English freelance journalist Emily Reynolds was a teenager when she first developed bipolar disorder. It proved a hard diagnosis because it took around a decade of visits to health-care professionals and a cocktail of different medications in order to settle on the right ones. While on this journey, Reynolds researched and read the books that were available about mental illness, but she was unable to find one that resonated with her own unique condition. A Beginners Guide to Losing Your Mind is a result of Reynolds filling this gap.


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The combination of a political analysis and a memoir about the dissolution of a marriage could be considered similar to oil and water.  But in the hands of Australian author, Lee Zachariah, this book is quite a funny and rather seamless slice of gonzo journalism. Zachariah draws parallels between the Liberal party’s entry into office in 2013 and his marriage to his girlfriend as well as the aftermath of 2016, which saw Australians starring down the barrel of an uncertain election and Zachariah also facing an ambiguous future with respect to his relationship and life in general.

Double Dissolution is based around Zachariah’s series of articles for Vice Magazine about the 2016 Election, although none of his pieces are included here. Instead, diarised accounts of the highways, bad coffee and campaign bus are included as well as vox pops and interviews with volunteers, voters and politicians like: Greens senator, Sarah Hanson-Young and senator and leader of his own political party, Nick Xenophon. This book is pitched at all readers with political fans being able to enjoy the commentary while those less enamoured with politics can at least get enough context to understand Zachariah’s perspectives and encounters with those vying for power. Zachariah does a fabulous job of this, providing just enough information to be educational while never being dry or boring.

Some of the funniest parts of this book are Zachariah’s little asides and extra thoughts that can be found in the footnotes. He draws parallels between what is transpiring before him and various slices of pop culture. These links are never forced or tenuous. Zachariah has previously cut his teeth on TV shows like The Chaser’s Hamster Wheel and Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell and he certainly knows how to craft and tell an entertaining yarn or ten.

Double Dissolution is not the most deep or comprehensive look at Australian politics or the 2016 federal election and nor does it purport to be. Instead it is perhaps the most entertaining look at these topics. Zachariah is an interesting, gonzo character and his perspectives and commentary are quite intelligent and well-put. Perhaps this foray onto the campaign trail will see Zachariah run for office some day? Because as this book proves, he can’t be as bad as what we’ve previously had!

***Please note: a free copy of this book was won by the writer through a Bookstr giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit:




In Forces of Nature Professor Brian Cox answers the questions a child is likely to ask you. Why is every snowflake different? Why are honeycombs made up of hexagons? What is motion, etc.? This documentary series takes a leaf out of David Attenborough’s book by combining stunning natural scenes (where the high-definition video alone is worthy of a six out of five rating) and a learned presenter who can explain things in a relatively easy way.

This four part series is an ambitious one where the audience gets to traverse around the globe and watch the Northern Lights in one segment, to some volcanoes in Indonesia elsewhere and even the Serengeti Plains and some cliffs in Nepal. For the most part, Cox takes a back-seat and allows the mesmerising footage to speak for itself. When Cox does offer commentary and pieces to camera it is to use biology and physics to explain things like gravity, electromagnetism and symmetry in nature, as well as ways we can understand the universe and all its forces.

Professor Cox is an excellent presenter. It is obvious that he is a scientist who is passionate about his craft. It’s also apparent that he’s a great teacher. There is no doubt that this man knows what he’s talking about because Forces of Nature proves he is able to describe quite complex phenomena in a gentle, easy-to-understand way.

Forces of Nature is divided into programs about shape, colour, motion and elements. It is all about celebrating the complicated, everyday world and natural phenomena in general. This should be essential viewing to everyone as it strikes the perfect balance between information, entertainment and education. Professor Cox loves and enjoys celebrating science and it’s only natural that you should feel the same way too.


Originally published on 27 October 2016 at the following website:

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Cancer is a cruel disease. It’s also a very common one. It’s estimated that one in two men and one in three women will be diagnosed with it. Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies is a comprehensive and informative documentary series that offers us a history of cancer (including how researchers came to understand the disease) plus how treatments have been discovered and what happens next in this important field.

This series is based on the Pulitzer-prize winning book by Siddhartha Mukherjee who also appears here as a talking head in this program. The show is directed by Barak Goodman and it counts Ken Burns as an executive producer. Over the course of the filming, two individuals from the production team would die from cancer, including narrator Edward Herrmann and producer, Laura Ziskin.
The DVD is divided into six, hour-long episodes although in America it was presented as three, two-hour long programs.

The show combines interviews with: researchers, advocates, oncologists, patients, philanthropists and other doctors and nurses working in the cancer field. It combines archive footage and photographs (that are presented in the best quality video and audio.) Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies  is ultimately a very important documentary because it hits home that no one is immune to cancer and that this disease has a number of causes, including some that are unknown while others that can be linked to inherited genes, viruses, chemicals, etc.

In episode one we learn about how cancer has been around for hundreds of years. It was even mentioned in some Ancient Egyptian scrolls. The focus then shifts to the pioneers, the mistakes and breakthroughs of the last 100 years. Some of the first major breakthroughs were by Sidney Farber or the father of modern chemotherapy. In the following episode there are discussions about surgery and radiation and the idea that some of the drugs that treat cancer can also cause this dreaded disease.

By the 1940s the medical fraternity still considered cancer as a single disease that would have a single cure. A lot of research would follow and would aid in the understanding of this disease. This resulted in some researchers looking into the role of oncogenes (genes that under some circumstances can transform a cell into a tumour cell) as a way of detecting and fighting cancer.

There is a discussion about the horrific radical mastectomies that were once routine and believed to be the best treatment for breast cancer. This was later disproven and different trials lead to the discovery of better treatments (including certain drugs.) There was a shift in thinking about cancer to encourage prevention and early detection. The series ends with the formulation of the HPV vaccine that can account for a substantial number of breast and ovarian cancers.

Cancer: The Emperor Of All Maladies features clear and concise descriptions of cancer including its evolution and the way we think about, understand and treat this disease. It offers possible treatments for the future (targeted therapies and immunotherapy) as well as what has worked and failed. This documentary straddles the lines between hard science and history as well as offering up the real, human impact of cancer (by showing actual cancer patients and their families.) This documentary is essential viewing because it covers such a fundamental issue for humans as we stare down the barrel of either being diagnosed with the disease or knowing someone that has been there.

Originally published on 11 July 2016 at the following website:

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Concussion is an inflammatory story that is told in a subtle and benign way. It’s a film that covers the real-life events of a Nigerian-American pathologist’s discovery of a brain disorder called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). It’s one that is caused by repeated trauma to the head and was initially discovered in the brains of some former football players. This film is an educational one but it could have been harder hitting in driving home its ultimate point.

Will Smith is virtually unrecognisable as Dr Bennet Omalu, a man that was steadfast, dogged and driven in making this discovery. The CTE disease is irreversible and marked by symptoms of aggression, dementia, memory problems and suicidal thoughts. This film is a tad uneven as it seems confused about whether it wants to be Dr Omalu’s biopic or a thriller or a hard-hitting look at the uphill battle that occurred when taking on a corrupt institution (in this case America’s National Football League (NFL).) Concussion is pure hagiography because it portrays Dr Omalu as a Christian do-gooder taking on the establishment.

Alec Baldwin stars as Dr Julian Bailes the former team doctor for the Pittsburgh Steelers football team. Gugu Mbatha-Raw has a minor role as Omalu’s love interest and is largely underutilised. The most important elements of this film are how the NFL tried to thwart Dr Omalu’s attempts to make this information public as well as the racism he encountered. This is a moral tale of epic proportions and an intriguing subject. The inspiration for the story came from a GQ Magazine article penned by Jeanne Marie Laskas and the story was directed and adapted for the big screen by former investigative journalist, Peter Landesman.

The Blu-ray edition offers excellent sound and video presentation. It also offers a number of different special features. There is a commentary with the director and some deleted scenes. There are also a number of featurettes that include interviews with the cast and crew and the real-life individuals that inspired the characters. The participants all give interesting insights into this fascinating story.

Concussion is a nuanced and well-acted dramatic story that has some room for improvement. It is perhaps the most mature Will Smith film to date and it offers an informative look at an important issue. There was room for it to be rendered in a tighter, more impactful way but at the end of the day this sombre film will challenge your ideas about some competitive sports. This was ultimately a film that had to be made and it offers us some very sobering and difficult moments to pause and reflect on.

Originally published on 4 July 2016 at the following website:

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Food glorious food- the Food Service Australia event celebrated all of that and more. In 2016, this trade show was held in Sydney at the Royal Hall of Industries and the Hordern Pavilion from May 22-24. It was specifically targeted at professionals from the food, beverage and hospitality industries and drew together an impressive line-up of events, presentations, masterclasses and over 200 exhibitors.




The inaugural National Restaurant Conference was also a big drawcard where 4Fourteen’s Colin Fassnidge, Catalina’s Judy and James McMahon, Gault & Millau’s Mark Dorrell and others came together with other industry luminaries to discuss important topics like: social media, pricing, tourism, global food trends, technological developments and food allergies. Fassnidge was a very interesting speaker in particular, he joked that he once used a producer that was so good at tracing the origins of a pig he could tell you its name. He also described how his chefs cook regular meals for the homeless and that this has helped to reduce food waste in his restaurant’s kitchen.


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The Café School was another important spot where people could learn about coffee, sandwiches, burgers, wraps and gelato. Emily Oak of Sensory Lab was one of the speakers. She has over 20 years  experience (or the equivalent of around 1 million coffees) and she did a very informative talk about coffee that included the following points:

  • Coffee is the seed of a coffee tree meaning it’s a fresh product that is best consumed within one month of purchase.
  • The coffee, machine, milk and barista all matter in order to make a good coffee.
  • Coffees are not hard to make but they are difficult to make well.
  • Bitter coffees are often the result of a dirty machine, not the barista.
  • You should learn as much as you can and practice as much as possible.
  • Milk has an optimal temperature of 55-58 degrees Celsius. The texture and temperature need to be correct for the latte art to work.
  • You need to tamper firmly and consistently in order to avoid channeling.

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Food Service Australia also played host to the Unilever Food Solutions’ Chef of the Year. The competition attracted over 150 applicants where a total of 32 chefs competed in heats over the course of the three day event. The entrants had one hour to produce their best dish from a black box of ingredients and were judged by John McFadden (Pittwater RSL), Karen Doyle (Le Cordon Bleu), Sam Burke (Meat & Livestock Australia), Philippe Mouchel (President, Bocuse d’Or Australia), Mark Baylis (Unilever Food Solutions) and Gary Farrell (Competition Director). The competition was fierce and the title was won by Matt Weller of the Royal Canberra Golf Club.




The World’s Greatest Pie competition had entrants supply one pie to judge hot, one to judge cold and one to be judged the next day. Victoria’s Kaa Pies made history by being the first non-meat pie to win in the history of the competition. They took out the main title with their vegan pie, a Thai vegetable curry one and also amassed a total of four other medals for their tasty creations.




The exhibitors were all extremely knowledgeable and passionate about their food. This was particularly evident when we chatted to La Coppola chef, Steven Scopelliti at the Good Lady Imports equipment stand. Steven whipped us up a fresh margherita pizza that was so fresh and tasty. He told us that the secret to his pizzas was that he uses a wood fire oven to “barbeque” the dough but in the chain stores like Dominos they “fry” the base because they use deep dishes that require a lot of oil to stop the pizza from sticking.




Some other highlights from the exhibitors included:

  • Whisk & Pin: a Blue Mountains-based business where they create innovative and original products like cookies, muesli, baking mix, chocolate and conserves from premium Australian produce. Their white chocolate dessert road (a twist on Rocky road) was heavenly.
  • Chocolate 5018- award-winning chocolate creations that see exquisite ingredients like freeze-dried nuts, spices, edible flowers and gold mixed with fine Belgian couverture.
  • The Fudge Man: offers up 25 different flavours of gourmet fudge including some varieties that are free of sugar, gluten and preservatives.
  • Groenz: a leading manufacturer of condiments in New Zealand and Australia, their mustards, sauces and salsas offer an extra punch and compliment for any food.
  • Bakers & Co and Bakery Fresh: a Melbourne-based company offering tasty breads, pizza bases and cookies.

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The Food Service Australia 2016 event was another successful show drawing together a diverse range of professionals to talk about all things food, beverage and service. The show had been a very informative one where people could learn lots of handy tips, tricks and titbits from people in the know, which they could then take away to enrich their businesses and lives. Bon appetit!




Originally published on 18 June 2016 at the following website:

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Let’s talk about sex baby. Luke McGregor’s doco-comedy, Luke Warm Sex is a raw, honest and no-holds-barred approach to copulation. It also promises to educate viewers in how to get better at or to have a more satisfying sex life. Across six episodes the viewer embarks on a journey with the most awkward comedian in history to learn a lot about lovin’.

Luke McGregor has graced our small screens before in sitcoms like Utopia and Please Like Me. The Tasmanian-born funnyman is a naturally rather anxious guy with nervous chuckles punctuating his speech. This man has a very awkward persona and some people may have thought this was all an act or something that would not have helped in making a program like Luke Warm Sex.

It may come across as a bit of a surprise but this nervy guy is actually quite a charming presenter. McGregor was – by his own admission – a complete novice when it came to matters of the bedroom, having only had sex twice in his 33 years on earth. To this series he brings an eagerness, enthusiasm and a natural zeal to learn more and to improve himself. He lays his insecurities out in the open and in doing so is actually quite endearing and wins over the audience. Luke Warm Sex is ultimately quite a relatable, entertaining and informative program.

In Luke Warm Sex McGregor tackles his body hang-ups and overcomes his fear of being nude while in the company of some kind-hearted naturists. He becomes comfortable with the idea of touch and contact and learns how to prepare the body for sex. The final stages he learns about are pleasure, intimacy and creative ways of getting down and dirty. In this series, McGregor speaks to various individuals including sexperts like: sex therapists and educators, tantric practitioners, sex coaches and naturists, to name a few.

The special features on the DVD include an eclectic mix of titbits. Dr Judith Glover offers a history of vibrators while Roger Butler gives us the “flip board of love”. Academics, Thiagarajan and Gomathi Sitharthan discuss porn while Amanda Lambrose makes a “sex” smoothie and Cindy Darnell and McGregor discuss sex toys. There are some comedic moments like “The STI House” (starring Dave Hughes, Hamish Blake and other comedians), “The Consent Sketch” and a little segment where McGregor visits his hometown and old school. There are also some outtakes, promo trailers and some vox pops that McGregor did in Melbourne.

Luke Warm Sex offers the viewer a light-hearted and educational look at sex. In an age where a lot of people learn about sex through porn, it is refreshing to see a program tackle some real experiments and offer facts from a guy who is painfully honest about his lack of know-how. This series is a brave one that should be mandatory viewing by everyone because we could all learn a thing or two from this endearing, gentle and original show.

Originally published on 27 April 2016 at the following website:

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Mama mia- Italy boasts in excess of 500 different grape varieties. As Australians this can make ordering Italian wines a tad confusing, especially when most people’s knowledge only extends to Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and the like. But thankfully the team from Gambero Rosso are here to the rescue.

Gambero Rosso publish Italian wine guides. It all started as a simple supplement of a few pages that was printed in a daily newspaper in Rome back in 1986. By 1988 the first compendium was published and in 1997 the first English edition was printed. The guide has gone from strength-to-strength and now employs some 60 expert blind tasters who visit 2402 Italian wineries to sample 22,000 wines for the volume.


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The team from Gambero Rosso also hold events and have recently embarked on a world tour named, “Tre Bicchieri” or “Three Glasses”, which will visit Japan, China, Germany, London and America. It is named after the highest rating offered in the guide. The wines are assigned scores of one glass for good, two for very good and three for exceptional or extraordinary.


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In addition to Gambero Rosso’s ratings, the Italian government also has its own unique classifications like DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) for wines with controlled production methods and vineyards that grow grapes in protected geographical spots. DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) is the highest grade and guarantees the quality of the DOC score. The system is modelled on the French food and wine system.


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The Sydney event saw representatives from industry and members of the press sampling wines from eight distinct Italian regions including: Veneto, Sicily, Lombardy, Tuscany, Trentino, Marche, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Puglia. There were over 40 different wines to sample including sparking and traditional whites, reds and rosés. It was interesting to talk to representatives from different vineyards and learn more about their different wines and grapes.


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This event also included a masterclass with more sampling which included four sparkling wines like the floral and refreshing Valdobbiadene Brut Prior 2015and the complex Franciacorta Extra Brut 2009 with its complex taste and aromatic herb notes. The Trento Brut Altemasi Graal Ris. 2008 was more acidic but the Franciacorta Brut Rosé had a longer-lasting finish.

The Pieropan family own one of the oldest wineries and they use very mature grapes that are aged in a barrel for 18 months. Their Soave Cl. La Rocca 2013. was a surprisingly light drop and the same could be said about the FCO Pinot Bianco Myò 2014 with its floral scent reminiscent of daisies and gooseberries. If the former was all sugar then the following Braide Alte 2013 was the spice and all things nice with its blend of different drops including Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The Primitivo di Manduria Talò is something you’d have difficulty finding in our local hotels but it had a rich taste and a sweet finish. This made the Amarone della Valpolicella Cl. 2011 seem quite earthy and structured in comparison.


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The Tre Bicchieri wine tasting and masterclass event was an educational and informative session about Italian wines for trade and industry. The guide is considered the bible of Italian wines and for good reason. The book – like the exhibitors – helped showcase the best elements of Italian wines and celebrate all of the unique grape varieties and drops in all of their finery.

For more information on Gambero Rosso’s Italian Wine Guide and the Tre Bicchieri world tour please visit:


Originally published on 2 April 2016 at the following website:

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The documentary series, The Route Masters: Running London’s Roads is an informative but long look at how Transport for London keep the city moving. The series is a pleasant but rather staid one because while it can be insightful it is also hardly ground-breaking to witness the thankless work that goes on behind-the-scenes on any given day. Like the recent documentaries about the Underground, various airports and railways this also provides a view of some work that is often forgotten (and sometimes this is for good reason because it’s not always that interesting).

The series is a six part one where each episode takes up a full hour. This means the show covers a lot of ground but in some instances the program could have been tightened and would have been better for it. The filmmakers have at least picked out some good talent to interview and these dedicated staff offer up accessible and simple explanations for their jobs (which in some cases can be quite complex and difficult).

The first episode is about traffic jams and grid lock. In rush hour the average speed that Londoners travel is about 15 kilometres per hour (a figure that was the same in 1890). This instalment looks at how road closures and severe accidents (like a helicopter crash) require a litany of emergency services, traffic workers creating diversions and the police. It certainly had echoes of Sydney’s recent 13km traffic jam due to an accident on the Harbour Bridge.

Episodes two and three were dedicated to the buses. The first exclusively dealt with the night services that replace the tube. The other show covered the day trips, including drivers training and the beautiful, 60-year-old red routemaster buses that come complete with a driver and conductor. The fourth episode dealt with a different sort of bus, a coach and it looked specifically at Victoria’s coach station. This was opened in 1932 and was planned to be used for small day tours to London but now has people travelling to and from some 1200 destinations across the U.K. and Europe.

The fifth episode was about “The Future” including number plate recognition being used to issue fines and a supercomputer that controlled traffic lights. The finale was all about fighting crime. These included everything from petty fare evasions and pickpocketing all the way through to violent assaults (the footage of a man being kicked out of the top deck of a bus was particularly frightening). This series seemed to cover the whole gamut of human interactions, from light and comical (like one worker offering piggybacks to people who needed to use a flooded underpass) to outright harrowing (assaults, racial abuse, etc).

The Route Masters was a rather practical and no-holds-barred look at Transport for London and their work in the city. It included repair teams, drivers, emergency workers, controllers and law-enforcement officers and included their interesting tales from the city’s heartbeat. In all, some of these stories were not necessarily crying out to be told but it still offered a rather insightful look at modern life and what goes in to getting people from point A to B.

Originally published on 28 March 2016 at the following website:

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They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks but a certain Maremma certainly got a new job in the small, Victorian town of Warrnambool. The Italian sheepdog was used to guard the town’s dwindling population of penguins. It was such a success it was declared a modern-day miracle or fairy-tale and the film Oddball tells this fascinating story in a pleasant but prosaic manner.

The film is the debut feature by veteran TV director, Stuart McDonald (who is best known for his work with Chris Lilley). The movie is loosely based on the real-life events that happened to an eccentric chicken farmer named Swampy Marsh, who is played here as a big, loveable teddy bear by Shane Jacobson (Kenny). It’s an interesting story but this film doesn’t always do it justice because at times it requires a large suspension of disbelief to get over all the plot contrivances and the very neatly stitched-together ending.

The wonderful, Sarah Snook plays Marsh’s daughter and a penguin conservationist. She injects some vital energy into the piece but at times is a tad underutilised. The same can also be said about the strange dog-catcher, the funny comedian, Frank Woodley and the town’s mayor, who is played by the delightful, Deborah Mailman. Marsh’s cute granddaughter Olivia is played by Coco Jack Gillies (Mad Max: Fury Road) and is a good sparring partner to her Pop.

The film is a little clumsy at times but it does tell the story of ten or so penguins who were living on Middle Island and how they needed help to stay alive so that the place could remain open as a sanctuary.  It was no mean feat as the population had been decimated from thousands to handfuls by rogue foxes. There were also other villains to be found, each possessing their own hidden agendas. But despite this, Oddball is a warm and likeable family fable.

The Blu-ray edition’s special features include five long featurettes. These look at the real Oddball and the Maremma shepherd dog in general. There is also lots of information about the penguins, the township of Warrnambool and the predators and pests we can count in Australia’s flora and fauna. These are very educational and include interviews with historians, conservationists and Warrnambool’s former town mayor. These could have been edited down a little as they do clock in at around the five hour mark in total and because some features include the same snippets of interviews as the previous ones, which can get a little tedious.

Oddball is a charming little Australian film about a photogenic dog and some pretty little penguins. The animals and the town absolutely shine and the photography of the 12 Apostles is exquisite. The actors mostly put in good performances (although occasionally these can be a little hammy) but they are let down at times by some problems with the script. In sum, this is a movie the family can enjoy because it’s a magical and positive tale about some admirable dogs who worked hard to save the sweet, local inhabitants of Middle Island. It’s good but the film is ultimately missing some magic pixie dust.

Originally published on 24 January 2016 at the following website:

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