Monday, 30 April 2012

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

A Yemeni Sheikh who admires the British seeks to introduce salmon fishing to his water deprived homeland and the British Government keen to find a good news story in its Middle East relations seeks to engage a reluctant Fisheries academic in the project.

'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen' is a pleasant couple of hours of gentle humour mixed with soft political drama. Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt make for an appealing odd couple whilst Kristin Scott Thomas goes to town in her role as the Prime Minister's Press Officer.

The film doesn't deviate from the expected road, or should that be waterway, so there are no surprises but it's an enjoyable journey nonetheless.

Sunday, 29 April 2012


(In Hebrew with English subtitles)

'Footnote' is a curious film. Ostensibly whimsical it is mostly a drama about fathers and sons. The film features three generations but the focus is mainly on the older two. Father and son are both Professors but the older's claim to fame is that he was a footnote in another's academic work. Thirty years of ernest toil count for nought when another academic trumps his findings a month before publication. The younger son is being lauded in a way that the father craves for himself.

The film's humour is very dry indeed. The performances are strong, especially Shlomo Bar-Aba as the 'footnoted' Professor. Bar-Aba's silences are more eloquent than a hundred stirring monologues.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Every Breath

(Belvoir St Theatre)

A new Australian play in one act about a family whose members are irresistibly drawn to a young guard employed to monitor their safety.

As the audience departed the auditorium one woman good naturedly asked an usher could she explain the play. It was a fair question and I suspect one that most of us wondered about as 'Every Breath' unfolded. Students of Greek mythology probably got the point earlier but one monologue near the end provided a few clues.

Otherwise words fail me.

Four of the five cast members disrobe during the play and all five engage in sexual activity at various stages.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Mirror Mirror

Yes, the Snow White story complete with dwarves, handsome Prince and wicked Queen. Intended obviously for a young audience 'Mirror Mirror' contains enough throwaway lines that won't corrupt children but will keep any adults in the audience amused.

The costumes are an entertainment all on their own.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

A little prick

Now that I have your attention......

I am putting my hospital ID around my neck. You know the type. A bundle of plastic cards hanging from some thin stretch material with a photograph, purporting to be mine, faintly visible. For our sins we volunteers also have to wear a plastic name tag even though the formal hospital ID already bears our name and status. I have my name tag pinned to the stretch material to avoid having to pin holes in my shirt everyday.

My tag

Anyway, as I was saying before I interrupted myself, I am putting my hospital ID around my neck when I notice that my tag is missing. How can this be? The tag is securely pinned through two ends of the stretch material. At least I thought that it was. There is no evidence of it having been ripped from the material and I have never noticed the pin to have been loose previously.

I retrace my steps all the way to my locker but cannot see my tag. Maybe it has come off in my car when I swiped my ID to enter the car park? I will check my car at the end of my shift.

End of shift, seven hours later. I check my car but no tag is visible. Lost! I had already alerted my co-ordinator and she has ordered a new tag for me.

I drive home from the hospital calling into my local shopping centre to pick up some groceries. I return to my car and place my groceries on the passenger seat, carefully checking again for the missing tag. No luck.

I move around the car and am about to resume my seat on the driver's side. What's this small black object barely visible against the black fabric of my car seat? That object with a sharp looking needle pointing up!

The reverse of my tag with needle pointing up
Yes my name tag. On my driver's seat. I have driven from the hospital, almost home, sitting on this needle stick and not noticed it. Or felt it! A little prick on my bum and I never noticed.

Nothing else to say really.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Signalling goodbye

It would be wrong to suggest that I am spending my time attending funerals but I am of an age when funeral attendance is periodic rather than rare and when the departed are, at times, younger than I.

The latest funeral was this afternoon. At least this time the departed was not of my generation but that of my parents. Whilst he was 87 years old, the death still came as a surprise given that it followed so soon - less than three weeks - after an unexpected and gloomy diagnosis.

It was a coolish autumn afternoon but the sun streaming from a clear sky was surprisingly warm. The view from the cemetery across Botany Bay included the unattractive sight of port facilities but with the more attractive water image in the further background.

Also in distant view were darkening clouds suggesting a storm in the offing. The edge of those clouds moved across the sun as we dispersed from the graveside on the conclusion of the burial. Within minutes of departure the sky had darkened completely and moments later heavy rain was falling. About twenty minutes later the temperature had cooled substantially and the sky had cleared again. For those who believe in these things a supreme being had signalled goodbye to a family friend.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Les Liaisons Dangereuses

(Sydney Theatre Company)

France on the eve of its 18th Century revolution is the traditional setting for this tale of seduction, deflowerment and revenge.

This STC production presents a lavish room which may well date to that period yet the participants are costumed, very stylishly indeed, in 20th/21st century garb. Our attention is not deflected by period costume, wigs and powder and we can focus on the magnificent language of Christopher Hampton's adaptation of 'Les Liaisons Dangereuses'.

Hugo Weaving leads an Australian cast in top form in this delicious rendering.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Romantics Anonymous (Les émotifs anonymes)

The French language 'Romantics Anonymous' is even more painting by numbers than yesterday's 'The Lucky One'. A timid chocolatier is employed by an equally timid confectionery manager. Although attracted to the other, each struggles to find the courage to reveal their inner feelings. Any guesses as to how it ends?

Mercifully short, the film is a frothy piece of nothingness. It provides the occasional giggle and has some of the visual strengths typical of French films.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

The Lucky One

A veteran of three tours of duty to Iraq returns to the United States and searches for an unknown woman whose photograph he picked up from the debris of war. Zac Efron looks a little young and more obviously too cleared eyed and smooth skinned to be a three tour veteran of war but then that's not why he is in 'The Lucky One'. He is the spunky sex object and as such fulfils the requirements well providing a very picturesque subject.

The whole film is picturesque but not much else. It is mainly painting by numbers with the eventual outcome obvious from the start. Efron's character has an amazing capacity to repair anything but nothing repairs, or lifts the film above the humdrum.

A group of eight female teenagers sat in the row in front of us and spent almost the entire movie chatting and updating Facebook on their mobile phones. That was a pretty fair summation of the film's worthiness. The only time they paid real attention to the movie was the film's sex scene which induced adolescent giggles from the group.

Friday, 20 April 2012

She Stoops To Conquer

(Britain's National Theatre production, filmed for cinema screening)

Oliver Goldsmith's 1773 play 'She Stoops To Conquer' stands up remarkably well 215 years later in this filmed stage production that pushes the period piece almost through the 'camp' barrier.

Apart from finding it entertaining I spent the entire screening trying to remember where I had seen Katherine Kelly (left in the above photo) previously and it was only half an hour afterwards over a coffee with friends that it suddenly hit me that for years I had watched her portray a barmaid in 'Coronation Street'. Ironic casting considering as Kate Hardcastle in the play, she impersonates a barmaid.

In essence a gentleman, en route to meet for the first time a family whose daughter may be a marriage prospect, mistake the intended destination for a public inn and the family therein for common inn keepers. A romantic comedy of mistaken identity and manners.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

An ordinary incident....

The findings today by the Federal Court on a workers compensation case fascinate me.

A public servant injured on a work trip while having sex with a male friend at a motel is entitled to compensation, a court has found.

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was denied a Workers' Compensation claim for facial and psychological injuries suffered when a glass light fitting came away from the wall above her bed as she was having sex in November 2007.

She took ComCare, the federal government workplace safety body, to the Federal Court over its decision to reject her claim.

Today, Justice John Nicholas, ruled in her favour, saying the injuries were suffered in the course of her employment.

The woman, aged in her late 30s, was employed in the human relations section of a Commonwealth government agency.

The agency had sent her to a town in country NSW where she and a colleague were conducting budget reviews and meeting local staff.

She was booked into a motel overnight.

In the judgment, delivered today, Justice Nicholas said it was agreed that the woman met a male friend who lived in the country town three or four weeks before the accident.

They spoke several times on the phone and she made arrangements to meet up with him at the motel.

It was not specified if the light fitting was pulled off the wall by the woman or her male partner, Justice Nicholas said.

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal had earlier upheld ComCare's decision, finding that sexual activity was "not an ordinary incident of an overnight stay like showering, sleeping, eating or returning to the place of residence from a social occasion elsewhere in the vicinity. Rather she was involved in a recreational activity which her employer had not induced, encouraged or countenanced."

However, Justice Nicholas disagreed, finding it was not necessary for the woman to show that the activity that led to the injury was one that had been expressly or impliedly induced or encouraged by her employer.

"If the applicant had been injured while playing a game of cards in her motel room she would be entitled to compensation even though it could not be said that her employer induced or encouraged her to engage in such an activity," he said.

"In the absence of any misconduct or an intentionally self inflicted injury, the fact that the applicant was engaged in sexual activity rather than some other lawful recreational activity while in her motel room does not lead to any different result."

During the hearing, the woman's barrister, Leo Grey, said sex was "an ordinary incident of life" commonly undertaken in a motel room at night, just like sleeping or showering.
Mr Grey referred to previous cases, including when compensation was granted to a worker who slipped in the shower at a hotel.

Mr Grey said there was no suggestion the woman had engaged in any misconduct and noted the absence of any rule that employees should not have anyone else in their room.
But Andrew Berger, for ComCare, said sex was not "an ordinary incident of an overnight stay like showering, sleeping or eating".

While sexual activity was an ordinary incident, it was not necessary, he added.

In his statement, her sexual partner said they were "going hard".

"I do not know if we bumped the light or it just fell off," he said.

"I think she was on her back when it happened but I was not paying attention because we are rolling around."

In May last year, the woman was granted a suppression order on her name after she told the court she would withdraw her suit if she was publicly identified.

Justice Nicholas ruled "the administration of justice would be prejudiced unless an order is made protecting the identity of the applicant".

He took into account evidence the woman was suffering from depression and anxiety.
"I am satisfied that this is not a case where the application for [non-publication] orders is motivated by simple desire to avoid embarrassment or ridicule," he said.

(Reproduced from the Sydney Morning Herald.)

Big wet

As beautiful as Sydney's weather often is you can bet that at least once a year we are hit with three or four days of sustained heavy rain such that you begin to wonder will the city ever be dry again. We are in the fourth day of one of those 'big wets'.

On the road yesterday

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Museum extension

The new extension to the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia has opened. The original building to the left (below) is the original Maritime Services Building. The extension to the right, as is patently obvious, is of a very different style.

From the inside the two buildings appear to mesh quite well and at some points the external wall of the old building forms sections of internal wall for the new building.

The inside of the new entrance provides a spectacular glimpse of Circular Quay.

One of the elevators also has a spectacular outlook on the Quay, reflected in part on the mirrored side wall. The wall of the older building can be seen to the right.

There is an attractive indoor/outdoor cafe which also takes advantage of the view.

There is only one sculpture on the Sculpture Terrace alongside the cafe. I imagine there will be more to come.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Celebrating youth

Apparently this is National Youth Week not something that I was aware of but discovered when I came across some activities at Circular Quay last Saturday.

There was a rather noisy mini concert by this young singer and her two male dancers....

Nearby, somewhat incongruously, was a promotion by the Scouting movement, booths for a range of Government services and a small enclosure where young men were being taught to juggle. The Pay TV music channel '[V]' was also a noticeable presence.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Titanic 3D

One hundred years ago at this very moment (2.20am) the RMS Titanic sank on its maiden voyage. The unsinkable Titanic did the unthinkable.

The story has been a fascination for millions in the century since. Numerous films have been made about this subject; none probably bigger than James Cameron's 1997 epic 'Titanic' which has gone on to gross nearly $2 billion dollars worldwide and is one of only three films to have won 11 Academy Awards.

I first saw 'Titanic' on its release in 1997 and again a few years later on television. At three and a half hours it is a very long film yet did not seem excessively long to me on viewing. I have seen many films less than two hours in length which have seemed interminable by comparison. I suspect one reason why the film's length did not worry me is its structure. In some ways 'Titanic' is three films in one. The first phase is a preamble of about half an hour covering the search for relics from the sunken vessel which also introduces a key character. Phase two of about one and a half hours is the romantic drama of its main characters. At about the two hours mark the iceberg everyone has been waiting for finally emerges signalling phase three, another hour and a half, which is the demise and sinking of the vessel.

Fifteen years later and with the centenary of the real events upon us, Cameron has re-released the film adjusted to the 3D format. Trailers for the re-release appeared a few months ago and looked so flashy I decided I would take a look. That proved easier thought about than done. Three times in the past fortnight I set off to see the 3D version and three times I bailed out at the last moment fearing that this time I would find the three and a half hours length too much to bear.

However, I have had it drummed into me to 'never give up' and so for a fourth time I took myself off to the cinema and despite almost bailing out yet again I did end up seeing 'Titanic 3D'.

So how did I find it this time around? Well, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet look very young. The film still impresses technically which is no mean feat considering how much cinema making technology has advanced in the fifteen years which have elapsed. The film's three and a half hours length once again was not an issue.

Was it worth seeing again bearing in mind that my only reason for seeing it now was to enjoy the 3D effects? Well, the 3D format is pleasant enough during the first two hours but it is nothing out of the ordinary. Still, I was a bit excited at the expectation the 3D effects would really lift once the iceberg appeared and the ship started to sink. To my surprise, the 3D format is barely noticeable in that final one and a half hour phase.

So, if you liked the film and want to see it again just for that reason or if you have never seen the film and want to enjoy an above average cinema entertainment, then by all means go along. But if you want to see it for terrific 3D effects then I suggest you keep your expectations low.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

He needed Uncle Sam

The ever prescient Andrew recently retrieved a piece of Australiana from deep down in the memory bank that came to my mind on a bus journey today.

A gorgeous blonde youth boarded the bus and rather thoughtfully, from the perspective of this old queen, took the seat immediately in front of me. Sydney buses tend to be compact so someone sharing a seat with you or sitting on the seat ahead of you is really in close proximity. The thought of sharing the journey with this young man almost in my face, so to speak, was a pleasant one.

The blonde Adonis

As you can see, the Adonis was wearing what we in Australia call a 'singlet' and Americans, I believe, call a 'wife beater'. About five minutes into the journey the Adonis decided to place his right arm across the back of his seat bringing him even closer to me. Splendid, I thought.

This very cosy arrangement continued for a few stops when it dawned on me. Either his deodorant had failed him or he hadn't applied any this morning. Now there are plenty of situations that I won't enter into in this post where I would find this to be not unpleasant, even rather...err...arousing, but that wasn't the case on this bus trip.

What a bitter/sweet journey I found the rest of the trip. He needed 'Uncle Sam'.

Friday, 13 April 2012

A Separation

(In Farsi with English subtitles)

An Iranian family acquires visas to travel abroad after months of struggle. The husband refuses to travel on the grounds he must remain to care for his father who has Alzheimers Disease so the wife goes to court to seek a divorce. The wife wants to travel to provide their daughter with a better life. This dispute leads to separation and as she departs the wife makes arrangements for an acquaintance to become a carer for her father in law. What ensues is a distressing spiral of unfortunate events from which no-one seems able to escape.

'A Separation' deservedly won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The events are portrayed so naturally it seems as though the viewer is eavesdropping on real life. The film has a claustrophobic feel with its many closeups and almost every scene filmed indoors. The few outdoor scenes are almost all filmed inside cars adding to the sense of confinement.

The film challenged my preconceptions about Iran especially the role of women and its legal system.

A fascinating film.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

The Show

A local newspaper is running a Family Show at the site of the former Royal Agricultural Society's (RAS) Showground Grand Arena now known as the Entertainment Quarter. It is an 'alternative' show to Sydney's much larger annual Royal Easter Show which has been staged since 1823 and was moved by the RAS from the former Showground to new grounds at Sydney Olympic Park in 1998.

I wasn't aware of the 'Family Show' until I stumbled across it when I arrived to see a movie at the Entertainment Quarter on Easter Monday. I was stunned by the numbers in attendance. The area was packed, particularly with families. Here is a glimpse of the crowds.

(Click to enlarge)
The light towers in the distant left are part of the adjacent Sydney Cricket Ground. The clock tower just to the right of centre sits atop the old grand stand at the northern end of the former RAS Grand Arena. That stand has been converted to offices with its glassed in top tier visible.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

What's good for the goose.....

Meanwhile, across at the opposition, Channel 9's answer to 'Kochie', Karl Stefanovic was showing his 'brolove' for one or other of the stars-du-jour by embracing the youth and exchanging arse gropes.

Karl and his brolove
Karl Stefanovic
Good to know that morning television is in such safe hands.

David fails his lawyer's exam

The theory is that a lawyer should never ask a witness a question for which they don't already know the answer. Otherwise the lawyer risks receiving the answer s/he doesn't want to hear.

Channel 7's morning show host David Koch is not a lawyer but in his role as media personality he asks guests, witnesses, if you like, plenty of questions. He should know the 'lawyerly' principle well.

At the moment five youths hailing from Britain and Ireland, I believe, are visiting Australia. Their visit is causing a bit of a stir. I'd never heard of any of them and their individual names mean nothing to me. As a fivesome, though, they have been referred to as One Direction.

You can tell they come from chilly Britain and Ireland because yesterday on the coldest April morning in Sydney for four years they went swimming in Sydney Harbour and sunbathed when any self respecting Aussie decided it was time to pull the jumpers from their wardrobes.

One Direction

Following an embarrassingly ingratiating interview with these youths on his morning television program David Koch strode amongst the hundreds (thousands?) of young enthusiasts (99% teenage females, it seems) watching from the adjoining streets to seek their reaction to seeing the group. 'Was it worth it coming?' 'Kochie' asked one young girl breathlessly. The immediate and firm response was simply 'NO'. The usually garrulous Kochie was momentarily speechless.

Recovering from this setback Koch moved on to a security guard amongst the team supervising the screaming young girls. 'Have you ever seen anything like this before?' Kochie beseeched almost begging for an affirmative answer. And what was the response from the guard? 'I've done a few of these and it was pretty standard.'

Stick to monetary policy Kochie, which is your expertise, and leave the pop-starts-du-jour to the Molly Meldrums of this world.

David Koch ('Kochie')

Sunny Sydney

On Easter Monday 2012

Saturday, 7 April 2012

American Pie: Reunion

From the credits, apparently released elsewhere than Australia as 'American Reunion', this is the third sequel to 1999's 'American Pie'.

Pretty well all the characters from the earlier films are back; older, mostly heavier looking and all evidently none the wiser as they still search variously for sex and lasting relationships.

The comedy is fairly crude and, at times, nasty but the largely university student audience at this afternoon's session found it all highly amusing as they laughed loudly and heartily at the obvious double entendres and juvenile situations.

There was a witty one liner involving Ricky Martin that was a standout from the rest of the humour on offer if that is sufficient to attract your admission money.

Warning: Jason Biggs' penis and some young blonde woman's breasts are given exposure.

Friday, 6 April 2012

I confess.....

...I wasted a perfectly good - Good Friday - holiday. It was a beautiful Sydney autumn day with blue sky and not a cloud in sight.

I had plans...sort of...perhaps of going out to the Easter Show...then to the football next door to the show grounds..or perhaps dilly dallying in the nearby harbour side park soaking up the sun and the sights of other holiday makers. Whatever...plenty of time ahead so...first a leisurely breakfast of toast and juice whilst reading about Andrew's warm buns followed by my daily trawl of other blog favourites.

That's when I should have showered and dressed and departed. But I did not. Still plenty of time, I reasoned, so I then trawled my favourite photo blog sites. Mostly serious photos, beautiful to behold, but amongst them. That was a mistake. Now I was feeling a little...well let's not beat around the bush...I was a little bit frisky.

Actually, by then I was a lot frisky. Home alone and frisky. Mmm, well I dealt with that over the next half hour or so. Never you mind how...I just did it. Mmmm, that was satisfying. And a bit draining. Back to bed I went just for a brief rest and recuperation. Another hour slipped by.

Mmmm, getting late in the morning by then and I still hadn't dressed. Better postpone the Easter Show to another day but the other options were still open. Time for a light lunch first. OK just check out a recorded television program with the sandwich and then go. Well maybe one more program...then go.

Mmmm what do you know. The late afternoon football match I planned on seeing after having been to see the Easter Show was about to start. And it was being shown live on television. How had so much time passed by? Well I was still home and I had the television on. So I watched the match...on television. And it was a close match, and it was a good one too. And by the time it was over it was almost 6pm. Where had the day gone? Wasted.

Time for an evening meal...and more television...and finally bed. I never actually got dressed.

I confess.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

'And yet all this comes down when the job's done'*

(* 'Scaffolding' by Seamus Heaney)

Having spent the best part of two days dismantling the scaffold that covered the south-west corner of my twelve storeys building (and my dining room) for the past three months, the scaffolding team was busy reconstructing it on the south-east corner.

Here is a section of the team moments before signing off for the day at 3.30pm.

(Click to enlarge)

As tomorrow is Good Friday and the first day of a four days long weekend for most Australians I suspect the scaffolders will not return to continue the reconstruction before Tuesday. In the meantime valuable visitor parking spaces will be unavailable during that period which may prove a problem for some residents. Our building/residents has had a long association with rural Australia and traditionally hosts many Easter visitors spending the holiday period in the 'big smoke' for the Royal Agricultural Society's annual Easter Show.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Art therapy

We had an art therapist at the nursing home day centre today. She provided each participant with their choice of a painting in the form of two panels one on each side of a sheet paper with the space in between blank. The participants then spent about thirty minutes painting in the blank space using water colours. They could select whatever subject they wished whether it be something to link the side panels or some other subject altogether.

Here is a selection of what they produced.

Click to enlarge
Considering that each participant is aged in their 80s/90s, that most have some low level dementia and that some have poor vision, what they produced was really impressive.

All of them became fully engaged in the task, in some cases after initial reluctance to be involved and more importantly all of them had fun and got to exercise their minds and bodies. The various therapists do a terrific job at the home.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Circular Quay

I never tire of Circular Quay no matter how many times I visit nor how many times I photograph the surrounds. I know I have posted similar photos before but here is another looking north from the eastern side of the Quay. Circular Quay East (right) is in shadow late Saturday morning. The sun has not yet reached its zenith, hence the shade. The Harbour Bridge is in brilliant autumn sunshine. One of the catamaran ferries (left) bears the name Friendship which also was the name of one of the First Fleet vessels that transported the first modern era settlers (convicts) to Australia from Britain in 1788. A Manly Ferry is visible (middle) apparently under the bridge roadway although in reality it is to the east of the bridge and travelling on its journey between the CBD and the oceanside suburb of Manly.

(Click to enlarge)