Monday, 31 March 2014

So so

(offbeatbride.com)


So so. That's how I've been feeling since last Thursday evening.

Why?

I've had a recurrence of my Meuniers like symptoms although, according to two doctors, I am not a Meuniers sufferer.

What am I experiencing? Shaky vision where what I see jumps (jerks?) from side to side. What else? Some vertigo. Anything else? Some imbalance standing still and whilst walking. No I am not experiencing all three at the same time and not any one of them all of the time but combinations of the three on and off since last Thursday. Especially in the evening.

It is a return of what happened to me back in June 2009 following a flight from Brisbane to Sydney. I suffered some sort of inner ear damage or disturbance and these symptoms followed two days later. The symptoms were very severe and I ended up in hospital for three days.

But the doctor and a specialist both assured me the symptoms would eventually disappear completely. They haven't done so this far. I suffered them, in very mild form at least weekly right through to about eight weeks ago.

It was then I started seeing a Physiotherapist and her work on me brought the best relief I have experienced. I was almost thinking she had 'cured' me of these symptoms so their sudden return is most disappointing. I'm not sure why they have returned but one reason could be the Manly ferry trip I took last Thursday. As we passed by the Heads (the gap opening to the Tasman Sea) the ferry, as it usually does at that point, rocked wildly from side to side through the incoming waves. As it did so, I kept my eye fascinated on the horizon as it dipped out of sight then rose to almost completely cover the window.

Maybe my fixated stare at that moment induced some fresh disturbance in my inner ear?

Anyway I am counting the days till the symptoms abate. Even typing this has had my head/eyes spinning. It is not pleasant.

By the way, the photo above has nothing to do with me. I simply Googled Images for 'Shaky vision' and this photo was one it retrieved. I thought the couple looked so cute I used the image anyway.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Noah


Watching 'Noah' I half wished that I had paid better attention at Sunday School so that I could gauge how accurately this film reflects the biblical story. I suspect it has a passing resemblance but I'm not certain about 'The Watchers', rock creatures with spooky lights for eye holes, who have been captured by the descendants of Cain and are featured here like 21st century intruders from 'Star Wars'.

As biblical epics go 'Noah' is miles away from the 1950/60s lot. There are no sandals or sackcloths to be seen, indeed by historical standards the biblical garb worn by Russell Crowe and company is stylishly formfitting. And there are no booming voices from an unseen Creator.

Crowe delivers his lines in eight word sentences but otherwise is convincingly driven as the Creator's vehicle for cleansing the planet of the naughty people. Apparently some of the rock creatures were voiced by very distinguished performers but they needn't have bothered as I didn't understand a single word of their dialogue.

Some images, I guess the scenes filmed in Iceland, are spectacular but as you'd expect from rain and flood sufficient to engulf Earth many scenes are filmed in near, or close to near, darkness.

I have made light of the film but despite moments of unevenness it is in the pantheon of biblical cinema epics an interesting example and better than the average.
★★★1/2

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Fight Night

(Sydney Theatre Company)

'Fight Night', currently staged by the Sydney Theatre Company, is more an inter active festival event than a play. The audience is handed transmitters as they enter the auditorium which they are to use to post votes at regular stages through the performance.

The performance space is a boxing ring without the ropes which is placed diagonally in front of the audience. A compere appears and a microphone drops from above as in a boxing match. He introduces the evening and explains the voting mechanisms and gets the audience involved in immediate voting by answering a series of personal questions such as our gender, age group, income level etc.

Then the compere introduces the five 'contestants' who appear wearing hooded dressing gowns again as in a boxing match. We are asked to vote for the contestant we are most interested to learn about purely from their appearance and from that point the audience votes regularly on a whole range of issues the contestants themselves have expressed an opinion about without us knowing at the time of voting which opinion belongs to which contestant.

By this means we gradually, and in some ways unwittingly, eliminate one contestant after another until there is one final 'winner'.

It is an original and highly entertaining, indeed involving, evening as well as a fascinating exercise in the vagaries of polls and polling.

Highly recommended.
★★★★

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Autumn delight

We had lunch at North Bondi RSL Club last Sunday to farewell Ln who is off to Washington and New York for holidays. As clubs go, North Bondi has quite modest facilities which are no match for the larger 'Taj Mahals' elsewhere in Sydney.

What it does have is its location at the northern end of Bondi Beach and a reasonable kitchen producing quite acceptable meals which can be enjoyed overlooking a great view. This is how it all looked during our lunch. By the way for any overseas readers, notice Sydney's autumn weather; a mere 28Âșc. No wonder the beach was well populated.

Inside the club, looking out

View of Bondi Beach from our balcony table

Looking into the club from our balcony table

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Dressed to kill

The Opera on Sydney Harbour attracts a diverse audience in age and dress. There were a few dressed quite formally but the fashion of most in attendance last night would be described as smart casual or just plain casual. Once the rains came the ponchos appeared and the audience turned into a sea of plastic.

However the fashions were on display pre the opera whilst the sun was in the sky and the rains had not yet arrived. This gentleman was certainly not formal. Whether he was smart casual or plain casual is a matter of opinion. Or perhaps you think he was lairy?

Scarf, black shirt, yellow pants & sock less(?)

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Madama Butterfly

This year's Opera on Sydney Harbour is Puccini's Madama Butterfly the story of the 15 years old Japanese girl taken as a bride by a visiting US naval officer who remains faithful to her foreign husband even as it becomes clear he has abandoned her once his visit has ended.

Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour Madama Butterfly
In this interpretation, if I have understood it correctly, the events are updated to contemporary Japanese history with the first act occurring before the disastrous tsunami and the second/third acts taking place post the tsunami.

Pinkerton is a property developer rather than a naval officer and displaced persons inhabit his damaged and unfinished properties post the tsunami. The Bonze becomes a gangster godfather type figure. For the most part I found this interpretation very convincing.

A grassy hill is the stage for the first act with an outdoor wedding and reception. As it happened steady rain fell for the most of this act but the performers did not miss a beat.

The performance space 30 minutes before commencement of the opera
The rain tumbled during an extended interval...


... as stage hands converted the grassy hill into damaged/unfinished property development for Acts 2 and 3.


Alternates perform the key characters. I wish I knew which alternates were performing tonight as the Butterfly was quite brilliant and Pinkerton and Suzuki were very strong.

The amplified sound was perhaps a little loud, especially in Act 1, but otherwise this was as enjoyable and interesting a Madama Butterfly as I have seen.
★★★★

Friday, 21 March 2014

The Doctor Blake Mistake

I quite enjoy ABC television's The Doctor Blake Mysteries. Set in regional Australia in the years following World War 2 it is a comparatively gentle mystery crime series along the lines of, say, the Miss Marple stories.

To my casual eye, the series does a pretty good job of recreating the look and fashions of the day and it takes a lot of care to avoid anachronistic images. In tonight's episode Australia's once favourite cake, the lamington, featured as a key clue but sadly the production design team mucked up an important ingredient.

For those who don't know, a lamington is traditionally a square of sponge cake coated in chocolate sauce and then coated in dessicated coconut. Sometimes the square is cut in two with jam and/or cream inserted between the top and bottom halves. Like Australia's Vegemite, lamingtons seem enjoyable only to Australians and to no one else.

Anyway, back to Doctor Blake.

The offending lamington was discovered in the kitchen of the school tuck shop. (A tuck shop is a small food outlet usually staffed by parent volunteers selling take away lunch and snacks to the students during their lunch break.) The lamington of interest to Doctor Blake looked something like the one in this photo;


Notice the coconut flakes? They are quite large. A style that seems to have been introduced to lamingtons in the past five years or so. Quite different from the style I grew up with in the 1950s which more like the one in the next photo;



and which I would have thought the more likely to be found by Doctor Blake.

A small detail for most people, I agree, but quite critical for a lamington aficionado like myself.

After all, it is details that Dr Blake revels in.


Thursday, 20 March 2014

Living the seniors life

Twenty-five years ago my parents used to come to town each year during Seniors Week to attend the Premier's free Seniors Week Gala Concerts.

I've been a senior (according to the entitlement for a Seniors Card) for nearly five years but today is the first time I have attended one of these concerts It was also a first for the three friends who accompanied me. The concert was the last of five to be staged in this years series.

The venue is the Sydney Entertainment Centre - in the current trend renamed to a certain airline name; the one you would think could not currently afford such a sponsorship.

Audience assembling in the Sydney Entertainment Centre
The performers were a mix of experience; Leo Sayers and Rhonda Burchmore, and the hopeful up and coming, Ben Mingay, Tom Sharah and Anja Nissen who sang a program of songs from the 1970s. It was the music of Neil Diamond, Carole King, John Lennon, the Village People, ABBA and the like. The music of our twenties.

Leo Sayers 'feels like dancing'

Rhonda Burchmore and Leo Sayers ham it up on the big screen

Big finish for 'Mamma Mia'

Finale

Before and after the concert the NSW Police Band entertained crowds outside the venue playing some classic tunes. The band and the soloist Police singers were excellent; well worthy of the professional performers in the concert itself.

Departing the Sydney Entertainment Centre

I didn't have high expectations beforehand but the concert proved to be very enjoyable.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

I'm so excited....I just can't hide it....

I've qualified! An envelope I will receive in the next few days may contain a winning number! I may become up to $450,000 richer! How good is that?

Here's the proof.

The news personally delivered to me by the Prize Award Administrator

How exciting is that? And guess what I am about to win? Guaranteed!

The Prize Award Administrator (PAA) is fully prepared to arrange an instant bank transfer! To any bank or financial institution of my choice in or near Edgecliff. How convenient is that! However one of the greatest pleasures the PAA has is welcoming their newest winner - that's me! - to Sydney for a 5 star winners weekend! Most of the past winners were delighted with this extra privilege! (What's wrong with those who were not delighted?)

I'll be picked up by private car at my home and whisked away to the nearest airport if necessary. Just as well my nearest airport is Sydney Airport! How lucky is that because the PAA will greet me at Sydney Airport and 'we'd enjoy another leisurely ride' to a top hotel to get settled in! If that ride is leisurely then I must be arriving out of peak hours.

The next day I will be presented with my prize cheque at a gala winners' reception by the Managing Director! Um, wait a second. Hold on. Hang on. Hasn't the PAA already made an instant bank transfer?

Never mind, I'm also offered a personal, chauffeured sightseeing tour of Sydney! I'll be lavished with attention, eat at the finest restaurants of my choice or enjoy a room service feast! Who wouldn't choose a room service feast over the finest restaurants! You'd have to be crazy!

So, to summarise, I'll be picked up by private car at my home in Edgecliff and driven to the nearest airport and then flown to Sydney - just as well that Edgecliff already is in Sydney, makes it so much easier - and then on to the top hotel to enjoy ceremony day.

I'm so excited!

Sunday, 16 March 2014

The Monuments Men


A small unit of art related experts is recruited into the army to accompany the Normandy landings in 1944 with the task of recovering artwork stolen by the Nazis for return to their lawful owners.

'The Monuments Men' is based on true events. George Clooney is the Director, a co-Producer, a co-Writer and the leading actor in the film. I suggest that this was at least one role to many for George. To paraphrase Groucho MarxGeorge Clooney has made a great movie....but this wasn't it.

The story of the stolen artwork and the efforts to recover it from its hiding places on the face of it should make for an interesting film but unfortunately this one is a dud. Scenes intended to portray tense situations lack tension, scenes of superficially humorous situations lack humour and despite a talented cast none of them engaged me sufficiently to care for their characters.

Scenes pass by like a series of barely connected vignettes. Are the soldiers concealed in the bushes friends or foe? I couldn't tell. A Christmas scene seems completely misplaced. I think George aimed high but the outcome falls short.
★★

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Afternoon storm

Approaching...


Approaching...


Arrived...


Fifteen minutes later...


...all clear

Caveat emptor


To update on our search for a New York City vacation apartment we eventually settled on one with our preferred location, price range and facilities. It fell to me to book the apartment online because CW happily lives without a personal computer, mobile phone or other 21st century accoutrements and CZ has advanced technically only as far as a Blackberry with miniature dimensions quite unsuitable for internet interaction given the stubby nature of his fingers and thumbs.

We knew from our research that a reasonable cleaning fee might be an added charge and also a bond against damage might be asked from us. There also were generalised references to a club membership but no reference to any charges regarding that so I guess we assumed that was a free formality. Otherwise we weren't expecting to be charged significantly more than the quoted tariff.

That proved to be a miscalculation. A little miscalculation in the order of nearly 100%! When I entered the booking online the (true) cost appeared. On top of the advertised tariff was added a cleaning fee and damage bond - as predicted - but in addition to these was;


  • a club membership fee
  • sales tax
  • a New York State unit fee
  • a New York City occupancy tax
  • a New York City occupancy/room tax, and
  • a processing fee


The total charge approached double the advertised amount and those taxes were particularly interesting to me given the supposedly illegal activity of offering vacation apartments.

So it was back to the drawing board until we found another apartment to our liking which did not require a club membership and which does not list any of the taxes. We are booked in, deposit paid and looking forward to our visit.

This, more or less, is where we will spending two weeks next September.


So, beware the hidden taxes and fees. Reasonably priced accommodation can be found online.

The site we found easiest to search online was airbnb but the one we found our eventual accommodation through was VRBO.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Adieu QM2


The photo taken with a zoom lens is a little blurred and may not be clear to those unfamiliar with Sydney. Taken from my balcony this evening around 9.15pm the photo shows the funnel and top decks of Queen Mary 2 as it pulls away from its berth at the Overseas Passenger Terminal in Circular Quay. The Harbour Bridge is to its port side and the Sydney Opera House is to starboard. The buildings in the foreground are in Potts Point. The zoom lens compresses the image concealing two bays, Farm Cove and Woolloomooloo Bay, that lie between the Opera House and Kings Cross.

You can click on the photo to enlarge it.

Que Sera Sera


It was something Andrew wrote - but I can't recall now just what it was - that made me think of writing (well, typing actually) this post.

When I commenced this blog just over six years ago I named it unimaginatively, after short consideration, Someone For Me, the name it continues to bear to this day. As an unattached man at the time I thought the blog might provide the opportunity to expand my network of friends and, in particular, to uncover that special someone to share my senior years.

Well, to date that special someone has not been revealed to me through the blog but I have made some fine new cyber friends; a few of whom I have met in reality and not just virtually. They include the aforementioned Andrew and his dignified partner R. Then there is Adaptive Radiation and his easy going partner Nathan. And I mustn't forget the gorgeous Evol Kween who sadly no longer publishes his blog but who still silently stalks mine (in the nicest way possible, of course).

I once sat next to 'Swede-ophile' James on a Sydney bus and we recognised each other from our blog photos and although our paths don't seem to cross otherwise I happily regard him as a friend as I follow his activities online.

There are others I haven't met in person who comment occasionally or email me and I value those contacts infrequent and virtual though they may be.

Maybe a Someone For Me will still emerge but I am content with my life and as the song goes, 'what will be, will be'.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

12 Years A Slave


This year's Academy Award winning Best Picture, '12 Years A Slave', is based on the experiences of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) a free man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery.

The film opens with Northup already in servitude. A short flashback sequence then provides images of his family life as a free man and in general terms how he was kidnapped. From that point the film focusses intently on life as a slave.

I had held off seeing this film, released in Australia some time ago, because I felt the material would be harrowing to view and that's how it transpired. Director, Steve McQueen, has crafted a stunning film that relentlessly reveals the shocking abuse inflicted on those in servitude. The images, shocking enough in themselves, are made all the more powerful, book ended as they are by static images that are almost portrait and landscape works of art in appearance. It is as though McQueen is daring the audience to watch whilst the camera lingers for uncomfortably long periods on the sickening behaviour.

Ejiofor retains an almost saintly dignity throughout in a performance commendably devoid of excess theatrics but I found the pick of the performers to be Michael FassbenderLupita Nyong'o and Paul Dano. The only discordant aspect in casting is that of Brad Pitt in a short but key cameo near the end which smacks of celebrity tokenism.

Whilst the events depicted in the film date back to the 19th Century I could not help but reflect on current day injustices - some sadly not too far from home - where humanity remains badly lacking.

This film is not an entertainment but it is an important reality check on past and present instances of discrimination, abuse and intolerance. The lessons of history which we never seem to learn.
★★★★

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Let's break the law


Do you know it is illegal to rent an apartment for a short vacation in New York City? I'm not sure about the specific conditions but this was information that came to light when I started to search accommodation online for a planned visit in September.

I gather the law is a response to demand from apartment complex owners who view their properties as lowered in value by the flow of transient visitors. I imagine the hotel industry would also be in favour of such laws to protect their high priced accommodation business.

Anyway, despite this law, online accommodation services list literally thousands of apartments in New York City for vacation rentals.

My visit to New York is to link up with friends CZ and CW who will be on their way back to Sydney following a vacation with relatives in Canada. The three of us will splurge on a fortnight of Broadway theatre attendance.

When I told them of my 'discovery' of this ban on vacation rentals both shrugged their shoulders. Oh yes, they know it is illegal but everybody does it, they told me, so of course we will too.

The online search is proving interesting. I will post updates shortly.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Le Week-End


A British couple travel to Paris to celebrate their thirtieth wedding anniversary. So accustomed and comfortable are they in each other's company that endearments and criticisms are exchanged in equal measure without any disruption to the flow of their relationship or activities. Both are in a reflective mood and neither is happy with what they see especially once they find themselves invited to a dinner party.

'Le Week-End' presents this as a drama with humorous touches. Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan are at times irresponsible and irritating yet they remain believable and endearing as a couple who continue to endure the ups and downs of a long term relationship. Jeff Goldblum is the poncey, over the top intellectual full of faux self deprecation whose dinner party - attended by similarly snobby dinner guests - sparks the resolving realisation in Broadbent and Duncan's future.

The film has delicious glimpses of Paris and of Parisian restaurant, cafe and museum lifestyles.

There are some uneven moments and the plot demands the occasional suspension - perhaps stretching - of belief but overall I enjoyed this film a lot.
★★★★

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Once in Royal David's City

Belvoir Street Theatre

'Once in Royal David's City', a new play by Michael Gow, explores theories about the theatrical style of Bertolt Brecht and political theories about class wars between the ruling and working classes.

Will (Brendan Cowell) is a theatrical director who is invited to teach theatre to school students. Still suffering bereavement from his father's recent death and further stressed by the poor health of his mother Will is weighed down by the meaning of life's struggles.

This is a wonderfully well acted work by an ensemble of eight performers on a bare stage which uses moments of lightness and humour to ask the very serious question 'why is it so'?

Brendan Cowell is outstanding.
★★★★

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Carmen

Opera Australia

Georges Bizet's opera Carmen tells the tale of the Spanish soldier who turns his back on his career, family and girlfriend all for his doomed infatuation with a cigarette factory worker and part time smuggler, Carmencita.

In so many of the most popular operas including, Aida, La Traviata, La Boheme, Tosca, Madama Butterfly and Turandot one or more characters die. In all of those I usually have a sense of sympathy or sadness for the death(s) especially when the opera has been well sung and acted by the performers.

I rarely, in fact I think never, have that sense of sympathy for the inevitable climactic death in Carmen. For close to three hours I will have sat through what I think is some of the most glorious music in opera but in those last ten minutes or so with Don Jose pleading his love Carmen I invariably have a sense of irritation. Just face facts Jose, I think to myself, and get on with the job. After all, Carmen is a self interested opportunistic seductress and Jose is a weak and unfaithful man. Why should I feel kindly to either?

Opera Australia's production has a nice appearance in terms of the set, the chorus and the major support singers but I felt a little let down by the three principal singers. Close my eyes and Bradley Daley makes for an accomplished Jose with a strongish voice but open my eyes and he is poor fit with Milijana Nikolic's Carmen. Ms Nikolic is an Amazon by comparison and sadly for Daley almost every other male on stage is taller, leaner and more dashing than he. Ms Nikolic possesses a deep voice that was not entirely to my taste in this role. Shane Lowrencev seemed in less than peak form this weekend as Escamillo. Arriving on stage by horse, I think the horse won.

I've enjoyed other productions of Carmen more than this one. Perhaps others in the audience felt differently from me as the concluding ovation seemed pretty enthusiastic.
★★★

Here comes the rain again

Rain moving up harbour this morning

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Queenly delicious

As promise earlier, a closer photograph of Queen Elizabeth, still dressed in the Mardi Gras outfit donned in the morning, berthed at Circular Quay as viewed in the rain from the forecourt of the Sydney Opera House.

(Click on photos to enlarge)


The berth had been vacated just prior to dawn by Costa Deliziosa which moved to anchor mid harbour off Athol Bay. I snapped the following photograph of Costa Deliziosa at anchor through the glass of the North Bar of the Sydney Opera House during interval of the matinee performance of 'Carmen' earlier this afternoon.


Large groups of passengers from both the vessels were on escorted tours throughout the Opera House during the day.

Costa Deliziosa sails from Sydney tomorrow evening at 6pm followed by Queen Elizabeth at 9pm. That allows passengers from both vessels to view tonight's Mardi Gras Parade if they wish to brave the rain and the crowds. Judging by the age and looks of the passengers I saw around the Opera House today I suspect their participation in the Parade, even as observers, will be most unlikely.

The Queens are back in town

Plenty of Queens descend upon Sydney at this time of year with the annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade to be staged tonight.

Arguably the largest Queen visiting for the Mardi Gras arrived in Sydney this morning; fashionably late. By my assessment, Queen Elizabeth entered Sydney Harbour two hours behind schedule according to the Sydney Ports site cruise schedule.

(Click photos to enlarge)

Queen Elizabeth sailing up Sydney Harbour this morning

Moments after the above photo was taken, Her Majesty paused just off Bradleys Head for about fifteen minutes. The reason for the pause was not evident to me until she recommenced her journey up harbour to her berth at Circular Quay. It appears Her Majesty paused to don her Mardi Gras outfit.

Queen Elizabeth and her 'Happy Mardi Gras' outfit

I will be at Circular Quay this afternoon to attend the matinee performance of 'Carmen' at the Opera House and will try to remember to take a close up photo of Her Majesty at her berth for posting later tonight. Maybe Her Majesty will have donned yet another colourful outfit?

Happy Mardi Gras everyone!