Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Chinese Puzzle (Casse-tete Chinois)

'Chinese Puzzle' is a French film with French, English, Spanish and Mandarin dialogue that is set mainly in Brooklyn, New York City. The wife of a Parisian writer leaves him and takes their two children to set up home with a new lover in New York. The writer, who has previously fathered a child with two Lesbians, all three of whom happen also to live in New York, follows his estranged wife and children there, marries a Chinese American and subsequently is joined by a former girlfriend and her son. Got all that?

It sounds quite ridiculous and perhaps incomprehensible when set out like that but the film explains it all with clarity and a surprising level of charm amongst the humour. The Chinatown of Brooklyn and what I guess are the cafes in its surrounds all convey the thrill and vibe of life in New York City. I love the glimpses of daily New York life whether it is in children's playgrounds, on graffiti drenched rooftops or at the outdoor Chinese dance/exercise sessions.

A little awkward in its early scenes 'Chinese Puzzle' develops into a real delight.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

City moments

Archibald Fountain @ Hyde Park

Anzac Day match @ Sydney Football Stadium

Busker on a tall bike & onlookers @ Circular Quay

Kings Cross

Art & laundry @ Darling Point

Saturday, 26 April 2014


(Sydney Theatre Company)

There are eight people in the photograph above, right? Wrong. I thought so each time I looked at the photograph but when I noticed in the program for the Sydney Theatre Company's current staging 'Perplex' that only four performers are listed I looked again at the photograph, a bit more carefully this time, and realised that each performer appears in it twice.

A simple sleight of hand that reflects the play's origins. The program states the play originated from a nightmare dreamt by its author Marius Von Mayenburg and indeed as it unfolded the content of the play reminded me of the style of dreams I have experienced. Not the content of the dreams necessarily but the style. So often in my dreams a scenario unfolds, at times clearly at times somewhat uncertainly, until I realise I am dreaming something quite different from earlier in the dream and then finally, always the case at the end, a difficulty recalling just what it was that I had dreamt.

The four performers play a number of different characters, although their names remain unchanged, and those characters and their relationships morph seamlessly and almost unnoticeably mid scene time and again. In a sense the content of the play - deliberately fuzzy and confused as it is - didn't matter, the message I took from it was how I can't ever really, fully know others nor can they really, fully know me.

Signage at the entrance to the auditorium warns that the play features full frontal nudity and adult themes and it most assuredly does. If you are offended by male nudity then you have been warned.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

The Other Woman

One of the funniest things about 'The Other Woman' occurred before the movie with a number of older women purchasing tickets for it at the box office in the mistaken belief they were seeing the Charles Dickens art house biopic 'The Invisible Woman'. What a surprise awaited them.

'The Other Woman' is certainly no work of Dickens. A forty-something lawyer is dating a businessman who she discovers to be a philanderer. The film then sets about showing how the women  he has misled set about seeking their revenge.

This is comedy at its basest with outcomes you can see coming from a mile away yet it has its moments especially in its second half. A very large Easter holiday female dominated audience responded happily to the events in the movie; Dickens or not.

I found a couple of the female characters to be especially irritating but otherwise went along with the mindless enjoyment one feels when revenge is successfully exacted.

Definitely not for the art house set.

Monday, 21 April 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel

I usually approach a Wes Anderson film with caution. The trailers for his films invariably make them appear interesting and hilarious but too often I have found the trailers contained all the best bits and the films themselves to be less interesting than I had expected.

The trailers for 'The Grand Budapest Hotel' have been as tempting as any for his earlier films so my expectations were high. The film centres on M Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes) the super efficient bisexual concierge of a grand pre-war European hotel who beds his wealthy elderly female guests and enjoys the fruits of their gratitude thereafter.

The film is lush, colourful and stylish and shamelessly indulges in cheesy effects. It is also, in Anderson's usual style, quite quirky.

Once again, many of the best moments are revealed in the trailer but this time there is still sufficient left over for the film to maintain interest.

Sunday, 20 April 2014


'Divergent' is set in a war ravaged Chicago of the future where the entire population is broken into five groupings which determine their behaviour and character. Children are born into the grouping of their parents and on their eighteenth birthday they get a once only, non revocable, choice to remain or change to another group.

The film opens with the heroine having to make her choice and then spends most of its duration depicting the training she receives to remain in the group she chooses. There are some interesting issues here relating to people's desire to belong and fit in but the film focusses on the wham bam action of the situation rather than any moral issues.

The film is derived from books which I understand are very popular amongst young women in particular and it is worthy that the story is built around a heroine rather than yet another beefy, boofy bloke. At the session I attended the audience was about 95% mid-teenage yet it is an "M" rated movie and most of the action revolves around murder, mayhem and violence.

Technically well done but this won't appeal to a broad audience and it is best viewed with your sense of logic suspended.

Friday, 18 April 2014

After the 'ball is over......

Football, that is. The crowds filling Platform 1 to the city at Olympic Park station after the Good Friday National Rugby League fixture this afternoon between South Sydney (the Rabbitohs) and Canterbury (the Bulldogs).

One train was about to arrive. I made it onto the following train.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

The new boss

After yesterday's stunning events we have just had elected a new leader of the NSW Liberal Party and hence the next Premier of NSW, Mike Baird.

Mike Baird

Mr Baird is certainly a better looking Premier (in my opinion) than his predecessor but I fear that in other respects he may be no improvement in relation to the gay community. Whereas Barry O'Farrell stated his support for gay marriage I understand Mr Baird has previously referred to 'those who choose the live homosexual lifestyle' when referring to gay issues.

Mr Baird has been elected leader of his party unopposed.

His deputy will be Ms Gladys Berejiklian, arguably the most active Minister for Transport the state has ever had. She was also elected unopposed.

Gladys Berejiklian

With regard to Barry O'Farrell, he will not be entitled to the retirement perks that his predecessor Premiers enjoy because he has not served as Premier for a minimum of five years. The irony is that it was Mr O'Farrell who in 2012, as part of 'belt tightening' who changed the rules to enforce this minimum qualifying period for future Premiers.

Meanwhile in the main game......

(Sydney Morning Herald)

His performance as Premier of New South Wales is a matter of personal opinion but whether you feel he is one of the best or one of the worst Premiers of New South Wales no-one I know has ever suggested he has acted corruptly or is a shady character.

I feel for Barry O'Farrell. Giving misleading or false evidence to the Independent Commission Against Corruption is a criminal offence and so he has resigned after failing to remember - assuming that he isn't lying that it was a memory failure - that he received the gift of a $3,000 bottle of wine. Why he didn't at least register the gift at the time remains a mystery.

The Opposition Leader, John Robertson, is still in his position even though he has previously admitted failing to report the offer a $3,000,000 bribe. But that wasn't a matter investigated by the ICAC.

Meanwhile the main players in the current and previous investigation by the ICAC into alleged corruption involving millions of dollars continue to go about their daily business smiling sickeningly in the public's face and wearing their allegedly corrupt behaviour almost as a badge of honour.

Justice, like politics, sometimes seems very dirty to me.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Laptop crackpot

(from Dave Does The Blog)

How I feel this evening.

I spent the best part of four hours this afternoon assisting a friend to obtain satisfaction from the Dell support service. To put it bluntly her Dell laptop was 'cactus'. My friend could neither shut the laptop down nor restart it effectively nor could she access the internet or email even though the modem and the wireless connection were working.

No doubt my friend must take some of the blame as she unknowingly clogged the laptop with all manner of useless and possibly dangerous files but I have to say I wouldn't take possession of a Dell product even if it was offered to me for free on the evidence of her experiences. It didn't help that my friend took advice dispensed on ABC local radio last week to safeguard the security of her data - advice that she didn't really understand - and pressed four buttons which supposedly would permanently delete some unwanted documents but which instead seems to freeze everything.

To top off my frustrations I came home to find that Tradies, about to perform major maintenance on my apartment building, have dumped their heavy equipment in front of my garage without giving me any notice and completely blocked my access to it.

On the bright side though, my friend's laptop is now working again (but I no longer care).

Sunday, 13 April 2014

The Gigli Concert

(Darlinghurst Theatre Company)

In 'The Gigli Concert' currently being staged by the Darlinghurst Theatre Company a wealthy Irish building developer seeks out a faddish therapist for assistance ostensibly because he wants to be able to sing like the famed Italian tenor Beniamino Gigli (1890-1957) even if only for an hour. The fact that the therapist is a drunken wastrel of sorts seems to matter nought to the 'patient' and in the manners of these things the therapist in the end undergoes a treatment of his own.

This is quite a nicely acted piece but I found it overlong. I'm sure the play could have delivered an impact at half the length. There is a lot of the real Gigli's singing during the play which is fine for opera buffs but the recorded works were mostly dour and morose in tone and by the end I was sick of the sound of the arias.

In addition to the generally good acting I have to compliment the performers on their timing - dialogue and movement to the music - which was precise and really skillful.


Saturday, 12 April 2014

A clockwork butterfly

Butterfly is married

Tonight, as regular as clockwork, a couple of minutes after 8pm I heard through my closed windows, the dull thud, thud, thud of fireworks going off. For the past three weeks, Tuesday to Sunday inclusive, those fireworks have sounded at virtually the same time. It is the moment that Butterfly marries her Pinkerton.

Opera on the Harbour is being staged adjacent to the Botanic Gardens about four kilometres from my home, I guess, as the crow flies. Each of the three outdoor opera seasons has had fireworks as an added inducement. In the first year the fireworks concluded the performance of La Traviata. The second year the fireworks came early in the final act of Carmen. This year the fireworks come at the earliest time of the evening; that point in Act 1 of Madama Butterfly when Butterfly has married Lieutenant Pinkerton.

This year the season has been marred by rain. It rained the night I attended and it rained tonight and it has rained on many of the nights. I wondered whether the performance could continue the night I attended and marvelled that it did and I have marvelled on subsequent nights that the performance was going ahead in even heavier, steadier rain. The sound of the fireworks told me so. Regularly at a couple of minutes past 8pm.

Tomorrow night is the final scheduled night. More rain is forecast. I won't be home at 8pm to hear that thud, thud, thud as I have a play to attend. I may have heard my last Opera on the Harbour fireworks as the gossip is that the seasons will not continue. If so, I will miss those fireworks but the compensation is that there seem so many marketing and special occasion excuses for fireworks on other nights of the year.

Friday, 11 April 2014

'If that is what you want to believe'

I bought a new camera yesterday for a forthcoming overseas trip. A compact digital camera. I already have a fancy digital SLR camera so it is not essential for me to have purchased this latest camera but I had two reasons for doing so.

First, the compact camera is easier and lighter to carry around day after day and suitable for those quickly taken snaps when you are on the run. Second, the camera has GPS capacity so the photographs I take with it will be labelled with the location. The second factor was the clincher in my decision to have an additional camera available on the trip.

The salesman tried to sell me a 'care protection service'; in effect an additional warranty. I've seen/heard enough consumer information programs on television and radio to know that these 'services' are a money earner for the retailer and an unnecessary duplication from the consumer's perspective of what the retailer is liable to provide under existing consumer law.

The salesman was quite insistent. It wasn't enough for him that I answered 'no' to each of his three proposals that I purchase the 'service'. He then asserted that without my purchase of their 'service', the retailer would not replace the camera should it require replacement. I responded that in those circumstances they would be required to replace the camera and if they refused to do so I would not hesitate to refer the matter to the Department of Fair Trading.

The salesman wasn't deterred. 'If that is want you want to believe' he told me three times. I think he might have continued to push the 'service' if it wasn't that I told him that I would walk away and he would have lost the sale. I'm glad that he then backed off. The camera had been discounted 30% and was significantly cheaper than the price for that camera at the other outlets in the shopping mall.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza)

'The Great Beauty' won this year's Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year and the equivalent award at the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs. Clearly it is highly regarded by those who assess these things in the industry but for much of its length - and it is a long film - I found it pretentious and tedious.

And yet in the hours after seeing it I mulled it over in my mind and re-evaluated aspects. There was more substance to the film than I gave it credit during the viewing. Obviously it was worthier than my initial viewing had me thinking.

The main character - Jep Gambardella - is a published author. He published one book 40 years or so earlier than the contemporary events in the film and his reputation lies mainly from that and his social jottings for a magazine. His circle of friends all wonder when he will produce a follow up book.

Jep spends his time amongst the fashionable people dispensing sometimes opinions to them which they scarcely seem to recognise as being insulting. Perhaps they are cowered by his superior manner.

His world is one of considerable beauty; his apartment overlooking the Colosseum in Rome is superbly located and he is always dressed to perfection whether formally or in casual mode. The homes of those in whose lives he moves are like museums. There is no ugliness in his life, or rather what might otherwise seem ugly is exotic or bizarre rather than negative.

I thought most of these characters were horrible - maybe beautiful but horrible nonetheless. Looking back there were some telling scenes. Two standout in my memory. In the first, dozens of partygoers watch silently as a child works herself into a state of hysteria throwing paint onto canvas to produce a  work of 'art' that they no doubt will battle each other to spend a fortune purchasing. Later, Jep hosts a lunch for a Mother Teresa like character with one guest in attendance a Cardinal whose spiritualism ranges from exorcisms to dispensing recipes for cooking rabbit.

There are many interesting images in the film which is only fitting given its title but in real life I'd run a mile from this mob.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

The Government Inspector

Belvoir St Theatre

You have announced that you are staging 'The Philadelphia Story' and have sold loads of tickets and then learn you don't have the rights to stage the work. What to do? In the case of Belvoir St Theatre you decide to stage 'The Government Inspector' instead. Except that the play you stage is not actually Nikolai Gogol's 'The Government Inspector' but a play inspired by Gogol's 'The Government Inspector' called 'The Government Inspector'.

Get it?

Well that is what Belvoir Street Theatre (in conjunction with Melbourne's Malthouse Theatre) did. The work commences with a helpful explanation about the loss of rights for the originally intended staging and that staging's substitution by another work and that we, the audience, will not be seeing either work. That is the prelude for 80 minutes of fun and games as a theatrical company battles hidden and mistaken identities to get a work to stage.

It is quite a clever idea using the reality of the lost rights and the dramatic mechanisms of the announced substitute to produce another work altogether that makes fun of the actual situation. Hidden identities are a feature in both 'The Philadelphia Story' and Nikolai Gogol's 'The Government Inspector'.

The creative team and the performers have conjured up an enjoyable entertainment throwing inhibitions out of the window and making fun of themselves and the situation whilst doing so.

This Government Inspector may not be as witty as a Philadelphia Story but it is arguably funnier than the Government Inspector from which it gained its inspiration.

The play may drag occasionally but overall it provides plenty of fun for those who enjoy an inside glimpse of theatre life.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Dulwich Hill and back

I've had my first go on the extended light rail service to Dulwich Hill and back. The full journey including a ten minutes or so turnaround wait at Dulwich Hill was about ninety minutes.

The good news, which the newspapers seem to be taking glee in reporting as bad news, is that the service seems to be popular. My trip was between 10.30am and Noon on Thursday a time when you might expect patronage to be light yet in both directions the seats were fully occupied and many passengers had to stand for most of the distance.

Unfortunately I failed to get much in the way of interesting photos. On the way to Dulwich Hill I was seated on the sunny side of the carriage and glare restricted photo opportunities. On the return trip I grabbed the last of the few seats the Spanish origin vehicle provides and was pinned in an awkward position facing the rear.

Waiting for the tram to arrive at the Central Railway terminus

Hawthorne, one of the new tram stops

Dulwich Hill tram stop and terminus

Passing alongside Darling Harbour passengers can see the remains of the Exhibition and Conference Centres both under demolition in preparation for the construction of newer and bigger replacements.

Demolition of the Exhibition Centre

Inside the 'Spanish' tram nearing Central Railway

On the Up ramp over Eddy Avenue

The driver's cabin on the 'Spanish' tram

The 'Spanish' tram on the Central Railway Colonnade terminus

There is no doubt that some passengers, like me, were senior citizens on a sightseeing trip but there were also many obvious commuter passengers travelling various sectors of the line. The tram ran at good speed at some points but there were also some slow portions. There are still many workers at points along the line. Obviously the extended service has been opened even though work on completing the extension is ongoing.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Dulwich Hill tram extension too popular

It is early days but this report in the Sydney Morning Herald about the initial success of the Dulwich Hill light rail extension is interesting and possibly an indication of things to come, especially the planned extension to the University of New South Wales.

(Sydney Morning Herald)

A foggy day in Sydney town....

It was a coolish and gorgeous Autumn morning in Sydney when fogged rolled in over the harbour around 8.30am.........

Fog rolling in over Double Bay

Double Bay disappearing

Opera House sails just visible but CBD and Harbour Bridge totally obscured
As usual fog in Sydney turned into a magnificent sunny day with a maximum temperature of 26ºc (78.8ºf) at 2.05pm which is pretty good for Autumn.