Reg Mombassa’s Cranium Universe

‘House at Beach Road with Kirk’s Bush’ (1974), a painting of a house that his father built, is in pride of place on the kitchen wall of Reg Mombassa’s two-storey home in Glebe. ”I sold that for $350 and bought it back for $12,000 – I ripped myself off,” he says.




No trumpets were blowing
no armies marching
to mark the hour of her death.
No hearse no horses
no marble mountain
to house her small remains.
No line of cars
No river of flowers
no guns fired wildly at the sky.
No oration from the nation 
no flags at half-mast
no words of wisdom from the wise.
No pop stars or princes
Singing her praises
no impersonators
dancing her steps
or mouthing her words.
No!  There was none of this!
Just a silent service 
from time to time
in that tiny church
inside the mind
this quiet room
of flesh and bone
blood and brain electron home
to all the words and deeds
and sights and sounds
of the known universe.
The Cranium universe.
Somewhere in this particle soup
lie bits of my mother,
Waiting to be reassembled:
put together again
and rebaked in some distant kitchen 

(Reprinted with kind permission)

Songwriter, poet, painter, Mambo illustrator, musician and astro- and quantum physics fan Reg Mombassa has just released his first eBook, Cranium Universe

It’s an eclectic mixture of documentary, music CD, video and old-style text book, with print and pictures told through three interactive galleries and fifteen audio-visual clips that showcase his song writing, poems and paintings as he tells the stories behind them. 

The work includes an ode to his late mother Gertrude, whose ashes Reg keeps in a plastic brick on a shelf in his studio.

“My mother didn’t want a funeral,” recounts Reg, who uses his public persona rather than the name Christopher O’Doherty that his mother, English nurse Gertrude, gave him in 1951. 

“Mum didn’t like funerals, she thought they were miserable, gloomy affairs which they generally are.  Before her death she’d stopped going to funerals and told us she didn’t want one so we just had a small wake but no funeral. 

Cranium Universe the poem is an ode to my mother. It rants about the disparity between the funeral of very well known public figures and those of normal people, which go by unremarked. 

“Like the book title, the poem is about how we remember people in our heads.   You don’t really need that huge public ritual or a huge mausoleum to remember them. 

“It’s in the cranium universe that we remember them.  That church, that world, that universe that resides inside our head.  Because if we didn’t think about it [the world, the universe] it possibly wouldn’t exist.”

Cranium Universe by Reg Mombassa, $9.99 from iTunes

In Australia:The Best of Contemporary Chinese Art


Where do the world leaders go when they retire?

Now on show at Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation as part of Go Figure! Contemporary Chinese Portraiture, Old Person’s Home was created in 2007 by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, two artists based in Beijing. The duo is known for using controversial materials such as human fat tissue, live animals, and baby cadavers to deal with issues of perception, death, and the human condition.

“I just wanted to make a toy for me to play [with], and surprisingly people liked it a lot,” Sun Yuan points out.

The exhibition features 13 over-aged “men” in suits and ties or uniforms roaming about aimlessly in wheelchairs, bumping into each other and getting tangled from time to time. Each time they collide they make a creaking noise which sends the gallery staff rushing to the rescue. The men remind you of someone, someone high level enough to be at a UN debate or at Israel Palestinian negotiations, perhaps. But what you can see here is what is left of these “world leaders”: they are old, frail and dying. At a closer look, you realise they are just life-like human sculptures made from silica gel and you begin to understand the piercing irony.

It is interesting to observe how visitors react when they arrive in the gallery. Their expressions move from shock to confusion, from amusement to fascination, and then they take out a camera or mobile phone to take photos or video. A few persistent visitors hang around for a long time, trying to figure out how the exhibit works: what the material is, how the mechanics work and how the sensors stop the dummies bumping into visitors. Visually it is confronting, with a good flavour of playfulness and satire.

When asked how the idea came to him, Sun Yuan smiles and says, “You know, this question is the most common one an artist often gets asked but is also the hardest to answer, because there wasn’t really a moment that the artist conjured up this idea. Instead, it was a story.” The work has been shown in a number of countries since its inception in 2007 and the biggest challenge has been the technical maintenance. “It would have been a lot cheaper and easier if it is in China,” Sun Yuan says.

After the Australian show,  Old Person’s Home will travel to its final destination, Hong Kong’s M+ Museum, opening in 2017.

Go Figure!

Featuring 55 works from the prominent Uli Sigg Collection, Go Figure! Contemporary Chinese Portraiture opened at two galleries in September, the Australian National Portrait Gallery (NPG) and the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation (SCAF). The exhibition was curated by Dr Claire Roberts, senior lecturer in Art History at Adelaide University and one of Australia’s leading sinologists. It features some of the most high-profile artists working at an international level today, including Ai Weiwei , Fang Lijun, Geng Jianyi, Liu Xiaodong, Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, Shen Shaomin, Wang Guangyi, Wang Jianwei, Yin Xiuzhen, Yu Hong, Zeng Fanzhi, Zhang Peili and Zhang Xiaogang in diversified media of painting, drawing, mixed media, sculpture, photography, video and installation art.

Swiss businessman and former Swiss ambassador in Beijing Uli Sigg started his collection in 1990s. His collection is deemed the world’s most comprehensive collection of Chinese contemporary art from 1990s to present, and now boasts a comprehensive collection of more than 2200 artworks from 1979 by 350 Chinese contemporary artists. In June 2012, under a partial gift and partial purchase agreement, Sigg donated 1463 works valued at $US163 million to Hong Kong’s M+ Museum, which will open in 2017.


Go Figure! is showing at the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, 13 September 2012 – 17 February 2013, and at Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, Sydney, 15 September – 1 December 2012.

The Wilarious Wil Anderson

Telling dick jokes to strangers in bars … Wil Anderson. Photo courtesy Anderson’s Facebook page


Some love him, some don’t. But whichever way you look at him he’s a household personality, and millions of people tune in watch or listen to him each week. (He also doesn’t wear underwear on stage … just saying.) William James Anderson is a television/radio presenter and currently the host of Gruen Planet on ABC 1, which lands him in between ad gurus Todd Sampson and Russel Howcroft (we’ll get to that later … ) He is also a stand-up comedian currently on tour with his show Wilarious.  I had the pleasure of chatting with Wil about his career (and the sexual tension on Gruen).

How have your stand up routines changed from “Diet Life” to your current show “Wilarious”? And during your stand-up comedy career, what was the highlight that won’t leave your memory, and possibly even haunts you?

Comedy should never be about looking back, it should always be about looking forward. An audience won’t laugh at the next joke just because the last one was funny, so you always have to be thinking: What’s next? To be honest, I think I am a very different comedian than I was even four years ago when I released Wilosophy. I have never watched the DVD back, firstly because I don’t really like to watch myself at the best of times (I have only ever seen three episodes of Gruen), but mostly because I often don’t recognise that person either, as my style has changed so much. I don’t know if this sort of stuff is obvious to my audience, but it is very apparent to me. I can’t remember much of what Diet Life would have been about, and I am guessing the amount of decent jokes wouldn’t take up more than a minute or two in the new show, but there were a couple of ideas in there and obviously enough encouragement to write another 17 shows since then.

What is the biggest highlight? Well I got into comedy as a fan of comedy. I liked to laugh. I grew up on a road called Anderson’s Rd, that was actually named after my grandfather who built the road. My Dad lives on the road he was born on, and my brother works the dairy farm with him. That was meant to be my life, but I loved to laugh. First it was comedy tapes (remember those?) of Billy Connolly and Monty Python, and then I discovered some of the American greats like Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor and George Carlin (and a little later than that Bill Hicks who changed my life forever). Then it was shows on the ABC like The Big Gig and Andrew Denton’s The Money Or The Gun. My biggest highlight has been to be lucky enough to share a stage with some of my heroes and be around the funniest people in the world for most of my life. To work with people like John Cleese, Louis CK, Stephen Fry and Paul McDermott who are the people who inspired me in the first place, well it’s just been better than I could have ever imagined. My two television shows in Australia have been produced by Ted Robinson, who produced The Big Gig, and Andrew Denton. If I had told a 14-year-old kid on the farm watching Channel 2 that he would get to work with, and learn from, those same people who inspired him … well I probably would have punched me in the face.

Do you ever miss the breakfast radio gig on Triple J with Adam Spencer?

No. I’m glad in life whenever anyone remembers something that I do, let alone the amount of feedback I get about that job I stopped doing almost a decade ago now. When we finished I wouldn’t have imagined people would have remembered it eight weeks later, let alone eight years. But I am a stand-up comedian first and foremost, and that is my passion and my love, and what I have been trying to work my career towards is spending as much time doing stand-up and as little time doing anything else as I can, so I can dedicate my life to getting as good at stand-up as I can be. I want to learn about stand-up, and also learn about myself through stand-up. So no breakfast radio jobs for me.

The great thing these days with the advances in technology, you don’t need the traditional gatekeepers. All you need is an idea. I have a podcast called TOFOP that we recorded in my mate’s front room with the dog barking and it is listened to in over 70 countries and a lot of the people who listen have never seen me on television or heard me on radio or whatever. Natalie Tran from Australia has had nearly 500 million views of her YouTube videos and she does most of them in her apartment. This is the future.

You’ve made plenty of appearances on television shows such as “Glass House”, “Good News Week” and of course “Gruen”. Is there a funny or embarrassing story that you can share from your television career?

I do warm-up for all the TV shows that I host, and I remember one night on The Glass House one of my thongs broke and someone in the audience shouted out and asked if they could have it. I went to throw it to them but it went off course. Every eye in the room followed it, except the person that it was headed towards … as she was blind! The thong hit her straight in the face. I was horrified and apologetic, but she got the biggest laugh of the whole night when she just turned to her guide dog and said: “Bad dog, you should have jumped up and grabbed that!”

After your current show “Wilarious” at the Comedy Store in Sydney, what next?

I have two months of the show in Sydney, and then it goes back to Melbourne for a week, New Zealand, Darwin and a couple of other special places I can’t quite announce yet. The tour tends to finish around the end of November each year, which then gives me the three months I need to develop the new show and tour.

Did you really study journalism and do a cadetship at The Australian Financial Review? If so what advice would you like to give to the students in my journalism class striving for a similar outcome?

I don’t think I am much of an example seeing that I finished my course and then gave up journalism to tell dick jokes to strangers in bars. Maybe watch some Frontline and The Newsroom, that will tell you most of what you need to know.

Is there sexual tension between Todd (Sampson) and Russel (Howcroft) offstage?

I don’t like to think that there is sexual tension between them at all, because I am sitting in the middle, which would make me the contraceptive … or the lubricant.

“Wilarious” is at The Comedy Store in Sydney until October 28
Tickets are $30-40

Nom: The $4 lunch

A thing of beauty: banh mi thit from Marrickville Pork Roll. Photo: Adam Enoch 


My knowledge of South-East Asian history is comically limited, but without debating the finer points, I’d suggest that one of the best things to occur as a result of the French colonisation of Vietnam was the introduction of French bread and pate, leading to the invention of the banh mi thit or Vietnamese pork roll.

As student-friendly meals go, the Vietnamese pork roll is probably my favourite. They are delicious, fantastic value for money, and filled with crunchy fresh vegetables, they probably contain more food groups and vitamins than your average malnourished student sees in a semester.

Banh mi thit translates literally as “bread with meat”. It began life during the 1940s as a plain crusty roll spread with pate but since then it’s blossomed. It now includes some very sexy vegetables and has gained popularity all over the world as a cheap street food.

The Vietnamese pork roll itself is a thing of beauty: a crusty white baguette spread with pate and mayonnaise, typically filled with pork (tuna and chicken options are often available and the veggie option is pretty satisfying too), loaded with something called do chua (finely sliced pickled carrot and onion) and lengths of crisp cucumber, spring onion and pickled white radish. Fresh coriander and chilli are added before it’s alternately ladled and squirted with sauces and dusted with salt and pepper.

The combination of complex flavours is what makes this such a delicious treat. The cleanness of the vegetables contrast with the richness of the pate and pork, and the whole thing is rounded off with lingering chilli and coriander. It doesn’t sound like a life changing snack but it has to be tasted to be believed.

When ordering a pork roll you will be offered a variety of options. My instinct is to stick with the standard pork roll; it’s a safe choice and there’s very little need to improve it. But if you must experiment, here are the alternatives:

Barbecue pork roll: a good choice. This is actually my preferred roll in winter as the pork is warmed through. A slightly heartier, fuller flavour than the standard issue.

Meatball: also great; it’s warm and nourishing but comes with the caveat of being the messiest of the lot to eat. The meatballs are succulent and moist but can lead to a disastrous loss of structural integrity if not handled with care. Extra tissues are required.

Pork skin roll: best avoided. I had anticipated a delicious combination of pork and some sort of exotic, crispy Vietnamese crackling. I was wrong. The reality is that neither pork nor crackling are involved in its creation. If you’re familiar with the disappointment of crackling gone wrong, the chewy, partially translucent matter that is impervious to any dental assault – well, this roll contains a sort of finely-sliced approximation.

Chicken: not bad, but perhaps a little insipid. It seems to lack the body and character of the pork roll. But the real problem is that chicken rolls are often 50 cents more expensive than their standard pork counterparts and as that’s just another reason to stick with the common variety.

Tuna: I can’t judge a tuna roll impartially – the chilli was omitted when I last tried one, which frankly, is just not on. You may have a better experience but I can’t bring myself to order another.

There are a couple of other points to remember. I recommend accepting the plastic bag that is usually offered, it keeps everything neat and tidy, and especially in the case of a meatball roll will save you the ignominy of excess sauce dribbling down your front. If you are the environmentally-conscious type and decline the plastic bag, you will have to exercise great care when devouring your sandwich. Perhaps use a plate and eating whilst sitting down. Almost all vendors offer tissues or napkins at the counter. Grab a handful of these little white lifesavers as the final mouthfuls of any pork roll can be a delicate operation, and you will likely need something to aid the inevitable clean up.

The pork-roll-obsessed conducted a comprehensive review of many of Sydney’s best known vendors to find Sydney’s best pork roll. These are the findings.

I’m proud to say that my local, the tiny but incredibly popular Marrickville Pork Roll came out on top; however, if you’re in the area and in a hurry, I’d also happily recommend Marrickville Kingsies, a small bakery just a little further down Illawarra Road. Their pork rolls are very nearly as delicious, and the owners Lucas and Srei Mon are always lovely. But the thing that really works in their favour is that you rarely have to contend with a queue of 30 people frequently seen at Marrickville Pork Roll.

Good luck in the search for the perfect Vietnamese pork roll. And happy chomping.

The nitty gritty:

Banh mi thit, $4
Marrickville Pork Roll
236a Illawarra Rd, Marrickville



Reel jobs: cinema usher

“It doesn’t really feel like work.” The candy bar at Palace Cinemas in Norton St, Leichhardt. Photo: David Hickey


The life of a student is not an easy one. While we put in the study hours in the hope that they’ll pay off in the future, our rent, utilities and alcohol expenses pile up in the present. We need something that pays off now. All the kids pulling beers and folding pants are well aware of retail and hospitality being our primary options. Yet maybe in the very same street or mall there lingers the savoury scent of popcorn wafting amongst the laughter of not just cinema audiences, but also cinema staff.

“It’s by far the best job I’ve ever had,” says Jaiden, an employee of Palace Cinemas in Norton St Leichhardt. “Every shift is so chilled and cruisy. It doesn’t really feel like work. I don’t know how I’m going to cope when I get another job.”

So in actual fact, how “cruisy” is this job? Lets see: Can you rip up a ticket stub? Can you open and close doors? Done – you have the required skill set of a cinema usher. Can you scoop popcorn? Can you pour drinks? You’d fit right in at the candybar. Perhaps there’s a little more to it than that, but not much. Plus you’ll never find yourself stuck mopping up alco-vomit or collecting glasses ’til sunrise. So you’ll be all bright and fresh for a morning study sesh.

Dominic, a manager at Palace Cinemas in Norton St, Leichhardt, has worked in the cinema since she finished school. She says “It’s been great to have while I’ve been going to uni. I think I’ll be here a bit longer. Until my degree is finished at least I’d say. Most of the people that work here are students too.”

A cinema is at its busiest outside office hours, which conveniently enough are much the same as class hours. Friday nights, Saturday nights and Sundays are the peaks and these might interfere with party times. But no job is perfect, right? You’re earning money instead of spending it, and going out Saturday nights is for the weekend warriors anyway. That’s not us…yet.

When it comes to the issue of finance, the cinema delivers again. Everyone loves some casual pay rates. Who needs holiday pay, sickies or even a hint of job security when you can have an extra $4 an hour? The fluctuating nature of cinema attendance, dictated by the popularity of which movies are showing at the time, ensures that most positions are casual.

The best perk of the job: free movies. Andy works at Palace and runs a film blog. As well as being useful for reviewing films he might not be able to attend a press screening for, it’s generally a great social activity. He explains: “We can go whenever we’d like and bring a friend for free too. Not just at Palace either. There’s an agreement amongst a few of the artier cinemas that lets us go to those as well. But if you go to your own, you’ll get popcorn and drinks for free.”

Tell me that isn’t money.

The nitty gritty:

Hourly Rate: $18 – $23 per hour
Working Hours: 9:30am – 12:00am
Shifts: 14+ hours per week
Benefits: Free movie tickets with a plus one

Top Op Shop looks for less than $30



Ever find yourself sighing into your wardrobe, and then sighing even more loudly when you open your wallet? Finding a cheap outfit is difficult in this overpriced age, but the only part that needs to change is the place you’re looking. Instead of shopping online and in big expensive department stores, why not take a step into the world of ‘opportunity shopping’?

Opportunity stores such as The Salvation Army, The Red Cross, and St Vincent’s are all charity-based shops that sell second-hand donated clothing for dirt-cheap prices. Although these stores harbour plenty of strange clothing, they can also hide incredible vintage clothing and rare items.

Reporting straight from the front lines, this how-to guide will reveal what to do, what to definitely not do and how to properly style your vintage outfits – so listen up and prepare for a wardrobe upheaval.


After you select your store prepare yourself to rummage through racks, boxes and piles of disturbingly old, odd fabricated clothing before you find anything interesting. But remember, this is the fun of op-shopping: finding something special, unusual, and cheap.

Don’t give up when you don’t find the perfect item you had imagined, there’s no point having high expectations when op-shopping. If you only have a vague idea of an item you’d like to find, you’ll have more of a chance of finding it. If your looking for the perfect dress for Friday night, then go to a store that you know will stock it. Don’t ‘op-shop’ with high expectations, because when you do find something amazing that no on else has ever seen, you’ll be ecstatic.

Featured below are these cheap finds sourced from The Salvation Army and St Vincent’s opportunity stores at Newtown.


Authentic 1970’s cotton shirt – $10


Distressed Levi Jeans – $10


High waisted black shorts – $5


Long black dress, with beaded detailing – $10


Long sleeved, button up black shirt – $4


All of these quality items combined differently can produce many different outfits, revealing that versatile clothing can be found cheaply.

But what do you do if you find something you like, but think you can improve it? Continue reading to find out just how.


To make your purchases your own, remember alterations are always possible and are sometimes necessary when op-shopping to see the possibility in a piece of clothing and modify it to your liking.

If you’re a skilled sewer then you’re in luck. But if not, then grab a pair of scissors, a tape measure and a stencil pen for the simpler alterations.

For example, full-length dresses can be hemmed into shorter more appropriate day dresses, and long loose denim jeans can be cut into shorts as displayed below.

Alterations have been made to the purchased Levi jeans as well as the printed cotton shirt. To make them more appealing, the jeans have been made into distressed denim shorts, and the shirt has lost its sleeves.

After completing any alterations, the next important task to finalise making a vintage find all yours is the ‘cleansing’ – or basically the removal of the musty smell of second-hand clothing. Washing or soaking your item in scented washing powder then hanging it out to dry in the clean air is important, and will guarantee the removal of any old smells.


Although the saying, you can’t judge somebody until you walk a mile in his or her shoes is wise and true, when it involves the topic of op-shopping, steer clear of any type of shoe purchase. While clothing can be washed, removed of that dusty smell and made into your own, anything more personal including – and this cannot be stressed enough – footwear, intimates and swimwear should never be purchased second-hand. This particular variety of personal apparel that you (and only you) should ever wear, can be bought inexpensively enough at any local Kmart, Target or Big W, so there is never an excuse to purchase intimates.

 Just like any other store, opportunity shopping will offer a variety of styles and sizes, but they will never have two of the same item in different sizes. Always try on anything you like and do not impulse buy – if it’s baggier than you expected, just go with it, dresses, shorts, jeans and skirts can always be belted, and shirts can always be cropped, or the sleeves cut off.

But the most important rule of what not to do when op shopping: do not let the overwhelming scent of musty clothing turn you away! The smell is just a result of older clothing being left in wardrobes and bags, and then heaped together. The clothing in opportunity stores doesn’t have moths hiding under the collar, or mold growing in the pocket – so never let the smell turn you away.


Now that you’ve learned all you need to know about vintage shopping, the next and final step is that of putting together your outfits with your own accessories or ones you’ve purchased through op shopping.

Prepared below are three outfits selected carefully to showcase three different looks which mix vintage clothing and matching accessories.



Look 1, left – Casual Day At TAFE: Cotton shirt paired with black high waisted shorts, a silver Aztec necklace and a vintage YSL shoulder bag. With the accessories this outfit costs $28







Look 2, right – Lunch Date: Black button-up chiffon shirt paired with cut-off Levi shorts, a previously bought vintage brown shoulder bag, and a red scarf used as a belt. Including accessories, this outfit cost $25








Look 3, left – Friday Night Drinks: Black beaded dress paired with silver spike necklace. With the accessory, this outfit cost $20








Red Cross Stores:

The Salvation Army:

St Vincent De Paul Stores:

Taking no prisoners: Cockatoo Island



Sea spray, rugged shorelines and stunning harbour views all add to the drama as you approach Cockatoo Island only to be entranced by the art installations of Sydney’s 18th Biennale.

This is the third time the World Heritage-listed island, located in the heart of Sydney’s famed waterways, has provided the backdrop to Sydney’s premier arts festival, which is held every two years.

Just 20 minutes by ferry from Circular Quay the island is becoming recognised as a cultural getaway for music and film festivals, campers and of course art lovers. It’s a far cry from its beginnings in 1839 as a penal settlement hand-built by convicts complete with solitary prison cells, hand carved silos, a guardhouse and convict workshops. From 1870-1880 the island became home to wayward and orphaned boys and girls attending industrial and reformatory school until teenage pregnancies became so rife the island returned to shipbuilding and repairs. Its location at the mouth of three waterways made Sydney Harbour’s largest island the ideal spot for maritime activities during its time under New South Wales Governor Sir George Gipps.

Later on, during World Wars I and II, Cockatoo Island’s Fitzroy Dock became home to Australia’s largest shipbuilding yard until it closed in 1992.

Twenty years on the rusting artefacts of these bygone industrial eras are just as captivating as the art works themselves.

18th Biennale of Sydney: all our relations until Sunday September 16
Artistic Directors: Catherine de Zegher and Gerald McMaster


Review: The Tender Age

The Tender Age … exploring serious social issues. Photo: Carriageworks Theatre



Photos taken by the child, distributed as sexting, made viral by peers and justified as ‘selfies’ … are they child porn? The Tender Age, co-directed by David Williams and Fraser Corfield explores the impact of social media on adolescents’ sexual maturity.

The play, inspired by the infamous on-air lie detector test with Kyle Sandilands and a sexually abused 14-year-old girl, forces the audience to grapple with online identity in the digital age. Video artist Sean Bacon suspends a collage of screens above the stage broadcasting webcam, texting, picture messages and video exploring the evolution of screens in daily life.

In a series of small acts the production explores a dichotomy between teenage exploration and the now very public spaces which exploit it. How has social media changed our relationships? Are we in more need of attention, validation? “It’s one of those moments where our culture has to stop and look at itself and say ‘…what have we become?’” David Williams says.

The combined cast, from Australian Theatre for Young People and version 1.0, attempts to capture the conversations young people have with each other. Using elements of humour they delve into serious issues of social pressure, rape and binge drinking.

Actor Deng Akot Deng breaks character at one point and calls for volunteers to take “selfies” (photographic self-portraits) and send them to a phone number displayed on the screens above the stage. Later in the production members of the cast use the images to show just how quickly a photo can be taken out of context and made viral.

The Tender Age is a powerful production but is sometimes slightly disjointed in its execution. It leaves audiences questioning just how do we protect this generation, and the ones to follow?




version 1.0: