Cheeseburger Gothic

Ibrahim's Grill and Transmission Vector

Posted 21 hours ago into Food & Drink by John Birmingham

Not being a foot fetishist, I’ve never dreamed of drinking champagne from one of Jimmy Choo’s finely crafted stilettos. I’ve never thought of drinking champagne out of anything other than a champagne flute, or in a pinch, a coupe; one of those shallow, wide-rimmed glasses reputed to have been modelled on Marie Antoinette’s boob.

I’ll allow that taking a sip directly from the royal fun bags might not be terrible. But there I draw the line. I do not want my bubbly wine suggesting a tincture of athlete’s foot. And there’s no way known I’m drinking soup from a shoe. This atrocity was most recently catalogued by the excellent ‘We Want Plates’ campaign and no words can do it justice.

I’ll simply let your eyes feast on what your tummy could not possibly stomach.

At what point in the accelerating collapse of our civilisation did we agree that this bullshit was not just permissible, but worth a business plan? The story of humanity’s climb to the top of the food chain, starts not with our emergence from the primordial ooze, but with our decision to not slurp that ooze from our cupped hands. Anthropologists speculate that we might have started by using sea shells as our dinner bowls, but it was not long before we graduated to agriculture, nation building and dinner plates. Along the way we experimented with eating off rocks and bits of wood or bark, but the inherently superior nature of plates, bowls and cups is shown by the fact that they are found in abundance wherever human beings leave traces of their fallen civilisations. When everything else has been lost to time, a simple porcelain plate endures.

Wooden platters do not endure.

They split and rot and harbour living filth within their cracks and crevices. The term ‘trench mouth’ for ulcerative gingivitis, traces back to the use of wooden trenchers, or shared serving bowls in medieval times. They proved to be excellent transmission vectors for all manner of exciting infectious disease. Our return to these vessels, and worse, is our surrender to entropy. If human progress is no longer possible, why not stick a plastic cup full of tinned soup in a red shoe with a cheese cruller? Nothing matters anymore.

But! But… all is not lost.

A restaurant in the UK was recently fined £50,000 (or eighty-six grand in dollarydoos) for serving bad food on worse letters. After poisoning a dinner party of fourteen guests, Ibrahim's Grill and Steakhouse was ordered by local government health inspectors to stop serving food on cracked, dirty wooden boards. Of course, in the restaurant biz cracked, dirty wooden boards are so fucking hot right now… so Ibrahim kept right on poisoning those fashion-obsessed foodies.

It would be a shame. I think, if this small victory went nowhere. Wooden platters are not the worst things food has been served on, of late. This big fucking chunk of steel I-beam would be in with a shot...

… Were it not for the horror of meat on a clipboard…

Or, seriously, wasps in a biscuit.

The madness must end.

7 Responses to ‘Ibrahim's Grill and Transmission Vector’

Oldy mutters...

Posted 20 hours ago
...but guzzling beer out of the coach's boot after a football championship win is still ok, right?

Asking for a friend, obviously...

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jl has opinions thus...

Posted 20 hours ago
Strongly agree with above.

One of the most sincerely held desires I had when serving in various unpleasant locales was for normal, won't-give-me-dysentary food served in sanitary conditions with people around me who didn't want me dead. Why would anyone want, short of Siege of Leningrad conditions, a biscuit filled with wasps? Or why eat some repulsive looking repast off of something salvaged from a scrap heap or a garbage dump?

One of the blessings of civilization is readily available, healthy and nourishing food. Damn, people must be bored with life, kind of like those seekers of the Darwin prize who eat Tide detergent pods.

Ennui kills as surely as a bullet. Look no further than the expensive slop on your trendy wooden plate.

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Dave W is gonna tell you...

Posted 19 hours ago
Food served on something that reminds me of a workplace, such as a clipboard (yes, I know, I haven't used a clipboard in decades, but office supplies in general), might drive me to a bigger drinks bill. But I won't go back to that place after the initial unpleasant experience.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted 18 hours ago
I think the clipboard is easily the worst one.

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Therbs mumbles...

Posted 18 hours ago
This sort of wankbadgery is down to Gen InstagramFoodie ignoring the bit about function in the whole "beautiful" design process. Steve Jobs would be appalled.

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John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted 12 hours ago
There's something amiss with the comments, again. So I'm posting this one by Jim Kable, who emailed it to me.

I spent many years in Japan - and was served food on some of the most spectacular pottery and porcelain - some the work of Living National Treasures (even of some who had passed away - and I don't want to rework that LNT appellation). Commiserations re the wooden platters, etc. - and the drinking from shoes option. Trying to drink out of glass jars is already bad enough!

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jason puts forth...

Posted 1 hour ago
I put my hand up to take some of the blame for this. I live in hipster central where this sort of frippery was encouraged and glorified. Sipping a short double shot espresso while riding a fixie after eating off a recycled toilet seat on the way to get an ironic tattoo is a way of life here.

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Plans for the year

Posted Wednesday into Writing by John Birmingham

Five books, basically.

After a shocker last year I just want to get my head down and write some novels. The long awaited Girl in Time sequel. The even longer awaited WW 3.1. Another space opera. My end of the world thingies. And a couple of conventional thrillers.

It would be a nice retreat from the world.

I suspect nice retreats from the world are going to be in high demand for the next few years.

I've written intro chapters and plot outlines for the two thrillers. I'm thinking about selling them locally, but retaining the overseas rights for myself. One thing I've recently learned, publishers are not keen to split print from ebook rights. They're starting to demand audio rights too, for no extra payment. But they're still locked into the old territorial model. So selling a title here, wouldn't preclude self publishing it overseas.

It'd be a bit of a dog's breakfast though. With retail prices of 14.99 in A/NZ and 4.99 globally.

So I dunno. I'll have to think on that some more.

2 Responses to ‘Plans for the year’

jason mumbles...

Posted Thursday
I reckon there is a sequel to "How to be a writer" in there somewhere called "How to deal with publishers - without resorting to violence"

jl swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted Thursday
Just thinking about the process and its mechanics makes me want to smash my head onto my desk until I see stars and taste blood.

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Travelers, a thing I like.

Posted Tuesday into Telly by John Birmingham

There are some shows on the streamz that I have to take a sip at a time. Ozark, Breaking Bad, even Daredevil. There’s an intensity to them that precludes consuming the series in a long binge.

Travelers is the opposite. I have to stop myself watching back to back episodes so that I don’t rush through an entire season and find myself enraged that there’s no more to be had.

It’s on Netflix in Oz, so not everyone will have seen it, but for me it’s one of those shows that makes subscription TV worth the money. This is the sort of show that would've run on the Ten Network when it was cool. And they’d have destroyed it with ads and schedule changes and getting a couple of eps out of order because that’s how they roll.

The premise is cool. Time travelers are sent back from a doomed future to change the past. But they can’t return in corporeal form, only their minds can make the journey – into the host bodies of people already living here in the 21st century. (Or simply The 21st, as it’s known in the show). The transfer overwrites the original mind, effectively killing the host. Travelers are thus inserted into hosts who are about to die before their time.

It’s a neat narrative ploy which unfolds into ever more complicated origami forms of story telling as the show goes on. Characters can be ‘killed’ simply by overwrite. It’s a great screen writer trick.

Eric McCormack (Will, in Will and Grace) leads the ensemble cast of travelers in his team, and does a great job. I never watched W&G so I had no trouble imagining him into the role of a very straight FBI agent—his relationship with his wife after overwriting is a key driver of the series. The other cast members fill out a Joss Whedon-style ‘band of five’ and every episode sees them even some new mission by The Director, to save the future.

It sounds dumb, and it is magnificently, compellingly, addictively dumb and enormous fun because of it. Season One was a good set up. Season Two is much stronger, with real character development inside the team, a solid meta-narrative setting up a worthy nemesis within the mythology of the series, and lots of splodey goodness.

There’s always lots of splodey goodness.

I only have a couple of eps left and I’m already feeling pre-emptive withdrawal.

7 Responses to ‘Travelers, a thing I like.’

insomniac would have you know...

Posted Wednesday
It's on my list but I'll never get to it because some people in the house have an aversion to anything 'time travel'.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted Wednesday
Overwrite them.

Barnesm reckons...

Posted Thursday
What house are you in, is it the chinese government?

insomniac reckons...

Posted Friday
Those lotus leaves? If only.

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Barnesm swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted Thursday
I am really enjoying Travellers looking forward to your thoughts after you watch the final espisode of season 2. So far the haven't confirmed a season 3 yet. Manly because I think they like to see me suffer.

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Vovchara would have you know...

Posted Saturday
Travelers is truly remarkable. Avoiding all usual cliches of timetravel. Suspenseful and very human.

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Oldy reckons...

Posted 17 hours ago
This is absolutely my favourite thing on TV (is it still TV if it's Netflix?) I love the characters and the group dynamic, and yes - the second season kicks the show into the stratosphere.

It would be my second favourite thing, except they cancelled Sense8.

I'm not surprised you like it, it's got a lot of the same qualities I go to the Birmoverse for. Time Travel, alternate What If stuff, and cool characters who talk to each other like real people.

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ASB extracts

Posted January 15 into House keeping by John Birmingham

I've been meaning to spool up the Burger again, and have decided to run a few old bits from Alien Side Boob here this week as a subscriber drive, and a way of reminding myself to come here every day and fucking post something.

I had a Hell of a time of it last year, and the Burger suffered for it. I'm hoping and planning to be a lot more productive in 2018 and it'd be nice to get the clubhouse repainted and a couple of freshly stuffed beanbags here and there to spruce the place up.

Last week I submitted the first draft of THE CRUEL STARS to Random House, or Random Penguins as they now are, I guess. Or maybe Penguin House. This week, I'm having a planning session to lay out my deadlines and get all my various workflows in balance. Item one: take fewer media commissions, do more book writing.

I'm not sure yet how to program regular blogging time in the schedule, but that's part of what I need to work out.

5 Responses to ‘ASB extracts’

w from brisbane has opinions thus...

Posted January 15
JB, if you do find the time, some more Burger blogs would be enjoyed. They are a delight,

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon is gonna tell you...

Posted Tuesday
the burger is a good spot to chew the fat in between books.

jl asserts...

Posted Tuesday

Dave W mumbles...

Posted Wednesday
True dat. I'm a simple person with simple social media needs. Just drop us a little taste every now and then.

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Barnesm would have you know...

Posted Thursday
'Random Penguins' at least you aren't involved with angry penguins, didn't work out well for that other Australian writer.

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Conan answers your questions

Posted January 15 into Funny by John Birmingham


"Conan, what is best in life?"

To make the yellow light at the intersection with but a fraction of a second to spare, then to savour expressions of your enemies, the other, lesser drivers as they are bathed in the loathsome flash of the red light camera.

Conan, please, what is best in life?

To see a close friend stumble in public, to almost fall, and to regain his footing but only at the cost of great embarrassment. This. This is best. Most especially the embarrassment, but also the clumsiness.

Come now, Conan.

It is also best to find twenty dollars folded into your pocket. Not less, for there is little one can do with less. Not more, for with great riches, or fifty dollars, comes great responsibility. To accidentally find and wantonly spend twenty dollars is indeed best.

Conan, what is best in life?

Not the Celebrity Retweet, but the envy of your closest friends at your Celebrity Retweet.

Conan, is that really what’s best in life?

For Conan there is also pleasure to be had in the awkward, slightly uncomfortable moment when another must hold the door open longer than usual so that I might pass through.


If the door is the entrance to a crowded restaurant or bar, and your long and awkward approach is long enough that a table opens up directly in front of you as you enter? This, this too is best in life. For some reason, greater pleasure is to be had in subterranean venues.

But what is really best in life, Conan?

I speak true when I say that to freeze frame the TV just as your enemy is blinking so as to appear in the throes of a stroke, perhaps brought on by an explosive and unexpected end to a prolonged bout of constipation, this is best.

Conan, what is truly best?

To have a water balloon fight with small children in which your superior reach, speed and throw weight allows you to utterly drench them while you yourself remain dry.

Any more, Conan?

To drive one’s wagon to market, and pull into a parking space at the exact moment the wagon immediately in front of you pulls out, allowing you to claim the pull through slot and ultimately to drive away without the inconvenience of reversing, that is best in life.

Conan, is that truly what is best in life?

The crusty edge on a muffin top also pleases Conan.

You’ve changed, Conan.

Conan does not change, not for mere pleasure, unless it is into a fleecy track suit, fresh from the warm cycle of the clothes dryer. This too Conan finds best.

Conan, there must be more than this.

Only the look on someone’s face as the elevator door closes with them still outside and Conan within, smiling, victorious.

You can get two boobs a week for one lousy buck (plus GST of course, because filthy socialism) at Gaaarrn, give us a click and check it out.

1 Responses to ‘Conan answers your questions’

jl would have you know...

Posted January 15
This post is one of my all-time favs from ASB. I await similar jewels in my inbox every week- thanks JB!

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The knife

Posted December 8 into Writing by John Birmingham

I'm in the final trenches of the space opera I've been writing. (Although the characters seem to spend more time fighting in trenches than space).
As most of you know, I've been a plotter since Weapons of Choice, which taught me a few hard lessons about not working with a plot outline. For THE CRUEL STARS I have a comprehensive scene-by-scene blueprint in Scrivener. I do let the characters walk their own path if they insist, but we always come back to the main narrative arc.
I can see from the outline and the words I currently have in the manuscript bank that this book would run about 30-40% over its contracted word length (90K) if I let it.
I'd like to, but can't. The audiobook people, for one, would freak.
So this morning is all about taking a knife to that outline.

13 Responses to ‘The knife’

jl puts forth...

Posted December 8
Sometimes you just have to prune. Audiobook? Awesome. I'm a die-hard reader but nothing beats a good audiobook on a long car ride. Looking forward to Cruel Stars in my Chevy.

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insomniac mutters...

Posted December 8
That's an awful lot of pruning. It will be interesting to see the results.

John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted December 8
The pruning is to the outline, not the finished chapters. Hopefully it won't be noticed.

insomniac would have you know...

Posted December 8
Understood, but it feels like you're trimming the bit of the tree your wife can see from the living room window while leaving the rest as is, like when I used to mop the stairs and she thought I'd cleaned the whole house.

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Bondiboy66 would have you know...

Posted December 8
I imagine this could be don't want to be chopping out good bits or essential elements for the sake of shrinking the document - I could imagine agonizing over the 'do I or don't I' questions.

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Oldy mutters...

Posted December 8
Any chance of seeing the outline one of these days, JB?

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted December 8
Not before it's published mate. But afterwards, sure.

Oldy mutters...

Posted December 8
Nice :)

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Murphy_of_Missouri asserts...

Posted December 8
Compress and consolidate. You've done it before.

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Brother PorkChop swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted December 15
On a different subject, can I say how much I enjoyed your piece in the Murder and Mayhem compilation!! It was seriously up to the brief and left me wanting more. I cannot say the same for maybe 1/2 the others - left me bored and distracted, a couple were like your effort - Eva Destruction and Chlamydia Phlegm? Hilarious! Loved a couple, liked a couple, couldn't read a couple but overall worth it.

Surtac mumbles...

Posted December 15
I must agree. It was a very pleasant surprise to see Savage Henry brought into the modern era and given a more prominent setting.

So, are we going to see the return of Commander Biscuit at some point in the future and hear some of those Duterte stories, I wonder?

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Vovchara would have you know...

Posted December 16
Fighting more on the surface than space is a common occurrence in space Opera. I think only Weber and Campbell manage to stick to space. Which makes sense. Hard to fight against enemy controlling orbitals. But in the end it's all in execution and since I wasn't disappointed even once by your work I would reserve judgment until I get my copy. :P

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damian is gonna tell you...

Posted December 22
Merry Christmas Birmo and take care.

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