Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Milanese treats

Friends currently in Italy enjoying their stay in Milano (and enjoying treats like these).

Sunday, 28 August 2016


A doctor moves into an enormous high rise apartment block, designed to provide all the bells and whistles of modern western life, but within three months he and his fellow residents have disintegrated into a lawless, violent, self interested, sex-obsessed rabble.

As an aside I would hope this is not the fate for a certain High Riser I know.

The movie 'High-Rise' is a savage satire and critique on western capitalism. It reminds me of similar metaphorical films from the 1970s, some of them out of Italy. I can imagine the tale being told in a whimsical way by a Jacques Tati, for example, but there is nothing whimsical about this film.

It is not really my type of film but I would bet it will appear in some critics' 'best films of all times' list in the future.


Saturday, 27 August 2016

The Metropolitan Opera: Tosca

The Metropolitan Opera: Tosca

I have written before about my special affinity for Puccini's opera 'Tosca'. It's particular blend of passion, romance and tragedy seems to strike a chord with gay men. The opera was a favourite of my late Father who used it - and amusingly some of my late Mother's lottery winnings - to expose me to opera for the first time at a tender pre-teenage year.

I have seen the opera live and on film numerous times but this is my first exposure to a cinema screened live stage production from The Metropolitan Opera (New York). As I would expect from that company the production is superb. I was quite emotional by the end.

The police chief Scarpia - much the worse off for his encounter with Tosca in the image above - was performed in this production by Georgian singer George Gagnidze. I didn't know the name previously but his performance was brilliant, matched pretty well by all the principals.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Free speech

Interesting comment added to an advertising board in Paddington. The comment reads 'wife beater'.

In case you don't know, the model in the advertisement is the actor Johnny Depp who has just been divorced from his wife and I believe the grounds included domestic violence.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

David Brent: Life On The Road

For the second time within weeks a movie is released based on a popular British television comedy series.

'David Brent: Life On The Road' brings back the excruciatingly off the mark manager (Ricky Gervais) from 'The Office' who takes time away from his current sales representative job to both manage and headline a band on tour. Brent is desperate to be popular, to be admired, to be part of the team. He fails in all respects blissfully ignorant as to how out of step he is with almost everyone he encounters. He seems incapable of learning from the constant rebuffs he experiences but he tries again and again.

As with the television series he is sad to watch, yet at times as compelling to view as the cliched train smash.

The question for me is what is the point of the movie. The recently released 'Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie' in its subject matter felt nothing more than an episode of the television original except it is on the big screen and is movie length.

At least 'David Brent: Life On The Road' takes its title character out of the office and into a different, musical, environment. There are a number of original songs, all of them containing excruciatingly inappropriate lyrics. Yet even then that transition is sandwiched between scenes of the familiar office context which open and close the film.

As with 'AbFab' this is mainly for aficionados.


Tuesday, 23 August 2016

War Dogs

'War Dogs' is based on actual events. Two twenty something young men pursue a get rich quickly strategy by winning tenders to provide arms to the United States Defence Forces and their allies in the Middle East war zones.

The two men succeed initially through a combination of bluff and ignorance but disaster seems inevitable.

Another look at the ugly side of life.


Monday, 22 August 2016

Food, glorious food

Melbourne's reputation for fine dining I am sure is justified. I've made two visits there in the past month and street level cafes were bristling with customers both times. I imagine finer and more expensive dining is also thriving but I made no attempt to try that out on these visits.

I spent less than twelve hours in the southern capital yesterday and my senses were sorely tempted at several sites in the city.

Hopetoun Tea Rooms
A patient queue suggests the Tea Rooms have quite a reputation
More queues, this time in a laneway for Doughnut Time
A lavish array of doughnuts

I succumbed to temptation at the Arts Centre with this Mango and Pineapple Cheesecake. The chocolate ball was hollow inside.

Sunday, 21 August 2016


John Kander and Fred Ebb were the masterful combination who created some outstanding musicals including, perhaps most notably, 'Chicago' and 'Cabaret'. Their last work together was 'Curtains' which is set in a theatre and is somewhat of a whodunnit as the leading lady is murdered during a rehearsal and a theatre-struck detective is called in to solve the case.

The musical is currently playing a limited season in Melbourne through The Production Company.

The musical is tuneful and contains some clever wordplay lyrics. The staging is professional and energetic. Unfortunately the plot is rather light and frivolous so that dramatically this is not a patch on the two earlier mentioned works.

Old fashioned and quaint.


Saturday, 20 August 2016


(Photo: Helen White & Sydney Morning Herald)

The current presentation by the Darlinghurst Theatre Company'Broken', is set on a remote roadside where a crash brings two strangers, victim and rescuer, together and is the spark for an evolving relationship although the rescuer has a partner at home.

The play is not acted out in a traditional sense, rather the three performers speak their lines to microphones illustrating the context of the scenes by creating their own sound effects. The staging reminds me of the radio plays of the 1950s I used to listen to as a child and on one occasion saw performed live from the audience.

It is all very simple, yet most effective. The three performers are engaging and deliver their lines with  an interesting, at times, poetic rhythm.


Friday, 19 August 2016

Jason Bourne

The latest in this series of thrillers which, as ever, sees renegade CIA agent 'Jason Bourne' on the run whilst trying to recall details of his lost past. In fact in this instalment those details are coming back to him.

This instalment has perhaps the lightest plot in the series to date and probably the most extravagant and improbable chase sequences. Matt Damon, once again playing the title role, has very little dialogue to deliver and is more brutish than ever, yet has lost little of his appeal.

More of the same but devotees will be largely satisfied.


Thursday, 18 August 2016

One customer's soup is another's sauce

I ordered Pork Won Ton soup and paid the associated price ($11.50) but when eventually it was delivered I was given Pork Won Tons in Peanut Sauce ($15.50).

It wasn't actually what I wanted but I took it. No extra charge.

This is the second mishap with my order from the same food outlet. They are not especially efficient. Luckily, for them, the food is tasty.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

We have to move

Apparently Australia is not where we think it is.

Yes I know, we are still in the Southern Hemisphere with the Indian Ocean to our west and the Arafura and Timor Seas to our north and the Pacific Ocean to our east and the Southern Ocean to...well the name says it all.

Yes, we are sort of where we always have thought we are, only that we are 1.5 metres away from there; wherever 'there' is.

Funnily enough, I have sort of known this ever since the introduction of Apps and smart phones. Looking up Google Maps or Apple Maps I'd find myself indicated as being slightly adjacent to where I believed I was or, somewhat unnervingly, across the road from I believed myself to be.

Spooky, isn't it?

Sunday, 14 August 2016

City to Surf 2016

This annual fun run is underway as I key in this post. The run is from the Central Business District to Bondi Beach; something like 14 kilometres from memory. The elite athletes complete the course in about 45 minutes but others run or walk the course (which includes some horrendous hills) over a period of 2/3 hours.

This year the field is expected to be about 80,000.

Early runners in the field passing through Edgecliff, where I live;

The same runners (possibly) moments later passing through Double Bay to my east:

Saturday, 13 August 2016

The first lady shops at the mall

In American terms, Lucy Turnbull, the wife of the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, is Australia's 'First Lady'. Not that we use that term here.

Lucy Turnbull
I passed Mrs Turnbull today in the Westfield Bondi Junction shopping centre. She was walking casually through the busy centre crowded with Saturday shoppers with a bunch of lilies slung casually over her shoulder. There was not a security presence in sight. I can't imagine Michelle Obama in a similar situation.

It reminded me that our State's former Premier, Bob Carr, and his wife regularly slipped into my local cinema for a Sunday afternoon movie without any escorts or hoo-ha.

There are some things awry with Australia at the moment but in many ways we are still a very lucky country.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Bad Moms

A mother of two school children exhausted by her domestic, family and workplace responsibilities rebels against the onerous and ideologically driven demands of the school's PTA leadership.

It seems to me that the early years of the 21st Century filmmaking will go down as a period of comedy based upon people behaving badly.

There are few characters in 'Bad Moms' who display behaviour that one might categorise as the model of child rearing nor in hand books about how families or co-workers should relate to each other. The film follows a predictable arc. There are no surprises. It is all plot by numbers.

As for comedy, all I can report is that there wasn't a single laugh out loud from the meagre audience at my session.

One positive for the movie is that females dominate it numerically and in every other way. If you can last that long, I recommend you stay for the end credits which show presumably real interviews with the female actors and their mothers. They are easily the best scenes in the entire film.


Thursday, 11 August 2016

Frida, Diego and Archie

A visit to the Art Gallery of New South Wales today to see two exhibitions.

First off we spent time in the Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera exhibition. I had some prior knowledge of Kahlo but none of her husband Rivera. There were probably as many, if not more, photographs and letters on display as actual art pieces but the exhibition was very interesting none the less.

Photograph of Frida Kahlo at work
After some refreshments we moved on to the annual Archibald Prize portraiture exhibition. I didn't fancy much of what was selected as the finalists. Some barely seemed like portraits to me at all. This is an annual complaint. Of those that I could see as being portraits, quite a number failed to capture my impression of the spirit of the subjects. This, of course, is a personal view.

Archibald Prize 2016

I'd recommend seeing Frida and Diego ahead of seeing Archie.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

The abominable count

Five years ago one other volunteer and myself acted as Census Field Officers for patients in the hospital. Despite receiving some training from the local area representative for the Census we were totally unprepared for the effort involved in distributing these forms to some 270 patients and collecting their completed responses. It took us something like six hours to distribute these forms, answering questions along the way, and when we finished around 10pm on the night I was exhausted. The follow up work continued for the following couple of mornings. I was adamant I would never perform this function again.

Fast forward five years to 2016 and tonight was once again Census night. A week ago my arm was (figuratively) twisted and despite my previous adamance I agreed to perform this work again. My reluctant change of heart was based on the fact that this time eight volunteers would be involved in the distribution and collection of forms and that someone else would manage the project.

Given events that saw the online facility for returns shut down under some form of technical attack it is somewhat ironic that the marketing for Census night included a 'Pause' symbol logo and message.

Census 'fail'
Even with four times the number of volunteers involved compared with the previous Census, distribution of forms took almost as long as in 2011. However, preparation based on our previous experience made the distribution more streamlined and the collection of the completed forms was considerably more efficient and speedy than on the earlier occasion.

It is still a tiring exercise. Once again I am determined not to repeat the work.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie

Two ageing women struggle, mostly unsuccessfully, to be part of the zeitgeist of the fashionable set.

'Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie' is a cinematic version of the successful British television series which has its devoted following. Extended to a movie, albeit one of barely 90 minutes, the film contains no more plot than the average television episode. Frankly what's been concocted here doesn't really justify expansion from television.

I've enjoyed the television series at times and I also had some laughs from this film but my enjoyment has always been tinged with some unease.

These women behave badly and almost everyone else in the film behaves badly too or else is made to look rather silly. Why am I laughing with them, or at them? There are plenty of celebrities to ogle at if you have any idea who they are. Almost all those connected with the fashion industry were a complete mystery to me, even with their names listed in the end credits.

If you are a devotee of the television series you will probably enjoy the movie, otherwise you are likely to be appalled.


Thursday, 4 August 2016

Wanted: Neutral or Alive

Why, oh why, do official photographs have to look so awful? The photos of me on my local Drivers License and now on the newly issued International Drivers Permit for next month's overseas trip make me look like a convict just released after 30 years incarceration in Alcatraz.

Unfortunately I am not blessed with a naturally happy looking 'resting' face. Some people's neutral face is a natural smile. Mine is not. My neutral face makes me look unhappy or somehow disapproving.

Government authorities don't like you to smile in their identity photos. They want you to look neutral and in looking neutral - especially with my spectacles removed at their insistence - I look awful.

No wonder I get pulled aside regularly at airports to undergo the bomb residue test.

Monday, 1 August 2016

The Hanging

'The Hanging' is a 75 minutes long, one act play by Angela Betzien; her first work to be staged by the Sydney Theatre Company.

In a theme reminiscent of Picnic at Hanging Rock, three schoolgirls go missing in the bush. Two days after their disappearance is notified one girl is found and the play revolves around the ensuing police interview of her and her nominated school teacher as the adult observer.

I saw this play at the end of a long tiring day and I suspect I dosed off momentarily at several points because there are a couple of gaps in my understanding of the events. If so, that is a pity because the play seems extremely well written and the acting of the three performers is excellent. The play is also well staged with clever, non intrusive, use of audio visual techniques.

I wish I had been more alert.