Sunday, 12 July 2015

Honduran Coffee

From my food column.

My mate, singer/songwriter Joe Ransom, has been good enough to stop schlepping around Central America for a while and pay a visit with us here in his home town of Melbourne. He was also good enough to bring me a bag of coffee grown near Peña Blanca, the town in Honduras where he has been living for a while. With the coffee he delivered a cool coffee filter device, a fine mesh net on a handle of twisted coat hanger wire. Tip some coffee into the filter, pour boiling water through it over a mug, great coffee in less than a minute. 

It's interesting to note that this coffee cost him less than $6 per kilogram. When you buy coffee in a supermarket here in Melbourne you pay over $40 per kilogram. When you buy a latte in a cafe you pay over $350 per kilogram. The obvious questions are why do we pay so much, and why don't the Honduran coffee growers receive a fair share of that money? 

To me coffee growers are saints, without them my days would be a caffeine deprived misery. Coffee growers give us nothing but peace and joy, every day of our lives, the least we can do is pay them a decent price for their product. If their product, roasted and ground, can retail for less than $6 per kilogram in Honduras, surely our highly profitable coffee companies can afford to give them at least $5 wholesale. The most generous fair trade systems pay between $3 and $4 per kilogram, most growers receive less than half that. It's not as if these coffee companies don't have room for a fair share within their massive retail price.

Oh, and the filter cost 40c. Compare that to the price of your home espresso machine. Beautiful simplicity with no lights or buttons, no wonder no one sells them here.

Joe Ransom heads back to Mexico and beyond in a few weeks. I'm playing a couple of gigs with him before then, I hope you'll come along and talk coffee with us after the show. 

Here's a Joe Ransom song, White Whale, recorded this year in Mexico City, a single from a new album due out later this year.

Kent Parkstreet

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

A Dream Life, Very Short Science Fiction #4

After seven hundred years everything went exactly to plan. The ship went into orbit around the planet Carradine, the two young humans, still young after seven hundred years, were awakened from stasis in perfect health. 

Within an hour the final checks and landing permissions would be established, the ship would land on the farm allotted to the newest members of the colony, within an hour of landing the single use craft would be converted into a comfortable home for them and their children, as easily as a child's toy. Their cargo of decades worth of supplies and machinery would assure security, the livestock would be restored from stasis when the cargo packaging had been converted to barns and fencing. 

Everything would be perfect. A new life on a new world, hope for the future, a free life for their children. 

The young man looked at his young wife. She looked exactly the same, not a day older for seven hundred years, as beautiful and wonderful as she had been on their wedding day. He looked at her again. 

He looked at her again, and realised that for seven hundred years he had been dreaming of another woman. 


Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Ten Things That Won't Change In My Lifetime

As much as I detest the way top ten lists have obliterated online writing, a potentially exciting new media completely trashed, sometimes it is the correct form for an article. 

This is my list of ten things that won't change in my lifetime.

1. Every morning, for the rest of my life, I will wake to news of murder inspired by one god or another. This won't change in the lifetime of the gods.

2. Jazz won't be popular.

3. I will be told that stuff I was once told was bad for me is now good for me, and that stuff I was once told is good for me is now bad for me.

4. Not one economist will apologise for misleading the public by making inaccurate predictions. Not one.

5. People will spend more time staring at screens than they will making love or eating.

6. I will choose to date girls who are nuts.

7. Background music in cafes and restaurants will be too loud to converse over without shouting. 

8. Celebrity, no matter how it is achieved, will be worshipped.

9. Love will bloom on moonlit nights.

10. Middle aged men will be overwhelmed by the feeling that nothing they can do will make the world a better place for the generation to come, yet they will continue to try.


Friday, 26 June 2015

The Decent, Peaceful Religious Majority

I recently wrote a piece stating that I'm not surprised when religious people do crazy things. Why would I be? It's been happening for centuries. 

I was told that the majority of religious people are decent and peace loving. I don't care too much about that decent, peaceful majority. It's the minority who do the crazy, violent, terrifying things. The minority need to be stopped, and if religion is putting the crazy shit into the heads of the minority the majority have a duty to work out why. Until the majority work out why their religion makes people do crazy things that majority is tacitly supporting the crazy minority, they add weight to the crazy inside the heads of the minority.

A clear thinking person would abandon all organised religion. It leads to violence and segregation, it has for centuries, this isn't news. Lacking the reason to quit the god habit the majority at least need to take responsibility for the loaded weapon their faith obviously is. Yes it is. History proves that.

Yesterday three religion inspired crazy people killed other people for their god, in three different countries, apparently for different religious reasons, if the words religious and reason can be used accurately together. I find myself feeling furious when people tell me that most religious people are decent and peace loving, that the violent, crazy people have misinterpreted the holy book. Don't blame religion? Why not? The killers themselves tell us they are doing it for religion. One blew himself up in a place of worship that holds different views about who should have inherited power over the caliphate centuries ago. That's about religion, for religion, caused by religion. If the book is so often misinterpreted get a clearer book. If holy books cause so much violence stop calling them holy. If indoctrinating children before they can understand what you're doing to them causes a minority to do crazy things, then please, oh please, cease indoctrinating the children.

I'm not surprised when religious people do crazy things, and I'm not surprised when other religious people hide behind the voodoo that prevents religion being analysed honestly, I'm not surprised that this shit is still happening in 2015, looks like it will keep happening forever, because the decent, peaceful majority won't put an end to it. 

Yes, you.


Thursday, 25 June 2015

Tram Scenes #2

The guy sitting beside me on this tram smells like a soiled sports sock spewed up the Taco Tuesday special in his pocket, with extra guacamole, three Tuesdays ago.


Sunday, 21 June 2015

You Probably Don't Remember, Very Short Science Fiction #3

You may not remember the insanity that followed the introduction of cheap and effective teleportation. Insanity was the only accurate description,people and objects appearing and disappearing all over the galaxy, like everyone and everything was looking for a lost earring, then looking somewhere else. 

Everyone had a telebooth, every business and every home, until the constant stream of comings and goings drove everyone to the edge of insanity. It settled down soon enough, but everything had changed. Suddenly we could all live as you do now, anywhere we liked. You probably don't remember how expensive land was before the telebooth. It is difficult to imagine. Many great fortunes were lost almost overnight. Anyone who based their wealth on city real estate was suddenly as poor as the rest of us, the only land with any value proved to be as it is now, good farming land. Now that food can be sent instantly to any point in the galaxy farming has become the only genuine wealth. You probably don't know that this is a return to the economic system of the past, on Earth, a couple of thousand years ago. 

You probably don't remember the concept of supply and demand either, you've never known a shortage of supply, you can have anything you want from anywhere, instantly, now there is only demand. 

You probably don't know what travel is. You probably don't know that patience was once the essence of a man. You probably don't know what anticipation is. You'll probably never understand why I walk up to a mountain stream to go fishing, but that's the best explanation I've got.


Saturday, 20 June 2015

Us And The Water, Very Short Science Fiction #2

A watched pot never boils. That's an old Earth saying, from around a thousand years ago. Unless you've been to this backwards planet at the edge of the galaxy you'll have no idea what a pot is, or why it would boil, or why anyone would watch it.

I say it's a backwards planet, but we've learned to like it this way. Unintentionally, or perhaps intentionally, we've made it this way. Over a couple of hundred years most of our equipment has failed due to poor maintenance, we've never seemed to get around to replacing it. Such things have never seemed important to us. 

So we boil water in pots. Pots are metal vessels, we place these vessels over fires that we deliberately light and control. We do this to cook our food or to make hot beverages. I know it sounds weird, why not just press a button on an autochef? Like I said, we like it this way.

You see, the water here is different to other water. It's alive. It communicates with us, in various ways. It never liked the autochef. We could sense a feeling of indignation whenever the water was pumped into the machinery. The water doesn't seem to mind being boiled at all. It seems to enjoy feeling useful, being involved with us. And we like being involved with the water. We live together here, us humans and the water. We collect the water from streams, boil it in pots, make tea, then communicate with the tea as we drink it, because the water is always up for a chat, one way or another. Then the water is part of us, or we are part of the water, or something like that.

We think it's some kind of telepathy, but we don't think about it too much, it doesn't seem to matter. The same Earth people who said that thing about watching pots boil used to write poetry about water, or use water as a way to describe other things. We figure water has always had some sort of telepathy with humans, it's just stronger here, we're more aware of it. Our entire lives are like poems. Poems unwritten, unspoken, instead lived, us and the water, beautiful and, well, poetic. 

It's true though, if you sit and watch a pot of water over the fire it never boils. The water gets to chatting, wants to know what we're doing, dinner for the family, or tea, or some warm water for bathing? Until we walk away, look elsewhere, the water remains too distracted to boil, too interested in what we're going to do together next. We laugh about it, us and the water, it's the closest we've come to conflict since we ceased using detergents. 

I wonder if the Earth water a thousand years ago was trying to get through to its human friends and would take longer to boil when someone slowed down long enough to give it some attention? Is the water here different, more telepathic, or are we different, more able to hear?

We like our backwards planet, here at the edge of the galaxy, and our water, and our fire, and our pots. We flow together, an endless stream, never the same water, never the same human, us and the water.