Saturday, November 19, 2011

The lotus eaters

Melbourne's apparently known as Bleak City, and it's true, it's been raining incessantly all day: but today there was a little hotspot of bright colours, excitement, pop music and, most importantly, excessive consumption at Melbourne Central Mall, beneath the towering, incongruous edifice of the old lead pipe and shot factory. Yes, the CP Biggest Eater Competition was in town.

First up was a strangely innocent performance by a Chinese girl band who apparently are currently no. 1 in the Chinese pop charts.

But then came the main event. The ravening crowd were expertly whipped into a frenzy by presiding MC Sam, who with pinpoint accuracy described the contest to come as being "the battleground on which God and Lucifer wage war for the souls of men" and, realistically, as being the most democratic of contests. There were amateurs participating, but they were, frankly, amateurs; all eyes were on the professionals.

The wontons themselves looked harmless enough, and tasted pretty good:

But in a competition to eat as many as you can, all notions of these wontons as substance, or as food, must presumably be banished in order to get as many past the tonsils as possible.

All three professionals, with the eventual winner on the far right. 307 wontons down, and make-up still largely intact.

Ain't it hard just to live

Written by Randy Newman in the late 1970s, Baltimore is a definite contender for saddest song ever written. I've never heard Newman's original version, but Nina Simone covered the song for the eponymous 1978 album and her version is sometimes almost unbearable: the word "Baltimore" is a moan and a lament, the other lines infused with world-weary sadness. It's a beautiful song, and the imagery is simple and stark:

Beat-up little seagull
On a marble stair  
Trying to find the ocean  
Looking everywhere