Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Wowsers at Manly

(Click all photos to enlarge)

Mt and I took the ferry to Manly today. The crowds travelling were immense and the crowd control, intrinsically Australian in nature with some frank and direct language, must have come as a shock to the many overseas tourists. I snapped the above pic of a sailing boat steering to the Heads and the Pacific Ocean through a dirty window of the ferry; hence the splotches visible in the enlarged photo.


This is the Freshwater, identical to the Collaroy on which we travelled, docking at Manly Wharf. I snapped this photo as we ate our lunches.


Disembarking from our ferry at Manly along with the holiday crowds. We walked along the Corso to the oceanside where we picked up lunch; sushi for Mt and chicken kebab for myself which we took bacl to the harbourside of Manly to eat on the foreshore.


After lunch we looked in at the Manly Art Gallery. They had an interesting Robert McFarlane retrospective. There was also an exhibition on holiday homes across the years in the area which included the following photograph of 'The Wowsers'.


I'm not sure in what way this group saw itself as wowsers but they look a likely group to me.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Monday, 28 December 2009

Rain


(Click to enlarge)

Looking out from my kitchen window a few minutes ago. It is pouring with rain. And showers are forecast for the next five days through to New Years Day. This could ruin Sydney's NYE fireworks display.

This is the worst Christmas weather I can remember in Sydney for years. Pity all those overseas backpackers expecting to regale their relatives back home in the freezing Northern Hemisphere about their hot Christmas spent on Sydney beaches only to find the weather cool, grey, gloomy and wet.

Mt is flying in from Ballina this evening to stay until Saturday and when she gets here will probably wish she had stayed at home. I've warned her to pack her umbrella.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

The French Kissers (Les Beaux Gosses)


I can be slow sometimes. Although this film has been advertised for weeks it was only queueing for tickets today that the double entendre of the title occurred to me.

A group of fourteen year olds is discovering relationships, love and (imagined) sex in and out of school. Viewing this film it seems that teenage schooling is little different in France from what we see portrayed in American movies. It wasn't what I remember from my mid-teenage days, around forty five years ago, no less, but then I went to an all boys school and at that age was already well and truly a gay boy.

Notwithstanding scenes of shared - but not mutual - masturbation, the characters in this film remain steadfastly hetero.


Saturday, 26 December 2009

Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race


(Click to enlarge)

The annual Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race gets underway today on Sydney Harbour. The starting gun is fired at 1pm on Boxing Day.

Photograph taken from my balcony several minutes after the gun with the fleet sailing up the harbour (away from the camera) towards Sydney Heads (to the right of the photo) where the yachts enter the Pacific Ocean for the trip down the east coast of mainland Australia, across Bass Strait, down the east coast of Tasmania, into the Derwent River and on to Hobart (Capital city, State of Tasmania).

Yes, it is gloomy and rainy this Boxing Day in Sydney.

G#$gle!


I tried out Google Chrome for several weeks and was happy with it initially. Sure there were some irritations; mainly layout differences from 'standard' Google which seemed cosmetic differences to me rather than user improvements but I quickly became used to them. After a while though I tired of the extra steps needed to scroll through long lists of favourite sites.

So, on Christmas Eve I uninstalled Chrome. Now it might be a coincidence but since that 'uninstallation' - is there such a word? - I have new problems.

For one thing I am having formatting difficulties creating new Blogger posts. Line alignment, font style and size have all gone awry at different stages.




Secondly, I can't get to my Hotmail email from the Windows Live Messenger box. Currently I have to Google my mail box.

Life was so simple before computers.

Friday, 25 December 2009

And on Christmas Eve, Santa revealed himself


Tiny squares in rectangles




Tiny squares in rectangles. That's mostly what I find now when I try to retrieve the videos I have downloaded from my new Sony Handycam.


Not very handy, I must say.


It is most disappointing. When the videos are first downloaded I can play them and despite my poor camera skills the quality of the High Definition images is fantastic. But try to retrieve the videos after they have been saved (in something called m2ts format) and all I get most of the time is a %#@*%^& tiny square inside a rectangle. I tried to copy one for this post but the only thing that survived the paste was the rectangle.


I'll try the handbook again but if any reader can explain what needs to be done in simple language I will be very grateful.


Bah humbug and a Merry Christmas for those who are celebrants.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Christmas Eve at the beach





I tried out my new video camera whilst waiting at Bondi Beach for the Icebergs Club to open. I was there to my renew my membership for next year.

It was just after 10am and the temperature was already at 30c (86f). Hordes of British backpackers were arriving for their ritual down under beach Christmas activities and I imagine many would have been as red as beetroots by the afternoon.

I'm very much a novice with the video and need more work steadying the camera and on the zoom facility. Unfortunately the high definition quality of the video was lost in transferring the video to You Tube but this is the only way I could find to download the video to my blog.

The building that I zoom in on at the end of the video is the Icebergs Club. The name of the club is clearly visible in the HD quality video but not so here.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Chocolate overdose


One of the nice things about volunteering is the generosity of employers, workmates and others who show appreciation for our efforts with end of year gifts.

This year at both the hospital and the nursing home I have received an embarrassing amount of gifts. I've even received a gift from an inpatient simply because she felt I put her at ease on her admission; that is, just for doing my job. The gifts include several hampers of goodies and far too many chocolates, the latter testing my sweet tooth addiction to the limit.

I'm sharing the chocolates around and trying not to get too big a head in awareness (to paraphrase Sally Field) that 'they appreciate me, the really appreciate me'.

Monday, 21 December 2009

The Damned United



(Derby County v West Ham United 12 April 1975)

When I lived in London in 1974/75 I took to following the Derby County Football Club. It was a fortuitous selection as they won the English Championship whilst I lived there, yet Chelsea, whose home ground was around the corner from my flat, were relegated. I can't recall the reasons why I chose to support Derby County although my interest in a sporting team often arose from how good its players looked so that was probably a big influence on me at the time. I tend to be very loyal in my sporting allegiance and still take an interest in Derby County to this day.

At the time one of the most famous football managers and media personalities was Brian Clough, an opinionated and egocentric individual whose glittering playing career had been cut short by injury and who had managed my now favourite club from the doldrums of lower divisions to a Championship a few years earlier.

In 1974, Brian Clough was appointed manager of Leeds United, then the powerhouse of English football much as Manchester United is today. It proved to be a disastrous appointment. Clough was sacked after just forty-four days in the position. It is this story and the lead up that are depicted in The Damned United.



Michael Sheen portrays Clough in an interesting study of genius, ambition, envy and revenge. The film does not require any knowledge of soccer; in fact the game itself only features occasionally. Sheen certainly is a versatile actor having recently played Tony Blair in The Queen and a vampire (I believe) in New Moon.

The film is also a fascinating reminder of the extent to which big time sport has changed in the intervening years.

Ironically, nowadays Derby County has dropped back into the second tier of English football whilst Leeds United is competing in an even lower division, albeit currently it's leader.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Now boarding at Gate Z279


(The New Yorker)
I'm glad that for the first time in three years I'm not travelling this Christmas.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Please sir, I want no more...


This is a bad time of year for moderate eating and my last three days have been particularly over the top.

The Day Care Centre held its seasonal lunch on Wednesday; a buffet groaning under the weight of mainly seafood dishes. It was only the need for we able bodied volunteers to help serve the respite care guests that prevented a full scale assault on the table. It is extraordinary how some older people can turn into raiding marauders when offered a buffet of goodies.

The next day it was the Hospital's turn to provide a seasonal lunch for the volunteers. Once again a mainly seafood offering except this time the food was delivered to the table groups on platters, thus avoiding a Normandy landing type assault on the food. The service was loving if a bit haphazard. The Caesar Salad dressing arrived after the dessert whilst Ham and Turkey appeared well after the main course offerings. It would be churlish, though, to criticise such a generous offering and we had a fun time with our fellow volunteers.

Then last night I completed the week at dinner with a group of former work colleagues who selected a modest looking Thai restaurant at Newtown, Maggie's On Enmore, which served a delicious series of dishes. Thankfully, in light of the previous days, there was little seafood in the selection this time. By coincidence another, even larger, group of former colleagues was dining at the adjoining table so the reunion proved to be a much bigger night than expected.

I need to show some moderation this weekend.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Avatar 3D


In the year 2154, Earth has nearly been destroyed and some remnants of the population are attempting to displace the natives of the planet Pandora so as to get access to a valuable resource. This is the premise of the two hours and forty-five minutes long extravaganza Avatar which I saw today in Imax and 3D formats.

Actually, the plot details, it's consistency and logic, are of little importance. This is a large screen computer game where effects and imagination are the driving forces. On that score this is a very impressive film. It is the first time I have seen a feature film in 3D and it is certainly an involving experience. I felt myself dodging flying debris and other elements that appeared to shoot out from the screen and as no doubt countless others know you feel you can almost touch things that appear in the foreground of the action. The special effects truly are 'special'; not a single clunky one to be seen. The High Definition quality of the screening is excellent.

Australia's Sam Worthington is the hero, an injured Marine, who with others provides his 'genomes' and brain power to drive 'Avatars' to replicate and mix amongst Pandora's natives. The storyline of powerful forces attempting to take possession of the resources of others, as fanciful as this one seems on the surface, is an eerie coincidence given the film's release at the very time of the international climate discussions taking place in Copenhagen.

As wonderful as the movie is to view, it gave me a headache; a product of an at times noisy soundtrack, the 3D glasses that felt heavier on my face as the minutes passed and some slight motion sickness from the 3D effects.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

An unbearable loss


An acquaintance of mine has lost her only child, a son aged 22. He was holidaying in England and in circumstances not fully known to me he walked across a railway line not aware of the electrified third rail system operating there. He was electrocuted.

I feel for the grieving parents but am unable to conjure any words of comfort for them in those circumstances.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Hark! the carols ring out loud...


(Stock image)

I had imagined that at 3.30pm two Tuesdays out from Christmas I would not find the monster mall up the road from me at Bondi Junction too crowded with seasonal shoppers. I was wrong.

The warning signs were there with the queue of cars into the car park; itself renowned as one of the most frustrating mazes in Sydney. As it was a parking space magically fell vacant for me only ten minutes into my search for one. Then followed an interminable wait for the lift to the shopping levels. Thankfully the one that eventually arrived was not packed with mothers and their triplet size prams nor with families steering shopping trollies overloaded with a month's supply of food that would feed the entire US army in Afghanistan.

My own modest purchase of Belgian chocolates - a rather mundane seasonal present for a friend - was accomplished comparatively quickly followed by the completely unnecessary impromptu purchase of chocolate creams to assuage my sweet tooth.

I should have made a hasty retreat to my car at that point but I am easily seduced by those familiar Christmas Carols broadcast across the mall and they were sounding especially joyous this afternoon. So I hung around a while just listening to a few, humming along until the realisation that I was in danger of further impulse purchases not to mention losing complete track of where I had parked.

I then made as speedy a departure as queues, lifts, car park boom gates and exit traffic lights would allow.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

I'm ready for my close up...


This is my latest spur of the moment purchase; a Sony video camera. Just call it a Christmas present to myself.

The salesman, with the New Zealand accent, assured me that it is an ideal, simple camera for a video novice. The fact that he was cute to look at and (unknown to him) gave me a tempting glimpse of skin and his underwear as he leaned over to retrieve something from under the counter, of course, played no part in my purchase.

As is customary with technology that I am assured is ideal, I struggled with the ostensibly plain language instructions but eventually got the camera and computer downloads to work. My test videos, which I intended to post in triumph on this blog, proved too jerky for me to publish although the quality of the picture - unsteadiness aside - is excellent. I will need to work on my steady hand.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Away We Go


John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph are a couple expecting their first child in Away We Go who embark on a journey visiting friends and relatives in search of their preferred environment for life as a family. Along the way they find kooks and oddballs and others whose lives seem attractive on the surface but who have their own demons to battle.

Entering for my session, two older women departing after having seen the prior session gave me their unsolicited opinion that this is 'a terrible film - quite dysfunctional'. This wasn't exactly the feedback I was happy to hear, especially when I hadn't invited one. The movie opens with a cunnilingus scene; albeit discreetly shielded by the bed covers followed immediately by Krasinski discussing how Rudolph was tasting different. Those two women were probably in shock at that point and some of the strange characters who followed no doubt added to their disorientation afterwards.

I found several of the scenes quite amusing, particularly Maggie Gyllenhaal and Josh Hamilton with their decidely alternative life style and a loud mouthed Allison Janney. Other scenes were more low key and serious.

Krasinski is an interesting performer. In this film he maintains an image of cheerful innocence which I found endearing but I imagine would easily irritate others.

An uneven casserole of a movie.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

The Mysteries: Genesis


Eve (Sophie Ross) and Adam (Cameron Goodall)

The current Sydney Theatre Company production is The Mysteries: Genesis.

The program notes informed us that The Mystery Plays were religious dramas, consisting of a cycle of plays, that developed in Medieval Europe. They were performed on pageant wagons that travelled around the town to various stations, the audience travelling from station to station to view an entire cycle of plays.

This production contains three 'plays'; 'Adam, Eve'; 'Cain, Abel' and 'Noah's Ark' - spread over three hours. For the first and third plays the audience is seated on chairs or the floor or standing around the performance space according to its preference. For the middle play, the audience joins the actors on the performance space and mingles with them as they perform that play.

In 'Adam, Eve' God creates the Universe, Adam and Eve and we see them in the Garden of Eden. All the characters (God, Adam, Eve, Male Lucifer and Female Lucifer) are completely naked throughout this first play. Once expelled from the Garden of Eden, the characters, now dressed, perform the subsequent plays.

I'm not into religious works as a rule but this work, with it's sparse staging is told in an interesting way. Within minutes you scarcely notice the nudity of the first play which given the subject matter comes across as perfectly natural and relevant. The acting of the young cast is excellent.

The Company warned patrons that this is 'theatre for the adventurous' but to my observation last night's audience of all ages accepted the adventure with ease.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Cabaret


The New Theatre is a small company of professional and eager amateur performers and theatrical artisans who struggle along on modest box office income and donations. Amazingly it has operated for 75 years.

They produce small scale productions of a range of works and for them to attempt a work such as the Broadway musical Cabaret is very ambitious indeed. Any production of this work inevitably risks comparison with the brilliant filmed version which left an indelible memory in the minds of all who have seen it.

Mk, Rs and I attended a performance yesterday with minimal expectations and were pleasantly impressed by the quality of the production and performances. Sure, it cannot match the gloss and detail of what would be expected from a fully professional staging but the reasonably sized audience in the intimate surrounds of the New Theatre clearly enjoyed what was on offer.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

The Informant!


An executive, Matt Damon, is drawn into a FBI investigation after he reports an apparent attempt at corporate blackmail. As the investigation develops, the executive's role in the affair becomes increasingly uncertain. The film is an adapation of true events.

The trailers for The Informant! are humorous and suggest the film is a comedy or satire. The use of 1970s style whimsical screen captions and background music - odd, given that the story is mostly set in the 1990s - added to my impression that we are meant to find this film funny but all the humorous bits were in the trailers. The film itself is...well...unfunny.

It is all played out in a sort of monotone and only piqued my interest in the final twenty minutes. Some members of the audience walked out, presumably bored, before the film was half way through and yet I heard one couple comment at the end how clever it was. For mine, this film is a disappointment.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Road signs in Africa




OK, that one is one pretty clear but what about this one? Only those in wheel chairs face danger?


Friday, 4 December 2009

Communicating service


I am an idiot. I use Telstra as my service provider for my landline phone, mobile phone, internet services and Foxtel. I should have my head examined.

I dread any occasion that I have to contact them about one of these services. Every call goes through automated 'gateways' to an operator who can be anywhere around the country. Bad luck if that operator cannot resolve my query because all follow up falls back to the customer. Telstra doesn't appoint a case officer to sort out the problem, nor does it initiate any calls to the customer or provide the customer with a direct number to pursue the follow up. Every follow up starts the enquiry anew.

My latest enquiry is why changes to my Foxtel service which should have occurred automatically last month have not proceeded. It has taken three calls this week (each one handled from the start as a new enquiry) to establish that the impediment is that Telstra, which has my address registered separately for each of those services, has my apartment number missing from one of those registrations.

Can you believe that this requires internal Telstra referral to its IT Department and an unspecified number of days for the missing apartment number to be added to that one registration? What's more I have to ring them in a few days time to check that the address has been re-registered and when it has to then request the automatic Foxtel change.

Only days ago, Telstra announced the appointment of one Robert Nason to head a new "Customer Satisfaction, Simplification and Productivity Unit" and improve Telstra's customer service. I've written to him today with my complaint and I suggest any readers with their own Telstra problems do the same.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

King of the road


Two nights back in the evening peak, a taxi broke down on New South Head Road in the eastern direction right alongside Rushcutters Bay Park. As we drove past in the western direction we noted that the taxi was in the middle lane of three and less than 20 metres from a side intersection that it could conceivably have been pushed or towed into and out of the way of a massive traffic build up behind it. A police van was stationed immediately behind the broken down taxi and police were directing the blocked traffic around it.

The traffic reports on the radio were reporting the break down and reporting that the traffic build up stretched right back to Hyde Park in the city, about three kilometres back. The reports pointedly noted that the taxi driver was refusing to allow his taxi to be towed away.

I was quite astonished by this. I would have assumed that police had the right to move a vehicle away that was obstructing traffic. These reports suggest otherwise.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Foot in mouth


So there I was explaining to Ja that I had a periodontist (oral health) appointment. 'Oh yes', Ja reassured me, 'it's so important to keep fit and healthy and to pursue preventative treatment'.

As we continued to discuss it everything seemed so clear until I mentioned that a periodontist visit wasn't too different from the regular dental check up. Ja's face seemed to cloud over in doubt but she brightened and added that we all need 'happy feet'.

Now I was a bit confused. Turns out that Ja thought I was going to the podiatrist (foot health).

Mmmmm, a case of foot and mouth.