Panforte (all’Australiano)

6 Nov

Christmas is coming, and since this has to sit for a while before you eat it (well, ideally), I thought it best to get this recipe out there now.

Legend goes that the Sienese army use to carry this stuff around as part of their rations. It’s certainly high in protein, fruit fibre, and natural sugars from the fruit. There is a gluten free version (using nut flours) but the result is completely different. There is very little flour in this recipe and I’ve had gluten-intolerant friends able to eat it. It’s basically fruits and nuts held together using a minimum of flour and candy as glue. I like spices, so this recipe is fairly spicy (and I still tend to increase the amount of spice by about 50% on top of what’s here).

The Australian touch is that I’ve replaced half of the hazelnuts from the traditional recipe with macadamias, half the citrus peel with crystallised ginger, and half the dried figs with dates. No vegemite.. yet. Continue reading


“Tough on Crime” works, just like the Sun goes around the Earth

22 Oct

Whenever I hear the phrase “name and shame” these days I get furious. Seriously punch-the-person-in-the-mouth furious. I have never punched anyone, yet, but the current Premier and Attorney General of Queensland are testing the limits of my pacifism. I guess that proves my point that getting tough on crime just produces more crime. Before you talk this kind of shit, spend some time studying the psychology of shame and/or the causes of crime.


The logic behind boot camps for young offenders, naming and shaming kids as young as ten, and the whole ‘tough on crime’ movement is about as sound as the logic that says the sun goes around the earth. It’s a populist argument based on superficial and simplistic reasoning rather than careful and detailed observation. Such claims are invariably made by people who have never picked up a single research paper on what causes crime, particularly violent crime, and what sorts of measures have been shown to be effective. I don’t propose to go into that research here, it’s very easy to get a hold of (ask Uncle Google) if you’re interested. The sad thing is that most people, and especially the current Queensland government, don’t want to know – they want to promulgate simplistic and inaccurate ideas. What I want to do in this post is actually talk about some first-hand experiences of the changes the new government has made, and connect a few hitherto unconnected dots. But I will make the following quick summary of what the research tells us:

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Midshizzle – the visual aesthetic

28 Aug

This post is a culmination of the explorations around the current Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble‘s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream playing in Roma Street Parkland (Brisbane) until September 7th.

For maximum effect, read the first three posts, here, here, and here. Otherwise you are of course welcome to just enjoy the pretty pictures (by Benjamin Prindable).

If you’ve read the earlier posts, these pictures will demonstrate how the dramaturgical ideas from our exploration manifest in the visual aesthetic (mainly costumes, along with the minimal set). So I’ll mostly let the pictures do the talking for a change.

First of all, a gratuitous photo of me and the costume designer, Angel Kosch, playing music for the show.


The full band for the show consists of us plus three actors from the show and resident fiddler Steve Mackie.

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Midshizzle – in rehearsal

18 Aug

This follows on from my last post – Midshizzle – the faerie connection.

Photos in this post were also all taken in rehearsal by Benjamin Prindable.

Our rehearsal process, as usual, began with a very close examination of the text through breath, body, and relationship called dropping in. Developed in the 1970s by Tina Packer, Kristin Linklater, and John Barton, the Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble uses this technique to connect the actor viscerally, emotionally, and intellectually to the word, in relationship with their scene partners. The boundary between actor and character is set aside, and the actor is asked to observe how they respond to the words in the presence of the other actor(s).

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Immediately many things fell into place. Because the human world is suffering, as Titania describes, Athenian society is harsh. This is no classical democracy, but rather a rough order forged through warfare. Like Macbeth’s Scotland, leadership passes not necessarily by blood, but to the warlord most capable of forging a sort of peace. We got the whiff of a society in decline – many of the formerly great building falling to ruin, as the land is less able than before to support great city-states. This is no classical Athens – Lysander tells us that a mere seven leagues (less than forty kilometres) outside the city walls, Athenian law no longer holds sway. The play begins with Theseus taking Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, as a war bride – “I wooed thee with my sword.” That is not to say that a real affection, admiration and love does not grow. But the play begins with the defeat of the Amazons by the Athenians. It does not tell us why they were at war, but it fits with the idea of changes in the natural environment forcing people to move to different areas, resulting in battles over land. The Athenian warlord Theseus has either conquered Amazon lands or fended off an Amazon incursion.

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Midshizzle – the faerie connection

15 Aug

This follows on from my last post – Midshizzle – initial explorations

Photos in this post were also all taken in rehearsal by Benjamin Prindable.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the answers to my disquiet about Midsummer Night’s Dream were in the text all along. Titania makes it very clear to us how the state of the fairy world impacts the human:

Therefore the winds, piping to us in vain,

As in revenge, have suck’d up from the sea

Contagious fogs; which falling in the land

Have every pelting river made so proud

That they have overborne their continents:

The ox hath therefore stretch’d his yoke in vain,

The ploughman lost his sweat, and the green corn

Hath rotted ere his youth attain’d a beard;

The fold stands empty in the drowned field,

And crows are fatted with the murrion flock;

The nine men’s morris is fill’d up with mud,

And the quaint mazes in the wanton green

For lack of tread are undistinguishable:

The human mortals want their winter here;

No night is now with hymn or carol blest:

Therefore the moon, the governess of floods,

Pale in her anger, washes all the air,

That rheumatic diseases do abound:

And thorough this distemperature we see

The seasons alter: hoary-headed frosts

Far in the fresh lap of the crimson rose,

And on old Hiems’ thin and icy crown

An odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds

Is, as in mockery, set: the spring, the summer,

The childing autumn, angry winter, change

Their wonted liveries, and the mazed world,

By their increase, now knows not which is which:

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Midshizzle – initial explorations

13 Aug

(The photos in this post were all taken in rehearsal by Benjamin Prindable.)

All of a sudden, after a valiant start, it’s been months since I last blogged. Last week I realised that the point where I stopped posting coincided exactly with when I started directing the Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble‘s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It seems that particular project needed the bulk of my creative attention for a while, especially as I have also been working the Ensemble’s 2013 Shakespeare Prison Project which will produce The Comedy of Errors in South Queensland Correctional Centre in September.

So I thought I should do the thing with the two birds and the stone, and blog about the process of directing Midsummer, and perhaps in a separate post about the Prison Project too. One thing at a time.

Our exploration of Midsummer, or Midshizzle as we affectionately know it, began with the Ensemble plying me with beer and convincing me to direct the play. They made some good points, we had an ideal cast within the ranks of the Ensemble – the production features all of the core members of the ensemble and most of this year’s apprentices, with the addition of beloved local actor Louise Brehmer in her third QSE production. Each actor has made their roles very much their own.

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The thingis is I’m a maker upperer of words, innit?

19 May

This is a three-part post about curious and apparently new constructions I’ve noticed in English over the last decade. I’m not talking about new words or slang phrases, about which too much is said and not much of it of any substance, but rather what look like new-ish constructions, or words changing their syntactic distribution (that’s where and how they show up in sentences). I’ve observed each of these for a full decade now, and over several continents, and none of them show any signs of disappearing. Fear not, I’m not about to launch into a technical morphosyntactic analysis of these phenomena (mostly because I don’t have one), but I thought each of them curious enough to warrant a mention – maybe to see if anyone has noticed these or similar.

The three constructions I’m going to talk about are all exemplified in the title of this post. I’ll deal with one a week for the next three weeks. The first one I’m going to look at is a change which appears to be taking place in the standard varieties of English in the US, Australia, and possibly also in the UK (though I don’t have a lot of evidence for the latter). That is, it’s not a change that’s happening in slang or colloquial English, but is actually affecting the language of the educated middle classes and the mainstream media.


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