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Christmas party in TV land

Posted December 13 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 asserts...

Posted December 13
Smith and cady would be a great basis for TV! Be nice if it comes to fruition!

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted December 13
Yes, yes they would.

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Therbs puts forth...

Posted December 13
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 puts forth...

Posted December 13
Man, it’s like you’re looking over my shoulder.

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How to cook the perfect steak

Posted December 12 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.

15 Responses to ‘How to cook the perfect steak’

insomniac swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted December 12
I agree with much of this, not all though, but only at the periphery. The fundamentals are strong.

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Spanner puts forth...

Posted December 12
Medium rare? BLASPHEMY

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

spankee puts forth...

Posted December 13
Wipe its arse and walk it thorugh a warm room I say.

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andrew mutters...

Posted December 12
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 mutters...

Posted December 12
What you suggest sounds truly amazing.

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Barnesm has opinions thus...

Posted December 12
"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 would have you know...

Posted December 12
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 has opinions thus...

Posted December 12
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 has opinions thus...

Posted December 12
We need a full report on this, including UAT and QA testing. For science, you know.

jl puts forth...

Posted December 12
This thread is making my mouth water.

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Ceramic mumbles...

Posted December 12
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 has opinions thus...

Posted December 13
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 swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted December 15
Oh man. That thermal imaging camera made me understand the turning frequently. Cheers She Jedi!

she_jedi reckons...

Posted December 16
How good was it??? I was instantly sold on the turning frequently thingy.

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Dick would have you know...

Posted December 17
Did this last night with a scotch fillet on the Webber. Very noice.

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My year of not complaining

Posted December 12 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 puts forth...

Posted December 12
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 is gonna tell you...

Posted December 12
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 would have you know...

Posted December 12
This is a good link. Thanks.

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Barnesm ducks in to say...

Posted December 12
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 reckons...

Posted December 12
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 swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted December 12
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 swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted December 12
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 December 11 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 reckons...

Posted December 11
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 puts forth...

Posted December 11
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 mutters...

Posted December 11
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 December 11
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 December 11
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 ducks in to say...

Posted December 11
"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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The King's Ohio Rifles

Posted December 10 into Books by John Birmingham

Jason Lambright has released an extract from the draft of the alt history novel he's been working on. THE KING'S OHIO RIFLES. It's set in a WW1 where the US is still part of the British Empire.

Whole thing is here.

Elizabeth Moore was bumping along the road to Binche, she had an ambulance full of wounded. One of the men was sobbing, she took deep drags on her harsh cigarette.

The scene back in Thuin was bedlam, there were so damn many hurt and maimed men waiting to be evacuated, and so few ambulances and medical staff. The loading had been done to the soundtrack of heavy artillery fire, she had sat in her seat and watched as a round pulverized one of the few intact brick houses left.

It was damned unhealthy.

As she drove along the pitch-black road with her wholly inadequate blackout lights, she knew that this road was dangerous as hell, too. She had to constantly make her way around craters and other debris, she feared getting stuck as she navigated through cow pastures.

As usual, the lamentations of the men in the back stretched her nerves tight. And they were like piano strings tonight. The word she had received back at the aid station in Thuin was bleak, the Germans were breaking through along the line and they weren’t taking prisoners.

What would they do to her, she wondered, if captured? Probably something very unpleasant. She was in a grey area. Not really Army, not really a civilian, and definitely a woman. She really didn’t want to find out. When she heard about the German no-prisoners threat, she believed it. She didn’t intend to be captured, and she took a few measures to prevent rape followed by death.

She dodged a corpse. Her expert eye judged it fairly fresh one, allied. She drew in hard on her cigarette, she was glad she had spotted the dead man in time. Elizabeth hated the squishy feel beneath her wheels.

Some figures loomed out of the darkness. Maybe the mates of the dead man, she thought. She peered, she squinted. The blackout lights weren’t helping her much, and these buggers weren’t clearing off of the road. Her lips pressed into a thin line. Stupid gits. She flicked her cigarette out of the cab and drew a breath. She was going to give these idiots a real tongue-lashing.

At the precise moment that she was about to yell, her shout died frozen in her throat. Her blood ran cold, a bolt of lightning-like adrenaline shot through her body from head to toe.


6 Responses to ‘The King's Ohio Rifles’

Bondiboy66 has opinions thus...

Posted December 10
Totally looking forward to reading the whole story!

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she_jedi mutters...

Posted December 10
So, SOOOO good :D

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon has opinions thus...

Posted December 12
i think i must be tired. Or just distracted from smoking a pack of bushies (2million hectares of prime aussie bush in every breath) a day without a filter. I kept looking at the title and thinking it said Oreo and then my brain going off on a tangent that companies were like monarchies and had armies . . . . yeah maybe too many oreo's for lunch. Actually that rings a bell - was it Kim Stanley Robinsons Mars books that had that idea that countries didn't rule themselves but companies carved up the earth?

she_jedi has opinions thus...

Posted December 12
Look I am on board for the King's Oreo Rifles, they sound delicious

jl would have you know...

Posted December 12
Yeah. I wonder if they come as deep fried or chocolate covered? Me, as a kid I always liked pulling them apart and licking out the filling.

she_jedi asserts...

Posted December 13
Surely pulling them apart and licking out the filling is the ONLY way to eat an Oreo?

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Ironic, tragic and “a rich source of potassium”

Posted December 10 into Blunty by John Birmingham

I love the $170 000 banana art story much I could just eat it.

At Blunty...

I am in awe of Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, who convinced three rich idiots in three separate transactions to cough up between 175,000 and 220,000 dollary-doos for a duct-taped banana on a wall over the weekend.

But I am truly, madly and deeply impressed by hungry performance artist Dave Datuna, who ate the half-million-dollar installation without warning, permission or a freshly cooked waffle swimming in chocolate sauce.

1 Responses to ‘Ironic, tragic and “a rich source of potassium”’

insomniac mumbles...

Posted December 10
One could say that the art only resides in the duct tpe

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