Friday, September 30, 2011

photos: manly!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

quicko: fair dinkum

Usually when I'm blogging I get all excited that I've come up with a brand new idea to write about, only to discuss that 1. I've already written about it two years ago or 2. it's not actually true (serves me right for trusting friends, hey?).  Today, however, I've had the first situation in reverse:  I heard an idea and almost immediately wrote it off because, well, surely I couldn't have been in Australia for over three years and not yet have blogged about "fair dinkum," right?  Wrong.  At least assuming my search function was working correctly and I haven't covered three times over.

"Fair dinkum" is a quintessential Australian phrase somewhere between "true blue" and "the real McCoy" and "all's fair in love and war."  Well, not exactly, but kind of.  It's just a fair deal, more or less.  Not in a business sense, more in a "life isn't fair" sense.  Which makes no sense.

Or does it?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

quicko: retrenched

Laid off.  Generally along the lines of you've been with the company for ages and your job gets cut, as opposed to, say, a company doing mass layoffs.  Comes with a severance package, possibly called something else.  I think severance package sounds more American ...

public service announcement: festival of dangerous ideas

The Festival of Dangerous Ideas is on in Sydney this weekend.  Many events are already sold out, so get a ticket fast if you're interested!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

quicko: punnet

The plastic container you buy strawberries in.  Or other similar such entities.

Monday, September 26, 2011

review: storytelling

Yesterday three of us went through the drizzle to hear stories told at 5 Eliza Street, behind Zanzibar in Newtown.  It was, you guessed it, part of the Fringe, and really pretty cool (in at least two senses ...).

It was a very relaxed, casual atmosphere with sofas and chairs and such to sit in as we were regaled by four storytellers and an MC with some pretty good tales of his own.  The stories ranged from amazingly romantic (girls, always write boys who offer to make you tea notes ... they might find them 19 months later and ask you out!) to gangster-y to funny ("My bike got a flat tire.  I am not mechanically inclined.  I got a new bike.") to slightly sketchy (leave it to your imagination).  All in all, we loved it.

Afterwards it was very rainy and we were very cold so we dashed inside the nearest cafe we could find and spend the next several hours concocting haikus out of scrabble letters.  Here's a sampling for you:  (sorry, blogger's spacing is driving me crazy ... the essence is here ...)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

quicko: los angeles

Wow.  Talk about a shocker.  (Which sounds, oddly, Australian in and of itself.)  Have you heard an Australian (or a Brit, for that matter) say "Los Angeles"?  I don't care if you've never studied Spanish, you can't possibly butcher it as amazingly as they do.

quicko: good teaching

It might be Sydney Anglican circles (a whole stereotype immediately emerges there if you're up on these things, too ...) but it seems that "good teaching" is the single church attribute I hear more widely sought after, lauded and generally discussed.  I agree it's good (it was part of the definition, after all), but I have two complaints.  First, I just think it sounds odd and overly Christian-y.  Where else in life would you ever hear the phrase?  University?  I spent four years in one -- a Christian one -- and I don't think I ever heard the phrase.  (Creation fall redemption, yes, total depravity, yes, responsible freedom, yes, good teaching, um ... um ... no.)  Second, as good as good teaching is, what about the whole "and they'll know we are Christians by our love"?  I promise I'm not taking the loosey-goosey "love only" approach, but personally I think I'd put it a rung higher on the "ideal church" scale than "good teaching."  Or equal.  Equal I'm good with.  Good teaching (which means, really, sound doctrine, hey?) and love.  Oh, what a church that would be!

quicko: wouldn't say no to

I imagine we use this too, but I've been hearing it a lot in Sydney these days:  "Wouldn't say no to a lamington," for instance.  It's the nice way of saying "YES, PLEASE!!!  RIGHT NOW!!!" without coming across quite so over-eager.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

review: macbeth

I saw a great Macbeth tonight at the Fringe -- it was definitely the least fringe-y I've seen so far.  I'd been a bit worried because it was subtitled "an adaptation," which, knowing the Fringe, could mean anything from turning it into a variety show to well -- who knows.  Actually, though, it was a really good, genuine production.  A few odds and ends:

--Casting.  Well done.  I was really thrilled with Macbeth -- it's rare to find a Macbeth that I think actually looks the part -- tall, thin yet muscular, dark hair, stubble, reasonably attractive.  I put a lot of stock in casting him properly, and was suitably impressed.  Macduff and his wife were both well cast, but he certainly got the better end of the deal.  I don't know how they ended up together, but I can see why he was upset when she died.  Lady Macbeth looked the part reasonably well, but I was less impressed with her acting, which detracted from her overall performance.  Duncan was cast as a woman (and the lines were all changed to "she" or "mother" as necessary), which I was fairly ambivalent towards.  She and Lady Mac clearly didn't get along, which I hadn't necessarily gotten in other performances.  One of the witches was cast as male.  I wasn't crazy about the witches in this production in general, so it perhaps wasn't as big a deal as it could have been, but I tend to prefer them to all be female.  And finally, one snitty comment -- aside from Lady Macduff, the actresses weren't particularly thin.  I think in American Shakespearean productions (okay, the Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival) I'm used to seeing all the actresses quite thin and it throws me a bit when they aren't.  The costuming didn't really help either, unfortunately.

--Acting.  Overall quite good, except I really wasn't a fan of this Lady Macbeth.  I liked the concept they were going for with a lot of chemistry between her and Macbeth, but I just didn't feel like it was remotely genuine.  I thought she overacted (though the sleepwalking scene was better) in general.  The friend I went with though thought she was great, so it's obviously highly subjective.  Macbeth was mostly good, though I thought he went a little farther than necessary down the path of madness near the end.  The one "everything" actor came across as a bit camp, which just felt oddly out of place in Macbeth.  The rest, though, were fine.  Malcolm and Macduff did particularly well.

--Banquo's ghost.  Not on stage.  Nor was the dagger.  This production clearly showed Macbeth going mad.

--The ending.  All exited except Macbeth's body and the three witches who then, for the first time, went on about fair being foul and foul being fair and double double toil and troubling.  It was clearly a "look, we've conquered this little project -- ha! -- now, what's next?" ending, which was fitting.

--Scottish accents.  Some had them, some didn't.

--The witches.  They were really demoted in this production.  The didn't get to open the show (!!) nor did they get much extra-ness, except one of them (the guy) was on stage just milling about surreptitiously in the background for much of the play.  That worked well, though I found their costumes just plain odd.  They were given gas masks and dressed in black tank tops like the others.  I really didn't get why they needed gas masks.

--Technical bits.  Lighting was good, mostly red-ish when colored.  Sound was good.  The scene changes were okay; could have been better with some music, but not bad.  The costumes were almost all pants with black tank tops.  It was okay, but not amazing.  Average, I suppose you could say.

--Deleted scenes.  Hecate.  Double double.  The bit where Macbeth kills the young boy just before he kills Macduff.

--Directing.  Evidently it was supposed to be set in a post-apocalyptic world (hence, presumably, the gas masks ... on only the witches ... who being supernatural you wouldn't think would need them ...), though I had no clue about that till I read the program notes at intermission.  Post-apocalyptic with at least a handful of Scots.  Intriguing.  I think what I liked best about the directing concept was that it didn't get in the way.  It came off feeling just kind of modern to me, which was fine.  At least it explained the costumes and state of grime most characters seemed to live in.

In general, I really enjoyed this show.  Highlights included the casting of Macbeth, the attempted romance (and domestic violence) between the Macbeths and the Macduffs.  Lowlights included Lady Mac's acting and the witches and the costuming.  As always, it was fun hearing the famous lines -- "something wicked this way comes" -- and just enjoying another night at the Fringe.

Friday, September 23, 2011

update: a matilda

Next possibility:  a dog.

update: a matilda

Asked another Australian what a matilda was.  The answer?  "I forget."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

review: the local

Tonight I went to see the fringe show "The Local."  Aside from it not being particularly local for me and getting slightly lost at a very fast run on the way, it was really quite impressive.

As you may recall, the last two shows I've seen of late have been very fringe-y fringe shows.  This one was much more mainstream and you could certainly envision it on a bigger stage.  It centered around two brothers who are locals at their local Sydney pub and the various characters they meet as it gentrifies.

It was very well cast and well acted -- I think the part that stood out the most was just how real it felt.  The brothers felt like locals, not actors.  Everything from speech to costuming to movement oozed what certainly appeared to be a lifetime of experience in pubs.

If I were going to change something, I think I'd rework the script a bit.  On a beat-by-beat level it was great and intelligent, but I think I'd revamp the character of the boys' sister, a completely crazy Scientologist who ultimately blows the place up, killing one brother and herself, along with countless others.  It was just a little too dramatic to fit in with the rest of the otherwise very genuine content.  Also, sometimes the brothers were given dialogue that seemed a little far-fetched (read:  brainy) for their characters to me, though ultimately what I wanted was more of the script.  I'd have liked it to have stretched into two acts (with an intermission) -- or possibly a short series in some capacity.  It had the feel of a sitcom in that there were clearly main protagonists, but also side characters you kept meeting and wanted to get to know better over a longer period of time as well.

All in all, it was a fantastic play and I highly recommend it.  Oh, and cool perk:  the crew offers to meet the audience afterwards at their local pub.  I wasn't able to go, but it sounded fun.  Maybe you can run along for me tomorrow night!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

quicko: waltzing matilda

"Waltzing Matilda," while not Australia's official national anthem (that would be "Advance Australia Fair," which it seems no one knows nor likes), is the one that every Australian knows and loves.  It is, I was told, the type that makes everyone just a little bit teary and the sort any Australian would join in and sing wholeheartedly in a pub overseas.

It was written by the famous Australian bush poet Banjo Paterson, who's known for funny rhyming poems as well as "The Man from Snowy River" about, we think, an expensive horse that got away.

"Matilda" is even more ambiguous.  It's definitely about a homeless man and a sheep and his run-in with some cops that results in his suicide, but what precisely a "matilda" is is a bit unclear.  What is certain is that it is not, as I had woefully assume for the first 27 years of life, a woman, much less a dancing one.  The first Australian I discussed this with assured me it was like a knapsack of sorts, while the second Australian answered "a kangaroo!" without a moment of hesitation, though later amended the answer to "possibly a sheep."

I'm now highly intrigued to see what other possibilities Australians have in mind as to the nature of the beloved Matilda.  I'll be sure to let you know when I find out.

And one more thing while we're on the subject of Australian bush poets:  Henry Lawson is another.  No clue what he wrote though.  Sorry.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

review: macbeth -- a variety show by default

The show, they say, must go on.  And so it did.

The second Sydney fringe show I've seen now, and also quite worthy of its festival.  I picked it because it had "Macbeth" in the title and I'm slightly obsessed with all things Macbeth, which I think was a pretty fair reason to pick it.

It was, as its title implies, a variety show.  With a loose, thin plot holding it all together.  The actual substance was tenuous at best, but it was a fun sort of tenuous.  Vaguely odd and oddly vague, you know, the usual.

There were all the usual elements of a variety show -- songs, stand-up comedy, magic tricks, hula hooping -- interspersed throughout the loose plot.  Kind of how I envision a certain book to be, sort of.

Oh, the actual plot?  I seem to have left it out:  it was all about which of the characters had killed the actor meant to play Macbeth in the cursed play.  They figured it out in the end.

Anyway, it was a riot.  I think you could also call it a hoot.  My favorite bit was the stand-up comedy.  It was all pretty good, but my favorite was about the bipolar bear.  Was he suffering drastic mood swings, or did he like both boy and girl bears?

quicko: arrr, me hearties!!

Today war talk like a pirrrate day, arrrr!!  'Twere a fine day of pillagin', lootin' and arrrrrin' lots.  There 'tweren't so many a lad 'n lass in full pirrrrate regalia, but 'twere at least one wench in proper form.  Aye, aye!!  Ahoy!!  Avast!!  Land ho!!  Shiver me timbers, and a bottle 'o rum!!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

review: baby with the bathwater

Tonight I saw my first Sydney fringe piece, and, yep.  It was fringey.

Baby with the Bathwater was billed something along the lines of a dark comedy, and I suppose that's reasonably accurate.  It was also just a bit bizarre.

There were five actors -- the mother, the father, the nanny, an unnamed woman and the baby -- and Daisy, the baby's, life was followed from start -- her parents were horrified, wanted a divorce and didn't know what to do -- till Daisy grew up and had a baby of his own.

I started to type that the parents were clearly wacko -- they were -- but actually everyone was really clearly wacko.  Daisy perhaps most understandably so, having grown up with psycho parents who assumed he was a girl for the first fifteen years of his life.

All the characters were just really quite far out there, though I did appreciate the American-ness of the script and the frequent references to classic works of literature (okay, Macbeth was the only one I was utterly sure about -- tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow being a bit of a giveaway).  My favorite line was something to the effect of, "Well, you are an English major, aren't you?"

Overall it fit the bill of fringe.  Really what more can I say?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

quicko: spring has sprung!

It's spring in Sydney!!  It's absolutely gorgeous this weekend!!

Friday, September 16, 2011

quicko: the rugby

It seems the Rugby World Cup is on at the moment.  This is quite a big deal in Australia, particularly as it only happens once every four years.  The team is the Wallabies.  The guys are pretty gorgeous.  I think they've won so far.  Huzzah!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

quicko: to be over something

I'm not entirely sure if this is particularly Australian or if it's just come into vogue since I've been here or if I just never noticed before, but I feel like I hear it pretty regularly.  "I'm so over winter," "she's really over her job" or "Australians are so over cupcakes," for example.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

quicko: wednesday, the worldwide christian night

Woe to the Christian who wants a bit of fun on a Wednesday night -- it doesn't matter where you are in the world, at least half of your Christian friends will be safely tucked away at Bible study. 

(Tuesdays are for heathens.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

got to kill a cockroach or two

I see many appeals of marriage, but tonight by far the most pressing was the need for a man to remove a dead cockroach from the kitchen sink.

The cockroach did not begin the night dead in the kitchen sink.  I, in fact, have no idea where it began the night, as we generally run in quite different circles socially.  I had been at Bible study.  I fear I cannot say the same for the cockroach.

Later in the evening I thought I was doing a very good job of minding my own business, looking up shows I wanted to see and doing laundry and -- this was the big mistake -- washing dishes.

Seeing as I don't cook, the only dishes I had were two bowls (cereal), two cups (tea) and two spoons (tea and cereal).  You'd think the amount of time it takes to wash six minor kitchen articles would be, of all the time the cockroach could avoid the kitchen sink, prime on its list.  You'd think wrong.

I was just beginning the task when who should appear but my latest nemesis.  He's been sneaking around a bit lately (I once caught him making a nuisance of himself on the freshly washed dishes and debated long and hard whether or not this was information I was morally obliged to pass on to my flatmate or if, perhaps, the old "what she doesn't know can't hurt her" would be more to the point.) and, might I point out, we are not on Good Terms.

I endeavor to be on Good Terms with all those I share a home with, though honestly I put a lot more effort into the relationships with those who are actually on the lease.  Cocky, by my calculations, has not paid a single cent.  He is not at the top of my priority list, and he has been making a nuisance of himself.  Any self-respecting cockroach would have been avoiding me with a passion.

Clearly Cocky was not self-respecting.  Perhaps he was suicidal.  I have no idea, I really did not stop for a chat.  Well, I did sort of chat, but it was more to myself and the world at large than Cocky.

"Disgust!" I cried.  "Revulsion!"

(Yes, I really do talk like that when startled by creatures such as Cocky.  I try to curb such tendencies when meeting humans of whom I am less fond, and, I am pleased to report, am generally highly successful.)

Despite these clear indications of Bad Terms, Cocky did not flee.  Instead he ended up in the sink.  How exactly he got there I am not entirely sure, as it is all rather a blur of cockroach and boiling water and frantic movements to extract Dishes That FOOD Goes On! from the clutches of cockroach-ness for me.  Within instants Cocky was lying curled up at the bottom of my kitchen sink, utterly unable and unwilling to exit via the drain, which was what I was suggesting he do.  He was really too big for that, and I was in no mood to spare his sensitive feelings by hiding the fact.

"Why am I not married?!" I cried, again to the world at large.  "How else am I supposed to extract the dead cockroach from the sink?!"

Perhaps you do not understand why a cockroach in the sink was such a big deal.  You were not there.  It was.

I am, you see, perfectly capable of moving to the other side of the world, setting up a phone service, acquiring internet, renting a flat, finding a job, paying bills, filing for my taxes and maintaining a blog by myself, but it is at extracting dead cockroaches from sinks that I really, well, would draw the line if I could.

I've been a bit squeamish about a few such matters since childhood , though I will say tonight I managed not to actually shriek and wake my flatmate, for which I think significant credit is due.

Generally I keep a mental list of all the household-y type things I'm after a guy to do, and then I hold monthly games nights (clever, huh?) wherein my guests get the great privilege of changing my light bulbs and hanging my pictures.  (Bit frustrating when the light bulbs die just after one though and I have to, say, shower in the dark for three weeks.  Really, I would know.)

One time I actually had to hold a specific cards afternoon because half the bulbs in the flat were out and desperate times were calling for desperate measures.  Can you believe that was the very same day I accidentally got the measuring cups stuck in the silverware drawer and literally -- literally! -- had to have three guys pull it together in order to break the cups and reopen the drawer?  Thank goodness for good timing.  I was so grateful I let them win.

Tonight's escapade, though, even I felt required faster action than this Friday.  It is only three days, but, as I said, I really do draw the line at dead cockroaches in my sink.  I do have a friend who works in mental health and tells me about clients with flats in far worse states of disarray, but I'd much prefer to remain friends that become his latest client.  I stared at the dead cockroach and tried to work out if it was pretending.

Animals do that, don't they?  Curl up in  ball and play dead?  I had my suspicions that's what Cocky was about, but seeing as we were clearly no where near Speaking Terms, he didn't see fit to answer me.  He also didn't see fit to squeeze himself down the drain or turn over and walk away with a merry wave either, so I resorted swaying in the middle of the kitchen and waiting for a man to materialize.

When he didn't, I made the executive decision of grabbing a wad of napkins and putting on a pink rubber glove to remove the vermin with.  After feeling the wad through the glove, I ascertained it was not nearly thick enough and grabbed a bigger wad of napkins to add to it.  I also preemptively opened the trash can.

Thus equipped, I gave Cocky one last chance (though at that point I remain thankful he didn't take it, because it would really have set me on edge if he did a backflip while I was attempting to extract him) at making a dash for it, then, with the same sort of air of ripping a Band-Aid off hair, I made one swift motion that ended, I presume, with a dead cockroach in the trash can.  There's certainly a lot of napkins there.

I then removed the rubber glove and promptly washed my hands with hot water (it was rather conveniently still running, though had gotten frankly much too hot) and Bath and Body Works Vanilla Bean hand soap, which is really pretty perfect for occasions such as this.

If only there had been a man around to smell it.

plug: sydney fringe festival

I might have just mentioned this, but I'm pretty blown away:  there are TONS and TONS and TONS of shows I want to see.  I could amuse myself every night for the rest of the month going to see stuff, if only it were free.  As it is, it's pretty reasonably priced, so I'm going to knock myself out and go to a good handful.  I've already got tickets for something about not throwing the baby out with the bathwater (evidently a black comedy about parenting) and Macbeth (I'm sure there's something off the wall about it).  I'm also planning to go to The Local, another dark comedy I think it might be billed as, which is directed by a guy I hardly know but used to work with.  Then I discovered another version of Macbeth, which I think is really, really supposed to be off the wall.

I mean, when a festival's categories include "circus and burlesque," "comedy," "musical theatre and cabaret" and "theatre," you really just can't go wrong.

Has this been happening for years and I've never known before?  It seems kind of established, so I guess I'll proceed as if I'm making up for lost time.  (Much as I did with Max Brenner initially ...)

Monday, September 12, 2011

quicko: D&M

A "deep and meaningful."  Potentially we use this too?  And potentially it has the potential to be similar to a Calvin-esque DTR ("define the relationship" talk)?

Oh, wow.  Seems the Australian intonation still has rubbed off on me?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

review: guylian

Michelle and I also visited the Guylian Cafe in search of sustenance.  Actually we went because she hadn't been and needed to know if it was better than Max Brenner or not.  I could have told her that it wasn't, but I'm very much of the opinion that everyone has to try chocolate shops and determine for themselves which chocolate is the best, because then you won't feel bad about supporting Max Brenner and San Churros more than, say, your Compassion sponsor child.  (Okay, you'll still feel bad, but potentially not as bad.)

Anyway, you want to be sure you've sampled them all, and then pick your favorites and stick to them, safe in the knowledge you're consistently having the greatest.  So we tried Guylian for Michelle's sake.  (I, as I have pointed out before, am a very kind and generous friend.  Look at the sacrifices I make!)

We had the exorbitantly priced hot chocolates ($7.10, and it was pretty much the cheapest thing on the menu), which thankfully did come with an adorable little chocolate seahorse (I am partial to adorable chocolate seahorses).  That was the highlight, though, unless you count that you can actually have two full cups of hot chocolate (!!) from one exorbitantly priced serving.  (The least they could do, really.)

Unfortunately, the chocolate is not nearly as good as it could be, if by "could be" you mean as good as Max Brenner's Italian thick milk hot chocolate.  It is too rich (I -- I -- even asked for a little pitcher of milk to add to mine to stret--er, tame it down).

On the plus side, they do also give you a little Guylian takeaway chocolate for when you're finished, but it just isn't enough.  Bottom line?  Overpriced nonsense that isn't up to snuff.  Might look snazzy, but not worth the cost.  Oh -- unless you're talking about the one in the Rocks, where I did have a really amazing ice cream concoction once.  Potentially their other dishes are worth going in for -- really quite likely, now that I stop to think -- but much better, girls, if you can get a guy to take you there and flash a little cash.  I daresay you'll survive.

quicko: excavation site

Walking through the Rocks this weekend, my friend Michelle and I happened by the new Backpackers' YHA.  Gives whole new meaning to roughing it, hey?

(Okay, okay, it's all historic, I know.  I'm more an aesthetic person, though, which means I stop and look and take pictures, but generally can't care less what the instructive little signs say.  Knock yourself out if you really want to know.)

quicko: that was a question?

So at video trivia with Rufus last Thursday, there was this reasonably funny video clip of an Australian comedian talking about questions?  And how Australian pitch goes up at the end?  So everything sounds like a question?  Even when it's not?

Anyway, it was funny and more or less accurate and I really wanted to find the clip to repost it here, but google as I might I just couldn't find it.  Please let me know if you can though!

Oh, yeah.  And by the way.  Australian pitch really does go up at the end?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

quicko: menzies

Trivia question:  who was the longest serving Australian Prime Minister?  Answer:  Menzies, who shares his name with the infamous hotel at Wynyard that has put locks now also outside as well as on its lobby restrooms.  Honestly, I never did it any damage; all I wanted was a warm place to sit while I waited for my bus on cold nights!!

Friday, September 9, 2011

quicko: ketchup or not

There's a bit of an issue here.  Seriously.  Ketchup.  And I'm not just talking about the fact they call it "tomato paste" or some other such nonsense, it's more that you just can't get enough of it.  On burgers, for instance.  It just isn't inevitable, let alone having enough of it.  And waitresses don't automatically bring it.  And fries don't automatically come with it.  And even when you do get it you can be hard pressed to get enough.  But you feel funny asking in the first place, because, really, isn't it just a quiet little condiment?

Yes.  It is.  Entirely too quiet here, alas.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

quicko: secret spot!

So yesterday Katie and I discovered this super cool place you can visit in Sydney.  I'd tell you where it is, but it's a secret.  More because she was driving and I don't really know where I was, but still.  It was pretty unspoilt and I'd hate the hoards to descend and render it hoardful.  But anyway!  It was so cool!  At first we just thought it was a nice, albeit severely overpriced, place to sit and sip tea and talk about boys while taking in spectacular views of the harbour, but then we went exploring and found statues to climb on!  And canons!  And underground tunnels!  And trees!  And more statues!  It was really just plain cool.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

quicko: how not to offend an australian

Never mention that they're not the hardest working people on earth.  And purr sympathetically whenever they mention needing a holiday.  They do, poor dears.  It's been at least six weeks since the last one and they're stressed.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

quicko: further thoughts on melbourne

One more thing:  Melbourne seemed much more American to me than Sydney did, at least in the suburbs.  I'm not convinced that's accurate (everyone tells me Melbourne is so much more European than Sydney, and America certainly isn't "European"), but it really was the impression I got.

Monday, September 5, 2011

my trip to melbourne

This weekend I went to Melbourne to see my friend Glen.

It worked out much better than the last time I'd tried to go see him when he decided to fly to the Philippines the same time as Tiger canceled my flight

Aside from actually seeing him, though, well, I'll leave you to judge how successful the trip actually was.

Don't get me wrong:  it was a great trip and he was a great host.  It's just that I'm really rather more looking forward to my next visit.

I read on the bus from the airport to Southern Cross Station that Melbourne is famous for three world records (not just in the Southern hemisphere for once!):  continuous DJ-ing, Zorba dancing and the most people in superhero outfits in one place.  Can't go wrong with recommendations like that, really.  (No, that wasn't sarcastic!)  Oh, and a man on the train (from Southern Cross Station to Flinders Street, which is one stop but costs $3.80, which was .60 more than the exact amount of change I had) gave me his seat, which also raised Melbourne considerably in my estimation.

Anyway, when I got to Flinders Street, I was under orders to "find the theatre."  Being the tourist, I stopped and asked the nice guard if he knew where the theatre showing Hamlet was, but he didn't.  I said my friend thought it might be somewhere with "Art" in the name, so he recommended The Art Centre, but said I needed to exit from the other end of the station (I should have known that exit looked too easy).  At the other end, I found an information desk where I was directed to the Art Centre, which I shortly found.  I was a bit suspicious walking up to it as they had plenty of playbills outside and none of them mentioned Hamlet.  I got inside and it was ridiculously snazzy and I asked the nice lady if they were the theatre showing Hamlet that night.  She regretted to inform me that they were not.

"Would you like directions to the theatre that is?" she asked kindly.

"Yes!" I said, then remembered.  "Please."

Thankfully the Sumner Theatre was only a block and a half away, though they refused to give me my "under 30s" tickets until both my friend and I could identify ourselves as legitimately under 30.  Seeing as Glen wasn't there yet, I sat on the steps in front and waited for him to arrive with ID, which he eventually did.

We had a great dinner and loved Hamlet, though left with one of us bouncing off the walls and the other supremely exhausted.  Why I don't know, seeing as one of us managed to get quite a decent chunk of sleep during the middle of Hamlet.

We arrived home and one of us proceeded to have a fit of the giggles, followed by a fit of violent coughing, while the other tried to insist on Going to Bed Quietly, but eventually peace descended on the household.

I awoke the next morning to find Glen's redheaded flatmate curiously eyeing the pile of pillows on his couch and trying to figure out if it was alive or not.  It turns out it was.

After we got all introduced properly, which we had plenty of time to do while Glen went to the chiropractor and then came home with a migraine that sent him to bed for a couple hours, Tom (the redheaded flatmate) and I discovered that!!  We had actually met before!!  Can you believe it?  Do you recall that part of the story a few paragraphs back now wherein a lost little American girl was desperately trying to find her theatre?  And she stopped to ask for directions at the information booth?  Voila!  Tom was working there!  How amazing!  We'd actually met before the episode on the sofa!  It turned out we had even tons more in common and spent the rest of the morning and well into the afternoon chatting.  (He'd just played the Beast in Beauty and the Beast -- how cool is that?!)

After awhile we got a bit bored and put on a DVD we found lying around, just as Mr. Sleepyhead woke up and came to join the fun.  So, we all watched a DVD before embarking on the Great Jeep Transformation of 2011.

Glen, it turns out, has recently acquired a bright blue lesbian Jeep Wrangler named Susie.  (Which bears, might I add, no resemblance to my best friend Susie who ironically happens to have a green-ish gay Subaru Outback named Hercules.)  Susie the Jeep, however, was quite new and had never yet had all her rooves removed.  She had two:  a hard back and a soft back.

Thus, my reading material for the trip comprised of the Susie's owner's manual and warranty (not strictly required reading, but I got a bit bored while Glen called customer service, but we haven't quite gotten there yet).  As I read out the manual, Glen managed to spend much longer than I'd have taken seeing the top, say, three major sites of Melbourne undressing his Jeep.  Unfortunately, after considerable effort (the poor thing did have a migraine, bear in mind), he called customer service and discovered that they had forgotten to sell him the integral screwdriver for removing the top.  So, we redressed Susie and drove her to an auto parts store.  Fortunately they had the necessary screwdriver, so Glen, Susie and I then drove to Melden, which is really quite far away, but is where Susie needed to be to pick up the new washing machine, which was being sold to Glen by an Australian ex-pat who'd moved back after 17 years in England and three months later decided to hightail it back to London.

After 45 minutes of Transforming the Jeep in his driveway (I could go on and tell you about the ex-pat's Dutch wife and how they want to have children soon, and how backward Australia seems to them now, and how England is so much closer to her family, etc, etc, anyway, if you wanted to know), the washing machine was finally secured in the back just in time for Glen and I to drive away and make it to our second play of the weekend.

That was all well and good, and followed by a lovely iced chocolate at San Churros, where I finally felt like a tourist (sort of) for more or less the first time at 11 pm at night.

The next morning, we finally made it into the city (Oh, yes:  there was a major traffic jam on the way home.  Of all the things to make it on facebook, that was the one Glen picked.  Boys.) and I got a brief tour (read:  take as many pictures as fast as possible to prove I was actually not in the parking garage of an apartment building for the majority of my weekend trip!) of the city followed by what was really a very nice brunch on a little island type endeavor in the middle of the Yarra River called Ponyfish, aside from the minor detail of Glen forgetting to invite along the cute boy he'd promised to let me get to know while I was in town.

From there, it was off to the airport and back to Sydney.  Like I said:  a lovely trip, but really.  I just can't wait for the next one!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

review: voices

Last night I saw another play!  It was a mystery play and I was desperately hoping for a comedy after Hamlet, but it turned out to be an artistic, social awareness piece about men with mental illness.  A real upper, hey?

That said, it was well done.  It portrayed five men with mental illness and shared their stories and daily lives.  It was clearly well-researched and written to be based on true stories, and the company was very much on hand to discuss issues and invite thoughtful responses from audience members.  The messages were all good, and I was proud to discover hours after seeing it that was actually a (quietly) Christian show, which I honestly hadn't picked up on.  I thought that actually said quite a lot, and was very sensitively handled.

Artistically, I thought the play dragged a bit -- had I directed, I would have probably chopped about 15 minutes off the roughly 70-minute-long piece.  It ended suddenly and we all turned and looked at each other, trying to figure out if it was intermission or actually over.  Turns out it was actually over.  The script had done a nice thing and come full circle, but that was the one part that could have been a bit longer, just so the audience would click and have the penny drop before the blackout (which took a plant to start the clapping as I think we all thought it was a scene change).

The acting was good and clearly quite demanding.  The set was appropriate for the show and realistically depicted a reasonably looked after, but certainly not spick and span, home for those with psychological illnesses.  It was a bit on the grungy side, with torn walls and aging paint and a continual presence of trash from recently opened biscuits.  Cigarette butts littered the place, and (again) there was quite the presence of herbal cigarettes (why herbal on stage?).  I missed the advertised partial nudity, though.

All in all it was a good production -- obviously significantly lower budget than Hamlet, but also significantly more likely to actually impact people's lives.

PS -- Voices was the only play I've ever been at that gave away a free coffee-table-type book at the end, not to mention a free program -- a definite anomaly in Australia! 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

review: hamlet

Last night I saw the Melbourne Theatre Company's production of Hamlet and was suitably impressed.  By far the most stunning aspect of the production was the set.  It was amazing.  There was a huge turntable (always a plus) and the stage was divided I think into four uneven quadrants that were delineated by floor-to-ceiling windows and mirrors that formed rooms and hallways.  They were mostly windows, but a few were mirrors and it was actually a bit hard to tell which were which.  It was spectacular.

The rest of the props and such were modern and snazzy (and, as Glen would like to point out, included some of the very same chairs that he has in his apartment) and worked very well with the set.  The lighting and sound were similarly good and unobtrusive, which is, of course, exactly as they're meant to be.  The costuming was modern and apt.  The scene changes were fantastic and flawless, with catchy music and no apparent movement.  They were a bit like magic, really (were those one-way mirrors?).

The acting was fine -- Hamlet was satisfactory, though a bit old.  The main problem was with him and Gertrude (his mother).  They were just really so close you had to question whether it was Hamlet or Oedipus you were meant to be watching.  Nobody's eyes got gouged out, though, so I guess it must have been Hamlet.

Ophelia did really well, and I think they almost expanded her role a bit.  She certainly got more stage time than other Ophelias I've seen.  Also, I think you could argue this Hamlet's interpretation was decidedly on the "he is mad" end of things.  Not entirely, perhaps -- that would rather defeat the purpose of academics arguing endlessly, wouldn't it? -- but closer to that end than the whole seeming in control of things end.

I found Rosencrantz and Guildenstern a whole lot less likable in this production than I have in the past (perhaps I was missing something in the past, come to think of it), but really like Horatio.  Laertes, too, I really liked and sympathized with.  Polonius was played by a guy I hear is famous, but I'd never heard of him.  Perhaps it's an Australian thing.  I thought he did well and never had an inkling he (and evidently most of the others) were double and triple cast, though evidently that was fairly obvious, too.

Claudius did very well -- the debonair modern-day politican -- though Hamlet, Sr.'s ghost annoyed me.  Too thin and pale, really.  He was clearly visible on stage, though I'm pretty sure he was always behind glass walls whenever anyone that wasn't Hamlet was around, which I thought worked quite well.

There was no sparrow in the production -- though there were, as the entrance signs warned, strobe lights and herbal cigarettes (why are cigarettes so popular to have on stage these days?!) -- as the show picture advertised, which was slightly disappointing.  It was fun to hear all the famous lines, though -- "the play's the thing," "aye, there's the rub," "get thee to a nunnery," "methinks the lady doth protest too much," "alas, poor Yorrick" and, of course, "to be or not to be."  The only one I really thought might have been missing was the one about there being something rotten in the state of you-know-where.  Actually, I think they edited out a bit of the political mumbo-jumbo no one ever really gets anyway -- I think, for example, Fortinbras was entirely done away with and the ending slightly more abrupt than the full text has it.  Honestly, I think it made for a better production, though, so I don't begrudge it -- though I still would have liked something rotten.

Friday, September 2, 2011

quicko: "the australian dream"

Don't think it exists, at least not in the sense you can study in post-modern literature.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

quicko: oatmeal v. porridge

I have the definitive answer, Americans!  And it's not just "British" v. "American," although that's part of it:  porridge must be cooked and mushy.  Australians don't use "oatmeal," but they can refer to "oats" (they actually have a granola-type cereal that is literally oats and fruit and such) or, when oats are cooked, "porridge."  It's not simply the stuff of fairy tales, after all!