Sunday, September 20, 2009

Brisbane Writer's Festival Write Up

Last weekend was a big one in Brisbane. What with the Brisbane Writers Festival and Brisbane Festival on. The city and South Bank were jumping for a good four or five days across the two festivals.

I got to go to a lot of the writers festival, as I took the Friday off work. I did go to the reading at Greystone Bar at Southbank on the Thursday night, where Carl Cleves, Marie Munkara, Tom Cho and Christian Lander each gave a reading from their books. I particularly enjoyed Tom Cho and Christian Lander, both who are masters at the art of deadpan delivery. Lots of laughs to be had there.

Tom Cho
Tom Cho at Greystone Bar

Christian Lander at Greystone Bar

My first event on Friday morning was the "Conversations With Richard Fidler" session that was live to air for ABC radio. The subject was "Not Tonight Honey" with guests Bettina Arndt and Linda Javin. It was fascinating to be behind the scenes for a live to air radio broadcast and a great topic of conversation. I found Bettina Arndt absolutely delightful, and Richard Fidler is always good value. Not so impressed with Linda Javin, but she did raise some interesting points.

Bettina Arndt

The next session I went to was local author Krissy Kneen in the Red Box theatrette. Krissy has written a sexual memoir, and boy is she a brave lady. She has really put her whole life out there and isn't afraid to talk about it. I admire that, even though her life and her values are somewhat different to my own. She really hit the nail on the head when she said that she didn't care if people didn't like her personally (or her lifestyle) but she felt it when they criticised her writing. I deeply admire that attitude. A fascinating session, and hosted by a friend of Krissy's, Benjamin Law.

My last session for the day was the "Creativity: Art or Science" with John Birmingham, Rowan Gilmore and Mandyam Srinivasan. A lot more scientific talk than I had anticipated, but I did really enjoy it and it gave me some good food for thought.

I had planned to turn up early on the Saturday morning, but was knackered so I stayed home and had a bit of a sleep in, and hit the 11.30am session first up, "Disco Boy: What's in a Name" with Nick Earls and Dominic Knight, hosted by a very sexy Scotsman in a kilt, who I have subsequently found out is one Lee McGowan. Lots of laughs to be had in this session, as is always expected in any session featuring Nick Earls.

Disco Boy: What's in a Name
Lee McGowan, Nick Earls and Dominic Knight

The next session I went to, "My Big Fat Eccentric Family" with Gary Bryson, Tom Cho and Catherine Therese turned out to be both the biggest surprise and the highlight of the entire festival for me. Gary Bryson read a fantastic passage from his book a fiction piece that is very reminiscent of his own childhood life in Scotland. Tom Cho gave some readings from his book, including his fantastic reworking of Dirty Dancing. But it was Catherine Therese that was the surprise and delight. Her reading turned into a performance piece and she's such a delightful creature, honest and true to herself, and the inclusion of Bryson and Cho into the piece was fantastic.

Catherine Therese
Catherine Therese

After that, I dashed over to the Breezeway to the "Adventurers: Moving On from the Boy Scouts" session with Chris Bray, Gary Weare and Andrew Westoll. We heard about their boys own adventures, in the Himalayas, Arctic and South American jungle. Inspirational to hear their stories and perhaps find my own adventures.

The final event for the writers festival for me was a major disappointment. I went along to "Strong Women Write Strong Women" with Tobsha Learner and Marianne de Pierres. I would have enjoyed it a whole lot more if they'd had someone other than Tobsha Learner, who was more interested in talking about how successful she was rather than the strong women that she apparently writes. Marianne de Pierres would have been interesting enough to see on her own, she is a rare creature of Australian authors - a female speculative fiction writer. Very disappointing session to end on.

That said though, as a whole I really enjoyed the Brisbane Writers Festival 2009, especially as they've gone back to the format with plenty of free events available. The average person can't afford four days worth of events that start at $10, so I missed a couple of years there. It's good to be able to go and see writers from all over Australia and around the world strut their stuff.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Burgers in Brisbane

Oh how I love a good burger. A REALLY good burger.

I'm not talking about your McDonald's greasy kind, or your local takeaway where they do the plain but hearty kind. I'm talking about your beautifully grilled, good quality meat, real cheeses, a selection of hand made sauces, mayos and relishes, and real onions and potatoes on the side.

Luckily for me, this kind of burger is becoming really easy to find in Brisbane.

There is the chain Grill'd, which have several locations in Brisbane and I heard last night that they're opening up one in South Bank, just down from the cinemas where Batavia used to be. I've been to the one at Bulimba and the burger I had there was delicious. And the chips... oh I could sell my soul for those herbed chips. So it will be a welcome thing to have one as close as South Bank for me. Even though it is sad to see the lovely Batavia go.

Last night I took some lovely Twitter ladies to Beastie Burgers at South Bank before we went to BTUB, the first Friday of the month Brisbane Twitter get together at Greystone Bar. One look at the menu and I was stuck. Which of these delicious burgers was I going to chose? One with haloumi, the king of cheeses? One with sweet potato, the queen of potatoes? I ended up going with the Swiss Miss, the princess of burgers. A beef burger with swiss cheese, seasoned mayo, onions and gherkins. I also ordered a side of "fries".

I wasn't disappointed in my choice. The burger was HUGE, the meat was really good quality and the other fillings all married up in a delicious medley. When the fries came, they were actually little chat potatoes that I think had been roasted, served with aioli. Damn they were good. Sadly the burger was so huge that I couldn't eat them all, and everyone else was pretty full too.

One of the ladies in our group also ordered a Lindt chocolate milkshake, and when it arrived I could smell it's chocolatey goodness. She was unable to finish it, it was so rich and huge.

All in all, one of the best burger meals I have ever had, and I'll certainly be revisiting so that I can try some of the other varieties. If you're at South Bank and want a good hearty meal, perfect for before a movie or a big night out, or for a weekend lunch, I definitely recommend trying out Beastie Burgers on Little Stanley Street.