Saturday, 30 January 2010


Rosario La Spina (Cavaradossi) and Takesha Meshe Kizart (Tosca) during Act 1.

I have a special place in my memory and heart for 'Tosca'. My father introduced me to opera through a recording of Puccini's work over fifty years ago before I had reached ten years of age. I remember the circumstances vividly to this day.

It was a Saturday. My mother had won the princely sum of £10 in the State Lotteries, an amount which went a long way in those days. She asked my father to collect her winnings for her whilst she worked. My father took me with him into town to collect the cash and then we went straight to a record store where he spent half those winnings purchasing a two record set of the complete recording.

I still remember him asking the store clerk to play Scarpia's aria during the finale to Act 1 so he could check on the quality of the voice of a singer unknown to him, George London. The two of us crammed into a booth where the relevant portion of the disc was played for us. My father wasn't interested in listening to the rest as he was familiar with Mario Del Monaco (Cavaradossi) and Renata Tebaldi (Tosca), famous singers in the 1940s/50s whose voices he was certain would thrill. At the time all those names meant nothing to me, of course. Once satisfied that George London made a satisfactory Scarpia, my father purchased the recording.

We returned home where my father immediately played the full opera on our player arming me with the libretto so I could follow the English translation of the action. Even at that tender age my gay genes picked up on Puccini's passionate music and I was hooked - for life as it transpires.

Needless to say my mother was less than impressed when she came home from work to find her husband had spent a third of her winnings on a present for himself.

I have seen numerous productions of Tosca since then both in London at the Royal Opera House as well as in Sydney. All of those productions have been traditional; Act 1 set in a church, Act 2 set in Scarpia's apartment and Act 3 on the parapet at Castel Sant Angelo.

The current production in Sydney, which I saw last night, originated at Opera North in the United Kingdom and it throws tradition out the window. Not only is the setting updated to modern times but the locations, action and the famous ending have been radically, even shockingly, changed. Tosca, with its murders, suicides, torture and attempted rape has been described as a 'pot boiler' and I think it fits quite comfortably in a more modern setting even though that makes some of the libretto references appear odd. The other major changes are a matter of personal taste. In my case, I found this the most enthralling production I have attended. I was almost completely won over - there were some moments I thought were plain silly - but otherwise the more I mulled over what I had seen afterwards the more excited I was by the interpretation.

None of this would have rated however had the singing not been been up to scratch but I am happy to record that the singers were splendid. The three principals, Takesha Meshe Kizart (Tosca), Rosario La Spina (Cavaradossi) and John Wegner (Scarpia) all were outstanding.
John Wegner (Scarpia) and Takesha Meshe Kizart (Tosca).
The Opera Theatre during intermission last night.

Friday, 29 January 2010

An inconvenient truth

Yesterday morning my toilet packed it in. The flush wouldn't flush. I called in my favourite plumber, Phil who true to form responded quickly and provided excellent eye candy for me whilst he grappled with my antiquated toilet. It appeared he had fixed the fault but sadly an hour after he departed it broke down again.

This is, to say the least, an inconvenience. I only have the one toilet in my apartment and until the problem is rectified I have to rely on a common property toilet located in the foyer of the building five floors down.

We senior citizens require regular toilet stops not the least in the course of the night. I sleep naked and I suspect my neighbours would not approve of me roaming the building starkers in order to attend to my toileting needs.

I'm recalling Phil for a further go at the inconvenient convenience. He better succeed this time otherwise I might need to hire a Portaloo.

Thursday, 28 January 2010


At the Sydney Theatre Company, Optimism, very liberally (according to Mk) adapted from Voltaire's Candide apparently retains little more than the characters from Voltaire's work. In this staging, which defies my powers of description, the characters fly from country to country somehow surviving a series of violent and excruciating calamaties.

The performances are skillful, none more so than Frank Woodley whose wit and ad libbing skills are used to great effect.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Rupert Bunny

Earlier in the week we went to the Art Gallery to see the Rupert Bunny exhibition. Although subtitled Artist in Paris the works on display were not confined to his paintings in France.

Bunny certainly produced diverse work. I wasn't keen on his religious paintings and those featuring nymphs, sirens and the like. I did like his portraits, still life and some of the leisure scenes, especially those set in the Luxembourg Gardens.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Australia Day

Festivities on the harbour today celebrating Australia Day.

Shooting Through

"Shooting through like a Bondi tram", a saying familiar to Sydneysiders especially in the first half of the twentieth century deriving from the supposed speed of the trams that ran the line to Bondi Beach. The saying meant to move, or get away, quickly.

As a child, I was fascinated by trams and planned that I would be a tram driver when I grew up only to be thwarthed when the Government shut down the entire Sydney tram network in the early 1960s. What was once one of the largest tram networks in the world disappeared.

The Sydney Tramway Museum does its best to retain memories of Sydney's former glorious system including by its DVD, Shooting Through, that chronicles the network in detail and of which I was reminded when I read Andrew's post.

I first came across Shooting Through, as a video, in bizarre circumstances more than 20 years ago. I was at the Bodyline Gay Sauna on a very quiet weekday morning and wandered into the screening room where customers would normally expect porn to be screening. To my surprise, instead of porn, the huge screen presented me with silent images of trams travelling around Sydney. Like Nero in ancient Rome, I planted myself down lengthways on a lounge and wearing only a sauna issued towel I watched old trams silently criss cross the screen for the next hour or so.

I have no idea what possessed the duty manager to screen that video in a gay sauna but the thought occurred to me later when I learned what the video was called that he had seen the title on the cover and assumed he was screening a tittilating orgasmic movie.

Monday, 25 January 2010


It is an embarrassing admission when I see so many movies and love just sitting in a cinema that I have never seen Fellini's ; regarded as an all time classic.

Nine is the musical based on the Fellini film.

Daniel Day-Lewis is the noted Italian director who may be over the hill and who is struggling to create a new movie if only he could come up with a script or better still some idea of what his movie is about. He is grappling with his past and the women in his life. They include his wife, Marion Cotillard, his mistress, Penelope Cruz, his favourite leading lady, Nicole Kidman, his costume designer, Judi Dench, the journalist pursuing him, Kate Hudson, his mother, Sophia Loren and his childhood lust object, Fergie.

Dench is her usual self, full of wry observations and the screen is alive whenever she appears. I'm enamoured of Cotillard who impresses in every role and makes a lot from her limited opportunities here. If I were straight I would be in lust with Cotillard. Fergie scores the musical's show stopper and her sequence is my favourite in the film.

I've read that Nine has been panned overseas. I'm not sure why although I acknowledge that as a musical, the work itself is on the average side. The film is basically a series of set musical pieces separated by the focus on an endlessly morose and duplicitious main character. But I liked the style and look of the film which evokes my own memories of Italian movies in the 1960s.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Away above the chimney tops...

(* "Over The Rainbow", Harold Arlen and E Y Harburg.)

(Click photo to enlarge.)

I don't live at the end of the rainbow but I do live in the building at the left of the Harbour Bridge from which the arch appears to emerge.

The photo was taken earlier in the week as I ate (or 'et' as Andrew would say) a healthy salad lunch on the balcony at Westfield Bondi Junction.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Red Lantern

We ate dinner last night at the Red Lantern in Surry Hills sharing entrees of Goi Cuon and Muc Rang Muoi followed by the mains, Con Dom Hap, Ga Chien Don and Cari De. It was my first time at this restaurant.

Our table was located in the front underneath the restaurant sign although, unlike this photo taken from the internet, the shades were down following a heavy downpour of rain which itself had come as a relief after a day of 41c (105.8f) heat.

It was a delicious meal. Just a pity that the restaurant's popularity meant that there were three fixed sittings last night and there was the slight sense of us being pushed through ahead of the next sitting. We strolled a few blocks up Crown Street afterwards for our coffees.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Between the sails

(Click photo to enlarge)

Bridge climbers seen between the sails from the forecourt of the Opera House today.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Tot Mom

American director Steven Soderbergh has created Tot Mom for the Sydney Theatre Company.

The play concerns a case currently in the news in the United States where a two years' old child, Caylee Anthony, went missing in 2008 and the child's mother was subsequently charged with murder. By coincidence the murder trial commences tomorrow.

The play focusses on the media attention given to the case; in particular by a current affairs journalist Nancy Grace. I've never heard of Ms Grace but the program notes states that her nightly show has made headlines around the world for its intense, and sometimes controversial, coverage of high profile cases. The play is not acted out in the traditional sense. Ms Grace is never seen in person but she inhabits the entire play through her presence on large television screens delivering her 'shock jock' style of questioning and comments. The various characters, expert witnesses and other contributors sit in a row on stage delivering their lines when the spotlight shines on them.

This is not the first time I have seen a play where the entire dialogue has been based on recorded transcripts but whereas those I have seen previously came across as dull and clumsy this play maintained my attention and interest.

The performances cleverly echoed the cadences and tempo in the modern trend of media sensationalism which has become all too familiar to us nowadays. Listening to this play I was reminded of the Azaria Chamberlain case and of various notorious Australian radio journalists who will remain unnamed by me.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Good times and bum times, I've seen them all...

(* "I'm Still Here", from Follies, Stephen Sondheim)

I saw my doctor this morning to renew my prescriptions. No problems for me to report to him but it is that time of year for him to organise a series of annual tests to determine my overall state of health.

He - or at least his heavily pregnant assistant - checked my blood pressure, weight, body fat and also put me through an ECG. Blood pressure was excellent and Doctor expresses he is 'very happy' about that. Bully for him; it's my blood pressure. Weight a little bit up. Not so happy now, he knows how hard it is to lose weight as you (that is, me) get older and, heck, he was once over 100 kilos. Again, bully for him, I have never reached 100 kilos. I must eat smaller portions he informs me in a serious tone and cut down on pasta, rice and noodles. These, of course, all are favourites of mine.

ECG shows my heart is working well. So there!, to those former lovers who thought me heartless.

Then on to the blood tests. He issues me a referral for sufficient blood tests to meet the needs of a battalion of men. Discreetly he ponders should he include tests for my sexual health? Sheepishly I admit an absence of sexual activity since my previous testing to warrant an update in that area. Embarrasingly, my admission appears to be no surprise to him.

Oh well, I suppose he is familiar with the senior variety of the gay species.

And, I'm still here.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Catching up

I'm not averse to new technology nor am I resistant to change but when it comes to the former I sometimes I hold back a while before dipping my toe in the water. So it has taken me until this morning to have my first go at getting digital photographs printed from one those commercial photo centres. Up till now I've had no need for any professional prints, relying on sending my photos by email to friends and downloading photos to my electronic photo frame (last year's birthday gift) for any that I wanted to display at home.

I needed some prints this time because I wanted to send some to a friend who does not have an email account. Yesterday I visited a nearby centre to observe others ordering their prints from those photo machines. I found that it was not easy to observe unobtrusively and I imagine the customers assumed I was sneaking a peek at their photographs. Actually the machinery was such a blur to me that checking out the photographs of others was the last thing on my mind but I ascertained what I wanted to know and returned this morning with my tiny USB thingy to make my order. As with most computerised things nowadays the process was so straightforward I wondered afterwards why it had taken me so long to make the attempt.

Anyway I had a thirty minutes wait for my prints to be ready and spent most of that time wandering around the rest of the store. By coincidence, earlier this morning, I read James' post about the purchase of a digital radio. Now that is another item I have been thinking about for some time but have not yet indulged myself by purchasing.

In truth it would be an indulgence. I'm not aware of much that is on offer on the digital stations that isn't a duplicate of what is provided on the main frequencies. The only real benefit for me is the promised quality of the broadcast. I have noticed a deterioration in the quality of the radio reception I have received over the past twenty years which I put down to increasing interference from building works and new high rise developments in my vicinity.

The cost of the digital receivers is offputting but even more so is the size and, to my taste, clunky look of most of them. Why are they so big? And why do most of them look like they were designed in the 1950s? And another thing, why are so many of them brand types completely unknown to me? At least today, I finally saw some Grundigs and Yamahas; names that are familiar.

I'm tempted to investigate the radios further but where will I place one if I do buy? None of my logical furniture pieces has sufficient surface space available for the size of most of the units on display. It would be just a tad ridiculous to purchase new furniture to accommodate a digital radio.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

The way we were

We gathered this afternoon at Hn's home in Palm Beach (today's view from the lounge) for a barbecue lunch and leisurely rememberance of years past. Hn's old schoolmate Sn's son, Mk, has returned to live in Australia with his Japanese bride, so it was a reunion of sorts. I last saw Mk when he was about 5 years old. Now Mk is in his late 20s and participates in triathlons and so is a picture of health and fitness. He also is a gentle soul. A pity he is wasted in the straight world but what can you do?

Mk and his bride must have been bemused as conversation (all of us near to, or already in, our 60s) sank deeper into what we considered hilarious reminiscences of group escapades at their ages. Undoubtedly there was a fair bit of embellishment in our increasingly hazy memories. Sometimes I think we get more childish the older we become.

Anyway, it was a fun afternoon and the barbecue food was delicious.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Not so great railway journeys...but still OK...

Inspired by Andrew's Great railway journeys and with no ideas about what to do today other than use my Seniors Card to travel around the state all day for the princely sum of $2.50 I made an impromptu journey to Gosford and back. Gosford is approximately 80 kilometres north of Sydney on the Central Coast of New South Wales. It is a region that is a mix of low key resorts and homes of the retired. In the late 1990s, quite a number of organisations moved their operations to the region to take advantage of cheaper rents and services. The rail journey takes 80 minutes each way. The expected main attraction of the journey for me was to be that part of the rail line that runs along the edge of the Hawkesbury River.

It was another grey morning and not ideal for photographing the scenery. Indeed capturing any photos from the train was a hit and miss matter given the speed at which the train travelled and that all photos had to be taken through scratched and dirty carriage windows. The following are the best of a poor lot and do scant justice to a vista that is more splendid to the naked eye.

The first good sighting of the river as the train made its way down the escarpment north of Sydney.

Looking down river as the train raced along it's edge.

Hawkesbury River Marina seen from the train as we arrived at the nearby station.

The township of Woy Woy, just south of Gosford.

Brisbane Waters, the inlet on the southern edge of Gosford.

Gosford is obviously experiencing difficult times. Although it was a Friday morning, albeit grey and wet, there were few people in the business precinct when I arrived. Numbers did increase during the day but there was still the feel of a small country town. I went into the Gosford Town Centre, a shopping mall and found it virtually deserted.

A very modern looking food court with more than twenty outlets that obviously were previously operational sat closed. A large Coles supermarket can just be seen to the rear left in the photograph. It was late morning on a Friday but not a single customer was passing through its numerous checkout lanes.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Up In The Air

George Clooney spends a lot of his time Up In The Air along with Vera Farmiga, fellow traveller and lover of loyalty and priority schemes. They are joined above the clouds by Anna Kendrick the new 'up and comer' on the block.

This is a bitter sweet tale of interpersonal, familial, workplace and business relationships set in today's world of technology and a 'whatever it takes' attitude.

The movie has a clever script in which self absorbed characters robotically trot out pat statements to sell an unpalatable product. I was reminded of my own long years in Government service where many senior management careers were built entirely on a gift for words and deceptively impressive empty phrases. Anyone who has spent time as a mere functionary in a large bureaucracy will empathise.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Four queens and a lunch

(Click on image to enlarge)

The view from our table as four retired queens spent lunch and the rest of the afternoon gossiping on the balcony at Icebergs Club yesterday. It is amazing how much dirt we remembered (or made up) about our friends. I bet a few pairs of ears were burning yesterday...and not just from the summer heat.

For the record I had Chicken Schnitzel (yet again) whilst the others chose Atlantic Salmon (x2) and a Risotto.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Phillip's vision

(Click on photo to enlarge)

Establishing a convict colony at Sydney Cove in January 1788, Governor Arthur Phillip found "one of the finest harbours in the world, in which a thousand sail on the line might ride in the most perfect security."

Yesterday, almost exactly 232 years after Phillip's pronouncement, I stood at North Head (the northern point at the entrance to the harbour) and admired the vista for myself.

To the left is the Pacific Ocean. Straight ahead in the middle distance is South Head (the southern point at the harbour entrance) and to the right in the distance you can just make out the high rise buildings in the Central Business District.

Even on a day of grey cloud and some mirkiness such as yesterday, the harbour is a spectacular sight.

For those not familiar with Sydney, the photograph above is the reverse view from the land mass on the other side of the yachts that appear in the right hand edge of this photograph.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

It's Complicated

Well, it isn't really...but it is very funny...for old farts like me.

Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin are a divorced couple who start an affair whilst attending their son's graduation. Steve Martin is an architect who is drawn into a menage a trois of sorts.

It's Complicated is life seen through Hollywood eyes. Everyone is impossibly good looking, or at least fashionably interesting looking, except for the unfortunate Martin who has every appearance of being Botoxed to the point where his face has lost all it's flexibility and he displays a permanent look of mild bewilderment.

The Hollywood perspective extends to the lifestyles. Why Streep would require a new kitchen when the one we see is the size of the Palace at Versailles and sufficiently well appointed to feed the hordes at Buckingham Palace for the remainder of the century is a mystery. But it all looks very pretty.

But as I said the movie is very funny, although targetted for older viewers. In what I am sure must be a first for her, Streep has a line about...ahem...semen which is hilarious. (You have to see/hear it in context to get the joke.)

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Damn you, Billy!

He's done it to me again.

Last night, Billy Elliot was screened on television...once more...and I switched on for the last twenty minutes.

Although I have seen the film numerous times, although I know exactly what happens, although I was only watching for the final twenty minutes, I was in tears at the end.

This film does it to me every time. There is something about the story, something about the way it is portrayed, something about the effectiveness of the performances that makes me highly emotional.

Every single time.

It is as though I am seeing the film for the first time...every time. Does any film do this to you?

Friday, 8 January 2010

By the harbour

Here are some photos taken at Circular Quay today when I went to the movies. I know that photographs in this precinct are so plentiful that displaying them here is not terribly original but I never tire of wandering around the area and soaking in the atmosphere. The cloudier looking images were taken late morning before the movie and the sunnier photos in mid afternoon following the movie when the weather (obviously) had improved.
(Click images to enlarge)

Old Customs House which now houses the City of Sydney Library and a number of food and drink outlets. The forecourt is often crowded with people but magically they absented themselves when I snapped this photograph.

The Opera House seen from the lower concourse with James' favoured Opera Bar (not yet set up for the day's business) in the foreground.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge as seen from the lower concourse of the Opera House.

Looking back to Circular Quay from the western concourse of the Opera House with cruise ship Rhapsodies of the Sea berthed at the Overseas Passenger Terminal.

The cruise ship seen from the lower concourse at the Opera House.

American tourists (probably from the cruise ship, which can be seen in the distance) waiting for their tour of the Opera House to commence.

Cruise ship seen from the ferry wharves at Circular Quay with the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background.

Looking up through the atrium in the foyer to the Dendy Cinemas at Circular Quay. The apartment building irreverently known as The Toaster is in the background.

A photographer setting up his shot of the Opera House with the Harbour Bridge to his left. If you enlarge this photograph you can see groups of people climbing the arch of the Bridge. The Bridgeclimb costs hundreds of dollars.

A group doing the Bridgeclimb this morning.

Activity on the harbour in the glistening sunshine.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Did You Hear About The Morgans?

Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker are an estranged New York couple who are placed in witness protection after they witness a murder in Did You Hear About The Morgans? They are relocated from Manhattan to a remote town in Wyoming in predictable fish out water, romantic comedy style.

Grant is from the John Wayne/Cary Grant school of acting. He basically appears in films as himself, a curious combination of debonair bumbling indecision. Initially this was fun but in later films the novelty of this behaviour has worn thin. Parker is a clotheshorse whose acting at times has been better than she has been given credit for but who has the misfortune of a whiney manner. The pair display their familiar characteristics in this film of stereotypes.

Grant looks particularly stiff and uncomfortable in early scenes before relaxing as the film progresses. In this it is possible that he is working to the Director's instructions but it doesn't make his character any more attractive early on.

Actually the film is not as bad as I was expecting. The first quarter doesn't really fire but it does have it's occasional humorous moments thereafter.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Twelfth Night

It is Twelfth Night and it looks like one of my neighbours is taking it seriously placing their Christmas Tree amongst the garbage bins.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Circuses down under

(Click all photos to enlarge)

Last night Mt and I saw Circus Oz. Although I had seen documentaries about this group on television it was the first time I have seen them perform live. It was very enjoyable watching this extraordinarily talented group of acrobats and musicians. I took the above photo from our seats just before they announced no photography would be permitted during the performance itself.

Before the Circus, we went to the Sydney Aquarium, another first for us both. Being a city boy, animals and nature are not really my scene and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this. We spent nearly three hours wandering through the various rooms and tanks partly because of the grand final football like crowds present but mainly because there was so much to take in and enjoy.

The following is a selection of the photos I took there but they don't do justice to much of the displays.