Tuesday, 31 August 2010

The Kids Are All Right

Annette Bening and Julianne Moore are engaged in a lesbian relationship and have two teenage children from sperm donor Mark Ruffalo. The kids track down the donor and his entry into the family's lives places the various relationships under unprecedented strain.

'The Kids Are All Right' is well titled. Both children handle the intrusion of their donor father into their lives with casual ease whilst their 'moms', as the lesbian parents are repeatedly referred to in the film, feel torn and threatened.

There is something strangely flat about this film. The actors each perform believably and I like how the teenagers take the lesbian parenting in their stride but somehow the relationships between the three adults doesn't click for me. Maybe the weight of the film's stereotypes is too much.

It is not a bad film but I was expecting better.

Monday, 30 August 2010

And so it proved...

I was correct. Neighbour husband did not survive this admission. He passed away over the weekend and was buried this afternoon.

Now he is at peace.

Sunday, 29 August 2010


(Click photos to enlarge)
Clovelly Beach this morning on the last weekend of winter. The beach itself is a narrow stretch of sand to the right of this photo, the ocean surf rolling in from the left. Swimmers were participating in races across the narrow bay and back conducted by the surf club.
This group of men were having a good chuckle at women struggling in the rough water...
...and then had their own struggle when it came to their turn.
Another group of men, varied ages and body builds, lining up for their race.
Not everyone was travelling by water. The coastal walk was very popular for bipeds, quadripeds and those on wheels. This was on the north headland overlooking the bay and the swimmers.

Waverley Cemetery is just around the headland to the north of Clovelly. The permanent residents have a glorious view down the hill to the Pacific Ocean. This photo was taken at the eastern end of the cemetery, looking to the north. Bronte Beach is hidden from view to the left of that part of the ocean visible above.
Looking north east, the middle headland is Tamarama; the other side of which forms the headland for South Bondi. A small stretch of sand at Bondi Beach (the northern end) can be seen in the far distance below the smoke stack which is the tallest object visible.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

The Killer Inside Me

Deputy Sheriff Casey Affleck is the softly spoken, ever polite facade of a Texan small town. This gentle example of Southern wholesomeness conceals a brutal, corrupt and murderous inner nature in 'The Killer Inside Me'.

On the one hand, this film is a throwback to 1940s film noir with it's stylish representation of 1950s small town USA and it's operatic soundtrack. On the other hand it contains sickening images of brutality which had me, and others in the audience when I attended, averting eyes from the screen. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised given the film's title.

A very confronting film.

Friday, 27 August 2010

...and good afternoon Sydney

(Click photo to enlarge)
A P&O cruise departing Sydney this afternoon at 5pm with the much smaller Manly Ferry about to pass in the opposite direction headed towards Circular Quay.

Good morning Sydney

at 6am this morning

Thursday, 26 August 2010


Andrew has posted here and previously here about the proposed Barangaroo development site in Sydney.

By coincidence I took the following photographs of part of the site only last Sunday when I took an impromptu trip up the river to Sydney Olympic Park and back.
(Click photos to enlarge)

Taken from water level, you can't tell from this photograph just how expansive is that spread of vacant former dockland. The owners and occupants of all those buildings that currently form the western edge of downtown Sydney must loath the development plans.
The site from a further distance out. The Pacific Sun is docked beside a makeshift terminal.
Observatory Hill and older structures in The Rocks that presumably will be overshadowed by the development.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Matching Jack

In the Australian film 'Matching Jack', the mother of a seriously ill son embarks on a search for a suitable bone marrow donor, deals with the discovery that her husband has been unfaithful and meets an eccentric Irishman with an ill son of his own.

Set in a Melbourne where according to this film it rains heavily a lot of the time, there are few surprises here for any regular filmgoer other than that the philandering husband should have engaged in so many dalliances apparently without raising his wife's suspicion.

The two youngsters portraying the sons are the pick of the performers.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

August: Osage County

Last night we saw a wonderful play.

The Sydney Theatre Company is staging Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company's production of August: Osage County. As I understand it the cast is the original company which premiered the work in Chicago in 2007.

A dysfunctional family gathers in its Oklahoma home when it's patriach goes missing and the revelations that ensue are both hilarious and shocking. No-one is left undamaged.

This is simply magnificent theatre. The writing is so natural and the performances of the cast of such quality that I felt I was eavesdropping on a family familiar to me rather than watching a play. The staging appears deceptively simple yet the choreography of the piece, it's lighting and mood changes are complex and timed superbly.

I've rarely seen any theatre piece combine drama, tragedy and biting humour as brilliantly as in this production.

A must see for anyone with even half an interest in the theatre.

Monday, 23 August 2010

'Hey maate...hey maate..hey maate...

...take our photos puhlease'...was the shout to me from these three staggering along the opposite footpath at 8.30 on Sunday morning. Clearly they were reaching the end of their Saturday evening rather than at the beginning of their Sunday. 'Why do you want me take your photo?' I asked, adding 'I can't print you a copy of it here.'

'One day you might be famous' was the reply 'and you will have taken our photo'.
Well, I doubt that I shall ever be famous but here is their photo for posterity...just in case.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Listen to moi...listen to moi...

I was checking the ABC website for an update of the election results and found that it contains the following profile for my electorate of Wentworth.

'In Sydney's eastern suburbs, Wentworth at 30 sq.km is the country's smallest electorate. Main suburbs include Darling Point, Double Bay, Rose Bay, Vaucluse, Bondi Junction and Kings Cross. As one of the country's richest electorates, and also the site for one of Sydney's sewage outfalls, Wentworth is an electorate that passes the Kath and Kim test of being where the effluent meets the affluent. Wentworth is also one of the only electorates in the country where barristers outnumber baristas, though this is not always obvious from the hordes of people that line the Double Bay, Bondi and Bronte coffee strips on weekends for their caffeine fixes.'

Toute sweet.

Let's do coffee...

When he said he was returning to Oz for a holiday, I suggested hopefully that he might make time to meet for coffee with a fellow Oz blogger and he kindly did exactly that. We met yesterday at the Tropicana where I bored the poor man silly with talk about me.

I'm envious that he is living in New York and hopefully he'll continue with his blog and pictures of life there so that I can feed my envy for a while longer.

Nice meeting you, Ian.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Democracy in action

The scene this morning outside the polling centre conveniently located next door to my home.

I moved to my present home in 1990 and by my count today's is the 13th election I have voted at this polling centre. The Federal elections have been in 1993, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2004, 2007 and 2010 whilst the State elections have been in 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003 and 2007. I don't have to wait long for my 14th election here which will be the next State election on 26 March 2011.
The queue for registration and collection of ballot papers and voters in the background completing their ballot papers.

With voting continuing as I type and the count not to commence until after voting closes at 6pm, I don't know yet the outcome nationally or for my electorate of Wentworth. My guess is that nationally the ruling Australian Labor Party (ALP) will be returned although predictions are that the national outcome will be very close.
The ballot paper for the electorate of Wentworth in the House of Representatives

Wentworth is currently held by Malcolm Turnbull for the opposition Liberal Party. I'm expecting that  Turnbull will be returned. My prediction is not based on any inside knowledge but simply because the indications are that the other parties and independents contesting the seat - there are six other candidates - appear to have written off their own chances. During the course of the campaign it is only Turnbull who had a mailout to residents. There has not been a single mailout in this electorate from any of the others; not even a how to vote pamphlet from the ALP. This contrasts dramatically with the previous elections in 2004 and 2007 when Turnbull faced up to 14 other candidates for the seat and most if not all the candidates flooded the electorate with their mailouts.
The ballot paper for the candidates to the Senate from the state of New South Wales. As usual, so many candidates it is impossible to spread the ballot paper out flat in the booth

In years past I used to sit glued to the television watching the evening count and taking in the political and journalistic commentary but I don't intend to watch much of the proceedings tonight even though there are predictions this may be the closest outcome since the 1961 election, if not ever. Age has wearied me. I quickly grew tired of this year's negative, Presidential style campaigning and have the sense of 'a pox on both your houses'.

As the cliche goes, 'whatever the outcome, it is always a politician that gets elected'.

Friday, 20 August 2010

End of the line?

My parents' last neighbours were contemporaries; a couple of similar age to themselves. The husband, by coincidence, had the same given name as my father. When they first moved in, the neighbours seemed in good and similar health to my parents. When my father died in 2002, the neighbour husband's health was deteriorating but he was battling on, surviving periodic hospitalisations. The neighbour wife's health remained extremely good.

Last March my mother passed away. Neighbour husband's health was pretty poor by then but he continued to confound fears as one hospitalisation followed another. Neighbour wife, meantime, remained impressively healthy; no mean feat considering the stress and pressure she must have been under caring for her husband.

About eight weeks ago neighbour husband was admitted to hospital yet again - his 22nd admission to my hospital from memory - and I doubted he would survive this time yet once more he did following a stay of about three weeks. On his discharge, neighbour husband told me he thought that he had another two admissions in him.

This afternoon, neighbour husband was admitted again. The doctor's reasons for today's admission include the phrase 'end stage heart failure'. I'm not a medical professional but that sounds somewhat final and definitive to me. During the admission neighbour husband confided to me that this life 'is not fun', that he is 'ready to go' and that if his doctor could 'shortcut it' then that was OK with him.

Neighbour husband looked really terrible today but then he looked terrible in the previous stay and yet recovered sufficiently to return home.

During his earlier stays, neighbour husband thanked me for perceived favourable treatment at admission and in room allocation which he put down to my influence at the hospital. As a volunteer I have no influence in the hospital but it seems to comfort neighbour husband to think otherwise.

I wondered why neighbour husband had made those comments to me today; the first time he had indicated such thoughts in my presence. Perhaps he thinks my volunteer influence extends to issues of life and death.

I certainly would not want such power but I fear that this time the end may be near.


A would be Russian defector contacts the CIA and offers information to an interrogator that a sleeper Russian agent by the name of Evelyn Salt is about to be activated to cause havoc in the USA. This news causes understandable consternation amongst the observing intelligence officers, not to mention the interrogator herself who just happens to be Salt (Angelina Jolie). Is Salt a sleeper as alleged or is she the innocent agent that she claims?

Given the recent exposure of real 'sleepers' in the US and their expulsion in recent months, the premise of this film is certainly up to date but the disappointing ordinariness of the real thing is nothing compared with the noise and action of the movie.

The character of 'Salt' was intended originally for Tom Cruise who would probably have swaggered through the film with a smart alec grin on his face. Jolie, however, plays it dead seriously as though this type of mayhem is perfectly normal day to day work. I've read that Jolie's character is a female James Bond but for mine she is more Jason Bourne than Bond.

To say that Jolie and Phillip Noyce, the film's Australian director, embue her character with superhuman characteristics is an understatement of epic proportions.

Jolie's use of moving vehicles - and I use the word 'vehicle' in the broadest of definitions - is nothing less than breathtakingly unbelievable.

Her Olympian athleticism is similarly extraordinary. Not daunted by being weighed down by a heavy coat, a beanie and a backpack that cunningly conceals an armoury of weapons sufficient to annihilate Afghanistan, Jolie scarcely breaks into a sweat, let alone loses breath, as she outraces and outwits battalions of armed opponents.

And Jolie also manages a sequence of altered disguises artfully donning a succession of perfectly fitted, beautifully matched outfits snatched on the run from conveniently located clothing racks.

All of this should really just come across as nonsense but the slick nature of the production and a genuine uncertainty as to which side of the fence Jolie's character sits helps elevate the film as an adventure and thriller.

And the cherry on the cake, so to speak, is the twist that emerges near the end which came as a genuine surprise to me. I didn't see it coming.

My advice to intending viewers is; suspend all logic and watch the movie...with a pinch of salt.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Two fat ladies

We conduct a Bingo game most Wednesdays at the Day Centre where I volunteer. The games are set up in such a way that every participant gets to win at least once and to choose a prize from a basket of goodies when they do.

It all should be fairly simple and good natured but often it isn't. Because of their age and state of health, the players keep forgetting what game they are playing midstream, they mishear or fail to hear the numbers called, they fall asleep midstream or start talking loudly midgame preventing others from hearing the call. Then there is jealousy over the modest prizes. They are supposed to choose their prizes in the order in which they win their games but often they forget and start to argue amongst themselves over missing out on their preferred selection.

We (the two paid staff, the other volunteer and myself) would prefer to provide other activities in place of the bingo but the Wednesday group stubbornly sticks to the game despite the arguments they get into. Apparently the other daily groups have all willingly foresaken the bingo games over time but the Wednesday group will not entertain alternative suggestions.

So we plough on. The manager is so sick of doing the call that she has 'coerced' me into taking over and I have been doing most of the calls for months. I attempt to add some life to my calls with those lame phrases such '11, legs eleven'; '66, clickety click'; '88, two fat ladies' and the like which the Wednesday group seems to enjoy. But now I read that these calls have been stopped elsewhere over fears that they might draw legal action.

No-one tell our Wednesday group about this please!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

'Once on a high and windy hill'*

('Love Is A Many Splendoured Thing' by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster)
(Sydney Observatory)
Looking north from Observatory Hill. The Harbour Bridge and Garrison Church to the right. Houses in The Rocks below the hill. High rises at Milsons Point and North Sydney north of the harbour.
Observatory Hill, Moreton Bay Figs and it's rotunda which is available for weddings.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World

Michael Cera is the early twenties nerd who is dating a younger high school girl when he sees another girl across a crowded room and KAPOW it is instant love. In my younger days this would have been the cue for someone to burst into song - Some Enchanted Evening, anyone? -  but this is the 21st century so his wooing is performed to loud band music, kung fu style antics and plenty of screen animation as he battles her seven previous suitors in turn. I suppose it is a modern twist on Prince Calaf solving three riddles in order to 'win' Turandot.

'Scott Pilgrim Vs The World' is not exactly my type of film and yet I found some of it quite amusing. However it is fairly repetitive once the challenge of the suitors commences. I'm surprised the creators couldn't generate a bit more variety to the challenges although the Japanese twin drummers were interesting and it was good to see gay characters represented in a matter of fact fashion.

This film is aimed at lovers of cartoon style storytelling.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

The Ghost Writer

Ewan McGregor is employed as 'The Ghost Writer' to complete the memoirs of former British Prime Minister Pierce Brosnan. No sooner has McGregor accepted the commission when he learns that the ex Prime Minister is facing war crime charges. Worse still, the circumstances surrounding the death of the previous 'ghost' emerge as suspicious.

Roman Polanski has created a marvellous suspense film out of this story. The settings may be Britain and a wintery North-Eastern United States - in reality filmed in Germany - but the movie is very European in tone and pacing.

I loved every minute of this film right through to the terrific 'reveal' at the end.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

State Theatre

Sydney's State Theatre was opened in 1929 and operated mainly as a cinema into the 1970s. In recent years it has mostly hosted live concerts but each year in June it reverts to a cinema as the principal venue for the Sydney Film Festival.
I took this photograph of the Market Street foyer when I was in the city last Tuesday. Behind the far doors are a series of far grander foyers, lobbies and rooms and the striking auditorium. I could never capture the grandeur but luckily the theatre's website contains a breathtaking virtual tour which I highly recommend.

I haven't attended a performance there for several years; the last time being a concert by Rufus Wainwright. I must go back to the theatre soon.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Tuesday, 10 August 2010


I took a day off from the hospital today to attend two appointments in the city and on my way to them wandered through the Queen Victoria Building, a grand old shopping arcade. This fancy clock attracts a lot of attention.
Inspired by Julie's brilliant photograph at Westfield Bondi Junction, I attempted something similar at the QVB.
Mine is not a match for Julie's photo but I am happy with the mix of circles and angles nonetheless.

Monday, 9 August 2010

2010 City to Surf (Part 2)

Continuing yesterday's City to Surf fun run as the participants passed through Edgecliff...
9.12am - Star Wars interlopers.
9.12am - these participants paused to meet bystanders and (Andrew, please note) there was much bowing between them before the participants resumed their run.
9.19am - Andre Agassi searching for a tennis court.
9.22am - he can still 'raize' a smile.
9.22am - he is a shopper passing by and not in the event...humour me...after all, I am gay.
9.24am - faster than a speeding bullet.
9.29am - a passing cyclist who stopped briefly to watch the run...now, why did he distract me?
9.31am - this group paused to demonstrate 1980s aerobics.
9.39am - no idea what they represented.
9.43am - mostly walkers now, some with their shopping in hand.
9.46am - a leisurely walk.
9.46am - 'ring, ring' and he peeled off at this point to join an even cuter looking mate in the entrance to the railway station.
9.54am - nearly ninety minutes after the elite runners' starting gun was fired and walkers continue to pass by the electorate office of my member of Parliament whose election poster I inadvertantly captured in this photograph.