Friday, July 31, 2009

pericles ... and the best bathrooms in town

First off, I would just like to say that the Opera House has, hands down, the best bathrooms in Sydney. They are big, bright, airy, clean and covered in full-length mirrors that I suspect concave in slightly to make you appear just a wee bit thinner (or is it convex out? I certainly never claimed to be a scientist). Or else I really did look amazing, but my money's on the mirror trick.

Second, I went to see Pericles at the Opera House. (Clearly, my priorities are in the right order here.) It was a really great production, though I'm still trying to figure out what the incestuous king-princess relationship at the beginning had to do with anything that followed. And why they couldn't have bought a few more props. (How expensive can a few dinner goblets be? And even if they are a smidge pricey, surely the Opera House has enough spare cash to spring for these sorts of things? Or perhaps it's spent all its stash on its concave mirrors?)

The casting for the show was excellent, and I was particularly pleased with Pericles himself. Being a title character, I think it is important that he is cast well. (The same goes for Macbeth, who, I regret to say, I have seen miscast more often than well cast; Giles Davies, though, having set the stage high, so to speak, for all future Macbeths ... and Iagos ... and Tranios. And Jeremy Dubin for the Shylocks. And Graham Abbey for the Petruchios. But I digress.)

As I was saying, Pericles himself was quite well cast, looking the part, aging as necessary and not appearing overtly homosexual (being that he falls madly in love with a princess this would not have helped the plot along; or rather, it would not have helped the plot along in the traditional Shakespearean sense of Pericles).

The other brilliant casting move (not being an expert on Pericles, I'm not sure if this is how it is normally staged or if this director had a stroke of sheer genius) was double casting the evil queen of the formerly starving kingdom (you can see I've forgotten her name) with the saucy slut (I seem to have forgotten her name as well). Genius! And the actress did a fabulous job, pulling off both parts with such completely different characterization (and costuming, go figure) that it was actually a genuine surprise the first time the slut melded back into her queenly garb and role.

One minor flaw in the double casting was that one actor (he did a fine job; he really can't help what follows) was so incredibly tall that it was slightly unnerving to see him in different roles because it was so clearly the same man who now seemed to be working for a completely different operation as he had been before and you were pretty sure he was supposed to be a different character entirely, but not entirely sure as he was obviously the same person. But, well, it all sorted itself out by the end.

The other actors were quite good as well; in particular, the old man who played various sage, semi-sage and simply elderly roles was adept at bringing humor even into iambic pentameter (no mean feat, as those of you who have attempted will know ... except of course for the fabulous cast of the Southern Othello, you know who you are!). There was a sizable company playing many of the extra roles, and they worked together quite well, didn't draw attention to themselves more than their due, and generally enhanced the performance.

One slight flaw in drama in general is that so many of the female characters called for happen to be the most beautiful woman in the world. And, as the genuine article is not generally able to appear in all plays that call for her, sacrifices must be made. This now is not to say that the women in the cast were not beautiful. They were; however, when a character is described as, say, having a face that launches a thousand ships, it is nearly impossible for any human actress to step out and live up to her description. The same was true in this production, though, really, I think we can blame Shakespeare for regaling us with too high a description, the hypocrite! Did he not write Sonnet 130!? (It's that one you, know, where he says all those things about his mistress that would make any female cringe, but he calls it satire to get himself out of a heap of relational trouble and then ends up getting lauded for honesty, the brute. Hope he bought roses the next day, even if there weren't any in her cheeks.)

One other problem for women longing to be Shakespearean actresses is the issue of voice. I have never understood why so many of these actresses develop such deep, gravelly, strained sort of tones that really sound more like they're intentionally giving themselves throat cancer than just, say, projecting. Whatever the tone, though, it's certainly been in Shakespearean vogue since I've been going to the theatre, so clearly it is cool. I just have bad taste.

The staging was very good; the actors made full use of the space for various fights, dances, near-rapes, etc. The set was impressive as well -- not terribly complex, but with enough fascination (look! they've got the boat hung up from a rope!) to keep attentive interest. The ship scenes really were quite cool, and the ship itself was used as a great set piece for significant part of act two. It's nice to see a good set piece getting good stage time; it's sad when say, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang only gets a glorious final sweep over the audience.

There was a lot of music incorporated in the show as well -- drumming and fluting, mainly. Everything was played on stage by the company and the music really added to the production immensely.

Overall, this production was incredibly well done. It was every bit as polished as you'd expected a Sydney Opera House production to be (for the amazingly cheap price of $35, even with the in-house fee!), and it had class. It wasn't trite at all, but colorful, full of exotic costuming, dancing and music. The actors manned their parts well, and the technical crew did a fabulous job of pulling everything off without a hitch. I didn't actually give a standing ovation, but in hindsight I wished I had. They deserved it.

Oh, and did I mention the Opera House has really great bathrooms?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

quicko: bank blasting

So, while we're on the money theme, can I just mention what really irks me about my bank? Cool, thanks.

First, they don't know what a register is and therefore didn't give me any and I have to pick them up when I go home to the wonderful 5/3.

Second, they charge me all the time without bothering to tell me. (For withdrawing money with the aid of a teller (hey, I wanted to take out hundreds so I could take cool pictures and the ATMs won't let you do that), for writing a check, for having an account, grr!)

Third, my card is only a debit card and won't work, unlike the good 5/3 card, online or over the phone. It's a huge nuisance.

But (and this is a big but) they gave me a teal debit card. Which, really, covers over a multitude of sins.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

quicko: coins

I've noticed this repeatedly when I go to pay: I always want to count out exact change whenever possible, but I don't think that occurs to most Australians -- mainly because, usually, you end up getting coins back anyway, so it doesn't really save that much hassle. And here you have so much more money in coins -- with $1 and $2 coins, it really adds up. So, the whole concept of pocket change is really different -- for an American, it's usually about, oh, 93 cents, whereas for an Australian, it's usually about, oh, $3.70.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

quicko: money online

Seems to be way more common here -- that is, transferring money from one account into another. Instead of paying for rent with a check (or tithing with a check, or paying back a friend who bought you a ticket with a check, etc.), most people just get the BSB (still don't know what it stands for ... and frankly really don't care ...) and account number (!! horrors!! doesn't that just raise all sorts of American alarm bells?!) from whoever they owe and whip whiz bang, there you go, money transferred!

Unless, of course, you want to do things internationally, which is such a sad story I don't think I'll even get into it here.

quicko: a kookaburra

This morning I had a kookaburra come visit on my balcony. I think perhaps he didn't feel very well (who would after flying headlong into balcony bars ... and chairs ... and windows?), but he sat pleasantly and photogenically enough, strutting his stuff despite a presumably rather blurred mental balance. He did make it onto the ledge (from the floor; this seemed to be a great accomplishment, at least if volume indicates greatness) where he heroically ... relieved himself. Facing, might I add, entirely the wrong direction. He then flew triumphantly into the glass once more (each movement sending one blogger running frantically to see who had now invaded her third-storey apartment) before taking, much to my relief, his leave of the balcony.

Monday, July 27, 2009

quicko: theatre fees

I always thought health insurance was a rather dull field, relegated mainly to primary care physicians, copays and the occasional mad dash to the ER to liven things up. Imagine then my surprise when reading through my Australian medical benefits I noticed, nonchalantly placed between private and public hospital accommodation (in private and shared rooms, respectively), theatre fees! What a wonderful country! Not only looking out for my physical well-being, but providing quality entertainment along the way. I do hope I break a leg when Macbeth's on.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

quicko: op shops

I'm not positive, but I think this stands for opportunity shops -- they're second-hand stores, or thrift stores. The most common is Vinnie's -- which sounds incredibly hick until you learn it's really just the Aussie nicknaming of St. Vincent's (bit more of a mouthful than they really prefer), which is something along the lines of a Goodwill.

Friday, July 24, 2009

quicko: heaps good

Australians can use "heaps" not only as a noun but also (take a seat) an adjective. So that magnificent wave, for instance, wasn't just good, mate. It was heaps good!!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

quicko: creche

This is a British and Australian term for the lovely little place you keep lovely little children while their parents are at, say, church. It's pronounced "cray-sh" and is something I have, thus far, avoided ...

And, while we're at it, they've got rather a different definition of infants here. I've never been able to nail down a precise age bracket, but it's significantly older than where we'd apply the term. Like preschoolers or something, but the specifics are a bit hazy.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

quicko: sugar in your chocolate?

For all the things they forget to sugar properly, it still surprises me that Australians often ask if you want sugar in your hot chocolate. And (this will surprise you even more!) it's the one time I actually turn sugar down. Really, the chocolate has enough. Though, hmm, now that you mention it, I might just down it on the side, if that's okay.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

quicko: movies

It seems like I already knew this, but it just hit me today: some movies come out later here. For example, Public Enemies has been out in America for awhile (having seen it, I can actually vouch for this), yet won't be out in Australia until the 30th of July.

Monday, July 20, 2009

quicko: spaghetti bolognese

And, to finish out the epicurean kick, spaghetti bolognese. At least I thought that was how they spelled it, but spellcheck doesn't like it. All it is is spaghetti with sauce, but they go all fancy in how they talk about it and call it by its proper name, with highfalutin pronunciation and everything. Well, everything but meat.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

quicko: risotto

While we're on a food kick, here's another Aussie favorite, or at least one I've enountered here a whole lot more than I ever did at home. It's a standard, classic stand-by.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

quicko: pumpkin

For a country that doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving, there's really a lot of pumpkin products in Australia. Pumpkin soup, pumpkin in salads, pumpkin on pizza, you name it. I haven't encountered any pumpkin ice cream yet, but maybe that's just because I haven't been looking hard enough.

Friday, July 17, 2009

quicko: jaffels

These are an Australian snack, a comfort food probably mostly for kids, but handy for anyone in need of comfort. Basically, one consists of two pieces of toast stuck together with something like Spaghetti-Os inside. Really pretty good, if not entirely problem-solving.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

quicko: wrangers

Aussie slang for redheads. Not exactly derogatory, not exactly complimentary.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

quicko: to be made redundant

Not personally, but professionally. Laid off.

quicko: index cards

Don't seem to exist here, or if they do, they are lurking far from the school supplies under pseudonym from the witness protection program.

Monday, July 13, 2009

quicko: a ladder

Is what the Australians call a run, as in the annoying streaks that make their way up your leg from your toe when you've forgotten to cut your nails. Or bought cheap pantyhose. Or both.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

quicko: grocery story

Is an Americanism! Here they just call it what it is -- Coles or Woolies -- and avoid a general term.

quicko: where's the water?

In America, you can find water fountains everywhere -- in churches, libraries, baby clothing stores, you name it. In Australia, they seem much fewer and farther between.

And here is the spot for the wonderful witty reference to "water, water, everywhere" -- unfortunately, I don't think there actually is any witty reference to be made. If you find one, though, do let me know.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

quicko: usa/aus

Today, besides being John Calvin's 500th birthday (they'll revoke my diploma if I don't mention that), is also the day that I lose in transit over the international date line as I fly from America to Australia. In crossing it, though, I thought it'd be fitting to mention that, though the differences are plentiful (at least sufficient to keep a daily blog going since October, hey?), they're not so overt as the differences between America and England. America does fit between the two, geographically and metaphorically; or, really, to be more precise, Australia fits between the two, geographically (the other way, Americans, the other way!) and metaphorically. Or something. Perhaps we'll explore that more another time. Or perhaps not. Maybe!

Friday, July 10, 2009

quicko: salad

One of the greater condundrums of American culture is precisely what constitutes a salad. Basically, it boils down to any group of three or more cold ingredients put together in a covered dish that can be taken to a potluck. We have pasta salads (see above, left), chicken salads, jello salads, Waldorf salads, Snickers salads and strawberry pretzel salads (see above, right), to name a few. They may be eaten with a fork, or maybe with a spoon; they could be healthy, they might be fattening; possibly the ingredients are congealed together, or then again they may be separate. Generally, though, they come in large quantities, get slapped on the side of the plate and are huge hit.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

quicko: girl scout cookie update

Here's what the real deal looks like -- mmm, Samoas!!

quicko: red box

The quick, cheap and easy ...
yes, it's $1 DVDs for one night.

quicko: peppers

I told you they are all called peppers!!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

quicko: graham crackers and teddy grahams

The famous Graham crackers -- an absolute essential for s'mores -- along with their counterpart, the ever-tasty snack Teddy Grahams!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

quicko: a trip to meijer!

Meijer (pronounced just like "Myers" ... we add the "s" colloquially) is a one-stop shop. Really. If you had to survive on nothing but items from Meijer, you could do it. It has food, clothes, a pharmacy, photo developing, lawn and garden products, pets, a bank, Starbucks, a shoe shine, movie rentals (or purchases), a fabric embroidering department, games, electronics, appliances, cards, school supplies, automotive supplies, mirrors, scales and more. So, yeah, that's why I still do a double take when I hear "Myers" in Australia -- they just haven't got a fraction of what I need!

Monday, July 6, 2009

quicko: starbucks frappuccinos

I have yet to find the bottled frappuccinos at an Australian Starbucks ...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

quicko: happy fourth of july!

So, Australians, this is what a real 4th of July looks like -- lots of food, family and patriotic decor!
We often start the day with a parade, grill out in the middle and finish with fireworks.
Happy Fourth of July!!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

quicko: free refills

And free refills!

Friday, July 3, 2009

quicko: bagels

America's got bagels -- good bagels!!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

quicko: for the fun of it

Thought you might appreciate this semi ...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

quicko: prices

I've just been struck lately by some prices I see as just right:

$20 for black pants
$20-30 for jeans
$30 for a dress
$18 for a skirt
$34 for both halves of a bathing suit
$10 for flip flops
$10 for a Friday night movie
$1.98 for a MUG of hot chocolate

Granted, these are in USD, but still. That's what they're supposed to cost!!