Saturday, 30 April 2011

Mind the bouquet

Hn and I took Ae to collect her new car this morning; a Mazda 3. By coincidence today's Sydney Morning Herald carried a report comparing five brands of car in a particular price range and which concluded that the Mazda 3 represented the best overall value. Ae's vehicle was in the customer car park on gleaming display as we pulled in. It looked to me to be a darker, greyer, colour than the generally silver colour I thought Ae had ordered last weekend but I said nothing. If I was correct then neither Ae nor Hn noticed although both commented about the colour and neither appeared concerned.

The pleasant and unassuming salesman to whom we had warmed last weekend, a contradiction of the car salesman stereotype, ran Ae and Hn through the car's features. As usual with a new car it all seemed very whizz bang and technical. Cars have progressed considerably in the five years since I purchased mine and I couldn't help but think that I was driving a chariot in comparison with this 21st century marvel.

Ae is still recovering from an operation to repair tendons in her shoulder which is preventing her from driving at the moment so the intention was for Hn to drive the new car home with me following in my chariot. Having signed for the car Ae made a last minute decision to accompany me rather than Hn believing she would be too nervous a passenger in the new car. It seemed a sensible enough plan but I started to have doubts as we followed Hn in the new car. Ae unleashed her nervousness on me with a non-stop commentary on what was happening ahead of us.

'Oh no, she's driven through a puddle!' 'Look she's too near to the edge of the lane!' 'I told her not to take this route!' On and on this increasingly aggravating commentary continued. I was a nervous wreck by the time we reached Ae's home, whilst Hn, having a driven an unfamiliar and pristine new vehicle through poor weather and road conditions, was as relaxed as a hippy on a high.

I felt like hen pecked Richard from 'Keeping Up Appearances' being alerted to the traffic menace of cows and trees in roadside fields by his nervous nelly wife, Hyacinth.

Richard and Hyacinth

Gee, Britain does weddings and funerals well

Prince William speaks to his bride, Catherine Middleton as she holds the hand of her father Michael Middleton at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011 in London. Picture: Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool/Getty Images
Photo: AP

Photo: Reuters

Friday, 29 April 2011

Thursday, 28 April 2011


This morning we colonials are hot under the collar about an ABC television program being banned by those traditional imperialists in what once was referred to as the 'home country'. At least that banning constitutes acknowledgement that the proposed program amounted to one or more of  'drama, comedy, satire or similar entertainment'. The same could not be said for a performance I stumbled across very briefly this morning on the Seven network. Evidently everyone of that network's hosts, other than the toothy Larry Emdur, is in London at the moment for the Royal wedding.

Larry Emdur
What else could explain the presence at his side, presumably as co-host, of Australia's most recent bride-de-jour, Brynne Edelsten.

Brynne Edelsten
Yes, her boobs were on display in familiar fashion on morning television. This must have come as a treat for those kiddie viewers who had switched over from Sesame Street on the aforementioned ABC. I can't describe the painful forty-five seconds of cringe inducing television viewing her co-hosting performance drew from me.

I know which broadcast I'd rather ban.

Don't believe everything you hear....

The redoubtable Andrew has posted a cautionary tale about placing trust in what you hear on the radio. It is a valid point. I've long realised that not everything stated on the radio is correct especially (and I suppose obviously) on those commercial stations that rely on 'shock jocks' to inform their listeners.

For the most part I've assumed that Australia's public broadcaster the ABC is more reliable and cautious about the information it broadcasts. For years I've admired Margaret Throsby who has a morning program on the Classic FM network.

Margaret Throsby
Margaret's program where she talks to a guest and discusses their work/life with the guest's personal selection of musical items interposed has always struck me as brilliantly researched. But even the formidable Margaret makes mistakes. I was listening last weekend to a podcast of a recent broadcast where the guest, a Singaporean artist, selected a tune from the musical 'Chess'. At least twice Margaret referred to 'Chess' as an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical which it is not. Now this is not a major piece of misinformation in the broader scheme of things but I thought it a surprising mistake from such an experienced broadcaster.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Brighton Rock

Continuing the British theme of recent posts. 'Brighton Rock' is a new film version of Graham Greene's novel. The earlier film version was made in 1947. In this version the events are updated to 1964 when Mods and Rockers are flexing their muscles against each other in the seaside resort of Brighton. This is the background atmosphere for the main game of the plot, a battle for supremacy between two gang groups who run the protection rackets. The film opens with the murder of a member of the less powerful gang what follows is the to and fro of revenge and counter revenge.

Pinkie (Sam Riley) is young, ambitious and ruthless. When Pinkie learns that a local tea shop worker may have witnessed his murder of an opposing gang member he befriends the young woman in order to neutralise any possibility of her providing evidence as to his crime.

Although filmed in colour, the movie has the atmosphere and style of 1950s black and white film noir. I very much liked the look of the film. It's well acted with a strong British cast including an unglamorous looking Helen Mirren as the tea shop manager. However, it is not a pleasant film. Most of the characters are nasty, unpleasant and violent.

I suspect Greene's novel makes much more of the religious references which in this film are mainly background issues.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!

Have you ever wondered whether you are in the line of succession to the throne of any country? No? Neither have I.

I stumbled across a Wikipedia entry for the line of succession to the British throne. As we know Wikipedia knows everything about everything. The site lists the first two thousand five hundred and sixteen people in the line of succession. Yes that's 2516! Actually there are even more names than that listed but some are crossed off or otherwise listed in a tangent outside the line. For example Princess Margaret Rose is crossed off because she rather thoughtlessly went and died. So did HRH Prince Wilhelm of Prussia who otherwise would be 365th in the line. Also off the list is HRH Prince Michael of Kent who did something worse than dying, he married a Roman Catholic. But for that heinous occurrence he would be 37th in the line.

So who is 100th in the line? None other than HRH Peter, the Hereditary Prince of Yugoslavia. Wow, he is the Prince of a country that no longer exists for a throne long ago abolished but he is still 100th in line for the British throne and (I assume) Australia's too.

What about the 1,000th in the line? That is one Nicholas Nilert who turns 20 this year. No, I've never heard of him either but someone of that name has a Facebook account and lists his interests as Skiing and Ullr (look it up!). We better wrap him in cotton wool just in case we need him to be our monarch some time in the future.

And who needs 2515 living people to be bumped off without any of them producing any further issue in order to be the future monarch of Britain and Australia? That honour goes to Karin Vogel who turns 28 this year and therefore potentially has many years of monarchy left in her. Now if that Karin Vogel is the same person who is the subject of this Facebook account then I can only hope that the bearded gentleman in the photograph with her is a virgin.

God Save The Queen!

'Being a princess isn't all it's cracked up to be'*

(* Diana, Princess of Wales)

The New Yorker 2 May 2011

This magazine cover amuses me. Voyeurism is all the go at the moment with the wedding this Friday of a certain Miss Catherine Elizabeth Middleton to His Royal Highness Prince William Arthur Philip Louis of Wales, Royal Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter Master of Arts. The groom is second in the line of succession to the throne of sixteen independent states one of which is...cough, splutter...Australia.

Thank you linesmen, thank you ball boys.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

How good was Friday?

Too often in my memory Sydney has endured wet Easters. And I mean really wet. I still remember Easter 1988 when it rained for the entire four day weekend...non stop. Mt stayed with me for that weekend and we visited the Easter Show at the old Royal Agricultural Society grounds at Moore Park on the Good Friday plowing through mud, slush and watery paths and struggling for shelter with the 100,000 plus others visiting that day.

So this year's Good Friday with a maximum temperature of 26c (79f) and it's sunny and blue skies was very pleasing. Rushcutters Bay Park, down the road from my home, was buzzing with leisurely activity.

Whether you wanted to contemplate on your own...

...or pair up...

...perhaps you prefer a threesome?...

...or a crowd bigger than Ben-Hur?...

...but what attracted me most was the 'dance of the males' as they kicked footballs of various shapes and sizes to the background of an unheard soundtrack called leisure...

After all that activity there is only one thing left to do...

Sadly, as I draft this posting on Easter Saturday the rain has arrived and has set in. Oh well, it was good whilst it lasted.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

School balls

Andrew's reminiscence about his school days triggered memories of my own. For better or worse my parents sent me to an all male, very expensive, private school perhaps in unsuspecting prescience of my eventual sexual predilection. All the students, more than a thousand of us, were male (obviously), all the teachers - bar one - were male and all the visible support staff were male. There were several female administrative staff who were kept safely away from all this testosterone and thus were rarely seen by the randy pupils. To passers by my school and it's grand facade would have exuded an almost overpowering respectability.

My school
If there was any hanky panky occurring then I was blissfully unaware of it. I was a mass of contradictions. Having reached puberty early I was already engaged in secret sexual activity but none of it involved anyone at or connected with the school. Yet in other respects I was innocent and naive. For all I know other boys were bonking each other silly or early targets for any hidden cougars in the administrative offices.

The one female teacher I alluded to above was in the science department. Mrs L was a biology teacher. Of course! I don't know why she was employed at the school when no other women teachers were but at a guess I imagine the fact that her husband was a teacher in the same department was a relevant factor. Mrs L was probably aged around 40 at the time but to our youthful eyes she seemed positively ancient.

Stepping momentarily away from the point of this posting and moving forward about forty years I visited the school with a group of old boys (Andrew, the appendage observer, please note) from my year and found women teachers in abundance. Times have changed.

But back to my school days, it fell to Mrs L to deliver the euphemistically titled facts of life session to class after class of male pupils. I think the session occurred in Year 7 when we were aged around twelve or thirteen. Already sexually 'experienced' there was still plenty - maybe everything - for me to learn about sex, especially of the heterosexual variety. So despite our giggling childish reception to the lesson it served a useful and important purpose.

It was the session's conclusion however that delivered the knock out punch. Mrs L concluded each of these sessions by informing the pubescent audience that by now our testicles should have dropped. In a dry and unemotional monotone Mrs L announced 'any boy whose testicles have not yet dropped should stay behind class and see me'. I have no idea what happened to any boy who did so but we couldn't get out of that classroom quickly enough once the bell rang.

Friday, 22 April 2011

The Passion

The good Burghers of Sydney's Eastern Suburbs observing their religious practice this fine Good Friday morning by partaking of the passion of the (coffee) bean.

Out of frame the adjoining cafes were similarly well patronised at their footpath tables. Across the road a take away establishment had a long queue of customers, most with newspaper in one hand and leashed dog in the other, waiting patiently to place their order.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

*Remember me to Herald Square

(*'Give My Regards to Broadway' by George M Cohan)

There is an interesting coincidence with the reference to Herald Square contained in the famous old tune celebrating New York's theatre district, Broadway. Herald Square took it's name from the New York Herald (now defunct) which had it's headquarters in the district.

Sydney has a Broadway too which is basically a broad (by Sydney's standards) but not overly long stretch of road which links the inner western suburbs with the southern edge of the city's Central Business District. One of the intersections at Broadway's northern end is Jones Street which for many years contained the headquarters of the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH), Australia's oldest continuously published newspaper.

In the mid 1990s, the SMH moved from it's Jones Street premises which became the home for the Sydney Organising Committee of the (2000) Olympic Games and the comparable organising committee for the 2000 Paralympic Games.

The southern end of Broadway was for many years the home of the Grace Brothers department store which from 1923 filled two grand old buildings on either side of the Bay Street intersection. I suppose there was a time when that branch of the Department store operated successfully but I have no recollection of it being other than a sad, struggling barn of a place devoid of life and more importantly devoid of customers.

The southern of the two buildings along with adjoining property was converted into the Broadway Shopping Centre in 1988 and at the same time the northern building was converted into student accommodation taking advantage of the presence on either side of two universities, Sydney University to the south and the University of Technology to the north. An outposted branch of (the USA's) Notre Dame University is now located to the east. The shopping centre was an immediate and ongoing success probably to the chagrin of what was left of Grace Brothers' old management. The centre is always packed whenever I visit.

I used to attend the cinema complex at the centre regularly but nowadays only visit the centre occasionally; mostly, as I did today, to lunch with Kn who works at Sydney University. One of the side benefits of any visit is the terrific eye candy on view regardless of your gender and sexuality.

I took a quick snap to illustrate this point whilst stopped at the lights as I waited to turn into the car park.

One guess which of these attracted my attention

Observant local readers will notice the electorate office of the Federal Member for Sydney, Tania Plibersek, in the background.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Handsome exercise

I spent a short time walking in Centennial Park today. I've been meaning to resume some daily walking for...oh well, it must be years now...for exercise, for health purposes preparation for my European holiday next month when I expect a lot of walking will be on the agenda.

And so with the holiday just a small single figure number of weeks away I finally performed the deed. Everyone says walking is good exercise and it was quickly obvious how much I need it. I was short of breath only minutes after the start when I loped gently up some steps. Boy am I unfit.

I must keep at it or else suffer embarrassment keeping up with the others when we are away. Certainly exercise in the park comes with one considerable inducement.

Rangers and gardeners abound including some handsome examples at least one of whom was working away just where I enjoy my the bushes.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Jack Charles v the Crown

I can't recall ever hearing of Jack Charles and when My suggested we see Jack Charles v the Crown I checked out a newspaper review and was immediately doubtful about the prospect. The review was favourable but I imagined that a theatrical production about an Indigenous actor, entertainer, musician, pottery teacher, cat burglar and drug addict who was taken from his mother at the age of two and spent his formative years in boys homes and foster homes and who was imprisoned on twenty-two occasions may not be all that much fun.

I'm glad that we went. Effectively the production is a soliloquy with Jack Charles relating his own story with supporting music provided by an onstage trio. The drama is illustrated with images from a documentary and past photographs of Charles flashed on a background wall. Charles has a fine theatrical voice and the delivery of a poet.

The climax of the play is a mock appearance before the High Court in the form of a presentation to the audience of Charles' plea for his past criminal history to be expunged so that he can make the most of the remainder of his rehabilitated life; hence the play's title. It all makes for simple yet effective and moving theatre.

My only reservation is the somewhat intrusive sound design especially in the opening sequence which I found initially marred my understanding of what was being said. Happily the intrusive nature of the background sound dissipated or else I became used to it and I was able to follow the narrative thereafter.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Walking the dog

I grew up living in apartments without the childhood experience of a house pet. For me, walking the dog was a trick performed with a Yo Yo. Not by me I hasten to add. I was hopeless at performing any but the simplest of Yo Yo tricks.

As an aside, isn't it about time the Yo Yo fad returned for its periodic three months of being the pastime de jour? Anyway walking a real life actual dog has rarely been an activity for me.

My friend Ae has owned dogs for thirty years now and is recovering from a dislocated collar bone and unable to drive her current golden retriever to the park (which is beyond reasonable walking distance) at the moment so I helped out by driving she and said dog to Centennial Park yesterday. It was just after 9am and a weekday but there was no shortage of other doggies and their human parents doing the walking the dog thing. I was disappointed that the human parents were as a general rule less attractive than their child dogs but then there were several child dogs present grossly more unattractive than their human parents.

I forgot to bring my camera with me so you will have to take my word for these impressions. The photos illustrating this post have been downloaded from the Internet.

Ae's golden retriever was particularly effective at chasing a rubber ball thrown into the distance with boring regularity but spectacularly ineffective at retrieving it; failing to do so on every occasion. On the other hand the dog had no difficulty squatting thus... every opportunity with Ae following in hot pursuit to collect the resultant discharges with a plastic bag. Dozens of other human parents were similarly engaged at spots all over the park. Any germ of a thought on my part that parenting a child dog would be a fun new lifestyle was immediately extinguished by the sight of this activity.

Just in case I weakened in this new found resolve, Ae's child dog then went and sat in a muddy creek. Somehow, Ae's assertions that said child would be fully dry and no longer dirty by the time we returned to my pristine car were not reassuring.

I noticed a group of human parents of the male persuasion in the distance who looked like they would be worth closer inspection until I observed that their child dogs were a particularly frisky testosterone filled group focussed on bowling their parents over with lively jumping of a height that would win an Olympic medal. I gave them a miss.

As we completed our circuit we encountered a pair of professional dog walkers, a sight similar to this...

...except that their charges were of widely disparate size and types including what I imagine is referred to as a Great Dane standing as tall as me. I stand 1.82m when not cringing in fear of a huge dog. One of the professionals had a movie camera in hand and was capturing every move of his brood, perhaps out of love or I imagined for insurance purposes for when the inevitable passing apartment living innocent like me comes off second best from the encounter.

Now, where did I put that last Yo Yo for safekeeping?

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Barney's Version

Life hasn't been kind to Barney. A short lived, ill fated first marriage is followed by a second marriage which delivers Barney to the love of his life. Unfortunately that love isn't his second wife. And so to the highs and lows of a third marriage.

Paul Giamatti is perfectly cast as Barney; self absorbed, selfish, foul mouthed, unreliable and...lovable. Barney's Version relates his life from decadent expatriate years spent in 1970s Europe to a style of family respectability in 'Noughties' Canada.

In a fine cast, Dustin Hoffman delivers his funniest and best performance in years as Barney's father.

Highly recommended for those who 'get' quirky Jewish humour.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Your call is unimportant to us...

Yesterday I had my third...and last...appointment with a specialist about some health issues I have experienced in the past few months. At his request I underwent two MRI scans; one of the neck and the other of the brain, five vials worth of blood tests and a rather fiddly twenty four hours long urine collection test.

One of the MRIs revealed some arthritis and spinal compression. As for the rest, they showed a few 'abnormalities' all of which are typical of ageing and none of which, according to the specialist, is of concern. Not much to show for all that testing other than a degree of reassurance that I am in reasonable health. So what caused those issues? I'm none the wiser.

So no more appointments with that specialist. Even had he discovered anything that required follow up I would have not have pursued it with him.

Why? Because I am pissed off with his time keeping.

I was kept waiting forty-five minutes beyond my first appointment time even though there was not another patient in the surgery.

For my second appointment I was kept waiting one hour and ten minutes even though the only other patient in attendance spent less than ten minutes with the specialist and was long gone before I eventually was summoned.

And yesterday the delay was one hour and thirty minutes with only two other patients present who between them spent less than fifteen minutes with the specialist and were also long gone before I was called in.

A total of three hours and twenty five minutes delay for three appointments.

That is rude, inconsiderate and unprofessional.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Meet me in the Laneway....

...sounds like an invitation to a fight which, being the coward I something I would run a mile from. In fact it was the suggested lunch location in Cammeray yesterday.

The venue was suggested by My for our lunch with Le. I was the boss of them both in a former life when I was...check that...when I thought I important manager in a Commonwealth Department. My continues to work away in that Department whilst Le, like myself, passed on to retirementland years ago but in her case she has also relocated to the Central Coast. I had not seen Le since the mid 1990s we realised over our pre-lunch coffees. Gee that's a long time ago.

I continue to be in regular contact with My who remains an occasional companion for cinema/theatre visits, the last of which being that thrilling evening at the You Tube Symphony Orchestra concert a few weeks ago.

I ate an acceptable Club Sandwich which was accompanied by the ubiquitous bucket load of 'french fries'. My ate a Salt and Pepper Squid whilst Le selected a toasted foccacia of (to my observation) indeterminate filling. My and I polished off our meals whilst Le left half her foccacia on the plate. I never asked whether that was because Le's appetite was sated or the meal was lacking.

Later we wandered across to the nearby new shopping/dining centre for a post lunch coffee and cake, not that there was anything wrong with what was on offer at the Laneway but for the change of scenery.

Cammeray is an interesting suburb. It has all the trappings of inner city affluence combined with a sleepy, slow moving atmosphere that made me feel like I was in the countryside despite the endless traffic bustling nearby.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Busman's holiday

Deceptively placid scene at the hospital

Thursdays are my retirement day. It is the day of the week when I pursue my 'career' as a retiree rather than engage in the volunteer work I perform on the other four weekdays. So the last thing I was thinking of yesterday morning was spending the better part of today at the hospital where I volunteer three times a week.

All that started to change yesterday afternoon when I took a call at my other volunteer workplace that one of our nursing home clients had fallen at home and broken her leg and was at the emergency department of 'my' hospital awaiting admission for an operation. An hour later and Ae called to inform me that she too was being admitted to 'my' hospital for an urgent heart procedure.

Two hospital visits in one day might be an act of efficiency, even if unplanned, but the situation took on the feel of a French farce when between these visits today I received a call that a third friend was in emergency at that moment and also awaiting admission.

I think I need a sedative.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Ear bashing

What is the point of tinnitus?

Whoever or whatever creates things in this universe, what were they thinking when they dreamt up this affliction?

I have suffered from this ringing, echoing, annoying scourge on and off for...oh I'd say...fifteen years now. Ever since I swam laps at a nearby pool to improve my fitness. Apart from a slightly slimmer waist, I lost no weight, my hearing in my right ear and acquired #@$%^ tinnitus.

I always knew that no good could come from exercise.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Just Go With It

Adam Sandler is an unmarried plastic surgeon who pretends to be unhappily married as his means of befriending women without commitment in 'Just Go With It' but when one of them asks to meet his wife he enlists his secretary Jennifer Aniston to take on the pretence.

This is a reworking of 'Cactus Flower', a hit comedy in the late 1960s for which Goldie Hawn won an Academy Award and in which the Jennifer Aniston role was portrayed by none other than Ingrid Bergman.

Now I don't recall 'Cactus Flower' all that well but I would bet that it was wittier and more adult than this tacky remake. My heart sank in the very opening scene in which fun is made of a character wearing a grossly exaggerated prosthetic nose and my immediately lowered expectations were realised as the movie progressed to further depths.

If giving an animatronic sheep mouth to mouth is your idea of fun then rush to see this film, otherwise I would advise giving it a wide berth. In fairness two mature women seated in front of us thought the film hilarious and were practically pissing themselves throughout and most of the rest of the audience comprised early teenagers for whom the film's comedy may well be perfectly suited.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Griff the Invisible

I sort of remember Ryan Kwanten as a stocky looking young man in the Australian soap opera 'Home and Away' not so much from being a viewer of the series - I wasn't - but rather through photos and gossip columns in the celebrity style magazines to which I am partial.

Kwanten took himself off to the USA, lost a bit of weight and at the same time buffed up and now appears to have an international name for himself from another series I don't watch; 'True Blood'.

Given his new found and wider fame as a bit of a hunk it is interesting that he has come home to make the quirky Australian film 'Griff the Invisible'. Kwanten plays a shy shipping clerk who is bullied mercilessly by an uncouth coworker and who by night dons a tight rubber suit to fight crime almost exclusively - it seems - in the back lane where he lives. His alterego activities attract the interest of the police in the mistaken belief that the man in the rubber suit is in fact the villain. He also attracts the interest of his brother's new girlfriend, herself an oddball who pursues alternative universes and studies the molecular structure of humans.

Be yourself and maintain the differences that distinguish you were the messages I took away from seeing this film.

Kwanten plays completely against his current pretty boy image and presents as a surprisingly convincing looking naive innocent.

I didn't think the film quite lived up to its local reviews. It drifts a bit in the middle and is perhaps just a little too low key. Filmed in 'my' part of Sydney it was fun to see many of the locales on the big screen.