Friday, 31 October 2008

How To Lose Friends and Alienate People

Simon Pegg is the inept trashy British celebrity magazine journalist who is recruited by Jeff Bridges' high powered New York publisher to work on his publication under the tutelage of Kirsten Dunst and Danny Huston.

The notion that someone of Pegg's incompetence would be recruited to an influential New York publishing house is unlikely. Pegg's character is given the words to explain it away but I found it even more unlikely that he would be retained in the job as long as he is, given the initial impression he conveys in the workplace.

You have to swallow a big dose of disbelief watching this film through to its conclusion. Whilst the film takes some strange twists, the eventual outcome is always obvious. Pegg is quite humorous somewhat in the style of Ricky Gervais in The Office. He also is quite a dab hand at dancing viewed from my perspective as a gay man with two left feet.

That wonderful British character actress, Miriam Margolyes, who we love not only because she is an unabashed Lesbian but because she has taken up residence and citizenship in Australia has a funny turn as Pegg's New York landlady.

A bit of a nonsense film but quite humorous.

UPDATE: I have read since that the film is adapted from a book about a British journalist's ill-fated stint with Vanity Fair. Mmmmmm...truth is stranger than fiction.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

My towelhead dilemma

(Artwork - Raphael Perez)

I mentioned a dilemma when I watched Towelhead. I was uncomfortable watching the scenes depicting sexual activity with the thirteen year old girl. This seemed a natural aversion given that I am not sexually attracted to children or youth. I am grateful that I don't have that particular demon to battle.

However, as the film progressed my mind turned to my own history. I was very naive when I progressed through puberty and yet my own sexual activity commenced at the age of twelve. I know now that I didn't really understand much about sex then but the urge was strong, the enjoyment was irresistible and so I pursued sexual activity at every opportunity.

At that tender age, my sexual contacts were all with older males; probably all of them adults although my memory of them, other than 'my first', is non existent now. It never occurred to me at the time that I might have seduced any of these men nor that any of them might be taking advantage of, let alone abusing, me. Nor did I give much thought to the illegality of the behaviour.

So, as Towelhead raised memories that frankly never worried me before, was my discomfort a feeling of guilt or a sense of hypocrisy or have I just grown up?

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

How the world might vote?

It is less than a week to the US Presidential election. The results are not just relevant to the United States; the outcome impacts on most of the rest of the world.

This site is an interesting picture of how the world might vote if everyone were eligible to do so. The country by country results are fascinating.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008


Well, I can't say that I had no forewarning.

The reviews and articles I read on Towelhead made it clear this was a story about a 13 years old girl discovering her sexuality with (amongst others) an adult neighbour.

Although the sexual moments are not shown explicitly, there is no doubt what is being depicted and in those moments of the movie I literally squirmed in my seat, uncomfortable with the confronting nature of the storyline. Those moments aside, I felt the film presented a very telling picture of cultural ignorance and intolerance. It also vividly showed how males can take advantage of and, in the wider sense, abuse females.

The audience at the session I attended was mainly senior citizens with a majority of females. No one walked out of the movie nor did I notice any restlessness amongst that audience so I believe that, like me, they accepted the movie as a serious representation not some salacious potboiler.

This is not a film for those who prefer their movies be 'entertaining' rather than challenging the viewer. Interestingly, I felt a dilemma in my reaction to this film which I will post about separately.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Sydney Life

Today is the last day of Sydney Life, an annual photography competition held in Hyde Park as part of Art and About which celebrates Sydney's spirit by bringing art to the streets and public spaces. The photographs are enlarged and displayed on huge canvases along the central north/south walkway of Hyde Park under a canopy of trees. It was beautiful this morning when I wandered through the display and as usual there were attractive bystanders to complement the artwork and, happily, to wander into my photograph as well.

(As usual, click photographs to enlarge.)

The north/south walkway.

The following are four of the many photographs that took my fancy. The descriptions beneath each is taken from the free guide to the display issued by the City of Sydney Council.

At Sculpture by the Sea by Sally McInerny.

Sandcastles and dogs at Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi 2007.

South of the Border by George Roukis.

In southern Sydney, the "Shire" is home to many local surfers. They spend their lives here, often having little to do with the rest of Sydney.

Clown Doctors by Adrian Cook.

Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick.

Redfern Park by Alina Gozin'a.

Parks are a place where kids play, make trouble and grow up. Their friendship is strong and real, providing stability in their young turbulent lives.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

The phoney options

My mobile phone ('cell phone' for any North Americans who have strayed onto this site) sort of died on Thursday night aged two years. This is the second mobile phone in succession to die on me.

Well, it may not have been dead but the on/off button no longer on'ed or off'ed. This might not have been a problem if the phone had been on at the time I noticed the malfunction but as the phone was off there was the not inconsiderable problem that I couldn't get it going again.

Now, I use the mobile phone in fits and starts but I need one active at all times in case my Mum's nursing home needs to contact me in an emergency. So there was no option but for me to seek a replacement first thing on Friday morning.

My service provider is Telstra. I can sense Australian readers gnashing their teeth immediately at the mention of that organisation. As I had to be in the city for lunch on Friday I thought I would go to Telstra's King Street store. On arrival there I found there was a plentiful number of service attendants or whatever they call themselves. None was actually attending to any customers. They were too busy at their computer screens or on the phone, to attend to the four or five customers standing around in expectation of receiving attention. They also all looked about 13 years of age. Has Telstra usurped McDonalds in the child recruitment stakes?

Eventually 'Mark' noticed that I was decomposing in the store and evidently thought he better do something about it by asking if he could assist me. Whilst decomposing there I had taken the opportunity to look around the store and found there were numerous Nokia phones (my preference) on display so I was confident that I could select one from that range as a replacement handset.

I explained my situation to Mark and once he had checked my details and plan and customer history on his computer he informed me there was one model I could obtain.

One! Just one! Out of all those dozens of models on display, my (apparently) cheapskate plan entitled me only to one model out of them all.

And here it is.

Forty-five minutes after agreeing to select the one model I was offered, 'Mark' had completed the paperwork and transferred my contact list onto the new phone. For better or worse this is the new handset I will live with for the next two years or until, of course, it decides to die.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Lunch @ The Malaya

Immediately following the two coldest October days in Sydney for 35 years, the weather today was delightfully mild and sunny for lunch at The Malaya with TyP, TyM and Ry. Jm couldn't make it as he is still recovering from a double hernia operation. It's a sign of our age group that initial greetings included updates on Jm's condition, TyP's recovery from prostate surgery, TyM's dalliance with cancer and my significantly less serious recent sinus infection and bronchitis. Only Ry was symptomless on this occasion although even he, the evergreen slimline man, was complaining that he had gained several kilos since our previous lunch.

The Malaya is in a good location at King Street Wharf with views of the ferry wharves and the the tempting seacraft toing and froing from them. But the best view of all are the waiters who all seem to have been recruited from central casting as actors in between jobs.

Oh, and the food was fine too.

The Women

The Women is the latest adaptation of the play by Clare Boothe Luce that was first filmed in 1939.

Meg Ryan learns that her financier husband is having an affair with a perfume saleswoman. Her friends rally around in support. The contrivance of this work all along has been that it is performed by an all female cast. All the non-speaking extras filling the background, whether indoors or outdoors, are female too.

This adaptation attempts the witty style of dialogue that used to be delivered so successfully in the 1940s by actresses such as Rosalind Russell who was in the 1939 film or an Eve Arden. But none of the women in this update matches those luminaries.

Nevertheless, Annette Bening does quite a good job of her role as do Meg Ryan, Candice Bergen, Debra Messing and Bette Midler in theirs, the last named effectively playing herself as ever.

I had a few quiet giggles but the film somehow never quite hits it's mark.

I wish I'd said that....

Meg Ryan speaking in The Women to Candice Bergen about what her estranged husband is missing out on;

"I could suck the nails out of a board"

Now, there's a gay come-on line.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Rod Stewart pokes my arse?

Do you take much notice of the toilet paper you purchase?

I have always purchased toilet paper on the basis of its texture and generally have preferred paper with some colour and patterns on it rather than the plain patternless style. In all my years of purchasing toilet paper I have never really looked properly at the patterns. That is, until today.

Today, as I was sitting doing my business, I inspected the pattern of the toilet paper closely for the first time. And this is what I saw;

The paper didn't photograph too well but the pattern on it is sails and it also contains the words Sail Away. I had never noticed words on the paper previously.

Why would the designers choose this pattern and these words? Is this paper intended for sailors or yachting types? Am I supposed to feel that I am sailing as I wipe my arse?

I wonder what other sporting activities I have been wiping myself with all these years?

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Brideshead Revisited

Just weeks after the English aristocratic period piece The Duchess comes another, albeit from a different period; Brideshead Revisited.

In Brideshead Revisited, Matthew Goode is the non aristocratic Oxford history student befriended by the Catholic Flyte family. The religion is important because it is crucial to plot developments.

Ben Whishaw and Hayley Atwell are the Flyte siblings who take a fancy to Goode whilst Emma Thompson is the family matriarch who casts a shadow over them all.

Regardless of your views of the subject matter of the film, based on Evelyn Waugh's famous novel, there would be few not impressed by the sumptuous surroundings in which this film was made. From Castle Howard in Yorkshire to Venice and Marrakesh the viewer is exposed to an extraordinary world of class, wealth and power.

Hayley Atwell, who played the mistress in The Duchess, creates a far different image in this film. Emma Thompson's first up interrogation of Goode over dinner, dressed up as polite conversation, is masterful.

As an aside, viewed through gay eyes, Goode and Whishaw in their scenes together both come across as 'bottoms' so no wonder their relationship was doomed. (That's not what the story is about anyway.)

I believe the film received lukewarm reviews overseas but I enjoyed it far more than the BBC television series of the early 1980s.

It might as well be spring

Shirley Jones, you might feel gay in a melancholy way but I've got news for you. It is spring. So why is it only 15c in Sydney today?

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

In search of a seat

Two years ago a dear friend of ours, Dh, died in her mid forties of cancer following a short illness. It was a quite a shock and in her memory her friends made donations to the Garvan Institute which performs marvellous medical research.

It was always the intention of another friend, Fs, to produce a photographic tribute to Dh and yesterday Fs emailed and asked if I would go to the Auditorium in the Institute, which is near the Hospital where I volunteer, and photograph the seat which has a plaque in Dh's memory.

I did that, this afternoon.

(The foyer of the Institute - pity about the cones!)

I explained to the receptionist what I wanted to do and she spoke to someone else on the phone who okayed my request. The receptionist gave me directions to the Auditorium and I had to pass through security doors to reach it. When I reached the Auditorium I found it in darkness and I felt around the walls but couldn't locate any switches. I wandered around the perimeter of the Auditorium and had a stroke of luck when I came across a sole worker at a computer on the otherwise unoccupied expansive floor. I don't know what he was doing there on his own but I was glad I found him as he was able to show me the light switch.

Then I had the task of locating the seat with Dh's plaque. I suppose the Auditorium contains a couple of hundred seats and working my way from the back row I half crawled my way around row by row. Early on, I unexpectedly found a plaque in honour of one of my fellow volunteers who died last year and then several rows further on I reached Dh's plaque.

The silver grey seats and plaques did not photograph easily in the available light but I got several shots that I hope will suit Fs' tribute album.

Sculpture by the Sea 2008 (3)

Some of the artwork I photographed on display at Sculpture by the Sea 2008.

(Click on photo to enlarge for better view.)

In the ocean - Spheres by Sophie Hoppe.

Price $12,000

Creator's statement: This work is a kinetic installation portraying an invisible constraint.

In left foreground - Sky Catcher 11 by Bob Emser (USA).

Price: $12,500

No statment provided.

In middle distance - imag_ne by Emma Anna.

Price: $5,000

Creator's Statement: The power of the imagination affords us poetic sanctuary in an often hostile world.

Left - Paper Moon (aka Bill's Boat) by Orest Keywan.

Price: $66,000

No statement provided.

Right - She thought by Mark McClelland.

Price: $77,000

Creator's Statement: She liked to look a long way out to sea sometimes, wondering at the place where it flew up into the sky.

Poroplastic 2 by Richard Goodwin.

Price: $90,000

Creator's Statement: 'Poroplastic' is the explosion of a new motorcycle held together with lines of force which become an elaborate stainless steel frame.

I'm not sure what Muzbot would make of the dismantled new motorcycle.

Ordinary Exraordinary by Ivan Lovatt.

Price $21,000

Creator's Statement: Andy Warhol's art made the ordinary extraordinary. This is the portrait of an extraordinary artist created in an ordinary medium.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Sculpture by the Sea 2008 (2)

Yesterday I took the coastal walk along from Bondi Beach to Tamarama Beach where Sculpture by the Sea 2008 was on display.

Although it was not yet 9am when I set out, thousands of people were taking the walk to view the display.

(Click to enlarge photos for better view.)

Sunbathers and surfers have made an early start and a surf carnival is underway at the Northern end of the beach - in the top distance of photo.

People at the northern end of the coastal walk adjacent to the Icebergs Club.

The trail of people continues along the walk around the point at Marks Park.

And then on the southern side of Marks Park onwards to Tamarama Beach in the distance.

Finally at Tamarama Beach with the Nippers (youngsters being taught surfing and life saving skills) dressed in blue at the water's edge.

It was not easy to take photos of the artworks with so many people around but I managed a few which I will post tomorrow.

By the way, this coastal walk used to be a busy gay beat at night which I frequented in my teens and twenties. However a number of gay bashings and murders have occurred there over the years since and I imagine the area no longer attracts gay men at night.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Sculpture by the Sea 2008 (1)

I had a wander along the Sculpture by the Sea 2008 this morning and will post some photos over the next few days.

Burn After Reading

OK where to start?

John Malkovich is an intelligence analyst who has been demoted for his drinking and Tilda Swinton is his tough talking wife. George Clooney is a Treasury officer who is a former Marshall. His wife writes stories for children. Frances McDormand is a fitness centre worker who wants a host of cosmetic procedures and Brad Pitt is her simple thinking co-worker.

How and why they and a host of others cross paths is the story and humour in this Coen Brothers film.

A film reviewer on Radio National yesterday morning recommended this as a film to see and she described it as hilarious. To me, hilarious is a film where you laugh out loud a lot and often throughout the course of the film. As, for example, in Some Like It Hot.

I always see a Coen Brothers film full of expectation and mostly find them less than hilarious; although often ironic, wry and mildly humorous. I wouldn't describe Burn After Reading as hilarious but I did find it interesting and humorous.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Dressing up

Ae has asked me to partner her to her volunteer organisation's cocktail party at the end of the month. The invitation does not specify a dress code but the mere title 'cocktail party' suggests 'smart casual' at least.

Well, casual is my perennial dress style but few people would describe it as 'smart'. So I am off shopping for a new pair of trousers (and maybe jacket) as well as a dress shirt.

I'm always attracted to the clothing on models such as that in the photograph above. Unsurprisingly, though, the clothes never look like that on me. For one thing, I don't have looks like those models and more tellingly I don't have a body like those models.

It's a sign of my age group that I'll be looking for clothing that as well as being suitable for cocktails will also suit attendance at funerals.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Would you like muffins with your car service, Sir?

I took my car in for its periodic service yesterday.

I suppose the stereotype would be that gay men don't know anything about servicing a car. Well, Mk for one is very knowledgeable about cars; so much so that I briefly doubted his gay credentials when he first talked to me about them. But I do fit the stereotype.

I am completely in the car serviceman's hands when it comes to determining what needs to be done. My friends might suggest that being in his hands is not the only place I want to be - but then I digress.

As usual I was quoted a price for the service at the outset and just as usual the service itself revealed other action that it would be wise to take that added significantly to originally quoted charge. It happens every time.

Yesterday I decided to wait at the Service Centre whilst the job was done. I took a book to read and a newspaper for the crossword for when I got bored with the book. I also took full advantage of the complimentary coffee and muffins during the three hours I was there.

I also kept an the eye on the various attractive young apprentices who worked away in the area. Their chores included restocking the muffins from drawers beneath the servery. One or other of them would restock every half hour or so. To my amusement each time one of them stocked up the muffins they looked across at their work colleagues surreptitiously and when they believed none was looking their way they sneaked a muffin into their pockets. Oddly not once did they take notice of me sitting immediately behind them as they pocketed the muffins.

Of course, it is the customer who effectively pays for the 'complimentary' muffins and I did wonder how much of what the business thinks it is providing to the customer ends up in the apprentices' pockets?

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Tamarama Beach in Sydney

Beached from Keith Loutit on Vimeo.

This terrific video is of Tamarama Beach in Sydney. I became aware of the clip from Pedestrian Fair.

Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love

I went to see a production of this play by the 2008 graduating students at NIDA, the National Institute of Dramatic Art. Mk recommended the production to me and said, as an aside, that it featured nudity. Not that nudity would be the principal attraction for me. Mk knows me so well.

The play centres around four men and three women between whom gay, lesbian, bisexual and straight relations all co-exist against a background of serial murders which provide a dramatic climax.

The seven cast members, all in their twenties by my judgement, made a lively effort of this piece effectively drawing on both it's drama and humour. It was interesting and entertaining and reminded me that I should see more of NIDA's work and encourage future generations of Australian performers.

Oh, and the nudity? Well, all seven cast members revealed themselves to differing degrees in the numerous sex scenes. Of the four men, the leading males Alex Russell and Andy Cunningham revealed themselves fully whilst the two supporting men, Kit Brookman and Stuart McRae revealed their arses. They are four very different types visually and between them cover a lot of tastes. I have to say that Cunningham's, ahem, assets are simply magnificent.

I tried to locate photographs of the four, dressed or otherwise, for this post but disappointingly only found one for Brookman and none for the others.

(Kit Brookman - from the Sydney Morning Herald)

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

The Convict's Opera

The Convict's Opera is adapted from The Beggar's Opera by John Gay. There are numerous adaptions of Gay's work, the most famous probably being The Threepenny Opera. The Beggar's Opera was first produced in 1728.

The Convict's Opera is set aboard a vessel carrying convicts to Sydney from Britain. The Captain has instructed some of the convicts to rehearse an entertainment as a means of distracting them during the long journey and keeping them occupied. The play switches between the relationships of the convicts and the tale being rehearsed in their entertainment.

According to the program, Gay's work was a new genre, the ballad opera, that has a claim as one of the antecedents of the modern stage musical. Gay's show used existing music to which he added his own lyrics.

The Convict's Opera follows a similar line using (I assume) the music and lyrics from Gay's work interspersed with modern songs such as We Are Sailing, You're So Vain, I Fought The Law and the Law Won with their lyrics adjusted to suit this work.

Mk and I attended the Sydney Theatre Company's production last night. It is a curious play. The first Act did not particularly interest me although I was impressed by the talent and efforts of the ensemble cast of ten. However, I found the distinction between the convicts' story and the play they were rehearsing blurred and confusing. The second Act, however, for reasons I cannot quite pinpoint was far more accessible for me. The dialogue sounded clearer, the modern songs seemed more fun and suitable to the action and the humour of the piece was more evident.

The actor seen in the middle of the photograph above wearing a hat is Juan Jackson. He was a magnificent sight possessed of a superbly sculpted body which was seen to best effect in the final scene when he appears on stage in a swimsuit. The following photograph shows Jackson as he appeared in the Australian production of Miss Saigon.

Monday, 13 October 2008

The customer is always right....

Regular readers will know that I am a volunteer at a major hospital and my duties bring me into regular contact with patients, visitors and enquirers. The vast majority are civil and a pleasure to serve.

Every now and then a 'customer' is rude or unaccountably self centred and I could quite happily press an 'eject' button if there were one and send them on their way. These oddballs, like Sydney buses, seem to come in groups as though it is a full moon and all the eccentrics have been set loose in the hospital.

A gentleman, (in this case an extremely generous description) who walked in off the street today, called me a fucking cunt all because I told him he was welcome to read the complimentary newspapers on the premises but couldn't take them away because they were intended for the patients.

Shortly afterwards society looking madam appeared and engaged in the following conversation with me, all whilst patients were lined up waiting for me to attend to their appointments;

SLM: I've come to collect the papers
Me: What papers are those?
SLM: The papers someone told me would be available for me here
Me: Do you know what those papers are?
Me: Who did you speak to?
SLM: I don't know
Me: What area was the person in?
SLM: I don't know
Me: What is your name?
SLM: Society looking Madam
Me: I'll have to make some enquiries for you, please take a seat.
SLM: Look, I can't wait. I'm double parked in front of the hospital and I was told the papers would be here
Me: I'm sorry but I do not have any papers here for you and I will have to make enquiries
SLM: This is ridiculous, I'm double parked and can't waste time with you

Now, I don't know about you but if I double parked outside a hospital in the hope of collecting something and then found that the poor sod I was talking to knew nothing about it I wouldn't snap my fingers and expect him to drop everything else happening around him to accommodate me.

It was just one of those days.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Lunch in the country

Fs organised lunch yesterday to celebrate her 50th birthday.

The venue was Peppers Manor House in Suttons Forest about half way between Sydney and Canberra to accommodate her friends in both locations and Wollongong.

My drive down took an hour and forty minutes.

It turns out that I was the only one from Sydney able to attend and only De was able to attend from Wollongong. The other six participants were from Canberra.

To my disappointment, Fs' other gay friends were not able to come and I was the only male in the luncheon party. Truly Queen for the day.

Pre lunch drinks were served in this grand room of a style that I cannot name. Perhaps you could call it mixed medieval, Spanish, smorgasbord period?

Despite the absence of male companionship in our party, the company was pleasant and there were quite a number of good looking men, including some young fathers, elsewhere in the dining room for my eyes to settle upon.

The food was probably on the pricey side for what was offered and also pretentiously presented as in small looking portions lost on giant plates. As it turns out the quality was satisfactory and despite appearances to the contrary the portions proved adequate.

The return trip was through rain showers which I imagine probably ruined the outdoor wedding that was beginning in the grounds of Peppers as we drove off.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Brother, can you spare a dime?

Is it coming to this....again?

(Breadlines in New York City during the Great Depression)

They used to tell me I was building a dream, and so I followed the mob,
When there was earth to plow, or guns to bear, I was always there right on the job.
They used to tell me I was building a dream, with peace and glory ahead,
Why should I be standing in line, just waiting for bread?

Once I built a railroad, I made it run, made it race against time.
Once I built a railroad; now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime?
Once I built a tower, up to the sun, brick, and rivet, and lime;
Once I built a tower, now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime?

Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell,
Full of that Yankee Doodly Dum,
Half a million boots went slogging through Hell,
And I was the kid with the drum!

Say, don't you remember, they called me Al; it was Al all the time.
Why don't you remember, I'm your pal? Buddy, can you spare a dime?

Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell,
Full of that Yankee Doodly Dum,
Half a million boots went slogging through Hell,
And I was the kid with the drum!

Say, don't you remember, they called me Al; it was Al all the time.
Say, don't you remember, I'm your pal? Buddy, can you spare a dime?

["Brother, Can You Spare a Dime," lyrics by Yip Harburg, music by Jay Gorney (1931)]

Friday, 10 October 2008

I don't understand...

...Iceland is bankrupt after several weeks of global financial meltdown but Zimbabwe, which has inflation measured in the squillions for several years, isn't....

How does that work?

Moulin Rouge

I love this photograph which also appeared in the Travellers section of the Sydney Morning Herald last weekend.

It contained the following caption.

Paris. We visited the Moulin Rouge and were taking snapshots when we met a group of people coming out of the show. One was Mehdi, a handsome Parisian. He took my hand, crossed the roundabout and kissed me passionately. My friend took this photo. It was one of the most perfect moments in my life. Photo: Camilla Orr-Thomson

I wouldn't have minded Mehdi kissing me like that.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Ballooning in Namibia

A friend of mine has returned recently from a holiday in Southern Africa and her photograph (above) taken whilst ballooning in Namibia was published with a number of other travellers' photographs in last weekend's Sydney Morning Herald.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

What a magnificent man.....

Father Geoffrey Farrow sounds like one hell of a man.

Three Gweilos at lunch

It's been a while since I had Yum Cha.

I worked in Hong Kong between 1977 and 1980 where there was a huge and noisy Yum Cha venue across the road from our office. We ate there regularly. Eating there was like sharing a meal and conversation with the entire crowd at the AFL Grand Final.

I was then transferred to Beijing from 1980 to 1982 where Yum Cha was not a common meal; at least I don't recall us eating this style of meal there.

Back in Sydney in the 1990s I once again found myself often eating Yum Cha especially when our office moved to near Central Railway and on the edge of Chinatown. We often ate at the Marigold which then was busy and noisy just like in Hong Kong. In those days there were always plenty of Gweilos amongst the many Asian diners.

I retired at the end of 2002 and can't recall having a Yum Cha since then until today. I met up with My and Me at the Marigold this morning expecting to be three Gweilos amongst a sea of Asian faces. However, contrary to my memories, the Gweilos outnumbered the 'locals' today and the vast dining room was not, as in the past, packed to the rafters.

Is it a sign of the financial times, or has the Marigold been overtaken in popularity by newer restaurants or is Yum Cha no longer as popular as it once was? Certainly our bill, although reasonable, was pricier than the cheap meal I remember from the past.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008


I have been fairly resistant to the modern animated and computer animated feature films despite glowing reviews and success for such films as The Lion King and Toy Story.

I didn't see any of the films in this genre until Ratatouille and then The Simpsons. I fell asleep during both.

Today I ventured into the world of computer animation feature films for the third time. WALL-E has received strong reviews in Australia. The trailers for it are appealing and I read Yani's strong recommendation (but not at the time Muzbot's contrasting view).

It is the 28th Century and the planet has been trashed and become uninhabitable. Humankind has deserted Earth leaving WALL-E behind with the forlorn task of cleaning up waste. WALL-E is a mechanical device with an odd infatuation for the dance scenes and love songs contained in a video of Hello Dolly. It's only companion in a trashed city of the ilk of New York is an indomitable cockroach. Into this world of desolation enters EVE, a high tech probe sent from outer space to find any evidence of life on planet Earth. The two mechanical devices develop a friendship amongst the ruins.

Now all of this sounds ridiculous but the animation is extraordinarily effective and I quite happily settled in to be engaged by the personalities exhibited by the mechanical objects.

The film borrows strongly from other films. Apart from the ongoing Hello Dolly references - what gay man could resist these? - the opening scene is reminiscent of West Side Story and the second half of the film is almost a complete steal of 2001, A Space Odyssey.

WALL-E is a message film but even if you are of a mind to resist it's environmental message, to me it works on it's own as a tale of friendship. This time, unlike Muzbot, I did not fall asleep.

Monday, 6 October 2008

The ladies who lunch...

I'm in danger of falling asleep by the phone waiting for Rt to call about lunch today.

Rt and Jy are in Sydney for the long weekend from their home on the Gold Coast. I caught up with them for dinner on Thursday together with Rt's cousin Jf who I believe I was meeting for the first time but who looked vaguely familiar to me. I kept wondering during the meal whether Jf had been a quickie fling some time in the past.

Rt is notoriously casual when making and keeping to meal arrangements and it is a little over two hours before he and Jy are due to fly back to the Gold Coast so I'm uncertain how and where we are going to fit in lunch.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

The Duchess

Keira Knightley's Lady Cavendish is the Diana Spencer ancestor who is contracted into marriage with Ralph Fiennes' Duke of Devonshire for the principal purpose of providing him with a male heir.

The Duke, Britain's most powerful aristocrat (outside the Monarch presumably) is an emotionless man for whom the arrangement is primarily a contract whilst Lady Cavendish enters the marriage with idealistic thoughts of love.

The drama, based on true events, treads predictable pathways once the now Duchess fails to provide the contracted male heir. Charlotte Rampling is a strong presence as Lady Spencer, the Duchess' mother and Dominic Cooper of The History Boys and Mamma Mia pedigree is the man candy distraction.

Maybe it's just me - I don't think it is my gayness - but I am put off by Keira Knightley's facial expressions. In The Duchess, she often looks to me as though she is having trouble with her sinuses.

It's all handled tastefully so that the sex scenes, including a rape, amount to less than soft porn. There are plenty of scenes of the grand aristocratic life for visual impact and to cover the boring bits. There are helpful notes at the end which explain what happened to each of the main characters in later life.

Much has been made of the film's marketing link with the late Diana Spencer and viewing the story it is difficult not to think of the comparisons.

Saturday, 4 October 2008


I've been amused before to notice the coincidence that some instance or terminology that you had never come across in your entire life reoccurs once, even twice more within days of your first exposure to it.

I've experienced that phenomenon again this week.

On Wednesday, fellow blogger Kezza exposed me for the first time ever to the term shirtcocking. Although I was not unfamiliar with the activity he had in mind, it was the first time I had ever heard the name.

So, this morning, when I read a few more pages from my current book God of Speed it was with new found awareness that I reached the following narrative by the main character, the legendary Howard Hughes;

"I was trouserless. I was underwearless. I was wearing a shirt."

There it is on Page 236 in black and white, the famous eccentric multi-millionaire engaging in shirtcocking!

To complete the coincidence I have shamelessly manufactured a third instance. I am sitting at my PC typing this post and I am doing so...shirtcocking.

Thanks, Kezza.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Growing up gay...

('Iggy Pop finds the clap')

I found reactions to my earlier posting about my grandmother quite interesting. Afod made reference to pre and post the AIDS epidemic. It was not a connection I was thinking of when I made the posting but the reference reminded me that there is an entire generation of gay men alive today who have no idea what it was like to live a gay life before that horror emerged.

I think it was the early 1980s when I first read newspaper reports about a mystery illness affecting mainly gay men in the United States which was proving fatal. The illness was so new and unknown that it didn't yet have a formal name. I recall reading the reports with a mixture of anxiety and lack of concern. On the one hand it was worrying that there might be some deadly illness that could snare me and on the other a sense that surely the reports were exaggerations and nothing further would be heard of this illness.

At the time I would have been in my early 30s and already sexually active (often overactive) for about 20 years. And all of that sexual activity, like all gay sexual activity of the time, had been unprotected. After all what did gay men of the time need sexual protection against?

Well, for one thing, sexually transmitted diseases (STD).

I was about 14 when I collected my first STD and to this day I still recall the embarrassment of my visit to the doctor with this malady. You have to bear in mind that I was a minor and my parents accompanied me to the surgery. Furthermore, my STD was acquired through homosexual sex and homosexual sex was then illegal. Not only that but in those days doctors were required to notify the Government of all cases of STD.

The doctor assumed my STD was acquired through heterosexual sex and requested the name of the girl with whom I had the sexual relationship as he was required to notify the authorities. I couldn't reveal that it was homosexual sex I had been engaged in as that would be to admit that I was engaging in illegal activity and in any event I couldn't name my sexual partners because they were all anonymous encounters at public 'beats'. Either way, I also was below the age of sexual consent.

I remained silent and the doctor persisted. I think it was something like half an hour that I spent with him in this awkward standoff; the doctor demanding the name of the girl and me sitting there mute, glum and embarrassed.

I don't know how the doctor got over his notification requirements nor exactly what he told my parents when I emerged from the surgery but the trip home was not pleasant.

The next time I picked up a STD it was still before AIDS but I was then over 18 and able to find my way to a Government STD clinic where I could admit to engaging in homosexual sex and where, I assume, the authorities turned a blind eye to the illegal sexual activity.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Did you inhale?

I've been back to the doctor because the cough I saw him about three weeks ago is persisting despite completing a course of antibiotics and taking additional inhalers (puffers).

The learned doctor decided that the sinus infection that I had, has cleared and that I am left with an allergic reaction, probably seasonal blah, blah, blah. Mmmmm, maybe.

He has upped my intake of inhalers (puffers) and added a new one for the next couple of weeks. I'm puffing so much now I feel like the magic dragon.

Rob Guest

Rob Guest died overnight in Melbourne after suffering a massive stroke.

Guest, 57, who had been starring in the musical Wicked, was admitted to Melbourne's St Vincent's Hospital on Tuesday night.

He died peacefully in the hospital last night.

The English born entertainer rose to pop fame in New Zealand in the 1970s when he began performing with Columbus on the television show Happen In.

His stage musical career brought him to Australia where he starred in Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera.

He was awarded an OBE for his services to the New Zealand entertainment industry in 1994.

Guest was the world's longest serving Phantom having played the role a record 2289 performances over seven years in front of Australian and New Zealand audiences.