Monday, July 27, 2009

PPOP culture - say no to pokies

Don't worry about the swine flu people, there is something far more insidious heading this way from the eastern states if what we're hearing has an ounce of truth - the cursed pokie machine.

I'm not sure about the business agenda of the Bendat boy and his claims that Coles and Woolworths are bringing pokie machines to Perth, but if he's got the cojones to take them on and stop this scourge in its tracks, all power to him.

I'm no wowser and to be honest, I couldn't give a fat rat's clacker if people want to pour their hard-earned into a machine to get their thrills - each to their own.

But be warned. The Sunday outing to Burswood for Nanna to spend a nice day at the Caz and come home with change from a twenty, this is not. Nor is it the odd flutter when you're tanked just for a laugh. No, this the very thin end of a very fat and intrusive wedge.

After living in Melbourne for 10 years the pokies lose the 'harmless fun' sheen very quickly. You don't have to go very far to find row after row of gormless people of all ages sitting dull eyed in front of their 'favourite' machines, feeding coins into slots and punching flashing buttons like robots in a car assembly line. Grandmas have been clubbed to death to feed pokie addictions.

Yeah, it's a happening scene alright. But what really shits me about pokies is what they do to the local pub. In essence, a pub full of pokies is about as much fun as having a cyst taken out of your eyeball. And let's be honest, the pub scene in Perth is already dire enough. Adding pokies would be like an ice pick frontal lobotomy on a patient already struggling for signs of life.

Can you imagine popping down to your local for a quiet ale and a yarn, only to be confronted by a hideous wall of machines that compete with each other for your dollar by sporting the most garish, fit-inducing bells and whistles possible?

We're not talking that romantic vision of the old 'one armed bandit' where you pull the lever and watch the pop-art style cherries and diamonds spin frantically to stop in a shower of golden coins at your feet. No, we're talking electronic boxes covered in terrible artwork that will swallow your money in whatever form (notes as well as coins) as quickly as you care to feed them.

The issue was discussed today on the NOVA 937 breakfast show and there was talk of why wouldn't you have these in your pub if they generate income? We could offer cheaper food and drink and the punters would love that - wouldn't they?

My response? Would you go and eat a $10 chicken parma and pint in the public crappers at Kings Park just because it's a bargain? How about $5 bangers and mash in the emergency department at Charlie's?

It's all about A.T.M.O.S.P.H.E.R.E and a pub full of pokies has foregone that right for the sake of chasing a dollar. Live bands, quiz nights, great food? Nah, who needs that sort of time consuming nonsense when you can just plug a machine into a wall and let it do its thang.

Don't get me wrong, Melbourne still has a pub scene that is second to none, but once you push further from the CBD and the choice that precinct offers, the scourge of pokies is more entrenched.

And don't be fooled by any promise that gambling areas would be separated from the main drinking / dining areas. Pokies are dangled in front of punters shamelessly - you can even get free tea and coffee if you've got a pocket fat with coin.

No. It's time for Perth People Over Pokies (PPOP) to take a stand and keep these soul destroying vermin from making their way across the Nullabor to breed with their buddies at Burswood.

Make your mark on the pokie poll to the right, share this link and stay tuned for the facebook page.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Club-O comes to North Fremantle

The music scene at the North Fremantle Centre just keeps getting better, with tonight seeing the launch of regular Friday night gigs at Club-O... 'O' for original.

Tonight's line-up kicks off at 7.30pm, featuring The Hectics, Traffic Stoppers, Slow Coach and The Shambles.

It's just $5 to get in and stay watching this space because we'll soon have some free Club-O memberships to give away.

In the meantime, don't forget to follow the North Fremantle Centre on twitter at

Check out the facebook group as well :)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Doesn't really do it for me...

I hadn't been to a Sizzler in years, but on a wet Thursday night during the school holidays, with much prompting of the three Cookster Kids, it was time to pack up the people mover and head off to the Innaloo multiplex.

Hell, I've been hearing that guy banging on for months about how it "does it for me" so maybe I've been missing something?

It's always an odd concept waiting in line for an experience that you know is probably only going to be satisfactory at best, but wait we did. And peruse the options along the way - the cheapo salad bar experience only; salad bar with extras; or salad bar plus a plated main meal of either steak, ribs, or fried seafood.

When we get to the head of the line I opt for the barbecue ribs, Mrs Cookster the steak, the nine-year-old boy a smiley faced cheeseburger, and the other kids the salad bar (ie, spag bol and soft serve ice cream).

"Chips or mash with those meals?" We opt for chips, a standard pub grub fare that most large volume restaurants tend to get right. Right?

Next it was drinks, you do everything straight-up before you're seated at Sizzler, including drink orders. There was a big Perspex tub attached to the front counter filled with ice and their own-brand wine, so I've fished one out and said, "we'll have this too. Do I take one of these?"

"That's okay sir, I'll get you a fresh bottle from the fridge." Feeling a bit like Withnail in the cake shop I suddenly realise that it's a display. But why the ice?

"We only have chilled champagne glasses left, no wine glasses, is that okay sir?"

I agreed, although I wondered why bother to chill wine glasses at all? It's one of those folksy things I guess that creates a veneer of 'class', albeit in a suburban doesn't make any sense kinda way. I was going to mention that wine is best drunk out of a broader, deeper vessel, but then a kid screamed and threw spaghetti at his brother and I remembered where I was.

We get to the table and I decide a liberal dose of plonk is required to set the ambiance, immediately. It was then that I realised my champagne glass was covered in more than just frost - it had at least three sets of lip prints (very faded) and some other detrius attached. Mrs Cookster's glass had "chunks" on it she said, so the baby wipes came out and all that good work in the chiller was lost.

Cheesy toat was next. I seem to recall liking this once, but white bread lathered with a cheesy, butter spread and grilled on one side no longer does it for me. Pass.

To give credit where credit is due, the Sizzler salad bar was far better than my last visit and the Perspex sneeze guards quite reassuringly sturdy. I chose a selection of crisp assorted salad leaves; some Herdsman Fresh-style dolmades; pedestrian coleslaw and potato salad; cubes of beetroot and; Asian beef salad. It was all quite decent and makes the $21 salad bar deal pretty good value for money. Just leave the beef salad alone - I haven't had beef of that texture in my mouth before and don't want to again.

The younger kids both had a plate of passable spaghetti bolognaise. The pasta was al dente and the sauce quite meaty, but it needed a bit more tomato in the mix to give it a traditional bolognaise flavour. Like everyone else in Australia, the Cookster is an expert on spag bol.

The finicky older boy got his open-top cheeseburger with a smiley face made out of sauce on the meat patty. But while blobs for eyes were okay, the sauce mouth was something of a grimace, a sneer if you like - I think he'd spied the chips that had just arrived with my ribs.

Now chips aren't that hard to bugger up, even if they're mass produced fare that's cooked in oil that might have seen better days. You fry them, salt them and serve them HOT. Unfortunately my chips had been plated at least three days before they were introduced to the ribs and I could find no signs of life whatsoever. DOA.

Okay, I exaggerate. Maybe they'd been put on the plate 15 minutes before the ribs, but 15 minutes or three days who cares? They were cold, the fat had congealed and they were entirely inedible. You know those chips you find down the side of your seat when you vacuum the car? You get the picture. I would have sent them back, but that'd be like sending back your chips at a fast food place - you take your chances.

The positive side was that the ribs were tender, of generous size and covered in a sweet, smokey sauce that was quite enjoyable. Mrs Cookster's steak looked the goods as well. Given the abundance of salads, the chips weren't really missed, but it was a sore point all the same.

Desserts? Well, bowls full of soft serve, some pretty good chocolate mousse and lots of sugar-laden sprinkly bits that have the kiddies squealing with delight.

And squeal they do. Atmosphere-wise it's a bit like dining out at childcare centre where all the kids are fed sugar sachets and red cordial. This is not the place for romance, but handy if you're ducking in to catch a flick at the adjacent megaplex.

All in all, for $94 including a bottle of wine ($14.95) it's a fairly reasonable night out if you want to keep the kids happy. But major points off for the chip fiasco. Perhaps they took them out of the display cabinet by mistake?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Riding for homeless youth

Yohei Takahashi – a 21-year-old university student from Japan – will today complete his journey after riding a push-bike across Australia in an epic 7000km ‘Ride for Youth’ to raise money for young Australians suffering from homelessness, addiction or mental illness.

Of course, his final leg from Northam to Perth has been dogged by driving rain and unpredictable wind gusts, making it all the more important for West Australians to kick in some dollars to make his efforts worthwhile.

And I strongly urge you to read Yohei's blog updates - the English isn't great, but the intent and insights he captures in his short posts are priceless. When you consider donating, remember this is a guy who has been living off $5 a day and considers his daily can of cola his little piece of 'heaven'.

Why? Well when he was studying English in Brisbane, Yohei saw a level of poverty – particularly among young people – that he hadn’t seen in Japan. Moved by the generosity Australians had displayed towards him during his stay, Yohei decided to ‘give something back’ and started his ride to help disadvantaged Australian youth.

Yohei hopes to raise $1 for every km he rides, but is unfortunately behind on his target. He has already travelled through Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Byron Bay, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Hobart, Adelaide and is currently riding through the outskirts of Perth.

If every West Australian blogger, twitterer or facebook friend donated just $1 to support Yohei’s efforts, we could out-do the rest of Australia.

Yohei will donate all proceeds from his Ride for Youth to Mission Australia's services to help disadvantaged young people - a cause that's very close to the Cookster's heart.

So come on WA, it’s time to show the rest of the country that we care about disadvantaged young people just as much as Yohei does by supporting his efforts.

Yohei’s journey across Western Australia – and all the way to Perth – can be followed via his online blog and you can also stump up some cash while you're there - click here

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Lights on in North Fremantle

WA Premier Colin Barnett came to turn on the new floodlights at the North Fremantle Centre last Friday and ended up staying for a night of entertainment while the winter storms raged outside.

The lights, donated by Fremantle City Council and the Fremantle Port Authority, will bring night bowling to the club for the first time, adding another element to what is fast becoming the region's thriving entertainment hub.

After carrying out his official duties, the Premier and a huge crowd of locals of all ages danced along to a lively performance of African song and dance by Dunumba.

But it was the performance by indigenous singer songwriter Rodney Drummond that really caught Mr Barnett's ear, extending a half hour visit into a whole night. From all accounts the Premier is keen to catch Rodney live in action the next time he's in town.

The North Fremantle Centre is quickly becoming a cultural hub, hosting a range of events from comedy nights through to alternative music events supporting local musicians and performers.

This Friday, 3 July come on down and catch The Traffic Stoppers & 'friends' and see for yourself what all the hype is about. Sunday is also looking good for barefoot bowls - come and have a roll!