Monday, 30 November 2009

A Serious Man

The Coen Brothers often provide an apparently unrelated short film as a lead in to their main feature, a signature element that they repeat in A Serious Man.

In this case the short starter, a sort of Jewish fable, is entirely in the Yiddish language, with English subtitles and runs just long enough for half the audience to start to worry that they are in the wrong auditorium.

The main film that follows is set in 1967 in a Jewish community in a small Minnesota town where a Physics Professor is about to have his world unravel. His wife informs him that she is leaving him for another man, his free loading brother is engaging in increasingly bizzare activity, his foreign student appears to be bribing him for an improved test score and his employer repeatedly and unconvincingly tells him not to worry that anonymous allegations about his moral turpitude will affect his application for tenure.

All of this, and more, is played out in total deadpan style with the driest of dry humour. I imagine this film will make more sense if you are Jewish or at least are familiar with Jewish culture and practice but even then I suspect most viewers will scratch their heads and wonder how they might better have spent the two hours.

I rather liked the attention to period detail and also - as a lover of dry humour - had a few laughs but I would have been in the minority.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Fairy tales do come can happen to you...

One of the advantages of my mother's dementia is that she is long passed wondering why her son (and only child) hasn't married and provided her with longed for grandchildren. When she remembers who I am, as she did when I visited her this morning, I receive a happy and non-judgemental welcome.

The same cannot be said for my rediscovered aunt who also has dementia but surprisingly good short term memory. Having rediscovered each other after decades of separation my aunt now knows and remembers my single, childless status and has started to badger me about the joys of marriage and parenthood. She doesn't appear to notice the irony of what she is saying to me given that she was thrown out of her own home by her now deceased husband and has been completely cut off by her two children and four grandchildren, apparently for years, not one of whom maintains any contact with her.

Today my aunt told me that each week now she expects that this will be the week when I inform her of my impending marriage and parenthood. When I suggested that I was not likely to be making that lifestyle change now at the age of sixty, my aunt was undeterred informing me that it is never too late.

She must be influenced by Geoffrey Edelsten and Brynne Gordon who in a piece of 'celebrity' gossip disguised as news on television last night breathlessly regaled viewers about their wedding and parenthood plans.

(Geoffrey Edelsten and Brynne Gordon)
God forbid that I should end up like these two.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Disorder...and the house.

(Italian Parliament)

With Australian politics undergoing historic fracturing I thought I would tune into this afternoon's broadcast of Senate debate on climate change legislation.

I sort of hoped, but in truth didn't really expect, to hear rational and reasoned debate from both sides of the political divide. The sort of debate that would assist listeners understand the issues and enable us to reach informed opinions.

Unfortunately, my worst fears were realised. The so called debate was an unbroken stream of abuse and disparagement - by both sides. Not a single speaker actually spoke to the legislation. It was non stop belittlement and mud slinging with the President of the Senate half heartedly attempting to control an endless run of interjections.

We, the tax payers, fund this kindergarten level of behaviour and we are not getting much value from our representatives.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

White Ribbon Day

Today is White Ribbon Day, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

I've been hit.

Sometime on Tuesday night, Sydney time, someone made the 100,000th hit on my blog. I never imagined something like that would happen when I tentatively started this blog just under two years ago.

Of course many of those hits would be by people who opened my site randomly or unintentionally who then, being not interested in what they found, moved on in seconds. Fair enough.

For those who deliberately chose to read my site, and more amazingly to me return to read it again, thanks for your patronage.

Monday, 23 November 2009

He's a tool

Thomas Jane

The SMH's television guide this week previews the television series Hung which premieres in Australia this week and informs us that it 'is not just about a guy with a big penis who decides to become a gigolo'.

In an interview the lead actor, Thomas Jane, speaking about his character states

"He's looking around for a winning tool and he doesn't realise it's literally in front of him."

How subtle!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

It's too darn hot

'It's too darn hot' from Cole Porter's Kiss Me Kate.

It is 40.4c (104.7f) in Sydney.

Saturday, 21 November 2009


I love disaster movies. I get a kick out of seeing images of world famous landmarks crumbling, collapsing, being swamped or whatever by the 'disaster de jour'. No doubt psychiatrists have a syndrome for this character trait of mine.

2012 is an update of the biblical tale of Noah's Ark with all sorts of modern nuances relating to good and evil. The planet is about to disintegrate because of a once in 640,000 years alignment of the sun and planets and this demise was foretold by the Mayan civilisation.

All of this is good stuff as far as disaster movies go although the test as always with this genre is how effective are the special effects. The answer in this case is that they are pretty good. Of course these movies are beset with implausibilities and inconsistencies and in that regard 2012 is a bit of a shocker. The viewer is best advised to switch off all logical thought for the nearly three hours it takes for the tale to reach its predictable conclusion.

There is a surprising amount of humour in the film; I assume intended, with Woody Harrelson, in particular, revelling in his kooky role. There is also plenty of irony; again I assume intended. One of the characters is named Noah and one of the escape vessels is named Genesis and on and on it goes. George Segal is wheeled out from his nursing home to take one of many minor cameo roles; another characteristic of disaster movies.

There is disappointing news for our esteemed Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, who is deemed by many to be seeking a prominent role for himself and Australia on the international stage. Regrettably for our Kevin, neither rates a single reference in this film.

On the other hand there is reassurance that in the planet's final moments, the world's mobile phone networks continue to operate very effectively in the remotest of locations, thank you very much.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Fresh air needed

I have a wide tolerance for what I find attractive in a man but Robert Pattinson who attracts a lot of media attention for his appearances in a certain vampire series of movies has never done it for me.

From the outset his photographs have suggested to me a scruffiness and less than appealing standards of hygeine and now, if magazine reports are to be believed, he has admitted his personal hygeine 'is disgusting'.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

A Room with a View

'Water views' is the mantra for desirable living in property obsessed Sydney and my friend Me's home meets that criterion in Sydney's ocean side suburb of Manly; or more precisely North Steyne.

I had lunch at her home today together with My, the three of us being workmates in the 1980s and later.

This is the view from her front terrace on which we ate our lunch. As you can tell from the sound, it was a breezy day.

Not a bad view to wake to every day, is it?

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Class of 55

(Click to enlarge)

Here is a photo of potential 20th Century movers and shakers. Well maybe not; I don't really know. It is the Double Bay Public School Transition class of 1955 (that is, the class between Kindergarten and First Class in Primary School).

The 'cherub' second from the right in the top row would not have known what a computer was in 1955 but now in his retirement he maintains a blog. Yes that is me, aged six.

Monday, 16 November 2009

I'm done

The hospital was so, so busy today and I'm exhausted.

That's all.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Picnic in the park

We had a picnic at tiny McKell Park in Darling Point this afternoon to mark several birthdays including Sy's and Hn's. We had set ourselves up in the space above with other picnic groups around us only to have a woman inform us half an hour in that she was setting up for a wedding to commence two hours later.

We moved to another spot about twenty metres away and continued our picnic there as preparations for the wedding continued. It turned out to be a Jewish wedding with a canopy and violinist playing Jewish tunes and melodies from Fiddler on the Roof. The violinist had to compete with the thump, thump, thump music drifting off the harbour from nearby leisure craft but he provided a pleasant background to our picnic.

The fairly formal dress of the wedding guests looked a bit strange in the park environs but gave us plenty of opportunities for gratuitous bystander assessments.

Turned out to be a good afternoon.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Here they they they go...

I watched the New Zealand versus Bahrain qualifying match for the World Cup finals on television tonight. New Zealand won the match 1-0 to win the tie by the same score on aggregate and qualify for next years finals in South Africa.

It is the first time they have qualified for the finals series in twenty-eight years and the capacity crowd in the stadium erupted in joyous scenes at full time.

New Zealand players celebrate winning goal 2009

The scenes reminded me of the night four years ago when Australia beat Uruguay in Sydney to qualify for the finals for the first time in thirty-two years.

Australian players celebrate winning penalty 2005

Congratulations to New Zealand and best wishes to them and also to Australia who qualified again this time a few weeks ago. It would be ironic if the two countries end up in the same group at the finals.

Friday, 13 November 2009

My proxy grandmother

(Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple)

I am lucky that I didn't lose the first of my parents until I was fifty-four and my mother is still alive; albeit with little memory or recognition due to dementia.

On the other hand I only ever knew one of my four grandparents; my maternal grandmother being the only one still alive when I was born and she passed on when I was seventeen. So I had only limited experience of grandparent attention.

I find it a bit odd that at sixty years of age I have acquired, uninvited, a proxy grandmother in the form of one of the other hospital volunteers who has taken a shine to me and off her own bat decided to guide me.

This woman is ancient. I'm not sure what her age is but to give you some idea of what she might be just consider that she completed more than fifty years as a nurse at the hospital and now has passed twenty-five years as a volunteer! I'm sure some of this must have been concurrent otherwise she would be close to a hundred or more now.

She wears rows of badges on her volunteer's blouse to mark the many milestones she achieved in each role such that she has the appearance of a Russian General bedecked in his service medals.

After my recent bout of vertigo following ear damage, proxy grandmother took to giving me advice on healthy eating. She started bringing in empty packages of food items she purchases for her own dining and runs through the cooking instructions for me (as if I am unable to read the instructions for myself) whilst patients queue up behind her waiting to receive attention from me.

Of course she is well intentioned but her total lack of awareness of the impact of these impromptu mentoring sessions is a bit embarrassing. I don't have the heart to cut her short and so bear with it until she feels she has provided me with the guidance she so clearly thinks that I need.

Thursday, 12 November 2009


The disappearance of Amelia Earhart over the Pacific Ocean as she attempted to complete a flight around the world has fascinated people for over seventy years.

Hilary Swank plays Earhart in Amelia and judging from the archival images featured at the end of the film she is a good match for the aviatrix.

I imagine that Earhart's rise to prominence and her battles against obstacles in a male dominated environment would have been as fascinating as her disappearance but you'd hardly know it from this movie. It skips from one picture postcard moment to the next presenting images that are mostly appealing but rarely scratches beneath the surface.

It is only in the final ten minutes that passion and emotion are tapped to reveal the movie that this might have been.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Remembrance Day

(A more formal ceremony in Melbourne today.)

The Nursing Home commemorated Remembrance Day today with a simple ceremony in the grounds of the home.

A good sprinkling of the residents braved the heat to see ex-servicemen and women residents recite traditional prayers and oaths. They looked resplendent in their best suits and bearing their service medals.

A schoolboy from the neighbourhood, who looked about twelve, performed the Last Post impressively watched by his understandably proud father.

The residents, many of whom are survivors of World War 11 action, were pretty moved by the service and also got a lift from this involvement in community activity.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Capitalism: A Love Story

Michael Moore turns his particular style of investigative reporting to the issue of democracy and business American style in Capitalism: A Love Story.

Those who have seen Moore's previous work will know what to expect.

I found this a bit dull actually. Moore makes clever use of historical footage to make some witty points but business is a bit of a dry topic and he failed to engage me most of the time.

I did enjoy watching 'experts' attempt to explain what 'derivatives' are and am none the wiser for the experience which of course is what Moore intended. Whilst I sympathise with Moore's take on many issues I'm always uneasy that he presents his view without offering balancing information that might be available, thus perpetrating the same offence for which he would criticise others.


OK, it is an advertisement but it is also fun and interesting.

For James.

Monday, 9 November 2009

The Boys Are Back

Recently widowed Clive Owen is left to raise his six years old son and he also finds himself with responsibility for his fourteen years old son from a previous marriage.

Based on memoirs of an actual situation, Owen's parenting skills in The Boys Are Back are a matter of personal perspective but it is all played out on the outskirts of Adelaide which makes for pretty pictures of rural and coastal South Australia.

Most of it is day to day low key stuff but a dramatic climax is reached which eventually lifts the viewer's pulse rate.

Both the young actors, Nicholas McAnulty and George MacKay, provide impressive performances; particularly McAnulty as the younger boy whose performance is so natural you'd swear in his case that you were watching a reality documentary.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Sugar fix

I have a terrible sweet tooth that I succumb to frequently.

Today I started on a block of Cadbury Snack and inevitably polished off the entire 220g block in no time at all. So full with chocolate was I that I set aside my initial intention to eat a pasta bolognaise prepared earlier for dinner and settled on a couple of toasted cheese sandwiches instead. Not exactly the best dietary practice.

The new thin cardboard Cadbury chocolate blocks are annoying. Not only do they have less product for the same price as the older blocks, they also do not always break neatly into their blocks; often tending to ooze their fillings all over the place.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

The bra boy

OK, I know that I am a mere male, albeit a gay one, and therefore inferior to the female of the species when it comes to shopping but how on earth do women go about purchasing brassieres?

Despite being armed with the most detailed of specifications from the manager of my mother's Nursing Home and taking along a person of female persuasion as my shopping companion and mentor, the project of purchasing new brassieres for my 84 years old mother today was an ordeal of unspeakable torture.

It appears that Department stores carry sufficient brassieres to dress every female on the planet, each brassiere being as varied as each female. But not one of these was a (specific brand name and model) size 16C (Australian measurement) with high bridge and wide band at back that I was instructed to purchase.

None of a platoon of sales assistants who attempted to assist us, in the most desultory fashion, seemed to have any idea of what we were seeking and even less of what stock they held. My specialist female mentor disappointingly appeared as confused and uncertain as the sales staff although I couldn't fault her persistence and endeavour.

I noticed that at each of the four stores we tried, the other female shoppers present also sought hopeful, almost desperate, direction from the assistants. Female shoppers seemed as tortured as I felt.

I have new admiration for those females who purchase underwear for their boyfriend/husband/son. I'm glad that, my mother aside, I am unlikely to be required to perform the reverse service for anyone in my remaining days.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Shocking upset

All Australians know that 'the race that stops the nation' occurs on the first Tuesday of November and this year's winner of the Cup for doggies owned by staff of the hospital is Milly, the King Charles Spaniel.

A Milly lookalike.

The heats and final were watched by an ecstatic crowd of dozens on the manicured corridors of the hospital. Our personal favourites were the two doggies, of indeterminate lineage and even lesser known breeding, owned by our own Je. They finished second in their respective heats and thus failed to qualify for the final.

Milly's win was controversial in that her owner organised the races. It is suspected that clandestine training occurred in the dead of night on the race corridor.

In another race that stopped the nation run a sort time later, the 2009 Melbourne Cup, a small gathering of over 100,000 assembled to see their race won by 'Shocking'.

'Shocking' wins that other race.

Monday, 2 November 2009


I played hookey from the hospital today and had lunch at Palm Beach.

We barbequed on Hn's deck with Th as guest of honour before she returns to Britain tomorrow after spending the week in Sydney to attend Bb's funeral and finalise his affairs.

The steaks and snags were delicious.