How was your week?
Brisbane feels brown and desiccated at the moment, but every time I looked out my office window on Wednesday to see those heavy-bellied rainclouds blurring the skyscrapers to nothing, the world seemed just a little quieter and cleaner.
Here are five other good things.
One. After something of a hiatus, I've recently got back into podcasts, and I just finished Trace: The Informer after a colleague suggested I give it a whirl. If you watched Underbelly back in the day, the real-life cast of Melbourne gangland characters will be familiar to you, but I'd never heard of Nicola Gobbo/Informer 3838 until the first episode. Written and produced by the ABC, the podcast is well crafted and compelling, but I found myself feeling frustrated by some of the commentary. Gobbo has attracted considerable criticism for the finer details of her sex life and her apparent lack of contrition. Yet I found her a sympathetic protagonist and couldn't help but side-eye the Victorian police, who simultaneously described her as emotionally needy and exploited that vulnerability for their own gain.
Two. I've never actually used it to make the instant noodles it's intended for, but Nadiya Hussein's chilli paste recipe has been rescuing my home-alone dinners for months. I only just reached the bottom of my jar this week — it keeps well in the fridge for ages — and the final smear went onto some chicken thighs that I fried and finely sliced as part of a Thai coconut noodle salad. Usually, I smear it over salmon, but I've also thinned this chilli paste down as a cold dressing for soba and have liberally applied it to steamed vegetables to make them more exciting. I will have to make another jar next week.
Three. Gentle afternoon walks have been the best way to wrap up busy work days, especially because the spring weather is so pleasant around 5.00 pm. My only problem now is that some aggressive mynahs swoop me on my regular route. Do I need to wear a helmet...?
Four. If I'm not listening to a podcast on my afternoon walk, then I listen to music. And I try my darnedest to listen to at least some new tunes every week, even though my usual tendency is to listen to favourites on repeat. This remix of Lucy Rose's 'Moirai' is a new addition to my iTunes library, right up my 'diaphanous electronica' alley.
Five. Despite these listening habits, I'm not typically an avid re-reader of books or re-watcher of films, but like Simon Vander, I revisit The Thin Red Line every couple of years as a kind of cognitive-resetting exercise.
Set in WWII, the film is based on James Jones's novel of the same name, published in 1962. Both are set in the Solomon Islands during the Guadalcanal campaign, and having spent a chunk of my childhood in Papua New Guinea, I'm drawn to the way in which the filmography so artfully captures the feral tropical beauty of the Pacific and the imprint left by war.
This juxtaposition of natural beauty with the meanness or corruption of humanity is a seam that runs right through the narrative, but perhaps what the film does best is reveal the distinctive vulnerability of each C Company soldier. Although difficult to watch, The Thin Red Line is not gratuitous in terms of war gore: the script is affecting because each death or debasement is felt so singularly.
This is, without question, suffering in vain, a grim spectacle we needlessly create. The valorisation of battle is clearly delineated as the preserve of ambitious old men — the mercilessly demanding Lt. Colonel (Nick Nolte), who thinks nothing of decimating his troops for the sake of keeping the pace and seeing some action.
But the film doesn't wallow in this senselessness. As Witt (Jim Caviezel) comments: 'One man looks at a dying bird and thinks there's nothing but unanswered pain, that death's got the final word, it's laughing at him. Another man sees that same bird, feels the glory, feels something smiling through it.'