Monday, 28 February 2011

True Grit

A precocious young girl engages a belligerent US Marshall to track down the murderer of her father.

I never saw the original and am not particularly fond of western movies but on the recommendation of friends I went to see True Grit with some degree of ambivalence. The viewing did not get off to a good start with the screening not correctly aligned for the cinemascope configuration. I put up with this for a while assuming a projectionist would be monitoring the cinema and correct the situation. As the film progressed and it became clear that nothing was changing I went in search of a staff member in the multiplex and had to go all the way back to the box office before finding someone to whom I could report the problem.

By the time I returned to the auditorium Jeff Bridges had made an appearance in the film, giving evidence in some trial apparently, and he seemed to be observing the Marlon Brando 'marbles in mouth' school of acting. I could only understand about a third of his dialogue and he continued in that vein for the remainder of the film.

I enjoyed some of the cinematography, some scenes and got the general gist of the plot despite so much incompehensible speech but aside from a terrific performance by Hailee Steinfeld as the young girl - a star in the making methinks - most of the rest was a disappointment.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

The Paddington End

In Bernard Zuel's SMH review of Kylie Minogue's 'Aphrodite' concert at Helsinki on February 22 he writes that Minogue flies "across the audience on the back of an 'angel' whose physique was not missed by what you might call the Paddington end of her fans".

Well I am neither a Minogue tragic nor a detractor but I now have a new euphemism for my sexual identity.

I am the Paddington end! Thanks, Bernard.

Friday, 25 February 2011

One Eye On The Three Dee

Do you know that in 1953 Hollywood executives chose a one-eyed director, Andre de Toth, to make the first big 3D movie 'House of Wax'?

Now that's ironic.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Bye Bye Queenie

Queen Mary 2 dwarfs surrounding buildings as it pulls away from it's Woolloomooloo berth yesterday afternoon prior to departing Sydney.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Drip, drip, drip

My kitchen is twenty years old. I had it installed when I bought the apartment. I can't recall having to replace any washers in my kitchen tap since then and so wasn't surprised when it started to leak last week. Drip, drip, drip, noisily and splashily all day and night.

I'm not into DIY, except for the most routine of repairs and that does not extend to changing washers which I know constitutes routine repairs for many people.

I called Phil the Plumber, my favourite and spunkiest tradesman and arranged for him to do the repair. I discarded any sense of embarrassment of paying for such fundamental work long ago and besides any opportunity to perve on Phil the Plumber trumps embarrassment.

As it turns out my kitchen tap is a Kugler which according to Phil the Plumber has a ceramic disk based operation and does not contain washers. I was immediately lifted beyond helpless gay man status with this news.

Phil the Plumber is not only good looking but he produces simple solutions to my problems. The taps only require a 90 degree turn to reach full flow and by simply turning them to full flow then turning them off Phil the Plumber stopped, stopped, stopped my drip, drip, drip.

Of course, this may not provide a permanent solution if Phil the Plumber is correct that something may have got stuck between the ceramic disks but, hey, my problem has gone away...for now.

And the best news is that Phil the Plumber charged nothing, nothing, nothing for the visit. Good looking and decent to boot.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Queens in Sydney

Sydney's status as a gay city - not everyone approves, of course - means that the arrival of another couple of Queens, especially just before dawn and brightly dressed, scarcely amounts to news but these two sailed into the harbour city just after 5am.
Queen Mary (left) and Queen Elizabeth (right)
Queen Mary is on her fourth visit and it is Queen Elizabeth's first visit on what is her maiden round-the-world voyage.

Hello sailor!

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Bush, Beach and Battlers

'Bush, Beach and Battlers' is a photographic exhibition of the work of Australian photographer Jeff Carter which we visited at the State Library.

Mt being of Queensland country origin was really into Carter's rural (bush) photos whereas yours truly, city born and bred, really appreciated Carter's city and beach photos. Either way with most of the photos dating from the 1950s and 1960s - the years of Mt's and my upbringing - the collection certainly brought fond memories for us.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Don Parties On

I didn't realise until yesterday that Don Parties On, David Williamson's sequel to his 1971 play Don's Party had transferred to Sydney from it's Melbourne world premiere season. This seemed like a good play to attend whilst Mt is in Sydney so we booked tickets online for tonight's performance and were surprised on our arrival at the theatre to discover it was opening night with the paparazzi in attendance to snap every luminery and intending luminery as they walked a non-existent red carpet. Mt and I must have been about the only paying customers in attendance so we were delighted to note the Sydney Morning Herald subsequently describe the photographed ones as 'A-list uglies'.

Even better we noticed a number of politicians whose names were uttered (sometimes disparagingly) during the play drawing howls of laughter from the 'in crowd'. Critics generally look down on Williamson's work nowadays opining that he basically is writing the same play each time. There is some truth in this but the fact is that his plays remain popular with the punters so who is having the last laugh?

Maybe Don Parties On is the latest in the Williamson template but Mt and I enjoyed every moment.

The First Emperor: China's Entombed Warriors

This morning we visited The First Emperor: China's Entombed Warriors exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW. The exhibition is a companion piece to the Annie Leibovitz photography exhibition; both on display under the banner of a new event named Sydney International Art Series.

In 1981, whilst we on posting to Beijing, Mt and I visited the pits where the entombed warriors were buried. That visit was only seven years after the hitherto unknown sculptures were discovered in 1974 and we both marvelled today how little we realised then the significance of the extraordinary achievement we were privileged to be viewing.

The display in Sydney amounts to a tiny percentage of what has been discovered but it still constitutes a dazzling display. It is a pity, but understandable, that the numbers attending are so great that a comfortable viewing is difficult if not impossible. We spent all of the visit jockeying for position with others in the crowd but it was worth the effort.

Judging from our visit the exhibition is attracting viewers of all ages. There were many student groups attending this morning.
Student groups on the steps of the Gallery this morning

Thursday, 17 February 2011

The Wild Duck

Ewen Leslie and Toby Schmitz
In this production at Sydney's Belvoir Street Theatre, Simon Stone has taken Henrik Ibsen's characters and setting and created a contemporary work out of The Wild Duck.

As I have not seen it, I can't make a comparison between the originating work and this modern take on it but the play we watched this evening, performed by a very strong cast, was accessible and beautifully constructed. It is a tight and fast paced 90 minutes long production. I can't resist adding that cast members, Ewen Leslie and Toby Schmitz, are very easy on the eye.

Annie Leibovitz

One of the benefits of hosting a house guest is that you get to participate in local activities that otherwise might pass you by. The current exhibition Annie Leibovitz - A Photographer's Life 1990-2005 at Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art might have been one example except that in this case I would have gone to see the exhibition in any event.

The exhibition is an unusual blend of two categories of Leibovitz's work. On the one hand her commercial photography focusing on celebrity and on the other her personal work documenting her family members and long time companion Susan Sontag. The latter body of work is confronting in parts but as a whole the exhibition is fascinating.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

House guest

I have a house guest for the next few days. Mt has flown down from Ballina and is staying until Sunday. We were posted to Beijing during the same period in (1980-1982) and with Ll, Fd and Da (all posted there at the same time) have remained firm friends ever since even though our paths have taken us in different directions.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

In The Next Room or the Vibrator Play

From the Sydney Theatre Company's 2011 season.

It is the era of the introduction of electric light into houses and Dr Givings is a keen supporter of the new physical effect called electricity. He treats women, and the occasional man, who suffer from a condition he calls 'hysteria' in his home operating theatre - or 'in the next room' - for those squeamish of the term operating theatre.

Dr Givings' treatment involves electric vibratory massage and in an era where propriety called for married couples to observe a formal almost remote relationship the effects of this massage on his patients are at first strange and then surprisingly addictive. After all this was an era before familiarity with notions of the female orgasm.

All the while Mrs Givings, who is suffering through her inability to provide milk for her new born child, is increasingly curious about the treatment underway 'in the next room'; the effects of which she can hear only too well by the strange sounds her husband's patients make.

You can guess from this that the play's characters are embarking on a revelatory trip. 'In The Next Room or the Vibratory Play' contains plenty of humour provided that you are not offended by numerous discreet simulations of masturbation by vibrator and the pleasurable effects thereof. The feint of heart should also note that bare male arses and the occasional woman's breast are also on display. The packed audience at the performance last night certainly was not put off and conveyed it's enjoyment with resounding applause at the play's conclusion. A slightly soft but picturesque ending confirms an overall and universal message about communication and connection between individuals.

The cast of seven perform strongly.

Monday, 14 February 2011

A night at the opera

I always enjoy going to events at the Sydney Opera House. It is always a lively environment and the precinct at night usually looks spectacular. Tonight we attended our first subscription play for the Sydney Theatre Company's 2011 season at the SOH's Drama Theatre. The play was 'In The Next Room or the Vibrator Play' and I'll have more to say about that in a separate post.

With a 6.30pm start it was still light outside before we took our seats, was starting to darken outside at interval and was completely dark when we departed at play's end. Here are some snaps (and as usual click the photos for an enlarged view).

6.03pm. Looking back at Circular Quay from the broadwalk adjacent to the Drama Theatre
6.05pm. The broadwalk adjacent to the Drama Theatre looking towards East Circular Quay
7.44pm. Interval and the sky is darkening. The waterway adjacent to SOH is humming with activity as a cruise ship, 'Europa', arrives and is about to pass under the Harbour Bridge, the Manly Ferry 'Freshwater' is about to turn towards its berth at Circular Quay and a darkened tourist ferry is cruising the harbour.
9.22pm. Audience members depart the Drama Theatre along the broadwalk whilst above them from a gap in the sails audience members depart the Concert Hall following a Sydney Symphony Orchestra concert which has ended at the same time.
9.24pm. With the SOH behind me, diners and drinkers enjoy the facilities on the promenade with Circular Quay in the background and the Overseas Passenger (Shipping) Terminal visible across the Quay and to the right.
9.29pm. Looking back at the SOH from East Circular Quay.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

The Next Three Days

Russell Crowe plots the escape from prison of his wife Elizabeth Banks who has been gaoled for a murder of which he is convinced she is innocent.
'The Next Three Days' is a remake of 'Pour Elle' which I read was screened in Sydney a few months ago. I didn't see the French original which is well regarded. I have heard the original described as a taut psychological thriller It is perhaps unfortunate that the American remake, which has received a lukewarm response from the critics, has been distributed so soon after the first film.

Apparently the remake follows the original film reasonably closely yet it is almost a third longer than the original. I quite enjoyed the remake although it certainly felt a little long. Too much time is spent on the set-up and when at last the action gets underway it feels quite exciting although I did wonder that Crowe could get away with so much criminal behaviour without being observed.

The French original bears the English translated title of 'Anything for Her' which far better describes the story and makes a great deal more sense than the American title given that the story is told entirely in the past.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

'How does he do it?'

A representative Melbourne male
This anonymous representative Melbourne male marvelled 'how does he do it?' before adding the apparently stunning news that 'a local Melbourne guy is dating one of the most beautiful girls in the world' as though such a situation was as remote a thought as a three years old tot developing the theory of relativity. So who is 'he'? Typical Melbourne guy Andrew? Not likely.

No, this was Sydney's Channel 10 news this evening breathlessly reporting a luncheon date between 'he' who once controlled the most famous mystery balls in cricket and the 'girl' whose dress once lost control of the most famous pair of boobs of their day.

Yes folks, Shane Warne and Liz Hurley have come along as the latest 'breaking news' to entertain the masses.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Shit happens

I don't often feel sorry for Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, and it surely isn't breaking news that he isn't the most polished of communicators but when he commented in Afghanistan that 'shit happens' he probably wasn't at that moment thinking about it happening to him.

I don't know about elsewhere in Australia but this 'non-news' news item is getting ridiculous coverage in Sydney.

Can we move on to the next 'breaking news' drama please...and quickly.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Tamara Drewe

Britain has a seemingly endless production line of films set in quaint villages full of charming oddballs and the trailer for 'Tamara Drewe' suggests that this is yet another.

The trailer is misleading. Yes, the village is quaint and yes, it is populated with oddballs but charming they are not. Indeed I can't imagine a less agreeable group than them has been portrayed in this genre of film.

That may be where I am on the wrong wavelength thinking of this film as being of a genre. Based on a graphic novel by Posy Simmonds the story is said to be a re-working of Thomas Hardy's 'Far From The Madding Crowd' and there are many references to Hardy in the plot. I'm probably not of sufficient literary bent to have appreciated this subtlety. I watched the film and took it's plot on face value and wasn't impressed.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Enough already!

As Sydney's record breaking heatwave (more about that below) moves into it's 7th day we took shelter yesterday in several air conditioned locations.

First stop late morning was to see blogger Brenton Parry's photographic exhibition 'Shrouded' in a small upstairs gallery in a quiet side street in Chippendale. The morning was burningly hot to the skin and Brenton's subjects were hot too. Thankfully the gallery was nicely cooled. The subjects in the 15 photographs are all discreetly naked. Most of the photos feature solo men and this one, the only group photo, is my favourite from the collection.

Ryen, Duncan, Joshua & Kane by Brenton Parry
 After the exhibition we drove across to Randwick to the Ritz to see a movie, any movie, that would give us two hours of cool. The one we chose, only because it was commencing in five minutes, did not impress but that is for another post.

Yesterday the temperature in Sydney passed 30c (86f) for the sixth day in succession setting a new record and to emphasise that record the maximum reached was a mere 41c (106f). That made yesterday Sydney's hottest February day for 85 years. And the heat continues, last night being Sydney's hottest night ever according to the radio news this morning.

A cool change with showers and thunderstorms is forecast to reach Sydney later this morning. I hope the storms are not what Andrew experienced in Melbourne on Friday. Until then the heat drags on with a maximum of 32c (90f) plus forecast for this morning before the change arrives. If achieved that will well and truly seal the new heatwave record at seven days.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Keep left!

This is a very tiny section of the coastal walkway that links Bondi and Tamarama beaches and is used by walkers and runners alike. It is also a scenic attraction for many visitors to Sydney.

A 'war of words' has broken out, according to the evening television news, because 'locals' (whoever they may be) are fuming that some are failing to walk/run the track on the 'correct' side. The television journalist interviewed a number of walkers/runners - most of whom were sweaty from their exertions in Sydney's current heatwave - and a surprising number possessed overseas accents; mostly North American or South African. The South African accents are not such a surprise given the number of emigrants from that country who live in Sydney's eastern suburbs. The number of North American accents intrigued me. Have they come all the way down under to run along our coastal paths? To a man/woman all the North American speakers commented they had trouble remembering that Australians travel in the opposite direction from which they are accustomed at home.

Well, it's not April 1 so I presume this report was a serious, if trivial, one. Now there's a contradiction for you. The Mayor of Waverley (herself a South African emigrant, do you mind) was wheeled out to express some platitude to the effect that people should be nice to each other and in the event of a looming clash each should move to the left.

As it happens I wandered along that walk last November and captured this pic;

Obviously foreigners!
Of course I was on the lookout for good looking men, not recalcitrant walkers but you get the idea. Real Australians would be walking on the left side of that path, wouldn't they?

Well, the television report noted that one solution might be to paint lines down the centre of the path. That brings back memories. When I was a child all of Sydney's CBD footpaths were marked with a yellow line down the centre and regardless of which direction we were headed orderly Australians minded our Ps and Qs by walking on the left hand side of that line.

Everything old is new again.

Friday, 4 February 2011


A New York photographer who specialises in photos of dancers in action is surprised to receive from an eight years old girl a painting she has done of one of his published works. This leads to the modern social network, an online friendship and relationship between the photographer, the young girl and members of her family.
When the photographer starts to sense that all is not as it seems this documentary turns into a contemporary cautionary tale.

Despite clever marketing that urges viewers not to reveal the ending to this documentary I have to say that the general outcome is not unexpected for any reasonable thinking person but the details that emerge are interesting. I found it amusing that the film's makers seem oblivious to the fact that they come across at times as being just as creepy as they intend their targets to appear.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

It's too darn hot*

(*'Kiss Me Kate' by Cole Porter)

There's no doubt about Australia, we seem to have it all; within days of each other potentially killer cyclones in the north, floods, bushfires and at the moment a rather debilitating heatwave in Sydney.

The official temperatures given for Sydney can be misleading especially in summer. The readings are taken from Observatory Hill which is located in the shadow of the Harbour Bridge and are affected by harbour and sea breezes. When the Observatory was first established the overwhelming majority of Sydney's population lived very close to the coast and the recorded temperatures would realistically be those experienced by that majority. Nowadays Sydney is densely populated much further inland and currently more than 2 million live in what could be called Greater Western Sydney alone where summer maximum temperatures can routinely be 10 degrees and more higher than the readings at Observatory Hill. Even inner western suburbs are often clearly hotter in summer than the 'Sydney' readings.

The 'Sydney' maximums for the past four days of about 34c (93f) are hot enough but the readings for the western suburbs have been in the range 40c-42c (104f-108f). Either way, this is serious heat. The nights have been oppressive temperatures hovering for hours around 30c (86f) falling to 27c (81f) in the early morning.

I didn't have to endure that frightening cyclone last night and so have little to complain about weatherwise but still I can't wait for the cool change forecast for week's end.

Jersey Boys

I think we are amongst the last in Sydney to get along to see 'Jersey Boys' which as most will know is a stage musical about Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.
There is enough background story to add a little weight to what otherwise is effectively a concert of their music and of other music of the times. Fairly simple staging but the production is slick and runs like clockwork with an impressive and hard working cast.

The musical has been running in Australia for a long time now and yet the Tuesday night performance we attended was sold out, as apparently are most performances. Interestingly although the audience included many of our vintage and older there were also plenty of far younger members too all whom enjoyed the night...oh what a night, much as did we oldies.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Cyclone Yasi

The satellite image of Cyclone Yasi moments ago as it approaches the North Queensland coastline. Best wishes to all those sheltering in it's path.