Saturday, 28 January 2012

Ordinary Days

(Darlinghurst Theatre Company)

The tiny performance space of the DTC is ideal for 'Ordinary Days', a ninety minutes long musical about four New Yorkers and their relationships. The musical has been created by Adam Gwon and is in the style of Stephen Sondheim. A pianist placed at the edge of the space provides the music and signals scene changes by placing simple objects on his piano, such as a mini Statue of Liberty and a Metropolitan Museum of the Arts shopping bag.

It is an entertaining production. The lyrics are witty and the music has that certain type of sound associated with Broadway musicals. If there is a negative I think it is that the four voices in this production are too similar. The musical sound becomes a bit repetitive after a while.

Friday, 27 January 2012

A Few Best Men

Australia Day seemed like a good day to see the latest Australian comedy - also released on that day - 'A Few Best Men'.

This is the latest in the crass style of comedy that seems to be popular nowadays or at least I assume they are popular otherwise I can't account for so many of them being made.

After a whirlwind Pacific Island romance a young Englishman, accompanied by his three best friends, travel to Australia for his wedding to an Australian bride. So little do they know of each other that he isn't aware until his arrival that his bride's family is wealthy with her father a prominent parliamentarian.

The wedding, which seems to be organised with almost unseemly haste, turns into a fiasco of drugs, sheep and general misadventure. It is a load of nonsense and not very witty nonsense at that but others in the audience enjoyed what was on offer and I have to admit that I had the occasional chuckle too.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Never Did Me Any Harm

(Sydney Theatre Company, Force Majeure and Sydney Festival)

This short production of only 65 minutes is an interesting affair. Seven performers act and engage in movement, a cross between mime and dance) to illustrate 'vox pops' of people discussing childhood. The theme is how 'we' were raised or how 'we' raised our children did us/them no harm. The inference is that child raising nowadays is off the tracks.

The setting is a stereotypical 1960s Australian backyard with a shed and a loose wood paling fence. Much of the dialogue is pre-recorded snippets of personal recollections with live dialogue at a minimum initially. Lengthier monologues delivered directly to the audience emerge later.

The entire piece is a collection of thoughts rather than a straight narrative.

The production has a fascinating lighting design. The program names Geoff Cobham and Chris Petridis as the Lighting and Assistant Lighting Designers respectively.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Body of work.....

Maybe I should spend less time working and more time at home watching morning television....

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Baby is growing up

My new little bundle of joy is settling in nicely. She spent her first night out yesterday and frolicked in the rain for the first time and nearly was breath tested for the first time too as she tip-toed home at 11pm.

They grow up so quickly.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Swipe my pad

In an ironic piece of timing Andrew yesterday posted a piece about laptops in which he concluded that 'older people like to have a mouse'. Well, I would certainly qualify as an older person and it is true that for a long time now I have preferred using a mouse. About six years ago I trialled a Mac Book but quickly returned to a personal computer with mouse when I found the Mac Book's swipe pad uncomfortable to use and not to my liking.

In the years since I slowly found myself drawn into the 'religion' known as Apple. First it was an iPod, then an iPhone leading last Christmas to the purchase of an iPad. None of them was an essential purchase but each seduced me in turn thus enboldening me to the subsequent purchase. Given that I seem to be in a state of heat for impulse purchases at the moment I suppose it was inevitable that I would add this to the list...

Mac Book Pro

a Mac Book Pro which I purchased yesterday morning. Consistent with my long held preference for mouse controls I also purchased a wireless mouse. The religious theme came to the fore again as the enthusiastic young man with the North American twang who attended to my purchase waxed lyrical about drawing me into the 'family' with all manner of workshop opportunities.

Those who have purchased products from the Apple store know that you are passed on to another enthusiast who helps you set up your purchase ready for initial use. My wireless mouse was one of the first items set up but as I was led through other actions it dawned on me after a while that I was mostly swiping the pad rather than clicking the mouse. My conversion, subtle and subconscious, is almost complete.

That's why it's ironic that when I returned home with my purchase and as my first act looked up Andrew's blog I found his latest post to be about laptops and the swipe pad.

Sunday, 22 January 2012


As a child I often attended Saturday afternoon matinees at the cinema featuring thrilling adventures with cliff hanger moments but never could I have imagined a tale of fratricide, incestuous rape and a father unwittingly eating the the remains of his own children which was what confronted us yesterday afternoon at the theatre. 'Thyestes' is Greek mythology and this production presented by Belvoir Street is advertised as being 'after Seneca'. It was nothing like what I imagined beforehand.

Whilst each scene is prefaced by brief surtitles explaining the mythological 1st Century BC action to follow what is then presented is a 21st Century rendition of activity that illustrates the mythology without directly recreating it.

What I've just written sounds a bit pompous but the fact is that the play staged is a very modern, at times very funny, at times highly sexualised, at times scandalous and at times shocking story which could simply be viewed as a modern shocker but is so clever as a vehicle for illustrating the mythology from twenty-two centuries earlier.

Not everyone's cup of afternoon tea but it is very well done with fine performances from its cast of three males, especially Mark Winter (above).

Warning: Nudity.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Thursday, 19 January 2012

'I'm just going out for some milk'

'Just browsing....'

You know how sometimes you go down to the shops for something simple, like one bottle of milk, and somehow return a while later with all manner of unintended purchases like six family size blocks of chocolate and a lifetime's quantity of Double A batteries that won't last beyond the weekend? Oh, and no bottle of milk.

Well, I had one of those expeditions last Friday. Sort of.

Having done my good deed for the week setting up Ae's new laptop and internet connection for her in the morning, I thought I would check out shredders. I need to clear up decades worth of documents, many of which should be shredded to protect my privacy, so this was to be by way of an exploratory shopping trip.

Well there was a car dealership nearby and somehow seemingly directed by an unseen hand I emerged not from the office works store but the dealership less than an hour later with a brand new car. Well, I didn't actually have the car with me, but I had signed the purchase papers and given a deposit. And I collect the new car tomorrow.

I suppose it will come in handy when eventually I do purchase a shredder and have to bring it home.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Having read Stieg Larsson's trilogy and seen all three television cum cinema screen adaptions in only the last eighteen months I had last moment doubts about seeing the US cinema interpretation of 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo'. Surely I would be bored by the repetition? As it turns out I wasn't.

Even with its two and a half hours length there is no way that the film can incorporate the dense sub plots of the equivalent book. The Swedish television/cinema version similarly skirted over the detail. As a consequence a lot of the texture to the story is missing.

As is to be expected the US cinema version is slicker looking than the Swedish made for television counterpart. The US film has mostly non-Swedes in the cast all speaking in English language with vague Scandinavian accents although written material that appears on screen (signage, letters, etc but curiously not television screens) are in Swedish. This is an odd arrangement that is also practised by Kenneth Branagh's British television version of the the Swedish crime series 'Wallander'.

Rooney Mara does a terrific job as Lisbeth Salander and Daniel Craig is workmanlike as the journalist Mikale Blomkvist as are the support cast. I loved the soundtrack; a mix of hi-tech and classical music.

SPOILER ALERT: Some Australian readers may be disappointed that an Australian connection in the book (and the Swedish television version) has been changed completely in this US adaptation.

The film is not quite as confronting as I was expecting from the advance publicity. A competent crime film but, like its Swedish counterpart, not a match for the book.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Hugo (3D)

On one level Martin Scorsese's 'Hugo' is a children's film set in the 1930s about an orphan who lives in the clock tower of a Paris railway station in constant fear of discovery in case he be sent off to an orphanage. He becomes drawn to a toy shop on the concourse of the station which then leads to his discovery of a wondrous new world.

On another level altogether the film is a loving tribute to the moving picture, its creators and the world of cinema. This is a marvelous film visually, a sort of cinematic pop up story book. It looks splendid in 3D.

I wondered if 'Hugo' was a little long and lacking in action for children but there were many present at my session and they sat through it all without any visible or audible indications of restlessness.

Something special.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

The Descendants

George Clooney is a lawyer in Hawaii. When his wife is seriously injured in a sports accident he finds himself effectively a single parent without a clue as to how to deal with his two wilful young daughters. He is on a crash course to learn more about his family, and himself, than he would have imagined.

'The Descendants' is a low key drama with flashes of humour. Set in a Hawaii that is not entirely the paradise of travel brochures the film presents a family journey that probably will be familiar to many.

I enjoyed the trip.

Saturday, 14 January 2012


I've just been reading about this man who is a competing to be the Republican Party's candidate for the US Presidential election later this year.

Rick Santorum

I had heard of him but otherwise knew nothing about the man until reading some of his views this afternoon. Frankly I'm shocked that someone with views he has expressed could seriously be considered for public office but then again speech is free, especially in the USA.

Included in what I read is a pronouncement in an interview from 2003 when Mr Santorum, then a Senator from Pennsylvania, was commenting on a case before the Supreme Court that argued that anti-sodomy laws were unconstitutional on the ground that adults have the right to privacy. I could understand if Mr Santorum simply stated that he did not approve of sodomy but what he is quoted as saying was

"If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home then you have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes it does."
That interview inspired a suggestion that if Mr Santorum wants to invite himself into the bedrooms of gays and lesbians that (we) should include him by naming a gay sex act after him. The winner of the resultant contest can easily be found simply by Googling 'Santorum'. Delicacy prevents me from publishing the winning response directly but if you really want to see the named activity then the link is here. You were warned.

Friday, 13 January 2012

The Iron Lady

Movie trailers are a skilled industry all of their own designed to you entice you into the cinema. So slick and well made are trailers nowadays that they often outshine the film they advertise. Too often movie trailers contain the best bits so that the film itself is a disappointment. Sometimes the trailer, which makes the film seem so enticing, turns out to focus on one aspect making it quite misleading of the film as a whole.

I think that the latter applies to trailers I have seen for 'The Iron Lady', the new drama about Britain's former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. Those trailers show Thatcher (Meryl Streep) in full flight which at least suggests that the film's focus is Thatcher's political career. There is certainly nothing in the trailers to indicate that perhaps half the film, maybe more, is set in Thatcher's retirement with dementia set in.

James provides strong argument that the dementia scenes provide direct references and triggers to Thatcher's political hay days and his argument is persuasive yet I thought it telling that he also found the film a 'little boring'. I reckon that is because of the amount of time spent on the dementia years. Half an hour or so into the film and with there yet to be much specific focus on her pre-retirement days, I was impatient for the film to get a wriggle on.

The film's best sequences, in my view, were those relating to the Falkland Islands war. The film's focus was entirely on the events at the time with some terrific news footage of the day thrown in to great effect. It was the most vibrant section of the film. I wish there had been more scenes of that nature.

Nevertheless, I think this is a fine film, beautifully acted and Streep is quite magnificent.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

By the Quay

A rare day of activity in the city for me today commencing with what I hope is the final bit of banking related to my late mother's estate and then an appointment with the solicitor to update my will. Then I called in to both Apple's and Telstra's city stores to resolve a problem I had accessing email on my new iPad. The solution proved embarrassingly simple.

It was such a beautiful day I wandered through the city taking in the sight of office workers packing indoor and outdoor eateries for lunch and recalling that for close to forty years I used to be one of their number. I ended up at Circular Quay and decided I would take in an afternoon movie there.

I had an hour to spare until the movie commenced so I took a stroll along the forecourts of the Opera House. I never tire of the sights there. Like the rest of the city, the venue was heaving with lunch and tourist activity.

Starting with the lower concourse I passed through the Opera Bar.

The outdoor dining and bar section of the Opera Bar
From the other end of the lower course and at the base of the Opera House looking to the south to the Central Business District.

Sun drenched leisure by the Opera House
The view from the Opera House back towards the city always delights me whether at daytime or night when the building lights are spectacular. The cruise ship on the right is the Rhapsody of the Seas berthed for the day at the Overseas Terminal. It's cruise season with two or three vessels in port every day.

Circular Quay and the CBD

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

By the bay

We had lunch today at the Watsons Bay Hotel hosting three cousins of Lo and Ma visiting from Italy. Although Lo and Ma are even older than we are the three cousins were all aged in their late teens but they politely put up with we six old farts. The WBH serves seafood...naturally...and is often mistakenly thought to be part of the Doyles restaurants conglomerate with it's various outlets either side of the hotel.

Despite the heavy seafood emphasis the three cousins between them ordered a steak and two fishburgers. Wow, I thought Italians would be gourmands. We old farts stuck to the straight seafood; salmon, barramundi and 'famous' fish and chips. The 'famous' fish looked more than just battered, it looked ill. Apparently it tasted OK. I was happy with my grilled barramundi.

We had a lovely view from our terrace out on the bay with the towers of the Central Business District of Sydney in the distance. The weather was glorious with a temperature of about 28c. Rivercats brought full loads of passengers to the bay from the CBD at regular intervals and were equally loaded for the return journey.

I took the following photo around 2.30pm as we were leaving the hotel following lunch. You can see people queued and boarding a Rivercat berthed at the far side of the jetty. The ferry trip to the CBD takes less than 20 minutes. We did not use the Rivercat today having travelled by cars instead.

The city in the distance and queues for the Rivercat on the jetty

Monday, 9 January 2012

Put a Jaffa in it, will ya!

I've been going to the movies for close to sixty years. A lot has changed about the movie-going experience in that time.

As a child, most of the sessions we attended were double features.

Two full length movies one either side of an intermission. The first feature would usually be of inferior quality (B-grade) with slightly below top draw stars.

If the session wasn't a double feature then the pre intermission offerings might include newsreels often containing news that was weeks old. There seemed to be two main news providers.

Movietone News
Movietone News seemed mostly screened by the Hoyts network of cinemas and often came in an Australian edition that featured Kookaburras emitting their call in the titles.

Pathe News
Pathe News seemed the preserve of the Metro network of cinemas and was a more refined presentation than it's Movietone counterparts seemingly reflecting it's European, as distinct from North American, source.

The pre intermission presentations often included a cartoon.

Tom and Jerry was very popular.

A comedy or two would be thrown in for good measure.

The Three Stooges would provide zany, ostensibly violent comic behaviour or there might be

Laurel and Hardy with their comically sad escapades.

By far the most boring featurettes were mini travelogues set almost invariably in the seaside villages of US states like Maine or New England which without exception included scenes of fishing trawlers with birds overhead to indicate a catch.

My parents and I laughingly called these featurettes, which one had to endure before seeing the real feature, 'fish stories' even though they generally had little, if anything, to do with fish.

As a child my neighbourhood movie house was the magnificent Metro Kings Cross. It was a beautiful art deco two level cinema, originally a live theatre venue called the Minerva, with plush red covered seats and a special glass fronted room where people with hearing difficulties could sit to view the movies. I believe the architectural style of the building is referred to as 'streamline moderne'.

The cinema had a reincarnation as a live theatre venue when Hair was first staged in Australia in 1970. The Metro has not operated as cinema or theatre for years. It still stands in Kings Cross but I think it is used as recording studio nowadays.

The Metro today is a heritage listed building
The behaviour of patrons today is very different from my childhood. When I was young it was thought a great joke to roll Jaffas down the auditorium and giggle at their sound. Of course this would result in an usher shining their torch at you and threatening your eviction from the cinema. Great fun also was had shouting insults to friends sitting elsewhere in the auditorium.


Mostly though, the patrons would sit in the dark in awed silence watching the miracle of the moving picture with it's accompanying sound to the very end when the curtains closed imperiously. That would trigger an immediate rush for the doors to beat the playing of the National Anthem, otherwise you had to stand there paying respects to the distant monarch whose visage we only ever saw in those newsreels, newspapers or wall photographs.

Nowadays there are no double features, no fish stories, no zany short feature comedies or weeks old news items. Just a seemingly endless stream of advertisements and trailers before the one and only feature begins.

Oh and there is no more sitting with respectful silence to the end either. At yesterday's screening of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows there was so much movement of people in and out of the auditorium during the feature that I started to keep count of how many times certain people in the packed cinema made the trek to and from their seats. At least five people went more than four times each. My companion Cs noted the same phenomenon commenting as we left after the movie that he assumed some of them must be drug dealers!

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

It's Sherlock Holmes versus the villainous Professor Moriarty in 'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows'. The bad Professor is doing something nasty in Europe in 1891 stirring up political turmoil whilst attempting to draw his nemesis Holmes into his trap.

This is a typical Guy Ritchie film. Elegance mixes with grubbiness, stop frame and slow motion scenes abound with a thumping musical score in the background. The pithy bon mots are delivered by Robert Downey Jr (Holmes, complete with bruises and abrasions) and Jude Law (a limping Dr Watson).

It's all a little drawn out and I wasn't always sure what was happening yet the film remains quite entertaining.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Performing railyards

I did a reconnaissance of Carriageworks today. Our first play in Belvoir Street Theatre's 2012 season will be staged there later in the month. Carriageworks is the former Eveleigh Workshops which for about 100 years from the 1880s built and maintained locomotives and train carriages.

For many years before retirement I traveled to and from work by train passing the workshops daily and whilst I knew of it's location as viewed from a carriage I did not know precisely how to get there from 'land side', so to speak.

We were to have attended a performance from the Sydney Theatre Company's 2009 season at Carriageworks but the Company changed the venue shortly ahead of opening night. At the time we imagined that the STC's largely older and more conservative audience - compared with that of Belvoir St Theatre - forced the change.

I rather like that many features from the old workshops have been incorporated in the renovated facility.

Main entrance
Old rail tracks still in place
The external walls of the workshops remain largely in place. Trains continue to run on the adjacent tracks and a new industrial site has been constructed on the other side of the tracks. All these features can be seen in the next photograph.

Sydney train passes in front of Channel 7's new HQ, far left
The roomy and sun filled foyer
The various performance areas carry Bay and Track numbers as their names. My guess is the names reflect the bay and track numbers that formerly were located in the same positions.

Two of the Bays
Talent in abundance

Friday, 6 January 2012

Bygone lanes

I think that Melbourne has made better use of it's system of back lanes than has Sydney. Many of Sydney's back lanes from it's early days have disappeared in an orgy of thoughtless modernisation so the following sight caught my eye. This is Wilson Lane in Darlington - an almost inner city suburb - near Redfern.

Wilson Lane with it's line up of multi coloured recycle and garbage bins

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Tower Heist

The staff of a swank apartment tower decide to take action against the millionaire resident of the penthouse when he appears to have swindled them out of their pension funds.

Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy swap rapid fire wise cracks in the far fetched plot driving 'Tower Heist'. I found Murphy in particular difficult to understand at times as he set new records for the most number of words spoken in the shortest possible time but what I did understand was often quite funny. It's been a long time since I saw a film where the audience's laughter drowned out patches of dialogue but that is what happened at times in this movie.

The basic premise of the swindle is contemporary realism and I thought hey ho, this is going to be interesting. The actions of the staff though become increasingly improbable reducing the movie to farce. Nevertheless in it's own way 'Tower Heist' is a fun ride.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Pelicans at Woody Point

On Boxing Day Mt drove me down to Woody Point on Bramble Bay in Brisbane so that I could photograph pelicans and some of the local landscape for her. Mt's 60th birthday present, at her request, is a commissioned painting of pelicans and the artist she commissioned to create the work asked for photos to be provided. It's an image that will provide memories of Mt's childhood at the Brisbane seaside suburb of Redcliffe.

Staff at the local information centre feed the pelicans at 10 o'clock each morning so Mt asked me to accompany her with camera in hand to capture images to assist the artist.

The Information Centre located at the aptly named Pelican Park
I switched my camera to the 'sport' setting which captures photographs at machine gun like pace. A small group of pelicans landed near the information centre right on cue and although the feeding was over in a matter of minutes I managed to gather around 500 photos. Here are just a couple.

Feeding gets underway
Pausing for breath
'Next course, please!'

Afterwards, Mt rewarded my exertions with a couple of drinks at the nearby Belvedere Hotel.

Belvedere Hotel

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Till choice do us part

'Celebrities' Katy Perry and Russell Brand are to divorce

The latest example in the growing portfolio of evidence of the natural superiority of heterosexual marriage over same sex unions.

During his marriage Mr Brand informed an interviewer....
"I can’t believe I used to have sex 20 times a week, especially now I’m married. But now I’m a bloody good gardener," Russ joked.
Sounds gay to me.

Sandgate Queenslanders

As promised, photos of some of the 'Queenslanders' we passed by on our walk along the promenade at Sandgate. Darkness descended as we enjoyed our after dinner stroll.

Next door to Ja and Cs' house-sit
The 'twin' on the right was advertised for sale

This one looked 'oriental' to me
Modesty amongst the glamour
Size without adornment
Seasonal decorations
Santa on the balcony
We stopped here to purchase ice creams