Sunday, 30 September 2012

Full moon rising


As seen from my dining room. The moon looks small and distant in my amateurish photograph but to the naked eye it looked close, large and brilliant.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

The key to cyberspace


Ae and I have been friends for over forty years. She is just three weeks older than I. So our life experiences have been similar.

Ae was a primary school teacher for most of her working life. I was always under the impression she was very good at her job and highly regarded. The latter was confirmed by the glowing testimonials provided by her Principal and colleague teachers at her retirement function where I was one of the only non teachers in attendance.

Ae often relayed stories about her classes and her teaching methods. In later years the lessons included guiding her pupils through developing technology; computers and the like. Of course her pupils were pre-teens and so the level of guidance may not have been advanced but I imagined that Ae had a better than rudimentary awareness of operating a computer.

Since her retirement, however, I have realised that Ae's capacity to operate a computer, or more specifically to sort out problems, is in reality less than rudimentary. To an astonishing degree, in fact. I've lost count of the number of times I have been called to solve her computer 'problems' from Je has deleted all my photographs (she hadn't), to my computer is frozen (it wasn't), to my address book has disappeared (it hadn't) or my computer won't connect to the internet (it did). When Ae called late one night recently asking how one sends a reply to an email I really wondered whether she was losing it.

Problem after problem resolved in a matter of minutes, or less, simply through my own, quite basic, knowledge of computer operations. This weekend the latest problem was that she was not receiving any incoming emails that she knew from the sender's telephone calls had been sent. Ae had asked several neighbours to fix the problem but none had succeeded.

I called in this morning to check her account. I could see there had been no incoming emails for a few weeks. I made a few routine checks but could not see where the problem lay. Then it occurred to me the loss of incoming emails seems to have coincided with the installation of a new wireless modem. The new modem had been installed as a 'freebie' by a telephone technician who had called on another matter altogether, a faulty telephone line. It occurred to me, the loss of emails might be connected with how that modem had been installed.

I called the Internet Service Provider and was put through to the call centre in the Philippines (where else). The operator seemed more interested in discussing my time zone and weather but eventually he discovered that Ae's email address had been incorrectly recorded in the Properties section of her account. It looked like the problem had been solved but in fact it wasn't and unfortunately Ae has to wait whilst her fault is 'escalated' to another Technician.

Whilst I was on the phone to the operator Ae kept raising other issues for me to address one of which was that she had 'lost' Microsoft Word. When I investigated I saw that Microsoft Office had not been activated on the laptop which Ae had purchased earlier this year. I asked Ae did she remember whether she had purchased the laptop with Microsoft downloaded and if so had she had entered the product key. A silly question, I knew, given that Ae had no idea what I was referring to.

Luckily Ae is diligent in keeping all documentation relating to her purchases and whilst she may not always be able to readily locate where she has filed them she did eventually produce the purchase documentation for her laptop and (of course) the product key card to activate Microsoft Office. Not having the faintest idea what the card meant, Ae had simply filed it away unactioned; many months ago. Another 'problem' solved in minutes.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Arbitrage


A billionaire CEO of a finance corporation (Richard Gere) is trying to finalise a merger arrangement. The negotiations are not running smoothly and his personal life is in turmoil.

For most of its 107 minutes running time 'Arbitrage' is a passable, at times above average, thriller/drama. There are twists and turns, some predictable, others less so and a good cast brings interesting characters to life. It is a pity therefore that having built itself to an eagerly anticipated climax the film's punches are pulled in the final moments.

Sound film, pity about the ending.


★★★

Thursday, 27 September 2012

It's food 'dude'....


On the radio just now, an interview with a young sounding Australian chef describing the food served in his newish bistro....'it's modern Mexican and American 'dood' food...'.

Of course.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Madama Butterfly

(Opera Australia)

Our original tickets for 'Madama Butterfly' clashed with our next scheduled play at Belvoir Street Theatre. The scheduled conclusion of the Opera and the scheduled commencement of the play are 25 minutes apart. Now there may be a person and a time of day where a dash from the Opera House to Belvoir Street could be completed in that time but I'm not that person and a Saturday afternoon is not that time.

It was the Opera that got rescheduled. Arriving at the Opera Theatre last Thursday evening and squeezing past a dozen or so seated patrons I was impressed to find the reassigned seat was perfect; dead centre of the row and with good, close sight lines. My self congratulation on having been upgraded so grandly was rudely disturbed minutes later when a very formally dressed couple - it transpires the reassigned performance was Opening Night with Governor Bashir and her retinue in official attendance - appeared at my side informing me I was occupying their seat. (I hasten to add, this was not the Governor's seats.)

A quick check of my ticket and I sheepishly made my way back past the same patrons to the correct seat. At least I had been in the correct row but my entry had been thoughtless. Distracted for unremembered reasons I had just headed for the seat with same number as the entry door number for my row. I don't know why, it was just one of those things.

Sitting amongst scattered Black Tie gents wearing jeans and white trainers I must have looked for all the world like a fish out of water; or more ominously a potential terrorist. Merciful relief followed shortly with the dimming of the lights and the Opera was underway.

Giacomo Puccini's Madama Butterfly is one Opera's best loved works. The American naval Lieutenant Pinkerton takes the fifteen years old Cio Cio San (Butterfly) as his token bride for the duration of his ship's visit to Nagasaki. Just a little bit of local colour and fun for Pinkerton but for Butterfly it is love so serious and unwavering that she would adopt her groom's religion in place of her traditional beliefs.

Once Pinkerton's visit is over and despite evidence to the contrary, Butterfly is convinced that he will, one day, return to her and to their marriage.

This production benefits from having Hiromi Omura perform as Butterfly and not just because she is Japanese. Omura gave a powerful and dramatic performance which was rapturously received on the night. She was excellent. Despite my familiarity with the plot which could have had me viewing events passively I teared up at the Opera's dramatic conclusion. That was entirely the effect of Omura's performance, I believe.

James Egglestone was attractively caddish as Pinkerton and Dominica Matthews stood out as Butterfly's servant Suzuki.

Madama Butterfly can be a bit of an old war house. I have seen the same staging of it several times over a long period and I was a little worried beforehand that I would be bored to see it yet one more time but I really enjoyed this performance.

 

Sunday, 23 September 2012

'Hospital removes eel from man's bum'


There is simply nothing I can add other than the link to this article from The New Zealand Herald.

Australia Day

(Sydney Theatre Company)

A play by Jonathan Biggins which draws on his experience as an Australia Day Ambassador, a program where public identities participate in activities, including Citizenship Ceremonies, that mark the commemoration of British settlement of the eastern coast of what now is Australia on 26 January 1788. For want of agreement of any other date it has assumed the role of our national day.

Biggins turns his keen eye and wit to the committees and individuals, scattered across this wide and sunburnt land, who do the legwork for community celebrations and for good measure throws in the cut and thrust of local politics.

'Australia Day' is a frothy piece of recognisable Australian humour. Stereotypes and stereotypical situations abound and the publicity promises there is something to (lightly) offend everyone. Still, most people would leave the play smiling and unoffended at its conclusion.

We did.


★★★

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Doggies maul Bunnies

I finally got to a football match tonight, the second last of the season. It was the National Rugby League second Preliminary Final at Sydney's Olympic Stadium. The resurgent Canterbury Bulldogs conquered sentimental favourites (but underdog) South Sydney Rabbitohs (part owned by Russell Crowe) 32-8. Crowe had flown in from New York to see the match.

The players enter the field before 70,354 people

The half time stretch

On the football train afterwards all hands to mobiles

'Winners can smile and losers can please themselves'

Friday, 21 September 2012

Moonrise Kingdom


Two pre-teens run away from home which sets off a search in the New England countryside involving scout troupes and a host of eccentric characters.

Moonrise Kingdom is one of those cult style whimsical films beloved by aficionados which are a mystery to those who don't 'get it'. I didn't 'get it'.

The film has an interesting look but otherwise I struggled to stay awake.


★★ for the look and for the effort.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Killer Joe


Chris (Emile Hirsch) is a drug pusher who owes money to a loan shark. He decides the way out of his money problems is to have Joe (Matthew McConnaughey), a policeman and part time professional assassin, murder his mother for her estate. Needless to say events do not proceed as planned.

Killer Joe contains considerable violence, nudity, crude sexual references and characters with few redeeming features. Despite this there is a certain compelling element to the movie if you can stomach these aspects and the touches of black humour that pop up. Otherwise steer clear.


★★★

Bridge

Last night, 52.10%, 4/10, strong finish.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Cat on a cold concrete balcony

No, not a Tennessee Williams creation. It moved just as I snapped the photo. It had been sitting snug on the balcony ledge, nine stories up, in the shadow of my adjoining apartment, on a cool Sunday morning, possibly waiting for the warmth of the rising sun to reach it.


In the background, the yuppy, uppy suburb of Paddington. The tall structure in the distant left is the Paddington Town Hall clock tower covered in scaffolding whilst undergoing refurbishment. The chimney in the distant right belonged to the former Royal Hospital for Women, reinvented some years ago as a complex of upmarket townhouses and apartments.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Coat hanger


Returning from the seaside suburb of Manly in the late afternoon sun the ferry turns into Circular Quay in the shadow of the 'coat hanger' (Harbour Bridge).

Sunday, 16 September 2012

City action


On the bus headed for home yesterday we were delayed at Hyde Park North by protestors against that infamous video insulting Islam. Looking through graffiti streaked windows of the bus these parked police vehicles were the first indicators of the action.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

I Want To Sleep With Tom Stoppard

(Tamarama Rock Surfers)

This new play is by Toby Schmitz. A young aspiring actor brings his older actress girlfriend home for dinner with his parents. The father, a dentist, has a low opinion of acting as a profession and wastes no time at the dinner table expressing that opinion to the feisty girlfriend who can give as good as she gets.

I Want To Sleep With Tom Stoppard is a witty comedy with an edge. Caroline Brazier as the actress and Andrew McFarlane as the father are standouts and they receive strong support from Wendy Strehlow and Tom Stokes.

A nicely staged production from Tamarama Rock Surfers at the small independent Bondi Pavilion Theatre. I predict this play will be taken up by one of the major professional companies.


★★★★


Thursday, 13 September 2012

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Your Sister's Sister


Emily Blunt, concerned for her best friend Mark Duplass who continues to grieve over his brother's death sends him off for a break at her country cottage where he unexpectedly encounters her sister Rosemary DeWitt who herself is experiencing grief over a lost relationship.

That's the beginning of a quirky connection between the three. 'Your Sister's Sister' is a low key comedy/drama about the usual stuff of life; what we fail to tell each other and our yearnings for intimacy.


★★★

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

He laid me


The carpet layer at work tucking my carpet to conceal the cables for my newly installed pay television service service.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Bernie


A funeral director in Texas who is beloved by the community ingratiates himself with the most unpopular widow in town. Despite her unpopularity, and no matter what he does, Bernie retains the confidence of the town folk.

The film is taken from a true story and is fascinating in the way the actual town folk who appear in it blend in with those who are professional actors to the extent that one group is indistinguishable from the other.

Much of the film contains people speaking directly to the audience. Whilst this technique can easily become boring it works on this occasion because the individuals are such an eccentric and interesting set of people.

Jack Black is terrific as the funeral director. A very funny film.


★★★★

Sunday, 9 September 2012

An odd couple?

I've moved four floors up in the building I have lived in for twenty-two years. As buildings go it is not a small one nor is it a large one. There are 36 apartments in total, three per floor, and given that the occupancy turnover rate is low I imagined that I knew most, if not all, of my neighbours; at least by sight.

Yet my neighbours in both apartments on my new floor are as strangers to me. I simply didn't recognise them as people I knew to be living in the building.

The man in the apartment to the east of mine is named Js and is probably of a similar age to me. I'm not good at judging ages and I could be wildly wrong. Nevertheless, I'm pretty sure Js is of 'senior citizen' age. Or thereabouts anyway. He introduced himself to me and it appears Js has a job involving education. Somewhere in the western suburbs. Js wears one of those Marxist/Leninist style peaked caps. I've haven't seen him bare headed to date. I think I have seen Js wearing socks with sandals but maybe I imagined that.

In brief conversations with me Js referred several times to a flatmate named Rd. My gaydar suggested to me that 'flatmate' was a euphemism. I wasn't aware of anyone named Rd living in the building and wasn't sure if I had ever seen the flatmate. That changed on Friday.

The cable television company sent a technician to install, or was it transfer, my cable service to the new apartment. The point is not insignificant, at least to the service provider, who made numerous follow up calls to me on the matter because to them the correct answer affects what they will charge me for the transfer or installation. Don't ask me because their calls left me more confused than ever but the best bit is that they so confused themselves as well that they decided not to charge me anything at all. A rare win for me.

But back to the technician. He was rather officious to begin with and I was soon very short with him. I wasn't keen on what he was proposing and just as I was telling him so with a degree of oral force, Js appeared on the landing. Js was in a hurry and couldn't wait but when I asked if I could show the technician how his cable connection was installed Js readily agreed throwing open his apartment to us whilst simultaneously announcing our entry to the unknown Rd even as he raced back out to catch the lift.

Rd appeared by our side and he was nothing like I would have imagined. It was an odd couple moment.


For one thing Rd would scarcely be older than his mid twenties. There must be thirty to forty years difference in their ages. Then there is the fact that whilst Js is short, stocky, rather plain looking and of an Anglo-Celtic appearance Rd is tall, lean, gorgeous looking and possesses the darkest of dark complexions. Rd is of African or West Indian origin, I would think.

If Rd was curious as to these two strangers standing unsupervised in his apartment then he masked that curiosity supremely. One look at us and Rd disappeared into the recesses of the apartment not to be seen again.

Once the cable guy and I had exhausted our argument in Js' apartment we quietly made our departure. I wasn't sure whether or not to lock their apartment door and as Rd was nowhere to be seen I made the decision to lock it. Presumably Rd had the wherewithal to unlock the door later without the need to wait for Js to return and rescue him. Well, I hope that was the case.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

The Splinter

(Sydney Theatre Company)

In 'The Splinter' a couple are reunited with their four years old daughter nine months after she has disappeared from her bedroom. They work hard to regain her trust and affection all the while wondering, fearing, what happened to her.

This short, one act, play features two actors as the couple and two puppeteer performers who manipulate marionettes representing the daughter as well as depicting other images.

It is an unusual, at times eerie, work well performed by the foursome.


★★★

Friday, 7 September 2012

Maple leafers

Three French speaking Canadian backpackers discussing a local mobile phone plan in a Sydney shopping centre.


Thursday, 6 September 2012

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Hope Springs



'Hope Springs' is advertised as a comedy and whilst there are humorous moments in my opinion the movie is more of a drama with its lengthy scenes frankly discussing 'marital relationships' in the various interpretations of that term.

Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones play a married couple who by their 31st anniversary have grown to be strangers to each other cohabiting a residence. Streep yearns for a return of the intimacy and affection of their earlier years together. Jones has turned into a tightwad and a grump with a single interest of golf.

I've read some widely differing views on this movie. I thought it was quite a reasonable depiction of how relationships can deteriorate in the absence of ongoing communication and empathy. The ending is no great surprise.


✮✮✮

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

And so it goes....

My move has gone surprisingly smoothly with one, predictable, exception.

How lucky was I to have recommended to me a company that not only decluttered, packed and removed my belongings but also arranged items for charity and disposal, unpacked at the new location and cleaned the departing locations in preparation for their new owners. Everything was unpacked neatly in appropriate areas of my new apartment, more neatly than I would have managed and there was a final delivery of a gift of flowers to celebrate the move. The company wasn't perfect as one item was misdirected but given that three apartments were in the mix (my new apartment, my old apartment and my late mother's last apartment) I think the outcome was more than satisfactory.

So what was the exception? My old nemesis, a telco I will no longer name - at least today - so as to starve it of publicity, even unfavourable publicity.

I had applied online to move my phone, internet and cable television service ahead of the move. I received an email acknowledgement containing an application number for my move. A staff member rang a couple of days later to confirm my application and take details. She told me I would be contacted again shortly before the move.

I wasn't.

I rang the telco the day before the move and was told there was no record of my application even with my application number. Then I was told the application had been found but no action had been taken. The dates of my move were incorrectly recorded. It took an hour over the phone to rearrange the details.

I was told the cable television change would take place on Monday despite my protestations that more planning was required. Even then the technician arrived four hours and one full day earlier than the notified appointment and as I feared could not proceed without the planning being completed.

I rang to make a fresh appointment and was told there were unexplained problems with my previous bookings. This resulted in another 45 minutes long telephone call whilst the latest call centre staff member sorted it out.

I have a new appointment for Friday.

Truly, I have no luck whatsoever in my dealings with the telco.