Friday, 26 February 2010

Profit and loss

This is the Double Bay Vogue photographed in the 1930s, for many years my local cinema just a leisurely five minutes walk from home. Well, it is a leisurely walk downhill to the cinema and a breathless hike back up the hill from the cinema. From the 1970s (thereabouts) it was a twin screen complex under the name Village Twin. In 2004, the cinema's doors were closed literally overnight when the cinema chain who owned it opened a new complex a couple of kilometres away in Bondi Junction.

The Village Twin has remained resolutely closed and unused for the past six years. A request by the Art House chain Dendy to lease the cinema was knocked back by the owners apparently unwilling to have the competition even though for the most part Dendy would be screening quite different films.

I wondered how the owners could leave this property, in prime position and no doubt subject to expensive council rates, vacant for so long.

This week I read the reason why. And here it is.
There is a mobile phone tower on the roof of the building and it seems that the annual rental the tower attracts is sufficiently attractive for the owners to leave the building sitting there vacant and deteriorating below it. The owners profit whilst the community loses out.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Shutter Island

Two of the best movies of recent years have been 'Mystic River' and 'Gone Baby Gone' both based on novels by Dennis Lehane. So it was with high expectation that I went to see 'Shutter Island' also based on a Lehane novel and directed by the highly acclaimed Martin Scorsese.

It is 1954 and Federal Marshall, Leonardo DiCaprio, has travelled to remote Shutter Island to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a mental patient. DiCaprio is beset by shocking memories of the liberation of Dachau Concentration Camp.

Like the two earlier films, 'Shutter Island' relies on a twist but unlike the first two where I did not pick the twist until 'the reveal' at the end it was no more than ten minutes in before I realised how this story was going to finish. I'm no brain surgeon so others must also be working it out; certainly Eddy is one who did so. Unless Scorsese intended this, I can only assume this transperancy is a weakness in the film and/or the story.

It seems to me Scorsese has filmed 'Shutter Island' in the style of the movies of the era. This would explain the melodramatic and overwrought scenes and soundtrack. I'm sure some people will enjoy this film but whilst it has its moments I was disappointed.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

'I was sitting by the phone, I was waiting all alone'*

(* 'Ring, Ring' by Anderson, Stig;Andersson, Benny Goran Br;Ulvaeus, Bjoern K.;Luis, Enrique)
I can't complain about unsolicited calls when I haven't put my number on the Do Not Call register and in reality I'm not at home enough to be bothered by them. On the few occasions I do get caught I usually cut the call short with a polite 'I'm not interested, thank you' followed immediately with me disconnecting the call.

Using this strategy yesterday I missed an opportunity to place my displeasure on the record. A certain bank ('which bank', for Aussie readers) having sent through the mail an unsolicited invitation to take out insurance followed this with an unsolicited phone call on the same matter which the caller promptly informed me was being recorded 'for training purposes'.

As usual, I expressed my lack of interest and disconnected the call but immediately realised what I should have done. So, I'll do now what I wish I'd done then.

Me: 'Can I confirm that this call is being recorded?'
Caller: 'Yes, it is'.
Me: 'Thank you. I can assure you that unsolicited mail does not endear me to your bank and unsolicited telephone calls will not win me over either. I'm sure that is sufficent information for your records. Good night'.

I feel better now.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Trust me, I'm the Premier

So, this is what it comes down to.

Premier Keneally is telling the travellers of Sydney that despite the Government reneging on transport promises yearly for the past fifteen years if we re-elect her at the next two elections in 2011 and 2015 she says she will then build new railway lines.

Can we be any more gullible?

Monday, 22 February 2010

'The minor fall, the major lift'*

(* 'Hallelujah', Leonard Cohen)

A highlight of Vancouver's Olympic Winter Games Opening Ceremony was k.d. lang's rendition of the Cohen classic but, for mine, she did it even better a few years back here in Sydney's own Opera House.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

'Bring it out now'*

(* 'Wipeout', by Bob Berryhill, Pat Connolly, Jim Fuller and Ron Wilson)
Sorry! Actual supermarket item, poor taste joke.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Saints and sinners

How ironic. Australia's first saint and you-know-who leading the news bulletins on the same morning.

Friday, 19 February 2010

So while you go out having your fun, I should sit here waiting for you?*

(* 'Didn't I Tell You', Keyshia Cole)
My oldest standing friend, Rt, is effectively my twin. We are Geminis born on the same day in Sydney and have known each other since Kindergarten; ie as close to 60 years as matters. In reality we have very different personalities. I am introverted, he is extroverted. I keep to arrangements, he rarely does. I am punctual to the point of obsession, his timekeeping is disgraceful. I am organised and he is not. I am gay, he is straight, married and a parent. We get on extremely well.

Rt now lives in South East Queensland. He rang me several weeks ago almost begging for me to put him up for four days over this weekend. 'We', he told me, are coming down for a friend's birthday but all hotels are booked out because of the AC/DC concerts being staged in Sydney.

Now, I have a two bedroom apartment but my second bedroom contains only a single bed and there is barely room to fit in a folding bed there, something Rt knows well. I said I would put them up (I assumed 'we' meant Rt and his wife, Jy) and prepared the apartment and myself for their arrival. I washed the bedding, purchased food and moved furniture around to make best use of the available space.

An email Rt sent during the week informed me they would be arriving around 2pm on Friday (today) and staying until about 4pm on Monday. Knowing Rt, I didn't really expect him to arrive at that time or even necessarily within 2/3 hours of that time so was not concerned when he and Jy had not arrived by 5pm. I rechecked the email to confirm that this was the correct weekend and was reassured to find it was but noticed for the first time a small tag at the end indicating two of his childern were accompanying.

I started to panic at this point wondering how I could accommodate them all. I would have been annoyed with him but for the fact that I hadn't bothered to check what he meant when he said 'we' were coming and worse still had not noticed the crucial reference in his email. I calmed down reassuring myself that we would make the best of a difficult situation.

When they had not arrived by 7pm I started to get concerned they had met with an accident. I telephoned Rt on his mobile who, after a delay, answered with his usual cheery tone. Rt informed me they had just arrived in Sydney and were in the foyer awaiting their room. Hey what!? I thought, not saying anything to him at that point. Rt took my silence to mean he could tell me more. He went on to tell me how he never thought he would be staying at such a grand hotel as the Wentworth and at that moment they were enjoying complimentary drinks whilst waiting for their rooms to be ready.

Finally Rt asked me what I was doing. 'Well', I replied, 'I've been sitting here all afternoon awaiting your arrival as I thought you were coming to my place'.


'Oh, didn't I ring and tell you I had secured a hotel after all?' Rt asked in all innocence.

Why wasn't I surprised?

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Spring Awakening

Derived from a German play written around 1890 and first performed in 1906 the Sydney Theatre Company's production of the musical "Spring Awakening" is an interesting contrast. The setting remains a German speaking location in the 1890s whilst the musical numbers and choreography are very much the 21st century.

The plot is about pubescent teenagers, sexually innocent when not ignorant, raised in a strict religious environment exploring their emerging sexuality. I found the first act somewhat strange and cannot decide whether it is juvenile in parts or actually very cleverly juvenile, if you get the distinction. The second act, more dramatic, seemed the stronger of the two.

Nonetheless I enjoyed the performance immensely. Apart from two experienced professionals the cast was drawn from open auditions and all are making their professional debuts. And what a talented bunch they are. All of them possess strong and interesting singing voices and their ensemble and individual work was impressive.

Unlike most modern musicals where the musical numbers ironically are often the weakest element the musical pieces in Spring Awakening were a strong feature. Again, unlike modern musicals which often rely on technical wizardry to dazzle, in this musical the staging is simple yet very effective.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Edge of Darkness

Boston detective, Mel Gibson, embarks on a personal investigation of his daughter's murder and finds himself at the 'Edge of Darkness' in a mix of national security issues, corruption and conspiracy.

Thankfully Gibson tones down some of the manic facial expressions that have marked his preceding performances. He takes us on a slick and quite engrossing journey which I found entertaining throughout despite the fact that the conspiracies become increasingly convoluted to the point where I had little idea 'what was behind whom' by the end. Typically for a Gibson film, the body count rises exponentially as the film reaches it's climax.

Monday, 15 February 2010

If you're blue and you don't know where to go to...*

(*"Puttin' On The Ritz" by Irving Berlin)
I go to the movies at a range of complexes around Sydney but one of my favourites is the Randwick Ritz. The Ritz opened in July 1937 and is one of the few remaining art deco cinemas still operating in the state. Apparently still a family run cinema, the owners somehow squeezed another five screens alongside the original auditorium converting the business to a more economically viable 'multiplex'. It must face intense pressure from the two big muliplex chains which have surrounded it with three even larger complexes in nearby Bondi Junction, Moore Park and Pagewood.
The owners have maximised their opportunities on a limited site including turning the upstairs foyer of the orginal auditorium into a bar, cafe and function facility and creating an outside wining and dining area on the awning.
The original auditorium is now Cinema 1 and this is the downstairs foyer to it. The light fittings match those inside the auditorium and are replicated in the five newer cinemas which, whilst modern, maintain some of the art deco design themes. Cinema 1 retains an upstairs Dress Circle and most unusually in these times three of the five modern auditoriums also have Dress Circle seating.

Despite the competition of the chain muliplexes, The Ritz maintains strong patronage and I suspect is proving a more profitable business than the big boys despite charging discount prices for all its sessions.

The Ritz is located at the oddly named 'The Spot' and has a range of attractive restaurants and cafes as it's neighbours. A mutual benefit, no doubt. It also has excellent bus services passing by although these are not useful for me as none pass anywhere near my home. I would need to walk/train/bus with a change at Bondi Junction in both directions to travel by public transport between my home and The Ritz. So instead of 90-120 minutes travel time by public transport I drive (20 minutes each way) and take my chances with the limited available parking.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Talent on the snow

It seems to me that the 'talent' on display at the Winter Olympics with their lean and healthy good looks is generally prettier and easier on the eye than at the Summer Olympics where sports like wrestling and weightlifting etc require quite different body shapes. But then beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
WHISTLER, BC: (L-R) Adam Malysz of Poland wins the silver medal, Simon Ammann of Switzerland wins the gold medal and Gregor Schlierenzauer of Austria wins the bronze medal in the Ski Jumping Normal Hill Individual on day 2 of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at Whistler Olympic Park Ski Jumping Stadium on February 13, 2010 in Whistler, Canada. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Valentine's Day

It must have seemed like a good idea at the time. Grab a sackful of stars de jour, nearly stars and once were stars and pack them into a film about relationships then release it for 'Valentine's Day'.

So many performers jostling for screen time has resulted in a multitude of situations that are nearly baked, half baked or as often as not...what the heck. So sloppy is the production that this movie released for Valentine's Day this year has a moment when a mobile phone displays the date as Monday 14 February.

The film might still have worked except that it is so, so dull. It took about an hour to reach the first laugh and although there were occasional laughs afterwards they were far too few. It is pretty damning that the funniest moments were the bloopers shown over the end credits. This two hours long film felt more like three hours to me.

I feel sorry for straight men dragged to see this by their wives and girl friends. However - SPOILER ALERT - at least gay men have the benefit of eye candy and two gay twists, the second of which had a gaggle of teenage schoolgirls in uniform at my session sighing with disappointment.

This film is a dud.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Two foxy ladies

I had a 'Kath and Kim' experience today when purchasing new pillows and bedware. I was attended to by a pair of 'Prue and Trudes' who cooed over my every item assuring me of their quality with the roundest vowels imaginable.

O Canada

Congratulations Canada on a splendid opening ceremony to the XXI Olympic Winter Games.

Loved the whales!

And for the first time in my sixty years I've seen a violinist playing left-handed.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

One man's pleasure... another man's pain.

My doctor is gay and his practice is located in the gay 'precinct' of Oxford Street, Darlinghurst. The retail outlets in the area naturally cater for the gay community and often advertise their wares accordingly.

I noticed on my way to a doctor's appointment today a nearby Pizza shop advertising it's pizzas as 18 inches of pleasure!

It must cater for the S&M set.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

One Tasty Dish

The latest of the 'reality' competitions built around food, "My Kitchen Rules" appears not to have aroused the same fascination in the community as last year's "Masterchef" series to judge from the general lack of interest amongst my friends.

I'm enjoying it. I'm intrigued how each couple taking their turn to host the other competitor couples has immense confidence they will outshine the others taking no account of how the pressure and stress of the actual competition might affect them. In turn, each has been severely deflated by the reality of actual competition. From what we have been shown it seems that none of the couples so far has practised their routine to fine tune their performance.

I'm particularly taken with one of the judges, French chef Manu Feildel.
Now that's a tasty dish!

Sunday, 7 February 2010

'We sat here together just to pass time'*

(* The Coffee Song by Colton and Smith)
(Morning Underground by Weaver Hawkins)

Met up at The Art Gallery of NSW for afternoon coffee with Rt and Jy, down from the Gold Coast to see the Edinburgh Tattoo, and with An. Whilst waiting for them I browsed the Australian section and snapped Hawkins' painting that has always appealed to me.

It was terrific to see the Gallery packed with visitors on this wet Sunday. Lots of families around enjoying the free entertainment available for children and lots of eye candy regardless of your sexual orientation. So lively compared with weekdays which is usually when I visit.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Let the stormy clouds chase...

(* 'Singin In The Rain' by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed)
As severe thunderstorms descend upon Sydney this afternoon.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Tuning in and out

Ae was telling me of some problems with her television reception and mentioned that she does not receive the two newest free to air digital channels. I asked whether she had re-tuned her set for the new channels and that was the first she knew this was required. I offered to do it for her when it was clear she had no idea how.

I should not have bothered.

I turned up as arranged just after midday giving Ae time to walk her dog along with her dog walking friends.

To start with, Ae could not find the television manual. Then she wasn't sure which remote control operated the television. This surprised me given that Ae says she uses the television regularly. Anyway, I found the correct remote and also brought up the menu for system setting. A dialogue box asked me for the PIN and again Ae was stumped but after some thought she suggested the 'number' was her dog's name! This obviously was not correct and I guessed, correctly, that Ae had never reset the PIN from the factory setting.

At this point, and rather belatedly, it dawned on me that Ae was behaving strangely. Not only could I barely understand what she was saying but she was whispering oddly. And then I realised she was tanked. Drunk but not too disorderly from a morning's dog walking!

I should have stopped at that point but pressed on. I ran the auto tune and brought up the new channels but I could see that other minor channels were not being set and the reception problem was still noticeable. Deciding that a new indoor aerial might do the trick I ventured to a nearby Dick Smith's telling Ae I would only be half an hour. When I returned Ae was nowhere to be seen. She had decided to drive(!) to a nearby restaurant to get us some Thai takeaway for lunch. On her return I watched nervously as she maneuvered her car back in to her small off street parking space.

I had a few more goes at the auto tune without much success, eventually giving up and bidding Ae an apologetic farewell. I'm not sure who was more relieved at my departure; me for getting away or Ae who clearly was ready to do her own tuning out on the nearest sofa.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Six Impossible Things Before Dinner

(Philip Escoffey)

Psychic powers, fortune telling, mind reading and the like. Are you a believer or a sceptic or anywhere in between? It doesn't matter which, you will almost certainly be impressed when Philip Escoffey performs "Six Impossible Things Before Dinner" just as I was earlier this evening.

In a very clever performance, punctuated with witty adlibbing, Escoffey engages the audience and baffles and amazes for 90 minutes.

Make sure you take a parting gift when you leave the theatre so that you can savour his final flourish.

Highly recommended.

Monday, 1 February 2010

In The Loop

I enjoyed the BBC comedy series 'The Thick of It' in which a foul mouthed British Prime Ministerial senior staffer terrorises hapless Ministers and their staff for their political ineptness.

"In The Loop" is an off shoot from that series using some of the same performers to recreate how British and American bureaucrats engaged in 'negotiations' leading to the US intervention in Iraq. It is all wildly exaggerated - at least I hope it is - and wildly funny as well, provided that you can see the funny side of workplace harrassment, personal abuse and Government bureaucracy gone mad.

Having worked for a Government bureaucracy myself at a reasonably responsible level I can see plenty of truth hidden in the on screen buffonery.

All the best comedy has an underlying basis of truth.