Friday, 30 September 2011

Tut, parade, Pho, rain, theatre

As The Two Ronnies would have said, 'in a packed day'...

Early morning rower on the Yarra
Melbourne Museum for the Tutankhamun Exhibition
Waiting for the Grand Final Parade at Swanston and Collins Streets
At this point I put the camera away and met Adaptive Radiation and Evol Kween for an enjoyable Pho lunch at a city Vietnamese cafe. Evol had to return to work after lunch but Adaptive Radiation suggested we move on to the National Gallery of Victoria where we shared a mini High Tea. It was very enjoyable meeting these two blogger friends.

By now the rain had returned with a vengeance and I made my way to the Melbourne Theatre Company for it's evening performance about which I will blog separately.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

At last, Melbourne!

My flight departed 90 minutes late and was unremarkable except that on arrival in Melbourne we were squealed at by a small group of young girls waving photos of some musician or other at us and asking each of us in turn 'were you on the flight from Sydney'. When we answered yes they would squeal even louder. Apparently a famous musician was on board but I wouldn't have a clue who it was.

Now I can look forward to being looked upon by High Riser, exposed to some Adaptive Radiation and even accosted by an Evol Kween which is only fitting for a gay man from Sin City.

My hotel is more swish than I imagined and this is a section of the view from my 22nd floor room.

The Yarra River of which Melbournites are most proud. To the left of the river are the blue courts of Flinders Park where the Australian Open Tennis is played. Behind that is the bubbly roof of the quaintly named Rectangular Stadium where, as far as Sydneysiders are concerned, real football is played. To it's left are the light towers of the Melbourne Cricket Ground where an unreal but extremely popular local version of football is played. To the right of the river is, I believe, the stately building of Government House.

I'm having trouble keying in any more to this post so will publish it as is.

Inclement Melbourne

I'm stuck in a crowded Qantas Lounge at Sydney Airport with all flights to Melbourne where I am heading for a weekend break delayed because of inclement weather there.

From announcements being made in the Lounge it appears that many passengers delayed from flights earlier than mine are being transferred to a hastily arranged Airbus 380 in order to clear the backlog.

Meantime whatever has been creating turmoil in Melbourne appears to have arrived in Sydney as torrential rain begins to fall outside the terminal.

Yea Gods, the omens are wet.......

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The best laid plans...

The replacement of windows and frames in my building is continuing but not exactly to schedule. The date for the second stage of work on my unit (the kitchen and the second bedroom) changed three times.

First a stage on the side of the building became stuck between between Levels 4 and 5 (the latter is my floor) for two days. A technician called to repair the fault did not have the required part which delayed completion of the repair.

Then strong winds and rain prevented work on other units delaying the adjusted schedule for my unit further.

I was called late on Thursday and asked if I could have my kitchen ready for work the next morning. I cleared the kitchen in preparation and vacated the unit early the next day so that the workers could have a free go at the work. When I returned in the evening I was disappointed to find that no work had been carried out on my unit all. Stepping outside the building I could see that the workers had returned to earlier units.

Then last night (Monday) I was asked to clear my kitchen (again) and my second bedroom so that the workers would perform the work today. That would 'finish' stage 2 work on my unit today, I was told. I prepared both rooms and yet again vacated the unit early this morning.

Returning this afternoon I find the work far from completion. A new window and frame are in place in the second bedroom but the workers tools and covers remain spread around the room...

...and what you can't see from the photograph is all the shards of glass and debris across the floor covers. Just out of picture on the right is the wardrobe which the workers have thoughtfully covered to prevent (or more likely minimise) dust penetration. I can't access clothes there at present some of which I was intending to take with me to Melbourne on a visit there this weekend.

More disappointingly the kitchen window and frame have not yet been removed...

...and as you see with covers and tools lying about here too I can't really use the kitchen in it's current state.

The new windows and frames for the kitchen have been left on the landing outside my unit. So much for the stage 2 work being 'finished' today.

I assume work will resume on my unit tomorrow. I certainly hope so. I have planned to pack tomorrow evening for my flight to Melbourne the next day and want to be able to access the items I intend to take. In addition I am not keen to go away leaving my unit in this state for the period I will be absent.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

And They Called Him Mr Glamour

Staged by Belvoir Street Theatre

The man above is Gareth Davies who is the writer and sole performer of And They Called Him Mr Glamour. Some program notes warn 'this show is offensive in many different ways'.

For sixty minutes Davies delivers a stream of consciousness which is at times manic. In the small darkened auditorium Davies insults and berates himself and the audience in equal measure. There is no plot and despite speaking about the character he is playing, or should that be himself, he doesn't reveal much. His spoken thoughts are scattered and scrambled.

There are some funny moments but most of the performance is disturbing. Davies' characterisation reminded me of some homeless people you see who wander the streets shouting out their thoughts to an unseen audience.

And the 'offensive' label? Well, the nature of the work will offend some. The language is mostly coarse and there is full frontal nudity. For some reason this year's theatrical productions seem intent on putting penises in our face (so to speak). I'm not complaining.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Yes, No or Maybe?

Lunch today with three longstanding friends. We've all known each other for over forty years. Someone decided we should try Italian as a change from the 'Modern Australian' restaurants we have frequented lately and another selected the venue; the Italian Village at The Rocks. That is a very touristy location with stunning harbour views but would we get a good meal? Sometimes these locations deliver the 'tourist experience' at the expense of quality cuisine.

The weather was all in our favour. It was a gorgeous Spring day and as I made my way around Circular Quay to the restaurant I passed plenty of visitors photographing the sights and themselves.

He had to wait for three ferries to pass before getting a clear view of 'you know what' in the background
Photographing the white icon with the sails ahead with the grey icon to his left
Well, the food at the Italian Village proved to be quite reasonable but we had a bit of a problem with the bill. In addition to the glossy laminated a la carte menu the restaurant offered a separate 'Business Luncheon Menu' for $29. That menu advertised five pasta dishes, four pizza dishes and one free glass of drink. There was no 'And' nor 'Or' separating the pasta section from the pizza section and no other wording to indicate that this menu was anything other than a two course meal with one free glass of drink for $29.

Just to make certain we asked our waiter to confirm that this was the case. His answer was curiously ambiguous. There was no clear 'Yes' or No'. Four more times we asked the question and four more times we were left uncertain. It seemed that the waiter was confirming that we were ordering a two course meal plus drink for $29 and yet we were still uncertain. Not one of the four of us sure that this was the case.

When our pasta 'starter' dishes arrived it seemed doubtful that this truly was a two course menu. The pasta dishes were all very generous serves and quite frankly by the time I had cleared mine I was wondering whether I would be able to manage a pizza dish to follow. I think all four of us felt the same.

We made a valiant effort with the pizzas; not quite polishing them all off but we got close. When the bill arrived it was a few cents short of $300. It was obvious that we had been charged a la carte; well above the advertised Business Luncheon deal. We spoke to the cashier explaining that we had tried multiple times to clarify that we were ordering the Luncheon deal and to the restaurant's credit they reduced our bill by a quarter; effectively charging us the advertised Luncheon rate. (Some additional drinks, coffees and a salad dish lifted us to the revised bill of $200.)

All in all, a happy outcome...for us.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Park outing

Every fifth week we take our Day Care participants on a short outing for lunch. We select a seniors friendly environment which provides the opportunity for some variety from their routine and hopefully exposes them to fresh air and sunshine.

The participants are usually reluctant to vary from the routine of the other weeks, often resisting suggestions for the outings, yet they almost invariably enjoy the outings once they are underway.

Today, for the first time, we tried  Lilies on the Park at Sydney's Bicentennial Park, a lovely serene and green oasis in the shadows of Sydney's Olympics precinct.

The park was pretty in the sunshine and dotted with cyclists, walkers and families relaxing by the ponds and on many of the grass verges.

I was impressed with Lilies which provided a nice array of meal options at quite reasonable prices. I suspect we'll be taking the group there again some time.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Johnny English Reborn

Johnny English Reborn is Inspector Clouseau disguised as James BondRowan Atkinson plays the hapless British MI7 spy brought back to the fold to foil a plot against the Chinese Premier. English had been in Tibet seeking redemption after an earlier mission to Mozambique ended in disaster. He returns to a spy agency which is now sponsored, naming rights and all, by an international communications company.

This is a very funny piece of nonsense. A great pick-me-up.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

The Eye of the Storm

In 1970s Australia wealthy, widowed matriarch Charlotte Rampling has an unspecified terminal illness. Her adult children, Geoffrey Rush and Judy Davis return from their overseas homes to be by their mother's side in her final days.

Both Rampling's children are titled; Rush knighted by Britain for his acting and the divorced Davis retaining her former husband's archaic French title. Both feign a wealth they do not possess. In reality they rely on the occasional handouts from their mother.

The expectations of forthcoming inherited wealth are probably high. Also in the mix, perhaps with expectations of their own, are a long standing family lawyer, a cook/housekeeper traumatised from surviving the Holocaust and two home nurses.

The Eye of the Storm is adapted from a novel by Patrick White. I haven't read the novel and had an expectation this film would be dour and heavy going. To my delight the contrary is the case. The film is interesting, humorous and dramatic without being unpleasant.

The acting is excellent with Davis a standout.

Friday, 16 September 2011


A coming of age film, this time from Wales. Schoolboy Craig Roberts spends an alarming amount of time dressed in a heavy long coat pursuing classmate Yasmin Paige. Their developing relationship is as clumsy as that of most teens. Roberts attempts an adult inspired style of wining and dining Paige although his adult models for relationships are less than helpful. His parents, who he spies on assiduously, haven't had sex for seven months and his new age teaching neighbour's relationship with his partner seems to verge on the occult.

I had some difficulty focusing on this film, even nodding off a number of times through the screening. The slightly sing song Welsh accent of the softly spoken lead character lulled me into sleepland at points. I don't think I missed too much although I'm not certain what happened in a key scene because another patron chose that moment to noisily open and consume a sandwich drowning out the soundtrack for several minutes.

What I did see (and hear) was intermittently humorous.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Sparkling Passion

James has stirred interesting memories with this post about drinks of the past.

I'm pretty well teetotal not because of any principles against drinking but simply because I have never really developed a taste for alcohol. In my early twenties, though, I went through a phase of drinking Vodka and Orange Juice (Screwdrivers) and Gin and Tonics. How gay was I?

Mention of Passion Pop in the comments to James' post triggers a memory for me.

Back in the late 1970s our Department's Social Club paid a visit to the hometown of the Minister of the day; an over colourful, faintly notorious character. The region around his hometown was known for it's vineyards and a visit to them was high on the agenda for this group of Public Servants all of us aged in our early twenties, highly sexed and living for fun.

We happily flitted from vineyard to vineyard. I had already passed my short drinking phase and stuck to the fizzy sickly sweet soft drinks to which I have been more or less addicted for most of my adult life. The rest got stuck right into sampling the wines which our hosts were hoping we would purchase by the boxful.

One of the wines on offer was a confection named 'Sparkling Passion'. A bubbly passion fruit coloured - and flavoured - wine which the serious drinkers - that is; everyone but me - took one sip of and then reeled in horror at it's sickly sweetness. Naturally it was the only wine I took to with enthusiasm.

I didn't find any reference to this wine on the Net; which doesn't surprise me but I did find this gaudy advertisement for an almost identically named soft drink, possibly from the same era.

Sparkling Passiona
There is no doubting why I took to the 'wine', when everyone else shunned it. It tasted exactly like a carbonated soft drink popular in my youth and still sold to this day; Passiona.  I was somewhat surprised to read in the link - but then again maybe not - that Passiona is only sold in Australia.


Monday, 12 September 2011

The Guard

A somewhat unorthodox village policeman in Ireland (Brendan Gleeson) is drawn into the search for suspected drug smugglers by a visiting FBI Agent (Don Cheadle).

Is everyone in Ireland quirky? Or is that just an Irish joke? Certainly every Irish comedy is packed with these quintessential stereotypes and The Guard is another film in that genre. It is not the lightest of comedies in that it features murders, violence, terminal illness, corruption, coarse language and the like and yet it still raised plenty of laughs from the audience at my session...and from me too.

A surprisingly appealing comedy.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Everyone remembers

I'm of a generation for whom it used to be said 'everyone can remember where they were when they heard that President Kennedy had been assassinated'.

President and Mrs Kennedy in the Dallas motorcade prior to those fatal moments
I know where I was. It was November 1963. I was in bed. It was a Saturday morning Sydney time and I was a fourteen years' old schoolboy awaking to the prospect of having to play a game of school cricket that day. As was my practice as a teenager, I had my transistor radio by my bed which I tuned to my favourite station at the time. I immediately noticed that the station was broadcasting short wave rather than it's usual Saturday morning music. Short wave was a very distinctive, very distant type of sound in those days and it was so unusual to be hearing this sound on a local station on a Saturday morning that I immediately thought something must be very wrong. After a few minutes I realised the station was broadcasting directly from the USA - very unusual in those days - and that they were broadcasting the news of the assassination of President Kennedy.

My father was taking a shower and I banged on the bathroom door and shouted to him that 'the President has been assassinated'. I don't think that I even said it was President Kennedy; just the President. Australia doesn't have a President so in a sense I could have been referring to any President but those were the days in Australia when 'the' President could only mean one office holder.

In those days of comparatively ancient communications - nothing like today's instant global coverage - it was stunning to see, as my father drove me to the cricket a couple of hours later, the Saturday morning footpath newspaper banners already announcing the assassination and the live television coverage from Washington of the funeral by all the networks a few days later seemed like futuristic science fiction to my young mind.

That was almost forty-eight years ago and most of the world's population today was not alive then. Many would not even know who President Kennedy was let alone understand the impact of his death on people around the world. Perhaps think of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales and you get some idea.

Fast forward to September 2001...

Attacks on New York's World Trade Centre
I was in bed (again!). I was in hotel in Canberra and it was nearly midnight. Earlier that day I had flown to Canberra for a national conference to be held the next day. I had dined with colleagues who had flown in from the other state capitals and we had adjourned for the night to our respective rooms. As is my practice I had the radio on snooze and was drifting off to sleep. Interesting how the radio remains a feature of my lifestyle over all these years.

The program I was listening to sleepily was Nightlife with Tony Delroy, a nationally broadcast program, that I also used to fall asleep to in Sydney and as usual Delroy was speaking to the nation's newspaper editors about their front pages for the following morning. Almost without exception these papers printed local issues which naturally varied from state to state. So even in my sleepy condition it dawned on me that something odd was happening. To each of the editors in turn, Delroy made mention that they would need to change their intended front page and then there was something about a plane crash.

When I realised that this odd conversation was being repeated over and over I decided to switch on the television to see whether it could throw light on what they were discussing. Those were the days when it was still relatively unusual to view CNN on Australian television but that was what was being screened with those awful, now infamous, images from New York.

I watched those images, a mix of awestruck and horrified, until about 4am when I thought I better have some sleep before our conference. All the time I was paralysed with indecision whether to ring and wake my parents in Sydney with the news and similarly whether to wake my colleagues elsewhere in the hotel. In the end I woke no-one.

Finally in the morning I made my way to the hotel's breakfast room where I found that my colleagues had also spent the night glued to the television. All of them filled with the same mix of horror, awe and indecision as myself.

That morning in the breakfast room was one of the strangest of my life. I have rarely experienced almost total silence in such a crowded public place as I did then. There were no words to describe, let alone explain, what we had witnessed.

I hope that there will be no more events in my lifetime that everyone remembers where they were when they learnt about them.

CORRECTION: Thanks to James (see comments) for the information that Nightlife on that September evening was probably hosted by Simon Marnie in Tony Delroy's absence.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Well, I had one aborted attempt at seeing Rise of the Planet of the Apes and yesterday finally got to see it. This is the first time I have seen one of the Planet of the Apes movies.

In this movie, James Franco is a scientist treating chimpanzees with a serum he hopes will provide a cure for Alzheimer's disease. Franco has more than a professional interest in the tests because his father suffers from the condition and we soon see that he will step over the boundaries to push his tests. This includes taking a baby chimpanzee home which he raises as a family member for eight (or is it five?) years. The chimp is highly intelligent and boosted by the wonder serum is soon communicating and behaving like any other prodigal family member.

You don't need to be a scientist to realise that something has to give and, of course, eventually baby, or surely by now adult, chimp has to face the wider, cruel world.

In my world, scientists never look as cute as Franco although as I haven't as yet met blogger/scientist Adaptive Radiation I shouldn't be too hasty to write off Franco's casting in the role.

The chimpanzees, many of them human performers captured through computerised gee-whizzery, are really terrific possessing wonderful personalities and they are beautifully delineated as individuals.

Superior science fiction.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

One Day

In One DayAnne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess appear to be headed for a one night stand to celebrate their graduation. Sturgess seems to have been unaware of Hathaway's existence whilst she has been a silent admirer and only too aware of him. In her eagerness to develop a relationship, a nervous Hathaway stumbles in her efforts to please. The self absorbed Sturgess meanwhile is deflected time and again by the person who concerns him most; himself.

Not the most promising basis for a relationship but as this story asserts they become best pals and we see where their relationship is at each year on the fifteenth of July; the anniversary of their graduation night near-miss.

The story relies on plenty of artificial constructs allowing all nature of important events to coincide with that date and some of the plot's twists and turns are predictable. I've seen it all before.

Individually Hathaway and Sturgess are both attractive and they play their parts well. However Hathaway struggles with her English accent and even Sturgess's accent seems uneven; which is surprising given that he is English! Personally, I'd quite happily share my bed with Sturgess once a year even though his character is such a wastrel. He is very easy on the eye.

This is 'chick flick' stuff. It's OK but I have seen better.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The Threepenny Opera

Staged by the Sydney Theatre Company.

One of the most famous theatrical works of the 20th century, this was the first time I have seen The Threepenny Opera and all I knew of it previously was it's most famous song, Mack the Knife, and that the play is about the criminal classes.

This production moves the setting to Sydney around the time of an unnamed King's coronation; perhaps Edward VIII and 1936 although Edward abdicated the throne to marry Wallis Simpson and was never crowned.

The principal character is Macheath (Eddy Perfect), a ruthless murderer, rapist and philanderer who marries the daughter of a wealthy man. The displeased  father in law sets out to remove Macheath from the scene enlisting drug addicted prostitute Jenny (Paul Capsis) to trap him and bring him to a corrupt policeman. It's that sort of story.

All this is played out with surprisingly tuneful songs, bawdy lyrics and a cheerful, unabashed coarseness. The Sydney references work beautifully; after all our nickname is 'Sin City'. Several famous Australians are given a vicious serve during proceedings including the city's Catholic Cardinal. This might account for some of the vacated seats after interval assuming the general coarseness wasn't sufficient.

Capsis is noted for his gender bending roles and is excellent in this play. He sings strongly, swaggers around the stage and doubles as a lascivious priest. Perfect lives up to his name, full of menace and scheming to the end.

Having never seen the play before I can't comment on how well this production compares with a traditional staging. I ran into some bridge playing friends in the foyer at interval who appeared a bit shell-shocked but I found this presentation compelling.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

On a clear day....

....I can't see forever.

My forty years old building is undergoing maintenance. All the windows and window frames are being replaced. This is a major project expected to take about four months to complete. We are in the second week of the project and the workers have reached my unit on the fifth floor which is also the fifth to be worked on. I've had to clear the lounge room and dining room and a small room the Doyen of our resident owners refers to as 'the den' as well as the bathroom. I've used up every old sheet I have and then some donated by said Doyen as protection against the considerable amount of dust the work is stirring up and clumped as much of the furniture as I can alongside walls and well away from the windows.

Here is my lounge room...

After taking this photo I upended the coffee table and rolled it against the sofa and covered them both. The view is obscured by protective boards on the ledge outside the lounge room window.

Keen observers who expand the photograph will note that The Bold and the Beautiful is screening on the television. I had switched the television on to view the evening news which was about to commence at 5pm. Later on the television was also covered and moved away from the window.

Here is the view from the other direction towards the dining room....

The dining room furniture was moved a short time later. I only noticed hours afterwards that I had forgotten to remove the print still showing on the right hand side of the dining room and so that was temporarily relocated to the bedrooms along with so much of the other furnishings.

The workers will start on my unit tomorrow (Wednesday)  morning at 7.15.

Update Wednesday at 4.45pm:

As promised all the windows and frames in the four nominated rooms were replaced by 3.30pm. However the workers have to return Thursday morning at 7am to complete sealing the windows. In the meantime all the relocated furnishings, prints etc remain under cover and out of use.

The workers will return later in the project to change the windows, window frames and glass doors in the two bedrooms, the kitchen and the balcony. There is still a long way to go.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

The Help

It is the 1960s in Jackson, Mississippi with the civil rights movement in it's infancy and African Americans provide domestic assistance and child rearing for an unthinking and privileged white community. The daughters of these privileged families, reared lovingly by caring African American servants, grow to be as thoughtless and ruthless in their treatment of The Help as their mothers.

One who bucks this trend is the University educated 'Skeeter' (Emma Stone) who decides to write about the treatment and experiences of the put upon domestics. Gradually as their treatment becomes intolerable, one domestic worker after another opens up to Skeeter providing her with the material for the book.

I gather there really was such a book and this movie relates how it came about. In some ways there seems to be a lot of stereotyping in the film which gives it an unsatisfactory feel but it remains a reasonable film, often quite humorous and yet shocking in it's depiction of the inhumanity of that society and times.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Naked disaster

We've seen it in Australia too. Extreme weather conditions bear down on the country and the television channels respond with 'Breaking News' complete with crosses to reporters 'risking life and limb' in the conditions to prepare viewers for doom and gloom falling little short of the end of the world. Notwithstanding that the loss and damage might prove significant the actual impact rarely proves as drastic as foreshadowed.

Hurricane Irene was going to do untold damage to the Eastern rim of the United States last week and indeed there was loss of life and very serious damage in places. Still the impact thankfully fell short of some of the dire predictions. Without making light of the impact for those who did suffer, I do find the following television report amusing. The reporter is working hard to convey the gravity of the situation and then is undone when bystanders come out to play. Nudity alert at the 40 second mark.

Horrible Bosses

Jason BatemanCharlie Day and Jason Sudeikis hate their Horrible Bosses; quite naturally as they happen to be three fairly odious individuals. The films opening scenes introduce the viewer to these bosses and during these sequences I wondered why Hollywood has this propensity for crass humour involving even crasser characters at the moment. Probably because these films seem to be making squillions of dollars seems the logical answer.

Once the odiousness of the bosses has been established the film moves on to show what the three employees set out to do to rid themselves of these irksome bosses. From this point the film follows the style of The Hangover as the three of them ricochet from one startling mess to another. This section of the film is funny in many parts but no more sophisticated than the opening moments.

Thursday, 1 September 2011


Richard Fidler (ABC Radio)
Since rediscovering my iPod I have become hooked on listening to radio podcasts and viewing the occasional downloaded television program.

One of my favourite podcasts is the mid morning ABC Local Radio program Conversations with Richard Fidler which I gather originates from Queensland and whilst it is also broadcast here in NSW it apparently is not in Victoria where I gleaned from something Andrew posted that they have an equivalent program hosted by a Melbourne broadcaster.

Fidler is an excellent interviewer and invariably generates fascinating interviews even of subjects and matters that otherwise wouldn't necessarily interest me. He always seems to have done excellent research for his interviews and clearly has an excellent mind and knowledge which he uses brilliantly to enagage his interviewees in conversation that is never mundane.

As you can tell, I like his program.