Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Dark Room

(Belvoir Downstairs)

A one act play set in a down market motel room in the heat of Australia's Northern Territory links various occupants of the motel over a period of time including a welfare worker, a troubled young woman, a couple of policemen, a pregnant wife and a gay transvestite.

'The Dark Room' is intense. Excellent acting but as the title implies there is no light relief in this play.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

'The Ides of March'

The Democratic Party's primary selection is about to be held in Ohio. The result will be crucial for the two candidates and ensure that the winner is virtually guaranteed his party's nomination as the Presidential candidate for the following national election.

George Clooney is a charismatic candidate in the neck and neck race due in significant part to the behind the scenes input by his youthful adviser Ryan Gosling.

For about the first fifty minutes of it's running time 'The Ides of March' is a nicely acted interesting political drama with glimpses of the backroom intrigue one imagines to be typical. In that time the film seems rather routine but at about that point the drama really erupts as the full scope of the concealed machinations become apparent.

The second half elevates the film above the routine. Taken as a whole this is a superb drama.

Monday, 28 November 2011

'The Debt'

In 1966 three Israeli agents embark on a carefully prepared mission in Berlin to abduct and bring to Israel a doctor who for his activities in World War 2 is known as the surgeon of Birkenau. As meticulously as the agents have prepared their mission the operation does not go according to plan. Nevertheless the three agents return as heroes but thirty years later their past actions resurface with a chilling vengeance.

'The Debt' is a nicely acted suspenseful drama.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

E waste and the harbour

The local council conducted an E waste collection today. This is a collection for no longer wanted electronic items other than white goods. The goods handed over are recycled, into what I do not know. Like me most people were dropping off old computer equipment. I suppose the notion of E waste did not exist more than about five years ago. This year's collection was by the harbour at Lyne Park in Rose Bay.

After dropping off my old equipment I drove to a nearby vantage point to enjoy the view.

Looking west from Bayview Hill Road
Click to enlarge and see kayakers mid harbour
A seaplane taxiing at the Rose Bay base

Saturday, 26 November 2011

I told you

As I wrote in my previous post, I knew it. I knew that the rain would clear to reveal Sydney's beautiful blue skies and so it has.

Six hours after the previous photos here are the same views just minutes ago.

The harbour bridge and the Opera House visible again
Double Bay with the harbour and north shore visible again

It's raining, it's pouring...and it's blowing a gale

Sydney is in one of it's rainy spells when you wonder whether (get it?) it will ever clear up. Four days of rain so far but the forecast is for clearer weather this afternoon.

The view from my lounge room a few minutes ago.

Looking towards the CBD....

The Harbour Bridge and Opera House completely obscured by blustery rain
Looking towards Double Bay...

The harbour and north shore obscured by blustery rain
When finally the rain clears Sydney's traditional sunny blue skies will return. I know it. I hope it.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Pizza night

Following a wet and, for Spring, cool day I've settled for take away Tandoori Chicken pizza for dinner. How multicultural!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

'We Need To Talk About Kevin'

I haven't read the book which has been turned into the movie and therefore came to 'We Need To Talk About Kevin' without any preconceptions. The film is hard work. Very hard work, in fact. It provides no easy clues as to what is occurring, it jumps around in time, the photography occasionally is deliberately out of focus and the dialogue - often sparse - sometimes trails away or is only partially audible as whispers.

It is an eerie tale. A mother struggles to bond with her son as a baby, child and then teenager. The son seems slow to develop at first, distant and antagonistic. Yet to it's father, his GP and others the son is a bright and typical child. The film early on hints at some terrible occurrences which are only revealed towards the conclusion.

The film is highly and unusually atmospheric. The acting is exceptional. Tilda Swanton plays the mother with typical ambiguity. Jasper Newell and Ezra Miller are both superb as the troubled and troubling Kevin.

It is a disturbing story and I was relieved to learn afterwards that it is not based on true events as I had assumed. The film will not suit all tastes. Two women in the audience today only lasted ten minutes before walking out.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Schoolies week

I don't know when or how the practice of Schoolies week arose but in what seems a comparatively short time the concept has evolved into a massive 'tradition'. This so called 'week' sees thousands of young school leavers gathering in key resort areas around Australia to celebrate the completion of their final examinations, the end of high school and the start of the rest of their lives. There even is an official website for the activity.

I never heard of the activity when I completed school all of 46 years ago. Even if the activity did exist then there is no way I could have participated. My parents could not have afforded the cost. I could not have afforded the cost. Most crucially, I completed school at 16 - I was a very naive 16 - and there is no way my parents would have permitted me to participate anyway.

I'm sure the vast majority of the 'schoolies' behave themselves on this week away but the headlines are dominated by the minority to behave raucously and who are portrayed as alcohol and drug driven in their behaviour. Some end up in public melees, occasionally some are badly injured following foolhardy behaviour and some, sadly, even lose their lives as have three young males this year who died driving to one of these events.

This year's event commenced last weekend. The main site for 'schoolies' seems to be Queensland's Gold Coast which relies so much on tourism and holiday makers. Most adults would avoid that location for the period. The Sunshine Coast where I spent the weekend attending a wedding is a lesser venue for 'schoolies'. There were 'schoolies' in evidence there and most were quiet and unobtrusive.

However there was a 'schoolies' group renting the house next to that in which some of my friends also visiting for the wedding stayed. My friends report that they were kept awake the first night by loud music and even louder behaviour by those 'schoolies'. The Police attended and there was a noisy clash between them and the 'schoolies'. The next morning the disturbances resumed until my friends complained. On the second night, the night of the wedding reception, I drove my friends back to their house arriving there around 12.45am to find the Police once again in attendance, rubbish and empty beer bottles scattered across the street and a few 'schoolies' sitting forlornly in the gutters. Later we heard that the house the 'schoolies' were renting had been 'trashed'.

Thankfully it is only a minority but this lack of consideration for others and for other peoples' property is disappointing.

Monday, 21 November 2011

The law, privacy, media and federation

Australia is a Federation of six states and several territories. The Commonwealth of Australia, by that I mean all of us, are subject to federal law and then there is the separate law laid down by each of the states and territories which impacts on the residents of those states and territories as well as on the rest of us when we happen to be passing through.

Actually this is dangerous territory (no pun intended) for me as I have no legal training whatsoever so perhaps I should cease this legal comment here and leave the topic for experts like Marcellous.

So why have I raised it? Well I have just spent the weekend in the state of Queensland and whilst there I have viewed news bulletins on the aftermath of a terrible fire in a nursing home in my home state of New South Wales (NSW). A number of residents in that home have lost their life following the fire. A man has been charged in connection with that fire and the news reports in Queensland not only name that man but show uncensored photos and moving images of him and even interviews he conducted with the media before the Police commenced their investigation.

This evening I returned home (NSW) and the news reports here have the accused man's features pixelated. I know, or perhaps I should say I understand, the reason for this is to help ensure any legal proceedings are not contaminated especially should any parties to a trial (witnesses and jury members?) form opinions or in the case of witnesses present recollections that knowingly or subliminally are affected by these public reports.

I'm a NSW resident and so could always be summoned to appear in a jury sometime. I'm not volunteering mind you. So what protects the fairness of the proceedings if I were to called to jury duty in that matter? Perhaps potential jurors are questioned as to their foreknowledge or opinions about the matter in question? Perhaps I would be excused (or is that recused?) because I happened to view television reports in another state. I don't know. But, to restate, I'm not volunteering anyway.

What about cases that arise in the border areas between states? Residents there often have access to the same television networks from both of the adjoining states and would see the same reports uncensored from one side of the border and censored from the other side.

Of course, potentially undermining it all is the internet. Anyone with even moderate computing skills can research issues from many sources whether they be local or (for want of a better term) foreign. Come to think of it I remember now that cases have recently been aborted or jurors excused/recused(?) after it became known they researched the internet for information about an issue in which they had been sitting in judgement.

It's all a bit difficult isn't it?

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Day of the wedding

The day (yesterday) started with breakfast at the house rented by my friends for the weekend. I drove over from my hotel just a couple of minutes drive away. I had been invited to stay with them and in past visits had done so but this time my choice of the hotel over that accommodation reflected that my lack of concern my snoring disrupted their sleep was outweighed by their snoring disrupting my sleep.

Mid morning we strolled along the beach meeting up with other friends who are locals followed by late morning drinks at a nearby cafe with still other friends in town for the weekend. Then it was back to our respective accommodations for a brief rest before dressing for the wedding.

We assembled for the wedding at 3pm, one of three simultaneous weddings scheduled for adjoining alcoves on the beach side grassy amphitheatres. 'Our' wedding was in the middle amphitheatre with the weddings either side only metres apart but each was discretely separated from the other by full trees and bush.

Our bride was fashionably late due to a misdirected limousine. Otherwise the ceremony went off without a hitch with the majority of the one hundred or so guests standing for the entire ceremony in a semi circle around the lucky family members who scored the only 24 chairs provided. Still, the couple made for a very attractive view almost outshining the spectacular backdrop of golden sands and blue ocean. Photographs were taken of the bridal party and various groups of the guests according to an extremely well organised agenda. I don't think anybody missed out.

From there we strolled to the hotel (the same one I am using) for the reception, an easy ten minutes away passing the ceremony still underway at the amphitheatre to the south of 'ours'. I noticed that that ceremony had about 150 or more guests (all mostly standing) and was also attracting the attention of many onlookers from the resort apartments on the perimeter of the promenade. The groom was reciting his vows as we passed by and I glanced to see that he was very tall with a bald or shaved head. I took no other notice of that nor did I take any photographs of it as I walked by.

Later in the night I learnt from a guest at our reception that the bald/shaved headed groom was none other than the somewhat notorious Australian footballer Barry Hall. How I wished then that I had taken some photographs!

Barry Hall
The reception was very enjoyable with fine company, witty speeches, an enjoyable buffet of food and plentiful drink for the indulgers.

The bride, a daughter of my friends aged 25, was as beautiful as I have ever seen her. Her groom, a childhood sweetheart also aged 25, was as handsome as ever. He is a really gorgeous looking man, sadly for the gay community never a member of the rainbow family (well, as far as I know anyway). His gorgeousness is not only my opinion. There were references to it one way or another in every speech at the reception whether delivered by a male or female.

The dancing was hectic, so typical of wedding receptions. In my life I have become accustomed to seeing women dancing with women whether they be gay or straight but rarely, outside of the gay community, have I seen men dancing with men at Australian parties so I was quite surprised to see many of the mid 20s men, clearly straight, dancing together, hugging, embracing shoulder to shoulder in twos threes and much larger groups. It was quite fascinating to see this liberating behaviour among the next generation. Even more surprising, late in the evening, was the sight of these men, still in groups, dropping their pants to their ankles and dancing energetically with underpants and bare legs on full display. I held my breath in anticipation of the next step but it wasn't to be. These men are straight after all!

Nine and half hours after convening for the wedding it was over; for we senior citizens anyway. The mid 20s groups moved on to a nearby nightclub, presumably to party on until dawn, whilst we seniors made for the relief of our beds.

It had been a wonderful wedding.

Friday, 18 November 2011


I've flown into Noosa, a 75 minutes flight north from Sydney, for the weekend. The daughter of friends is being married here tomorrow.

A few photos to keep you occupied.

Testing my camera at Sydney Airport
My Jetstar plane arriving from Adelaide prior to our boarding for the flight to the Sunshine Coast. The plane in the background had just pulled back from the same gate and was bound for Adelaide.
The promised ocean view from my room
The pool viewed from my room

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Yes, they can

Australian parliamentarians of all political persuasions today demonstrated that they can be as sycophantic as the best of them as they eagerly pressed forward for their handshake and photo opportunity following President Obama's address to the Australian Parliament. I watched on television as the President slowly circled the Chamber patiently greeting each well wisher and turning to camera on cue to capture the moment for posterity (and no doubt providing electioneering material for said Aussie Pollies at the next Federal ballot).

No one missed out. Not the latent rebel Senator Garrett, nor Mr Grumpy Senator Bob Brown, not even out on a limb Bob Katter and especially not a flirtatious Bronwyn Bishop. They each had their moment.

I've got to hand it to the President. He appeared to ooze charm. His PR skills seem exceptional.


It seems to me that baseball is a part of the national spirit in the USA, a summer activity ingrained from school days, a sport whose stars assume the mantle of heroes. Our equivalent in Australia would be cricket but unlike Major League Baseball in the USA, cricket at the highest levels in Australia is not club based. We have baseball too but for us it is a minor sport so the events and baseball references in Moneyball are mostly unfamiliar.

That is not to suggest that the themes in Moneyball fail to register here. They do register and very well too; in our case with football. We have our own minnow clubs, battling for funds and struggling to keep pace with the wealthy clubs whose spending power enables them to gorge on the players the poorer clubs develop and to dominate competitions. Long suffering supporters of the Cronulla Sutherland Sharks (NRL) and the North Melbourne Kangaroos (AFL) would surely empathise.

In Moneyball, the General Manager of the Oakland A's baseball club, well portrayed by Brad Pitt, turns to an unknown young statistician to build a side from the inexpensive discards and has-beens of other clubs. This is based on a true story and luckily for us in Australia one that is largely unknown so that the eventual outcome remains to be discovered; an outcome that proves slightly unpredictable.

Despite the plentiful unfamiliar baseball references Moneyball proved an unexpectedly entertaining drama.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Kitchen

A film of a live performance from earlier in the year by Britain's National Theatre of Arnold Wesker's play The Kitchen which was first staged in 1957.

All of the action takes place in the large kitchen of a restaurant serving hundreds of meals a day. The time is post war Britain when rationing is still in place. The chefs, kitchen and dining room staff are a motley group from Britain, Ireland and across Europe including erstwhile enemy Germany.

The play is mainly about relationships and personal ambitions. The most impressive aspect of the performance for me was the realistic staging of a kitchen engaged in the preparation and creation of meals. Although no actual food is used during the performance, the actors' motions were utterly believable. I almost convinced myself I could smell the food they were preparing.

Sunday, 13 November 2011


We popped in for afternoon tea at Kurtosh, a popular new Hungarian cafe at Randwick which has opened in an old store that formerly sold fish (for pets not with chips).

It is proving very popular with it's pastries and cakes. The cakes are sold by weight. They are enticingly on display in large slabs and you tell the waitress how much you want cut off for your portion.

Cs selected our portions (below) of Pear and Almond slice and Tiramasu. The slices may appear small in my photo but each slice proved more than sufficient for the two of us. Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs.

An interesting place.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Two steps forward, one step back

A few weeks back I updated my iPhone by downloading iOS5. Everything seemed fine with the upgrade apart from my usual gripe with Apple products that in absence of specific explanatory notes I have to use trial and error to determine how it all works.

Jump forward to last night and I went to check the Calendar for something I recorded there about my European holiday last May only to discover that all entries previous to the upgrade, other than recurring entries, have disappeared. Why oh why do 'they' do this to us?

If any Apple Techos are monitoring my blog (unlikely) can you please come up with a fix to restore the deleted information.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Kulcha kostz

For the first time in about twenty years I have purchased a subscription package for the 2012 Opera Australia season. My tickets arrived yesterday. Boy are those tickets expensive. Eagle eyed readers will see the price on the ticket. That's not the price for the package. That is the price for each opera. And the seats are not even in the most expensive section of the theatre.

Thursday, 10 November 2011


Anonymous sets out the theory that Shakespeare was not the author of the works attributed to him and that they were secretly the work of the Earl of Oxford. Shakespeare has only a minor role in this film which is as much concerned about the intrigue and power play regarding the line of succession when the reign of Elizabeth 1 is over.

The film spans a period of forty or so years and portrays the younger Elizabeth 1 to be far removed from the Virgin Queen of my schooling, an interpretation that becomes a very important factor in the final 'reveal'. This interchange between the time periods proves somewhat confusing for several reasons. The men in Elizabeth's life all seem to be red headed and they look very similar. There is also some clever tiptoeing around names which adds to the confusion and I guess is aimed at concealing certain crucial factors until the film's climax.

The film is beautifully acted apart ironically from Shakespeare himself who is portrayed as a bit of a buffoon, a characterisation which I found jarring. I loved the look of this film and despite some of the artifice I enjoyed it immensely.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Body of work

You know how those who vote for the Academy Awards (am I supposed to display a copyright symbol here?) sometimes grace a performer with an Oscar (another copyright symbol?) for their 'body of work' rather than for the actual performance nominated? You don't know it? Well, take it from me that the ubiquitous 'everyone' knows it.

This man... Brett Ratner, a film director. He was selected to produce next year's Academy Awards ceremony (I know, I know) and he resigned from the gig this week after making a perceived gay slur. What was the slur? He said something to the effect that 'rehearsing is for fags'.

Looking into the matter further; ie trawling the internet late at night, I conclude that Mr Ratner has landed in trouble for his body of work as much as for that single utterance. In evidence I submit the article setting out Mr Ratner's ten offensive quotes. I think this gives us a feel for the 'style' of the man.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Stormy weather

A storm passed over Sydney a short while ago bringing a rather steamy day to an end. News reports state 150 sets of traffic lights were knocked out during the storm and a train is believed to have been hit by lightning. Here are some photos I captured of the storm's approach in my part of the city.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

An urban cautionary tale

This is an urban cautionary tale. It involves a friend of a mine and it is a true story.

My friend lives in a quiet suburban, slightly out of the way, residential street. Some of the residences in the street have off street parking but the majority do not and as many of those residences have multiple cars attached to them there is strong demand for parking in the street. A boy's high school is located at one end of the street. Many of the older boys drive and park in my friend's street during school hours placing further pressure on the limited supply of street parking spaces.

My friend owns one car and initially had no off street parking but about ten years ago she obtained council approval and converted her small front yard into off street parking. But she rarely used the off street space preferring to park across her own driveway ostensibly reasoning that her driveway otherwise had to remain clear and was not available to anyone else. My suspicion is that she found her off street car space too tight to use.

This arrangement continued for several years without problem apart from several neighbours regularly complaining that she did not use her own off street car space, a complaint she dismissed on the grounds above.

In the meantime more and more school boys started taking up street parking during school hours, many with large SUVs. Now this didn't affect my friend except for when she had visitors who could find no nearby parking spaces. So my friend complained to the school principal about the boys' parking. She complained regularly but the situation did not change.

My friend then started a campaign to the council for a two hour parking limit to be applied to the street during weekday business hours with local residents exempted by way of specially issued permits. This, my friend reasoned, would end the practice of the school students using the street for parking. Some neighbours supported the campaign but many did not. I assume that those who were against the campaign did not want to have to pay for permission to park in their own street, an understandable point of view. I suspect some were also concerned that they had more cars requiring street parking than the number of permits that would be allocated.

The arguments, pro and con, continued for a couple of years until a few months ago the council agreed to my friend's application and a two hour time limit was placed on this quiet, out of the way, street. Residents, without any off street parking, could apply for one exemption permit.

So what happened? The street signs were installed, the residents' permits issued and the school boys had to find somewhere else to park. My friend continued to park across her own driveway.

My friend was happy. For a while. But then something she hadn't anticipated happened. Council rangers started to patrol the street. They fined my friend for parking across her driveway. This had never occurred previously in all the years she had parked this way. My friend complained to council but they quoted the relevant sub-regulation back to her. Council would fine her if she continued to park across her own driveway. My friend decided to apply for a permit and here comes the rub. Under council rules my friend is not entitled to a permit because she has off street parking available.

My friend, who still will not use her off street car space, now parks several streets away from her own home during weekdays.

As that apocryphal Chinese adage goes, be careful what you wish for because it may come true.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Carry on neighbouring

A neighbour in the building across the street could be seen ironing his business shirt in the nude yesterday. I heartily approve of these overt displays of domesticity.

Friday, 4 November 2011

I Don't Know How She Does It

The tagline to I Don't Know How She Does It is something to the effect that 'if it were easy, men would do it too'. It is obvious therefore that this is a comedy about a working wife and mother with a touch of gender politics thrown in for good measure.

Sarah Jessica Parker is the working wife and mother in question. She portrays a professional in the man's world of investment banking. In real life we know that SJP is a working performer, wife and mother but I suspect her real life wealth and status deliver all manner of assistance and flexibility not available to her screen character.

I see that the film has earned very little at the box office and presumably has not been well received by audiences.

I didn't mind it. Yes, it is too cute by half and packed with cliches but I had a few giggles as the film progressed. It helped that Greg Kinnear is one of my favourite eye candy actors.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

In Time

At some future time, humans genetically stop aging at 25 years and have one year left to live unless they can secure extra time through willing or unwilling exchange of time with other humans. Time has become the only currency which is used for any purchases from a bus ride to...well...whatever. Time millionaires can live forever and the rest have to live in a grey dog eat dog world.

This is the premise of In Time which opens with Justin Timberlake's mother literally running out of time as she dies in her son's arms, or to be precise his fingertips. Timberlake is aged 27 in the movie and his mother has turned 50 but the movie does not explain how she reached that age when she does not appear to be a wealthy woman.

Never mind, this is not  a movie for logic or explanations. I kept wondering what genetic principle had lead to humans having a high tech ten digit countdown clock glowing from their arms. Even more so I wondered how genetics 'knew' which person clasping arms with another was the one who was transferring time between them.

There is a lot of running in this film as everyone tries to beat time.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Done by the din

(Sydney Morning Herald)
The first Tuesday in November is a cliche for all Australians; the running of a horse race that we all know from our days in nappies 'stops the nation'. So it proved again from the evidence of my surroundings, the Admissions section of the hospital where I volunteer. Approaching the scheduled race time (3pm) Admissions was packed - with staff who had dropped tools, so to speak, to view the race from the television thoughtfully supplied to entertain patients whilst they wait to be attended. Someone with a sense of humour scheduled one patient's admission for 3pm and at 2.59pm, right on cue, that patient arrived to a sight that must have looked to him more like the grandstand at Randwick than a dignified entrance to a house of cures.

The race started six minutes late by my watch and the patient joined in the raucous audience cheering on the runners. Yes, that race had a thrilling finish but it couldn't end quickly enough for me. My little section of the hospital had twisted my arm to run a sweep which turned into five sweeps and I was well and truly over the whole thing before the starter had pushed his button. There is nothing that drains any enjoyment from this event more than actually having to do any work related to it. I had a headache, my feet were tired and there wasn't a question about sweeps that anyone could think of that I wasn't asked a dozen times or more.

Our compatriots south of the border who host this race every year sensibly take a holiday enabling them to ignore the whole thing if they wish. On our side of the border, without the benefit of a holiday, we seem compelled to celebrate every second of the day in the most manic way. And we will do so again in twelve months time.

Oh, I almost forgot. The race was won by a horse (Dunaden).