Saturday, 31 March 2012

Stephen Sondheim's Company

This weekend there are cinema screenings of Stephen Sondheim's 'Company', a concert staging of the musical about a mid 30s man unable to settle on a relationship whose coupled friends urge him to settle down all the time demonstrating by their own behaviour the hazards and uncertainties of maintaining a relationship.

This is a terrific performance for lovers of Sondheim's work and musical theatre and should not be missed. Filmed at New York's Lincoln Center with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Neil Patrick Harris, Patti LuPone and Martha Plimpton shine in an outstanding ensemble.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Chandelier and fireworks

An outdoor season of the opera La Traviata is currently underway in Sydney. A stage has been constructed on Sydney Harbour itself with the audience seated on the foreshore at Mrs Macquarie's Chair. A massive chandelier (9 metres x 9 metres) studded with more than 10,000 Swarovski crystals hangs over the stage.

All this is being staged a couple of kilometres from where I live as the crow flies. Every evening at 7.45pm a short but brilliant fireworks display lights up the view from my home (and sends a few sonic booms my way too). This display I believe marks the commencement of the performance. Then at around 10.20pm there is a second, smaller display which I guess marks the conclusion of the performance.

This photograph downloaded from the net is of the chandelier being put into place before the season commenced.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Pavlov's cardinal

The hospital's new youth mental health service was officially opened and blessed on Tuesday. I was in attendance as an 'honoured' and non-celebrity guest. The opening was declared by the popular NSW Governor, Marie Bashir, although in her temporary and occasional guise as Administrator of the Commonwealth of Australia. This means she was at the time substituting for Australia's Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, who I believe was on ceremonial duty overseas at the funeral of the King of Tonga. What exciting lives these vice-regal personages lead!

The blessing was performed by Sydney's Roman Catholic Cardinal, George Pell. This included sprinkling holy water all over the place but mostly over the many walls in the unit. This was my first sighting up close of a Cardinal spreading the holy water about. Cardinal Pell's presence brought the Pavlov's dog reaction out in me.

When I was born, almost 63 years ago, Sydney's Cardinal was Norman Thomas Gilroy.

Cardinal Gilroy
Gilroy resigned as Cardinal in 1971; that is when I was aged 22. Although that was more than forty years ago I still to this day tend to link 'Cardinal' with 'Gilroy'. Every time Cardinal Pell's name was mentioned yesterday, I immediately thought 'Gilroy' in mind even as 'Pell' was being said.

Once I had the thought I couldn't shake it for the entire hour long ceremony.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

The Rum Diary

A wannabe novelist (Johnny Depp) takes a journalist position with a struggling English language newspaper in Puerto Rico in the 1950s and finds himself embroiled in an expatriate's financial scam.

The Rum Diary is taken from a short story by Hunter S Thompson. The story is slight, probably reflecting its origins but the film has its whimsical moments filled as it is with Caribbean style and atmosphere.

A leisurely way to spend a lazy afternoon provided you don't mind the occasional scenes of cock fighting.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Splendour on the grass

It was a gorgeous autumn day yesterday. A clear blue sky and a slight bite in the breeze yet a warmish sun still beamed down with the capacity to burn.

I stopped off for a perve in Centennial Park between paying my respects to my late mother and going to an afternoon movie. I can always find time to gaze upon young men cavorting in the park. This was a curious group of twenty/thirty somethings.

There were about twenty of them, most out of photo range when I snapped this including (sadly) nearly all those running around topless. A few wore funny hats or other peculiar clothing items. There were no women in sight. I wondered what the occasion was.

They were playing a very social game of cricket stopping every couple of overs or so for drinks breaks.

At one point another man, dressed entirely in black, arrived and the men sat around him in a semi circle watching and applauding as he performed some magic and illusion tricks. After twenty minutes he was paid and departed to be replaced by park delivered pizzas. A courier delivered about eight boxes of pizzas. For any overseas readers this was akin to a pizza delivery to the middle of Central Park in New York or Hampstead Heath in London.

After a while they resumed their social cricket.

What was particularly curious was that all the way through at about five minute intervals and on some signal, unidentified by me, the men would suddenly halt whatever activity, or inactivity, they were engaged in, start whooping loudly and they would rush into little groups of four or five huddling together in a sexual style tableau. They would hold their tableaux for about ten seconds and then just as quickly return to their previous activities.

My guess is they were participating in a buck's party.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk*

(* 'Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk' by Rufus Wainwright)

I'm sure these are not on the menu at Australian chef Matt Moran's new restaurant Chiswick located only minutes from my home. Anyone who follows Moran's Twitter account will have noticed a stream of celebrity endorsements for the new venture.

Moran's restaurant restores a restaurant to the small park - well a garden really - years after the previous restaurant on the site closed. As a child I was invited to numerous birthday parties for class mates at that site probably because our school at the time was almost literally around the corner. Never a party there for me, however, as my parents could not have afforded to stage an equivalent event for me.

I was wondering whether anyone other than these celebrities was dining at the new restaurant and in yesterday's walk I passed by for a look/see. I was not expecting to see many customers mainly because it was 3.20pm on a Friday.

To my surprise the place was packed. The doors of the northern end of the restaurant were open to take advantage of yesterday's beautiful weather and my picture from that end (taken from a discreet distance)     gives an indication of how well patronised it was.

Looks like Moran has a hit on his hands.

Friday, 23 March 2012

'Spread the news I'm on my way'*

(* 'Walking Back To Happiness' by John Schroeder and Michael Edwin Hawker)

I always have the best intentions to walk every day to build my fitness and health but time and time again (that is, every day) I find reasons not to do Usually that means slacking off on the sofa watching recorded television programs of little consequence and less importance. But tomorrow I will go for a walk. I promise.

Well I got home from the hospital early today and the weather was simply gorgeous.

Who could stay indoors on such a beautiful afternoon. Unfortunately I could but for once even I was too embarrassed to waste the afternoon on the sofa and so I went for a brisk walk around nearby Paddington and Woollahra.

I walked past the Flat White cafe, just two blocks from my place and always packed in the mornings, unvisited by me to date. It was closing for the day. One couple sat eating at their table surrounded by other tables with chairs stacked on top.

I walked past all manner of terraced and standalone housing protected by hedges and high walls.

I walked past the antique stores and the clothing stores with their inspirationally beautiful models beaming at me through the store windows.

I walked onward and homeward. A forty-five minutes walk. My heartbeat was up. I could feel it had done me some good. I must do it again tomorrow. I will do it again tomorrow.

In no time at all I will look as lean, fit and tanned as this fellow who I past at the aptly named Queen Street intersection. Two or three days; that's all it will take. Only joking.

Yep, I'm walking back to happiness.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Topical maths

or what the dentist did to me.

I'm not one to take much notice of invoices unlike some friends who scrutinise and question every line of their bills and receipts. So it was a bit of an education for me when I decided to read my dentist's statement of services claimed from my health fund for my routine check up this morning.

The dentist charged $235 for a ten minute check up of which $196 has been approved to be paid by my health insurer. I had to pay $39 to make up the 'gap'.

The examination, a minute or so of poking around my teeth, cost $44.50.

Two X Rays, a minute of action at best and less than another minute of scrutinising the scans, cost $33.00 each.

Removing calculus, a couple of minutes of scraping, cost $95.50. Until now I only knew of calculus as a mathematical process but apparently it also is the term for hardened plaque.

Finally a 'topical agent' cost $29.00. I had no idea what this was until I did a Google check and learnt it is an 'antiinfective' applied to a localised area. That must be the fluoride the dentist applied to my teeth at the end of the check up, another minute of activity.

All in all not a great burden on my wallet and I have to admit one of my less disconcerting dental visits.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Margin Call

Not everyone will find 'Margin Call' to their liking. There is no physical action of consequence and the film is fairly serious and humourless, dense with language. Most of the settings are indoor so there is little opportunity for scenic images. The drama involves financial issues that are like double dutch to me.

Nevertheless I enjoyed this film and found it strangely thrilling. The setting is a large financial trading company and as the film opens a slice of the staff is being summarily dismissed. The dismissal is conducted in a cold and impersonal manner. Even as the dismissed staff depart, with boxes of possessions in hand, information is emerging that the ostensibly successful company is on the verge of financial disaster.

Junior staff pass on their findings to their manager who in turn reports the discovery to the next manager and so on up the line. What ensues is a fascinating study of bureaucracy, power play and self interest.

I didn't understand the specifics of the financial situation but I got the gist of an organisation trying to offload its problems and preserve its position. I could see parallels with the Government bureaucracy I worked in for nearly four decades.

What makes this film work for me is its ensemble cast which performs superbly. There is not a weak performance amongst them.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

The night is just beginning

Returning from the football last evening I wandered around the hotel and casino. It was the night of St Patricks Day and there were plenty of celebrants about some dressed in lurid green clothing. It was not a late night for me as I was soon in my hotel bed. The casino was packed and all the restaurants had long queues of customers. They were in for a long night.

My photo doesn't reflect the numbers of people present. This is the ten storeys high atrium with the curved hotel on the left, a bar on the lower left, two dining areas in the distance and one of the casino entrances to the right.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

More food and football to boot

Lunch today with Ll and Fd down for the day from Brisbane and Mt and Me up for the day from Ballina. We ate at the Palm Beach Surf Life Saving Club which proved a pleasant location. The food was pretty good.

We ate on the back deck because Mt was insistent on an ocean view. It was extremely humid and a slight drizzle crept in but did not mar our enjoyment.

Later Mt, Me and I went off to nearby Skilled Park for the rugby league fixture between Gold Coast Titans and Melbourne Storm. Played in incessant rain the first half of the match was a dull affair before the Melbourne side asserted its superiority and raced away for a big win. Mt was happy because her idol, Billy Slater, made some magic contributions.

Our view of the second half kick off
I returned to my hotel (the casino) after the match and the place was humming with activity. There were plenty of lurid green outfits amongst the punters to mark St Patricks Day.

I have a late morning flight back to Sydney tomorrow.

Friday, 16 March 2012

What's a buffet or two between friends?

I'm staying at the hotel attached to the Gold Coast's casino more for its convenience as a location than for its attractions which in some ways are dubious if you are not a habitual gambler; as I am not.

The breakfast buffet overlooking the pool is an attractive option. I ate too much.

The buffet was well patronised although it would not seem so from my photograph. There were people at these tables before I took my photograph and there were new ones at the same tables after I took the photograph. Clearly I spent too much time over breakfast. I ate too much.

My oldest friend Rt, we were born on the same day,  lives in the vicinity now and met me for lunch. I expected we would eat elsewhere but to my surprise he suggested the buffet lunch. So I had my second buffet meal in the same restaurant in less than six hours. I ate too much.

Not surprisingly I did not eat an evening meal. I had already eaten too much.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Travelling north

I've flown north to the Gold Coast this afternoon.

A football match on Saturday night is the excuse for a get together. For Andrew's  benefit the football is of the unposh variety but it does involve his home town side, Melbourne Storm, playing the Gold Coast. The reason for travelling this far for a football match is that my friend Mt is in lust with the Storm's fullback Billy Slater whereas I am in lust with footballers generally.

With the excuse of that match Mt and I are meeting up for lunch pre-match with Ll and Fd driving down from Brisbane for the day and Me who is coming up from Ballina with Mt.

Some photos from my flight up follow. The take off flight path was unusually due north over the CBD, the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and Sydney Harbour, all of which are visible in this photograph (click to enlarge).

Minutes after take off and we were flying past Palm Beach, the northern most beach in Sydney. It is the thin stretch of peninsula visible just above the jet engine. The Aussie teen soap opera 'Home and Away' is filmed here. The mouth of the Hawkesbury River is to the right of the peninsula (I think).

The Jetstar A320 plane looked clean and new.

My carry on bag and my gorgeous legs.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

A group of British senior citizens journey to India to take up residence in a resort hotel advertised as a luxury facility for retirees. Each has issues to resolve and the resort turns out to be less than advertised.

'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' is a deliciously funny film, one of the funniest I have seen in many a year. Like all good British comedies it has a serious side and some sad moments. Cs laughed so loudly and so long during the film that I feared I might miss the ensuing humorous situations. The film runs a tightrope and I feared that some of the plot resolutions might take the easy way out but for the most part the integrity of the film is maintained to the end.

If, like me, you are a senior citizen or even older you will find much to relate to in this film. Some of the set ups in the opening scenes are classic. If you are younger, well hopefully, you will get the humour.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Those lazy Melbournians.... a post title designed to antagonise my Melbourne blogger friend, Andrew.

The thought arose whilst I was working at the hospital this morning and noticed from the patients' television that the Moomba Festival Parade was being held in Melbourne. What! Not another Melbourne holiday, I thought. And here we hard working (read mercenary) Sydneysiders are hard at it without a Festival, Show day or Cup day holiday on our annual schedule.

(Herald-Sun Photo. No, not Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras but Melbourne's 2012 Moomba Parade)

My 'holier than thou' thoughts were immediately undermined when I discovered that Melbourne's holiday was not in fact a Festival holiday but Labour Day. Sydney has a Labour Day too but ours is in October.

Nevertheless Sydney does not have a Cup Day holiday unlike Melbourne (and Adelaide which holidayed today too) nor do we have a Show Day holiday (unlike Brisbane's 'Ecka' Day and parts of Tasmania also on holiday today) nor a Sydney Day (unlike Canberra whose 'day' was the excuse for a holiday today as well).

What terrible planning on the part of Sydney's founding parents.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Headhunters (Hodejegerne)

In the Norwegian film 'Headhunters' a small man is doing big things. He is a headhunter for a recruitment company searching out executives for corporations and using his recruitment work to identify targets for his sideline, the theft of expensive artwork.

The sideline activity, essential to the maintenance of his fly highing, wealthy lifestyle is meticulously planned and timed but it also is a plot device that is full of holes. Nevertheless the depiction of this activity during the first half of Headhunters is entertaining enough; almost fun at times. When events take their inevitable downturn in the second half, the movie becomes darker and bloodier.

I can see Hollywood remaking this film in its own image. It's just the sort of story they would love to cannibalise although Hollywood would probably remove the nudity and darker edges.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Her Majesty departs

Queen Mary 2 departing Sydney Harbour tonight

Sydney's big wet

Sydney historically has wet summers but the drought in recent years was so severe and lengthy that younger people must presume that our summers are predominantly dry. Nature has made up for it this summer which was - and now into Autumn continues to be - very wet. We were told to expect rain every day in March and so far that prediction has been devastatingly accurate. Elsewhere, there has been serious flooding throughout New South Wales and with about 75 millimetres (3 inches) of rain falling today alone, Sydney has also suffered localised flooding.

I ventured to neighbouring Bondi Junction this morning. The rain was nearly torrential and the traffic gridlocked. Here are a couple of snaps taken around 10am.

Grafton Street alongside Westfield shopping centre

Syd Einfeld Drive, city bound gridlock

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The Marriage of Figaro

Opera Australia

I have to make an admission. I had never heard Mozart's 'The Marriage of Figaro' in full nor had I ever seen a production of it prior to this week. I had some vague notions as to it's plot and knew that I was familiar with, maybe I should say had heard, several of it's most popular arias.

The opportunity to finally see/hear the work arose through my subscription to the Belvoir Theatre's 2012 drama season when they offered discount seats under some arrangement with Opera Australia. I already have a subscription to Opera Australia's 2012 season but mine does not include Mozart's opera and given that this offer was for A reserve seating at half the price of what I had paid for my subscription it seemed too good to pass up. I'm glad I went.

In case you have even less knowledge than I of the Opera, the essential story is that Figaro and Susanna (pictured above), both in the service of Count Almaviva, intend to marry but impediments include that the Count wants to have his way with Susanna; another character, Marcellina, wants to have her way with Figaro; the Countess wants her husband back and several others have romantic intentions of their own. As one expects in comedies all ends happily ever after but only following a series of misunderstandings, complications and in this case some gender bending callisthenics.

This production updates the action to modern times which didn't worry me given that I was so unfamiliar with it all anyway. Mozart takes his time relating the story. I gather there are cuts in this production but it still took three and a half hours to unfold. Clearly Mozart didn't have to worry that his audience would be racing home to view that night's episode of 'Neighbours' on television.

I don't have the musical knowledge to offer an informed critique but for those who prefer that level of assessment Marcellous fits the bill here.

The audience last night lapped it up giving the cast and orchestra a rousing ovation. I thought that Joshua Bloom (Figaro) and Taryn Fiebig (Susanna) were terrific in their roles. The set design was interesting with each scene change signalled by the set sliding across the stage from right to left. Although slightly creaky in its movement, the scene changes were a minor fascination all of their own as the set never backtracked the entire evening.

There is a strange (to me) trend in Opera nowadays to have singers drop down at some point to sing their lungs out whilst prone on stage. At different times, five (I think it was) of the singers last night sang in this position. It must be very difficult for them.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012


'Carnage' is Roman Polanski's film adaptation of Yasmina Reza's play 'God of Carnage' which I saw staged by the Sydney Theatre Company a few years back.

Two New York couples meet in the apartment of one of them to discuss a response to a playground fight between their pre-teenage sons. Controlled civility is gradually unmasked as the meeting disintegrates first into antagonism and then outright aggression.

The play was staged entirely in the lounge room and whilst the movie, cleverly filmed on a Parisian set, strays slightly further it remains firmly rooted indoors.

A mix of drama and comedy about modern urban foibles that won't appeal to everyone but Cs and I enjoyed it.

Monday, 5 March 2012

The Paris Letter

(Darlinghurst Theatre Company)

The Paris Letter is by Jon Robin Baitz, the creator of the television series 'Brothers and Sisters'. It begins with the tragic climax of an embezzlement then leaps back about twenty years (1988), then about forty years (1962) and then forwards again to reveal the recurring relationship and ongoing friendship between a tormented closeted gay man and his 'out there' one time gay lover.

The first thirty minutes or so contains dense dialogue much of it baffling and not seeming to reveal what the play is really about nor where it is headed. At that stage I felt adrift from the storyline but then the play started to focus more on the characters and I began to get into it.

Four of the five performers play multiple characters which is not such an unusual practice in the theatre. Those multiple characters include the same people at different ages. At one point there is the slightly odd situation of a psychiatrist treating himself; that is, Actor X playing psychiatrist in the scene is treating Actor Y when in other scenes Actor X is Actor Y's character at an older age. Get it?

The acting is good and the simple staging is effective.

 A cautionary note for those of delicate disposition. The two performers in the photograph above have one brief full frontal nude scene.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Midnight in Paris

We stayed at the Hotel Du Louvre whilst in Paris last June....and around midnight on one of the nights - before I knew that Woody Allen had similar ideas - I slipped away from my friends to take some photos.

Our hotel
And immediately behind our hotel from the grounds of the Louvre I snapped photos of the Eiffel Tower in it's beautiful night time glory.

Eiffel Tower

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Sunset in Paris

Two moments approaching sunset when we were in Paris last June. Both photos taken in the grounds of the Louvre adjacent to the glass pyramid.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Come rain or come shine....

Tomorrow night is Sydney's annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade. So often the Parade has been staged in rain or under the threat of rain. We have a very wet period at the moment and the forecast suggests it will indeed rain on Sydney's parade (again) tomorrow evening.

In years past the Reverend Fred Nile, who as well as being an ordained Minister is also a Member of the New South Wales Parliament, has been a very vocal critic of the Parade; indeed of all things homosexual. He used to pray for rain before the Parade - which naturally would be a sign of God's disapproval of homosexuality - but in recent years Mr Nile seems to have gone silent on the issue. Or am I just deaf to his pronouncements?

Anyway, I assume Mr Nile still prays and this year his prayers look like being answered.