review

It’s a Vegetarian Wonderland! An Au Lac Review

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It’s hard to be a vegetarian sometimes—especially in a society dominated by the meat industry. I would certainly be very rich if I had a dollar for every time I’ve gone to a restaurant only to find no vegetarian options, other than a bowl of chips or boring garden salad. Fellow vegetarians, we know this feeling well. But fret no more: we have Au Lac’s Royal Vegetarian Cuisine!

I cannot express how amazing it is for a vegetarian to find a restaurant where you don’t have to worry about being stuck with a boring meal. A restaurant where you don’t have to worry that the cooks will accidently slip in some form of animal product. Where you know they didn’t cook your vegetarian meals with the same pans as they cooked meat in. A place where you feel at home—only with tastier food, fantastic and fast service, as well as a stunning, elegant atmosphere, complete with forest-inspired wall art and crystal chandeliers.

I stumbled across this place a few weeks ago, and was instantly greeted like an old friend. Despite the fact that I accidently entered the store half an hour before opening, the workers insisted it was okay—they were happy to serve me, despite not yet being open. All this was delivered with a smile. Of course, I declined and insisted I would come back when they were open—and I did. Even when I paid for my meal with dollar coins and asked for a tax invoice, they smiled (I’m an annoying customer, I know).

Au Lac is 100% vegetarian, with vegan and gluten and nut free options available upon request, and are dedicated to bringing customers the finest, healthiest meals from only the freshest producers. Because I know you’re probably wondering, the meat-free alternatives are made from a variety of products, including soy protein, wheat flour, mushrooms, and an extremely healthy Asian plant called konnyaku. Quality and health has been a part of Au Lac’s philosophy since it first opened in 2000 with two store locations: one in Dickson, Canberra, and the other right here in Wollongong—2/166 Kiera Street. Opening hours are Monday to Sunday, from a convenient and handy 11.30am to 2.30pm, and 5.30pm to 10.30pm.

So let’s get to the important stuff: the food. Honey soy chicken. Soy chicken nuggets. Soy chicken satay sticks. Satay soy beef. Soy chicken in plum sauce. Fried soy fish in a savoury ginger sauce. Fried soy squid with spicy salt and chilli. Braised tofu with vegetables and cashew nuts.  And let’s not forget dessert: banana cake, sundaes and deep fried ice cream. Okay, my mouth is now watering. But best of all about Au Lac? They’re affordable—affordable enough for even a poor university student, with prices ranging from $5-$18. The average main meal is around $15.90, with boiled rice a shockingly cheap $2.50 per person.

It’s the little things that really make a place special, and Au Lac is one of those places. Trip Adviser Australia rates Au Lac a 4.5 out of 5 stars—and I’m going to do the same. On a side note, I’m now starving and desperate for some vegetarian goodness. Try it—and thank me later!

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Would you like a side of badass with that? A Richelle Mead review

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“I’d seen weirder things than a haunted shoe, but not many.

…There was a moment’s silence, then a high-pitched male voice snapped, “Go away, bitch.”

Great. A shoe with an attitude.”

Richelle Mead’s Storm Born is the first instalment in her riveting Dark Swan series, and is a work of pure genius and absurd humour. After all, who doesn’t love a touch of wackiness?

Storm Born follows shaman-for-hire Eugenie Markham who dedicates her life to protecting innocents from vicious creatures of a parallel universe—the Otherworld. Death threats and violence, she can handle—Eugenie wields a gun and shamanic magic with ease. In other words: a total badass. That is, until every Otherworldly creature is trying to get into her pants—the downside to an age-old prophecy. Eugenie is forced to confront her enemies, as well as the dark, unknown powers swirling within her.

Mystery, intrigue, betrayal, action and love. Storm Born has it all; complete with haunted shoes, a half-kitsune who gives a new meaning to the phrase “animal attraction”, and a fairy king with a taste for bondage.

Urban fantasy author Richelle Mead is well-renowned for her strong (and incidentally hilarious) female leads. Mead perfectly mixes her wacky brand of dark humour into smoulderingly sexy—not to mention empowering and inspiring—lead ladies and compelling storylines.

Mead’s most recent venture is the mind-blowing Age of X series, which is set in the futuristic world nearly destroyed by religious extremists who unleashed a deadly virus. The Republic of United North America (RUNA) as a result banishes Gods from their society—but these Gods return with a vengeance, and it’s up to implant-enhanced super solider Mae Konskein and her genius (and alcoholic) partner Dr Justin March to maintain order with the utmost secrecy. On the other hand, Mead’s Georgina Kincaid series follows a reluctant succubus with a terrible love life but great shoes through a series of unexpected, dangerous and often heart-breaking events, though Georgina overcomes these through her sassy humour and intelligence.

Perhaps her most well-known venture, Mead’s best-selling young adult series Vampire Academy (which in 2014 was also adapted into a film) follows the snarky half-vampire guardian-in-training Rose Hathaway who is charged with the protecting the last Dragomir moroi (living vampire) princess Lissa Dragomir—who also happens to be her best friend—from a race of ancient, undead and bloodthirsty vampires—the strigoi. Meanwhile, in Vampire Academy’s spin-off series Bloodlines, witty, resourceful and pragmatic Sydney Sage is the protagonist. Sydney is an alchemist; a super-secret human agency which is tasked with concealing the existence of vampires. That is, until she falls in love with one.

Whether it be through brains, brawn or empathy, Mead’s characters prove ladies can kick butt—especially in a male-dominated, patriarchal world.

So, have you ever heard of a succubus who occasionally moonlights as a Christmas elf? An angel who drinks with demons and dresses like a homeless man? An overly-aggressive table? No? Read Richelle Mead’s masterpieces. You will be enlightened—thank me later.

I give Richelle Mead 5 stars—for all of her books; because anything less would be an insult. Go forth, enlightened readers!

Life inside a book: wouldn’t it be nice?

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I can’t help but think life would be better if we lived inside the universe of a novel. Probably not Game of Thrones, though dragons are pretty awesome, though still: how amazing would it be to practise magic or shoot lightning bolts out of your fingertips?

That last part—sadly—is pretty irrelevant to my point and this article.

Some of you may have heard of the best-selling Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead—it recently also became a film (one I am particularly upset with. I mean, seriously. What is up with filmmakers ruining perfectly good books?). Calm down, I’m not writing about Vampire Academy. But I am going to write about Richelle Mead—sort of.

Richelle Mead is a brilliant author, and has written some of the best material I’ve ever read. She also happens to be the one who ignited my passion for writing and all things wacky. Sadly, her adult novels—which I’d argue are some of her best work—are largely unknown.

Her most recent venture is the mind-blowing Age of X series, which is set in a futuristic world nearly destroyed by religious extremists who unleashed a deadly virus. Obviously, the deadly virus part is bad. But how she describes society adapting to overcome this danger is truly remarkable.

Gameboard of the Gods, the first instalment in the series, is mostly set in the Republic of North America (AKA RUNA). In this society, religion has all but been extinguished, thus eliminating religious conflict. Gene pools have been rigorously mixed in order to fight off the disease before a cure was created, so there is no racism or underprivileged minority groups. Gender equality has finally been achieved, as well as equal pay. RUNA also has strict birth control regulation—citizens are embedded with a contraceptive implant until the age of 20, where they are able to conceive up to two children.  If citizens are able to prove they can financially support their family, they may be allowed up to four children—though strictly no more. This removes many issues we experience today, such as teen pregnancies, childhood poverty and a population that is too large for the Earth to possibly sustain. Education is also strongly embedded into RUNA’s culture, with a year of compulsory tertiary education for all students.

I understand some of this stuff is pretty controversial—particularly the control of procreation. I have had many discussions with friends about this; do people have the right to choose? What are the consequences of this?

I fully support a person’s right to choose—within reason. This policy is nothing like China’s disastrous one-child policy, in which 400 million births (mainly female) were prevented. There is no gender inequality in RUNA. And proving you can support your children isn’t paying for them—it’s not elitist, it’s logical. It encourages parents to first further themselves (and the country) before they procreate. In Australia, the average couple has 1.7 children—four is a lot.

This issue isn’t about control; it’s about sustainability. The Earth doesn’t have enough resources for our growing population, and it will be the poor who suffer.

Whether or not you agree with this strict kind of control, you have to admit they solve many issues with a few simple steps—steps that allow society to flourish. The needs of the many should outweigh the needs of the few—somewhere along the line, I think we’ve forgotten that.

I know RUNA isn’t perfect. There are a lot of issues that haven’t been addressed. But you do have to admire the superior—in theory—society. We could end world hunger, end gender inequality, end religious wars (mostly). It sounds great until the banished gods return—with a vengeance, I might add—in a power-scramble for followers. It’s called Gameboard of the Gods for a reason. But that’s beside the point.

My point is: RUNA sounds great. I would gladly live there, and I think we could learn a lot from fictitious worlds like this—admittedly, with some modifications. Someone should notify the politicians immediately.

Fifty Shades of Frustrated

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I can’t help but feel incredibly conflicted when writing about Fifty Shades of Grey.

There’s obviously a lot of hate for the novel and the film; hate which I don’t think is entirely justified.

Take Lisa Wilkinson’s scathing review, for example. She calls the film “domestic violence dressed up as erotica” that is “more appalling than appealing”.

Don’t get me wrong; I adore Lisa Wilkinson. As a successful female journalist, she’s a massive role model to me. But I have to disagree, and point out that she hasn’t read the books, either. Therefore, I don’t think it’s entirely fair for her to pass judgement about the series, or people who enjoy it.

I really don’t think the series deserves its bad reputation. Is it violent? Well, yes. But we must remember this key point: she consents. She asks for it, against her better judgement, in some scenes. But it’s her choice to agree to those things.

One scene in particular comes to mind: the controversial punishment scene. I by no means condone this kind of behaviour, I personally think Anastasia is ridiculously stupid for asking Christian to do the worst possible punishment. But again, the key factor: she asks him to. Inevitably, she is hurt (come on Ana, what did you think was going to happen?), and when she tells Christian to leave her alone; he complies. If she’d had said “stop” or any of the code words, “yellow” or “red”, he would have stopped earlier. But she didn’t.

Christian’s enjoyment of said punishment indicates serious (and rather frightening) mental issues, and if you’d read the books, you’d know about them. But Christian does not do one thing that Anastasia doesn’t ask or give permission for. Aside from this controversial scene, she enjoys his control—immensely.

Even if it’s not your cup of tea, you have no right in judging someone for enjoying Fifty Shades of Grey.

It is by no means a perfect text. The books are terribly written with far too many references to one’s inner goddess. And let’s not forget the unmistakable Twilight comparisons. A mysterious and sadistic billionaire who warns a shy virgin to stay away for her own good—sound familiar? I just had to roll my eyes when watching the film – that is, when I wasn’t making dirty and hilarious comments.

But it’s not the writing that has everybody hooked. It’s the taboo and kinky nature of the best-selling series that gives a whole new meaning to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and grey silk ties.

Lisa Wilkinson says Fifty Shades of Grey isn’t erotic. One hundred million book owners, as well as the many more who have seen the film, would disagree with you.

Fifty Shades of Grey is not a normal love story, that much is true. For starters, it begins with a contract. But as time progresses, real feelings are developed, particularly in the second and third books.

I am not entirely defending Christian Grey. Like I said, I think he has some serious issues, not to mention his incredibly controlling nature (I would probably punch him if I were Anastasia). He often uses “because it pleases me” to convince Ana to do some pretty kinky stuff. But from what we see (and read), it certainly pleases her too. Let’s be honest, it would probably please most of us too. I mean, any man that can make a woman orgasm by playing with her nipples deserves a medal.

This is why I am fifty shades of frustrated when it comes to people putting their uneducated two cents in. Some of whom haven’t even seen the film, let alone read the books, before they pass judgement. Feminist sites in particular ask: “how can you be a feminist and think Fifty Shades of Grey is okay?” Easy, you don’t judge someone else for their sexual preferences and recognise that Anastasia consents.

It’s an endless circle, really: women hating on other women for their likes and dislikes, judging each other for their likes and dislikes.

It’s 2015. People are into kinky stuff. Can we move on already, please?

*Note: this article was originally published here in February. I’m not just super late to the conversation (haha).*

Get Unhinged

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10930865_753727384740994_8226110819177030516_nLife is too serious—sometimes you just need to have a laugh; a philosophy Wollongong’s own heavy punk band The Unhinged live by.

“That’s our aim,” said James Flint, the band’s lead vocalist. “We just want everyone to have as much fun as we are.”

Think heavy. Think energy. Think fun. Think booze—your ideal party scene. That’s The Unhinged.

“We really just take the piss out of everything,” said James.

“Anything we can have a laugh about.”

It all began with a simple ad on Gumtree by James about 12 months ago, and has now become a band with a growing following—along with an upcoming East Coast tour.

“We’re pretty happy to see where it leads,” said lead guitarist Paul Appleton.

“None of us have big ambitions to be rock stars and make millions.  In reality that won’t happen.”

“It’s just something to forget about your day job and get into something you really enjoy doing.”

As the band crack open some beers, a very important step for rehearsal preparations, you can tell these guys are all great mates who love taking the piss out of each other.

Brandt Cattell, who drives a forklift by day, is the band’s bassist, and has been playing for six years. Well, trying to play, according to James. Brandt was the last member to join the band.

“Thought I’d give it a try and have a jam,” he said.

“They said I can come back, so I’ve been here ever since. Haven’t told me to piss off, so I must be doing something right.”

“Not that we haven’t told him to piss off,” James corrected. “It just hasn’t stuck yet.”

Paul Appleton, lead guitarist, is the most experienced member of the band, having been playing for over 20 years. Paul’s day job in clothing manufacturing allows the band to get the know-how of the merchandise business.

Michael Davies is the band’s drummer, and has been playing since high school. Mick works as a bartender, and according to his mates is an amateur comedian and quite frankly, “a top bloke”. Mick also once had a candle chucked at his head during a Sydney gig by a junkie—though the bigger question here is: who on Earth carries around a candle in the city?

Lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist James Flint works as a chef by day and is probably most remembered for his sense of humour.

“James got naked and mooned his ass at me once,” said Mick. “It was only embarrassing for his missus.”

THEUNHINGED

The band has come a long way since their first rough gig at Corrimal Hotel in July last year; Mick’s reaction was the general consensus.

“I was shitting myself,” he recalls. “I’d never played in front of an audience before.”

That particular gig was shaky as a result of an unfortunate pie incident. Said pie nearly cost the band their entire gig; it managed to put Paul in the hospital the night before.

“I bought a pie at lunch time and choked on it. Had a piece of meat stuck 2cm down my throat.” Paul remembers.

“It was nerve-wracking,” Brandt said, remembering the gig that almost didn’t happen.  “Didn’t know If he was going to make it.”

Understandably, Paul was no good for singing at their first gig. The band remember it as “a bit of fun”.

“We got to take his hospital gown off, too,” James insisted.

Like a true blue Aussie, Paul continues to eat pie to this very day.

The band have come a long way since then, with their 1st anniversary show highlighting their success; the audience jumped on stage while they played.

“For a band that’s been playing for 12 months, I think we’re going pretty good, really.” James said.

“People come to our shows and sing our songs. That’s always a good thing—it’s a start.”

The upcoming East Coast tour in May will be exciting and exhausting—seven shows in seven days, with a home show in Wollongong’s Dicey Riley’s on May 9, though the band are probably most excited for their Melbourne show.

“It’s going to be nuts there,” said Paul. “Everyone says the music scene is good there.”

James is also keen for the Gerringong show. “Everywhere else we’ve already played before. Well, except for Canberra. But fuck Canberra,” he joked.

The band are also set to play for the annual festival Creepfest on June 20 at the Corrimal Hotel, along with some other pretty big bands.

“Clowns is a massive band out of Melbourne who is headlining,” said James. “They’re pretty fucking good.”

The Unhinged members are happy to see where the flow takes them.

“If we can make a living off it, we’d be happy.” Said James.

“It’s a pretty hard gig, so we don’t have huge expectations.”

“At the same time, the sky is the limit, really.”

If you asked the band what their sound was, they’d each rattle off 10 different bands, and none would be the same—except for The Ramones and NoFX. They don’t really have a clue about “sub-genres”, and instead call themselves punk—it makes it easier.

Music is their outlet. Their way to communicate what irritates them about daily life—as well as more important issues.

“Drunk Again” is about alcohol abuse, and “Bully” is an anti-bullying song.

“’Deal with the Devil’ is about not selling your soul to a job, and actually enjoying your life, rather than working 60 hours a week and not enjoying it,” said Paul.

Even “Parking Inspector” ties into this theme, James said.

“No one wants to get a ticket off a parking inspector; it pisses you off”.

“We just play stuff people will get into and enjoy.” Brandt said.

“If there’s a bit of a message in there, cool. But we just want people to enjoy themselves and have a laugh.”

“We’re doing a public service,” Paul laughed.

Have fun, kick back, vent, and be able to have a laugh at yourself. That’s The Unhinged. What could be any better than that?

Get their demo here.