Saturday, 31 January 2015

Take a position


I'm a very placid person. Friends have complained about it. 'For heavens sake, express an opinion', Cs has railed at me several times when he has foamed at the mouth at some imagined outrage which has left me quite unmoved and disinterested.

Someone, one or both of my parents perhaps, has imbued me with a 'live and let live' attitude to life and events. Occasionally I get hot under the collar about some matter but it doesn't happen very often.

In a similar vein my mind is often a blank. Nada. Nothing happening. I'll be seated somewhere, silent and not contributing to the conversation and someone will make that cliched observation, 'a penny for your thoughts', when in reality I am thinking nothing at all.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Holiday harbour activity

As best I can recall it has been a long time since it rained in Sydney on Australia Day. This year it did rain, virtually all day. The usual activities continued in the rain including annual events on Sydney Harbour.

The latest Navy vessel, HMAS Canberra, amongst pleasure craft and masted sailing vessels.


One of three P&O cruise ships which anchored in the harbour for the day.


After Dinner

Sydney Theatre Company
(Sydney Theatre Company at Wharf 1)

Five people are out for Friday night dinner at a club. At one table three women, one uptight and unmarried, one fun loving and unmarried, the third tentatively stepping out for the first time since being widowed. At another table two men, one recently separated and the other unmarried and looking to pick up a woman for the evening.

This is the set up for 'After Dinner', written thirty years ago by Andrew Bovell when he was just 21 years old.

A very funny and at times poignant examination of human behaviour and relationships.
★★★★

Monday, 26 January 2015

Arise Sir Philip

I awoke this morning to the news that Prince Philip - that Greek Englishman who is married to a Queen and who lives mainly in London - has been made a Knight in the Order of Australia. No doubt Sir Philip as he may now prefer to be known is chuffed at the news.


Like many Australians I have no idea why our Prime Minister thought last year, without any public discussion of which I am aware, that it was a good idea to reinstate Knighthoods into Australia's honours system let alone distribute such trinkets to people who not only aren't Australian but do not even live here.

The supplementary news that the Knighthood is for 'his contribution to Australia' leaves me rather bewildered. I suspect Sir Philip is more bewildered than I.

At least Sir Philip won't have to travel far for his investiture. He might just tumble out of bed one morning and into something a little formal, perhaps a little number like this;


As for Prime Minister Abbott....have we ever had a PM more out of touch? Not in my lifetime.

Australia Day 2015


Sunday, 25 January 2015

Unbroken


Unbroken is about an American Olympian and wartime Bombardier, Louis Zamperini, who was captured by the Japanese after being adrift on the ocean on a rubber dinghy for more than seven weeks following the shooting down of his plane and who was detained as a Prisoner of War.

The film focuses relentlessly on the brutal treatment Zamperini was subjected to as a POW and as a consequence is heavy going for much of its length. The final moments which show photos of the real life Zamperini  and details about his post war life and attitudes indicate a remarkable man and give some credence to the events portrayed earlier.

Doubtless cinematic and dramatic license has been taken in the portrayal and it does seem unlikely that all of the men with whom Zamperini served prior to his capture could have been as flawlessly photogenic as they appear in the film.

Strong stuff and better than average.
★★★1/2

Friday, 23 January 2015

Horses for courses

Horses for courses...or something like that. I really should learn a lesson but sometimes I forget.

Tonight I purchased a takeaway meal from a neighbourhood eatery which specialises in chicken dishes. I had the intention to purchase a chicken dish without deciding what type to select until I got there. However once at the eatery I noticed a beef curry on offer, something the eatery doesn't often have on its menu so despite the heat of the day - or maybe because of it - I made the last moment decision to select the beef dish instead.

That was a mistake.

The beef was very dark - darker than in the stock image below - and not very tender and the curry flavour, if that's what it really was, did not appeal to me.


What is further annoying was that only when eating the meal back home did I remember selecting a beef curry from that eatery about a year ago and not enjoying that meal either.

When will I learn the lesson. Horses for courses. Stick to an eatery's speciality.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

American Sniper


Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) is a 'legend' and a 'hero' to his mates for his unerring skill as an American Sniper in the war in Iraq. His task, along with his fellow snipers, is to protect the ground troupes engaged in house to house searches by picking off enemy snipers and combatants. His superior 'kill' record is behind his fame.

I'm quite conflicted by this film. It opens with scenes of the childhood Kyle receiving lessons from his father on his responsibilities as a family defender, scenes which are every bit as unpleasant as the war scenes to follow. The film then quickly jumps to the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York which inspires and leads to Kyle's enlistment as a Navy SEAL. He marries and starts a family and serves four tours of duty to Iraq. All the while he grows more distant from his family and increasingly disturbed by his war experiences.

From Twitter I see there are people who having seen this film are enthused to join in the killing spree. I find this response to the film disturbing. Whilst I feared in its early scenes that the film was into glorifying the war the fact is that pretty well all the combatants are shown to eventually be severely damaged mentally and/or physically by their experiences. Yet despite severe damage those who might be said to be survivors remain drawn to involvement in weapons.

The futility of the war is obvious with nothing achieved apart from injury, death and mayhem but the film seems uninterested to underline this fact.

Cooper's performance is quite brave as he departs far from the handsome charmer of his early movies  and it looks like he will be well rewarded financially. Cooper is one of the film's producers and the movie is a box office hit having taken nearly $100 million dollars on its first weekend in the USA.

This is very firmly an American view of the conflict. Technically I suppose the film is well made but I had difficulty following the dialogue, large amounts of which were unintelligible to me. I simply couldn't make out what the actors were saying.

Whilst I'm concerned the film sparks an healthy reaction from some, assessing it rationally I rate it
★★★

Radiance

Belvoir St Theatre

Three half sisters assemble at the family home for the funeral of their mother. One of the sisters, an internationally renowned opera singer, has returned from London. As the sisters remember the highs and lows of their past, family secrets are unravelled.

Radiance is a revival. It is directed by Leah Purcell who also plays the part of the oldest of the sisters, the opera singer. I like Ms Purcell and have enjoyed her acting in the past but she is not convincing in this role. There is none of the diva bravado in her body language or behaviour. The other two performers are quite capable in their roles.

Unfortunately I easily guessed early on the big twist that provides the ultimate dramatic climax.

Some strong aspects but overall, disappointing.
★★

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Radio times


I was seven when television started in Australia but we didn't get one in our home until I was about ten. In my formative years home entertainment was sitting around a radio receiver every evening listening to serials and musical programs. Our imagination was a powerful tool with mental pictures of what was being portrayed in the serials forming in our minds.

I remember how my illusions of these seemingly life like serials evaporated when we went to a radio studio one day to see a serial being broadcast. I saw the reality of actors standing over a microphone with some bald headed man on the side creating the sound effects for doors closing, rain falling and the like. It was like learning the truth about Santa Claus.

Radio plays a different role in our lives nowadays and it is more difficult to win over listener imagination. Modern television and film and astonishing developments in computerised effects mean we are much more cynical and less easily deceived.

There is an advertisement currently broadcast on morning radio for a health service in Sydney specialising in depression. It is a serious matter. The advertisement depicts an apparently young groom tearfully talking about his young bride's depression. Even allowing for the obvious, the knowledge that this is an advertisement, the groom's tearful disclosure just doesn't ring true to me.

I suppose its all in the ear of the beholder but this is one message my imagination hasn't bought.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)


There is a lot of publicity surrounding Birdman which concerns a former epic film actor who disappeared from prominence and who now is making a comeback via the Broadway stage. Michael Keaton, himself having disappeared from view after starring as Batman, plays the actor.

Birdman is nominated for a swag of awards and there is plenty of comment about its style in that it appears to have been filmed largely in one 'take'; that is, a continuous sweep of the camera apparently without any breaks in filming. This technical feature is both impressive and distracting. I spent far too long at the outset focusing on the camerawork rather than getting into the plot and dialogue. I also felt some motion sickness early on.

The film is set entirely within and around a New York theatre as a play is rehearsed and previewed in the lead up to its official opening night. Birdman has some wonderful individual moments but at the same time is occasionally confusing and obscure.
★★★1/2

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Impulse buying

My good friend Mt is a very careful shopper. She cannot purchase a pair of shoes for walking the dog without first researching the internet, visiting shoe shops in three cities and trying shoes on for fit and comfort for hours on end. I admire her thoroughness but am also bemused that despite all this effort she sometimes is dissatisfied by her eventual purchase. Mt put just that sort of effort into buying her first car for 17 years - a demonstration car - and then traded it in for another a few months later.

I, on the other hand, am different. Very different actually. Yesterday was an example.

I went into town to have a $10 super zero buzzcut and (figuratively) came home with a $4,750 lounge suite. It will be delivered on 6 March. I saw a sofa and two armchairs in a furniture store. I handed over a plastic card and said 'send me one set please' and that was that. No research. Very few thought processes.

The sofa looks like this;


and the two armchairs are similar.

I think that's called impulse buying.

Friday, 16 January 2015

St Vincent


When we queued to see The Water Diviner a few weeks back an elderly man with walking stick approached us as he was leaving the cinema and he told us he had just seen a charming and funny film. When I asked him the name of that film he couldn't remember and he shuffled away only to return a moment later to say he now remembered the name. It was 'St Vincent'.

And now I've seen it too.

A newly separated mother and her young son move into a house next door to an incorrigible, irasicble gambler, drinker and general layabout. Against all expectations the neighbour assumes the role of minder and mentor of the young boy.

This is a delightful film which had me chuckling throughout and then teary eyed at the end with its admittedly calculated conclusion. From birth to death everything gets a run in this excellent little film.
★★★★

Thursday, 15 January 2015

By the sea...

...for lunch today...

Bondi Beach

North Bondi RSL Club

Taken 3


Who would be married to Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson)? In Taken and Taken 2 members of his family were kidnapped and he had to perform super human feats to return them to the safety of his protection. So it is no surprise that in 'Taken 3' he has do it all over again only this time it has to be better, messier and more spectacular than previously. This even though no one in his family has been 'taken' as such. One has been murdered and the other has become a bargaining chip but what the heck.

The old adage applies. You'll like this if this is the sort of film that you like. Duh!

Hopelessly implausible nonsense.
★★

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Come rain and come shine

Looking down a section of our driveway following a night of rain around 9.30 this morning;

Lush and green

Returning around 1.30pm the rain has disappeared - for the moment - and the sun has appeared. Looking back up the driveway a section of the wall has been demolished as part of the adjacent Lincoln Place construction site. Our neighbourly developers will be reconstructing our shared wall once they have completed the construction on their side.

I suppose the house behind the wall at the other end - which actually is a triplex of three house size residences - is dreading the loss of surrounding space and whatever view they once enjoyed when the Lincoln Place complex is completed.


Sunday, 11 January 2015

My station in aisle 6


I was idly scanning the digital radio stations last night when I came across a station I hadn't noticed previously, Coles Radio. Heigh Ho, I wondered is this the supermarket beast's background music in my own home? (No, I didn't really think 'Heigh Ho' but you get my meaning.)

Listening for a few minutes confirmed this was indeed a broadcast of the music played in the background at Coles stores, advertisements for store specials and all included.

No, I don't think I will save the station as one of my pre-set favourites.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Abandoned


This bottle of wine was abandoned on my doorstep on New Years Eve. There it was, all alone, in its brown paper bottle bag, no note or explanation in sight.

Was it left there by mistake? Was it intended for the party next door? Do I have a secret admirer?

If it was intended for me then the abandoner doesn't know me very well. I don't drink.

Lost favourite

Whilst I was in between modems Andrew's blog disappeared from my 'frequently visited' list. Only Andrew's link disappeared, all the other 'frequently visited' links remained listed. That was strange, not the least because Andrew's blog has been top of the list virtually since the list commenced. Yet, here it was gone. Poof!

For the information of those who don't have a MacBook, the list is not compiled by me. The MacBook creates the list all by itself.

When the new modem was activated Andrew's link returned. Straight to the top of the list too. Spooky.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Into the Woods


It is a brave concept to set famous childhood tales like Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Cinderella and Jack and the Bean Stalk to music and then mash them all up into one super tale. This is what Stephen Sondheim did when his musical appeared on the Broadway stage in 1987 and now the Disney company has released its film version of 'Into the Woods'.

The first two thirds of the film is a fairly straight retelling of these stories but the final third turns rather dark. As cautionary tales each of the stories contains grim moments that might well frighten younger viewers. The film has a laugh at itself at moments during the final third, perhaps to balance the darker turn.

Sondheim's music seemed to lack variety to me but his lyrics are undeniably clever. The tunes fitted the tales quite naturally. I thought Lilla Crawford and Daniel Huttlestone (respectively Red Riding Hood and Jack) were outstanding whilst Emily Blunt shines in her every scene.

We attended a session heavily patronised by large family groups and the children amongst them seemed to maintain their attention to the film throughout.
★★★

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Here I go again....

....banging on about Telstra.

Why am I whipping my least favourite corporate organisation, so called service provider, yet again only days since this?

I could blame Andrew because it was his comment that made me think I should update my modem but that would be unfair. The fact is his suggestion was timely and relevant but as always in my experience obtaining a service from that communication beast is excruciating.

In brief, I phoned Telstra to enquire about obtaining a new modem and was told I had to contact a Telstra store directly. I visited a Telstra store and was told I had to order a modem by phone. The man in the store with the 'triage tablet' in hand gave me the number to ring. Returning home I rang that number three times only to hear 'your call cannot be connected'. I rang the general enquiry line and finally spoke to someone who took my order and promised a new modem would be delivered within five days.

A modem was delivered after two days - yay, a tick for Telstra - and I connected it relatively quickly. Then I tried to activate the modem but the relevant screen simply would not accept my request. Back to the telephone enquiry line and after some to-ing and fro-ing I was informed that a code called the mac number had to be registered and this would take about 24 hours to achieve. Don't ask me why, I just don't understand.

And now, after 36 hours with no internet access, I am connected again.

Now to see how this modem performs.


Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Seafood by the seaside

A holiday lunch with hospital colleagues yesterday at the Manly 16ft Skiff Sailing Club.

The ferry to Manly
Seafood basket

Monday, 5 January 2015

Bridge

Tonight, 46.80%, 8/9

Dear Mr Telstra

You make me dislike you.......



This morning for the third day in succession I had to reboot my internet connection by the high tech method of removing the plug from the power point, turning the power point off, counting to thirty, reinserting the plug and switching the power on again.

It's no big deal I know and it doesn't take long in the grand measure of time that is my life but, oh boy, it does become an irritant. Maybe it isn't even your fault, Mr Telstra, but after all, you are my internet provider so please keep providing the service I pay a small fortune to receive.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

The Imitation Game


'The Imitation Game' tells the story of Alan Turing, the mathematician who worked on the top secret project at Bletchley Park in England to crack Germany's wartime Enigma cryptic code system an achievement which proved pivotal to the outcome in Europe of World War 2. In real life Turing was homosexual and with homosexual activity illegal during his entire lifetime he died at a young age in a state of shame.

However this film is not so much about Turing's sexuality, rather it focuses on how a brilliant yet eccentric man without the accepted social graces of the time worked in a hostile environment to achieve with his team a stunning - yet unrecognised - success.

This is a wonderfully acted film with Benedict Cumberbatch superb as Turing. All the support cast are excellent including Keira Knightley who I haven't always enjoyed watching.

I know this film has received mixed reviews and some feel that it deals insufficiently with Turing's sexuality - I don't share that view - but I think it is terrific and I highly recommend it.
★★★★

Saturday, 3 January 2015

I want to be alone...

Sometimes I 'get' Greta Garbo, the Swedish actress who in her later reclusive years of retirement in the USA yearned to be left alone. Well, that's the mythology anyway.

Greta Garbo

After years of solo living, a week like last week in the 24/7 presence of three house guests can be fun and tiring at the same time but afterwards it is oh so nice to just be solo again. I was going to take myself out during the day but as the hours passed by I knew I would remain home and so it transpired.

I did do some housework and even cleared some paperwork. I did take shower - eventually - but otherwise I spent the day in a nightshirt being a real lazy bones.

I 'vanted' to be alone.

Friday, 2 January 2015

The clean up

The final laundry load

The post party, post visitors' laundry and kitchen clean up.

Three lots of queen size bed linen, four bath towels, six face towels, eight tea towels, one dining table table cloth and three loads of my personal laundry in addition to two loads in the dishwasher.

All done.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

What a swell party...



New Years Eve. The purpose of my three house guests visit; to stay over for Sydney's annual fireworks display.

I am blessed that my apartment provides an excellent vantage point for viewing the fireworks. In addition to my house guests I invited two other couples so there were eight of us for the evening. In the past I've considered NYE tedious. Everyone sitting around being falsely jolly wishing for midnight to arrive and then making a quick getaway as soon after the fireworks as would seem decent.

This NYE I would modestly concede was a success. The food - none of it my doing - was excellent. Conversation bubbled along all evening and there was none of that sitting around waiting for the next burst of fireworks to begin. In fact our conversations were only broken by the sounds of the fireworks (the 9pm family fireworks, the new 10.40pm 'are we there yet' fireworks and finally the main event at midnight) and there was no dash for the door as the fireworks disappeared into all embracing smoke. The first guest did not depart until 2am.

In case I was still uncertain about the evening, the emails I received from both couples removed any remaining doubt, each of them congratulating me on the night and effectively inviting themselves to participate again next NYE.

Happy New Year everyone!