your daily routine is good for that. Apart from filing a couple of columns, I didn’t work. Every time my thoughts strayed to work, I lured them away with contemplation of chicken and beer.
It cleared my head.
One of the first things I resolved to do was spend a lot less time on the Hell Sites of Twitter and Farcebuck, and more time here. There’s no escaping the Hell Sites. I do a lot of business there. But there is a cost, a heavy fucking cost to being there.
That led me to my second resolution. If I was going to spool up the engines on the Burger again, I didn’t want to simply repeat here at length, that which I was doing there.
Bitching and moaning, basically.
Ninety percent of everything online is bitching and moaning now. The rest is cat and dog videos, adverts inserted into cat and dog videos, and shameless self promotion.
But mostly bitching and moaning.
It’s not just human nature. The platforms have tweaked their software to preference ugliness because like the tabloid editors of yore they have learned that ugliness sells. If it bleeds it leads, as we used to say in the fish wrapping business.
Or to update the model, it if enrages it engages.
I’ve had enough. We’ve all had enough.
I can’t change a damn thing by putting on a happy face, and to be honest, it’s not appropriate given the accelerating collapse of our civilisation and ecosystem. So I’ll still be raging over there.
But here I want some peace and quiet. So for the next 12 months I’m going to try a new approach to blogging. Niceness. Gentle humour. Good vibes.
In service of this new beginning I’m going to run some of my favourite and most gently written pieces from my old private column, Alien Side Boob.
Starting with the piece above.
How To Cook the Perfect Steak.

7 Responses to ‘My year of not complaining’

insomniac mumbles...

Posted Thursday
I'm not on social media so I don't really know how ugly it is. I do have a Guardian presence though, and while there is some ugly, there is much dumbness, mainly from the gubbermunt troll army. That can be depressing, especially if I haven't had my Vegemite for a few days. On the other hand there are many not dumb peeps concerned about where this country is headed, and their comments are most welcome.

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andrew asserts...

Posted Thursday
I don't do the social medias as such either, but I imagine that it probably isn't any better than the comments sections on news sites and some blogs. Not the high signal-to-noise ones like yours of course.

Used to be that whinging in public would get you shunned. "Don't feed the trolls" seemed to mostly work, on usenet for a while. Perhaps its time has come again?

I particularly like the approach of David Byrne's blog "Reasons to be cheerful". It's not always good, but I think that it's heading in a useful direction.

There's a lovely piece on "How to do nothing: resisting the attention economy" that I read last month. Perhaps it would help:

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted Thursday
This is a good link. Thanks.

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Barnesm puts forth...

Posted Thursday
Good luck, let me know if there is anything I can do to help. Remember the advice from The Meaning of Life movie
"I've had a team working on this over the past few weeks, and what we've come up with can be reduced to two fundamental concepts.
One. People are not wearing enough hats.
Two. Matter is energy.
In the universe, there are many energy fields which we cannot normally perceive. Some energies have a spiritual source, which act upon a person's soul. However, this soul does not exist ab initio, as orthodox Christianity teaches. It has to be brought into existence, by a process of guided self- observation. However, this is rarely achieved, owing to man's unique ability to be distracted from spiritual matters by everyday trivia.

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Rob is gonna tell you...

Posted Thursday
Its the sameness that bugs me. (and the lack of humour) Everyone wants everything to be exactly like everything else. Every new video is a copy of a copy of a copy. Copies sell, and then everyone wants their new creation to look like the last cool thing. 10 minutes on tiktok and you can just see these poor kids all trying to emulate the last faddish thing, to capture exactly the same appeal of that thing.

And the Karens & Sharons all commenting 'exactly' & 'this' on the endless parades of tedious positivity memes, love yourself first posts, 'my husband left me because of ptsd not because I'm a totally annoying miserable asshole' statements.

Mind you that's all not too gentle or nice I'll try harder in the new year JB.

Dave W ducks in to say...

Posted Thursday
A friend of mine was constantly posting those passive-aggressive meme things. Another friend of his replied to one saying "I've noticed you've had a few of these up here lately. Is everything okay? Give me a call if you want to talk."

That was the end of the posts. I'd like to think I'd do the same and treat these annoyances with a positive response.

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon asserts...

Posted Thursday
i took a 45 odd day break from twitter myself. It was on the back of seeing some person tweet "if you have to log off from twitter you are doing it wrong". It incensed me, then made me think "why the eff do i care?" - closed it down completely and logged off (but went back in just to refresh the login before the 30 day cutoff). Went back after the much needed rest. Everyone was still there drawing out the same old type of jokes, making comments about shit that suddenly did not make any sense (or more to the point I didn't care about). It was weird - so i posted my bird shots recording the species that visit my place and commented less myself. The only thing i could relate it to was one new years eve myself and the better half had no plans, turns out no invites to parties (everyone was away that year), first year in our new place, so decided we'd wander down to the fireworks in the harbour. But what to do till midnight? Ahh we'll go watch the new Lord of the Rings movie, that went for four hours or something - good waste of time not requiring us to spend too much. It was daylight and normal when we went in. When we came out we thought it was the apocalypse. Normally I get a bit disoriented after sitting in a movie in the dark and you emerge blinking in the sunlight. But this was different. It was just after dusk. Everyone had turned into drunk zombies - it was frigging 9 oclock for gods sake. People vomiting in the gutter, agro guys trying to punch you out, girls collapsing in a heap. We had decided to walk up to the harbour but as we got closer it got worse. A total bin fire. We reached circular quay and just kept going - got on the train and went home . . . . and figured we could see the tiny explosions from our balcony anyway. So, twitter is a bit like that . . . . i may jump on that train yet to get out of the bin fire.

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Hefty chunks and creamy head

Posted Wednesday by John Birmingham

I'm one of those people who doesn't like to travel too much when he travels. For sure, I'll happily fly around the world and through the night, but when I get where I'm going I like to sink my roots deep. I like to dig into every nook and cranny of whichever neighborhood I'm staying in rather than flitting about the country, changing hotels and moving from city to city every couple of days. It's possible I'm just weird and lazy, but ... okay, I guess it's more than possible.

In Korea this meant hanging out in the University district of Hongdae most of the time, occasionally riding the subway into the heart of the city, and not really venturing much further. A few people asked if we were going to go up to the DMZ, because it's awesome. And maybe if I'd been there another week, we would have. But not this time. Had too much hanging out to do.

One of the things I really like about my approach is not just getting to know a place, but letting the place get to know you. I like to choose a bar, a café and a couple of restaurants to get most of my business, for instance. The first time you roll in, they'll treat you like a tourist. The second time too. But by your third visit they're onto an earner and you start getting better treatment. In Seoul this often took the form of the password for the superfast Wi-Fi, nicer snacks with the drinks—seriously, these people serve snacks with every damn drink that arrives— or even free drinks.

Luckily, Thomas is a bit the same way. Probably even more than me. He's a good traveller, fearless* in many ways, but when he finds something he likes it's difficult to shake him of it. We ate the same breakfast nearly every day for 10 days.

We had one break from the routine to try out a specialist toast place. Yes. The Koreans have specialist toast shops. They are more civilised than us.

We tried Korean barbecue of course, but to be honest I never really found a place that grabbed me. There were two restaurants, both of them pretty cheap, that we kept going back to. One was a place called to Ddobagi chicken, which offered about a dozen different variations on fried or barbecued chook.

The other was Mawang, a specialist pork joint which had more than generous service of beautifully cooked pigmeat. We ordered one platter, medium sized. It defeated us.

Neither place was looking for the tourist dollar and none of the staff spoke English. But they did have menus with pictures of the food for idiot Westerners who wandered in by accident and we did just fine by pointing at those and rubbing our tummies. So too with the beer.

Chicken and beer it turns out, is the national dish of Korea. Not that fiery cabbage shit everyone goes on about. We defaulted to the same two or three dishes each time at Ddobagi – an eponymous sort of nugget mound in which hefty chunks of deep-fried breast meat arrived in a crunchy coating of spiced rice flour, and a platter of legs and wings smoked and baked in a sticky sweet seasoning. There was a barbecued menu item that looked amazing, but the staff anxiously mimed to us that its fiery spices would kill us instantly. Should I ever be in Seoul at the same time as Mr Barnes, we shall see about that. The beer was some ice-cold local brew which appeared to be called Max Cream but which I insisted on ordering as Creamy Head because at heart I'm a 14 year old boy.

We doubtlessly would have discovered two or three other really cool places if we'd stretched our legs. But then I'd have eaten less Ddobagi chicken and Mawang Pork.


*You have not seen determined until you've seen a 17yo boy negotiate across an impenetrable language barrier with the staff at an Internet cafe for access to the gaming 'puters.

6 Responses to ‘Hefty chunks and creamy head’

jl would have you know...

Posted Wednesday
That food n stuff looks amazing. Totally agree with your method of seeing the world. Much better to get to know one place well, then a dozen places superficially. Plus the tourist shacks are always horrible, a real rip-off.

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Spanner swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted Wednesday
Where is my fried chicken?


I’m sitting here at work like some sort of fried chickenless numpty and this will not do.

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Barnesm puts forth...

Posted Wednesday
I can testify to the awesomeness of the Beer & Chicken combination embodied as the Korean national dish. Around my neck of the woods in Melb I am fortunate to live in a largely Asian community and from the smallish Korean eateries to the larger Korean franchises such as NeNe Chicken or Bon Chicken & Beer the stuff is deliciously satisfying. I am a little alarmed that at my local they no longer ask for my order but as I come in simply look up and with a slightly raised inflection at the end of their statement 'the usual'.

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Doccs mumbles...

Posted Wednesday
Good stuff JB, getting to know the place you’re visiting is cool.
I never could understand all the sightseeing and photos me self.

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Bondiboy66 asserts...

Posted Wednesday
Yes have done the same thing - staying put that is. We stayed in a small southern French town about 2 years back, went to the same cafe for breakfast for 2 weeks. By day 3 we were virtually locals!

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she_jedi is gonna tell you...

Posted Wednesday
"There was a barbecued menu item that looked amazing, but the staff anxiously mimed to us that its fiery spices would kill us instantly." I'm not sure why, but I laughed so hard at this.

I am a late convert to Korean fried chicken, but by every known god it's good. I want to go to Seoul now :(

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