Sunday, August 19, 2007

Music - Bob Dylan

Saw Bob Dylan's concert at the Entertainment Centre last wednesday night. It was a last minute thing. A friend desperately wanted to go, and didn't want to go alone. The tickets were too pricey for me, but she offered to pay for some of mine. So I couldn't say no.
He was great. I couldn't understand what he was singing half the time, but it didn't matter much. The guy looks OLD, and frail as. But like I said, he and his band sounded good. Many of the songs were unfamiliar to me. Out of the few I knew, the only famous 60's song he sang was Blowin' In The Wind, which he sang in a gently rocking style - sounded beautiful.
The whole band (bar one) wore hats. Bob's was a little amish looking - like Harrison Ford's in Witness.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Kimba the White Lion - influencial vegetarian

I bought a dvd of the old Kimba The White Lion cartoon a while ago, and watched the first episode last weekend. I was a little surprised at just how much I still enjoyed it. The animation was always quite inventive (especially compared to the cheap children's cartoons that came out in the 80's like He-Man). And Kimba was one of THE cutest characters ever.

And I also remembered loving the idea of all the animals living peacefully together and Kimba being brave and protective even though he was so small (of course it's wasn't particularly realistic - in real life a small white lion wouldn't have much chance of convincing the other jungle carnivores to give up meat). But in fact, I actually think Kimba was one of the influences behind my becoming vegetarian when I was a kid. I'd never considered it before, but I'm certain now that Kimba was a definite influence.

So three cheers for Kimba - turning small children into vegetarians!

The kids of 1971

On good old Wikipedia ( you can search for the year you were born, then choose 'Births', and it will show you all those people (though mainly american ones) who have become famous inthe same number of years it's taken you to get where you are now.
I like my slacker crowd (of 1971).
*** There's the SexySuper '71 Boys: Sacha Baron Cohen (Ali G/Borat), Ewan McGregor, Mark Wahlberg, David Tennant (the current Dr Who), Sean Astin, Johnny Knoxville, Luke Wilson, Snoop Dogg, Ricky Martin (maybe I'll have to sneer alittle less at him now I know he's a '71 boy), Jared Leto, Richard Ashcroft (The Verve), Matt Stone (South Park)
*** And the SuperSexy '71 Gals: Winona Ryder, Erykah Badu, Sofia Coppolla, Dido, Christina Applegate, Dolores O'Riordan (The Cranberries)
And assorted other '71ers - Mary J Blige, Denise Richards, Shannen Doherty, Tupac Shakur, MissyElliott, Stella McCartney, Dannii Minogue, and Tiffany.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Live Earth - music, mixed messages, and whingeing critics

A number of Foxtel channels showed almost 24 hours of the Live Earth concerts on the weekend. It was highly watchable if you did as I did - digitally recording it and then fast forwarding through the constant ads for various Foxtel programs, and zipping past a couple of dud artists.
Biggest and brightest show was in London, while Beijing's was rather awful - icky music and with a tiny audience. A fairly token effort.
Crowded House, Foo Fighters and Madonna all seemed to go off (apart from Madonna's dreary charity single). And one artist who surprised me was Alicia Keyes, who came out with some solid soul covers. Much better than the mush that made her famous.
With simultaneous concerts, there were a couple of interesting doubling ups. James Blunt sang a Cat Stevens song in London (did an okay job of it I thought), and a little while later Yusuf (the ex Cat himself) turned up in Hamburg to sing some more of his own stuff. While Marvin Gaye's Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) was covered by Corrinne Bailey Rae and John Legend in London, then again a while later by Alicia Keyes in New York. I read somewhere that What A Wonderful World and Gimme Shelter also turned up twice.
Liked lots of other artists, and wished I'd been there to see them live - Keane, Snow Patrol, Macy Gray, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Baaba Maal, Joss Stone, Jack Johnson...
There have been plenty of critics pointing out the obvious irony of listening to enviro-messages coming out of the mouths of far from carbon-neutral cashed-up pop stars. But the world's media has spent years demonising greenies and turning collective deaf ears to environmental scientists (their warnings are ignored or at best put off as something for us all to face some day down the track, but not right now while doing something about it might cost us a buck or two). Big media rarely listens to anyone who's not rich and/or powerful anyway. If you're a hippie with a message about living sustainably in a beach shack with a veggie patch, nobody's going to give you air time. So getting big names to go even partially green and giving the message a new platform, how can that hurt? And, well, mega-concerts can be a lot of fun.
Pop stars aren't likely to change the world a whole lot, but a concert for a good cause is usually preferable to one that's solely for their bank balances.
Of course what would be really nice would be if people were willing to vote for politicians who didn't always put short-term $ before the future of our planet. End of transmission!

Monday, June 25, 2007

2007 Sydney Film Festival

This is a grumble post.
This was probably the most disappointing Sydney Film Festival I've known. There's a new woman in charge of picking films, and she didn't do a terrible job - the films weren't awful - it's just that none of them were great. Especially the films shown at the delicious State Theatre. Film after film of art-house-lite. Decent enough for passing the time of retired public servant types, looking for a way to pass some hours with something neither too dumb or too challenging. Unexceptional low-key dramas, and unambitious docos. 2 weeks of them.
Got me wondering whether the woman in charge can truly be a lover of films? Maybe she just 'likes' them. Would partly explain her taste for worthy brown-bread PC-fare, with little emphasis on anything truly outstanding.
For the first time I've known, there was NO silent film. So sad.
There seemed to be almost nothing american on the menu. I wonder if this was intentional? (last year the US gave us some of the best festival films - like United 93, An Inconvenient Truth, and Little Miss Sunshine).
And the couple of more 'colourful' films I could see on the program were in the smaller theatres on George St, where they quickly sold out (too quickly for me to see them).
Also, the new 'ideas' seemed to have ideological rather than artistic purpose - lame kids films, a group of films specifically dealing with people with disabilities, and supposedly feel-good music docos (such as a reportedly unimpressive hula film being followed by hula dancing lessons).
So that's my whinge.
I'd like her to go.
But as far as I could tell people still turned up, so if their box-office takings were okay she'll probably return next year.
The only positive things I could say are that I'm pleased they showed some old John Huston films (saw The Dead, The Misfits, and The Man Who Would Be King on the big screen), and that maybe some of the films I missed might have changed my opinion. But what I saw was nothing to blog about.

Packer Wedding - Close the borders!

James Packer and Erica Baxter are married.
Now is surely the time to close the Australian borders and cancel the passports of the entire wedding party, before any of them return. We'd be rid of the Packers, Alan Jones, Eddie Maguire, The Warnes, and most of the Murdochs. What an awful pack of people. They even invited the Cruises, just to make things extra creepy. Ick.

Monday, April 30, 2007

MTV Music Awards 2007

We were out at the MTV music awards yesterday, wearing t-shirts with CREW written on the back of them (well Cade went without as they didn't have exactly enough to go around, which left him a bit miffed), assisting with siphoning disorderly teenagers into the mosh pit, where we got to join them once the show started.
This was the second time we'd been to these awards. They're a bit odd, as the presenters do their presenting to the cameras, not the audience, and everything goes dead when it's ad-break time. Definitely best to be in the mosh pit where you can get up close to the performers, but it does mean standing back a bit from the screaming teens at the front.
The bands were all decent, including Eskimo Joe, as well as some of the others that I'm not personally keen on (like Good Charlotte, and Damien Leith). The 'flossy flossy' Fergie was the host, though the song she sang was just okay.
* The HIGHS - Pink is truly cute, even though she wants to be 'tough', but that just makes her cuter. As well as singing she twirled a couple of metres above the stage and audience from drapes hanging from the ceiling. Nifty. Sneaky Sound System rocked, just like they did when I saw them as the opening band for Scissor Sisters a few months ago. It's unusual to see dance musos who sound so good live. Would be good to see them get some exposure internationally. And I got to see silverchair for the first time ever. This really got the mosh pit kids off, and water bottles were sent flying. They were so satisfying that we decided to leave for home even though there was about 20 minutes of show to go. No point sticking around for 30 Seconds To Mars (Jared Leto) who would only have been an anti-climax (and the word from backstage was that Jared Leto and his boys weren't the nicest of people).
* The LOWS - Like the Logies, there's obviously plenty of dodgy voting, because there's no other believable explanation for Guy Sebastian winning for best pop clip or Evanescence winning best album. Few people got a less excited response from the crowd than Guy, but at least he didn't sing. I've never been a fan of ex-soapie stars like Stephanie Macintosh trying to become pop stars, but it was a bit hard watching (and hearing) her flail all over the place, especially when the music stopped for a few seconds so we could hear the full awfullness of her singing. I can't decide if her performance was as bad as Russell Crowe's at last year's show, or whether Russell wins that one. There seemed no point to Nicole Ritchie being there, until she announced a winner as shah-Non Noll, and gave us all a laugh.
*** UPDATE - The awards were shown live on MTV. As we were at the awards we couldn't watch them on tv until they were repeated - by which time Stephanie Macintosh's performance had been cut! Was this MTV trimming the dud bits to make a more entertaining show? Or was it done to protect a singer who can't sing while the record company is still trying to flog her music to the pop-star loving kids of the world???

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Film - Ten Empty

A number of weeks ago I got to attend a screening of a unfinished new Australian film Ten Empty, two-thirds of the way into it's editing period. It's set in Adelaide, stars mostly unfamiliar actors (Jack Thompson has a supporting role), and cost around $1million. It's a small-scale drama, and fairly interesting, though unfortunately it's yet another Australian film where ugly Australians hang out in their crappy loungerooms getting drunk/yelling at each other/whining about how hard their lives are etc. At least this film doesn't end up with a failed bank robbery/drug deal (Little Fish, Idiot Box, The Boys and every second Aussie film from the last 5 years). And despite the editing being unfinished, it kept me involved.
It was an unusual experience as there seemed to be a lot of major editing work needed. The story was all there, but nobody in the film was particularly likeable or sympathetic, and the motivations of the characters frequently made no sense at all - for example you were left wondering why one person was still in a crummy relationship with another when in real life you'd imagine they'd have left years ago.
The fun part was talking about the film afterwards. The producer wanted to chat - firstly to make sure that everything made sense (all the practical points of the plot did, but emotionally it didn't), and secondly whether we liked and/or enjoyed it. Being a film that seemed to have potential but didn't currently work at all, it was interesting to consider all the options they'd have to consider for making changes.
I felt very sorry for the first-time director. Unfortunately he doesn't have one of those films that just get shot and then stitched together easily - the editors had a lot of major work left to do on it. Good luck to them.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Oscar 2007

The Oscars this year were very international, and most of the presenters were youngsters. I think they're holding back on the oldies for next year (the 80th oscars).
* Was good to see Alan Arkin win for best supporting actor in Little Miss Sunshine. The guy's in his 70's now, and he's been giving good acting for years. Eddie Murphy had been the favourite (for no good reason), and he didn't take losing well. He left shortly afterwards and so wasn't there when Jennifer Hudson won an award for the same film. Not very classy of Eddie, but at least it was an honest emotional response, which always makes for a nice change in Hollywood.
* Why did they have to do the obvious thing and give Jennifer Hudson an award? Aside from the singing scenes, there was nothing special about her in Dreamgirls. Is she going to be like a lot of other youngsters who get given oscars early in their careers for one showy role, sometimes in their first or second film, and then never give another above-average performance (Marisa Tomei, Mira Sorvino, Cuba Gooding Jnr...)? Sometimes they choose wisely (Hilary Swank proved to be more than a one-hit wonder), but why do Halle Berry and Angelina Jolie have oscars, while Kate Winslet, Johnny Depp, Judy Davis and Naomi Watts have none??
* Nobody warned me Celine Dion would be singing. I thought she was safely locked away in Las Vegas?
* Martin Scorcese was teary-eyed when his long-time editor Thelma Schoonmaker won. And it was good to see Martin win best director. Over the years, 20 performances in his films have been nominated for oscars, so even though I think the guy's a bit over-rated, it was about time he got his own. Martin always seems very humble at these events, though I can't imagine him being too humble on a film set. Myself, I think the director of United 93 deserved to win, but that wasn't going to happen. And wasn't it a bit unkind to have Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Francis F Coppolla announce the winner? The other nominees would have known Hollywood had no interest in them winning when that trio walked out on stage. They were there for Marty.
* I read that Melissa Etheridge thanked her 'wife' when she picked up her best song award. I missed that bit. As is usual with oscar-winning songs these days, it wasn't that great.
* Naomi Watts showed off her pregnant tummy for the first time. Good for her.
* I always stay watching for the credits, to check if Princess Leia is still employed as one of the show's joke writers. She is.
* After The Departed, the brilliant Spanish film Pan's Labyrinth won the most awards (3), but it didn't win best foreign language film! Pathetic. The voters have such bad taste in foreign films, always have - or maybe it's just that they let politics get in the way.
* This is the second year in a row that the top 2 acting awards went to people playing real life personalities. And as well as those four, biographical roles also worked in the last few years for Jamie Foxx (Ray Charles), Cate Blanchett (Katherine Hepburn), Charlize Theron (the Monster woman) and Nicole Kidman (Virginia Woolf). Obviously this is now the easiest way for an actor to win an oscar.
* And poor Peter O'Toole. Nominated 8 times, and no prize. They should have given him one for Lawrence of Arabia when they had the chance all those years ago! Peter should have stormed out with Eddie, AND thrown his chair at Forest Whitaker (even though I was happy for Forest to win - he's always good and has been around so long - remember him way back in The Crying Game?).
* The media went on about what people wore, but as usual it was boring. Cate Blanchett did look cool though - like a glamorous female Sir Lancelot. And Nicky Kidman was her usual glam red-carpet self. I never got to see how she managed to sit down in that dress. Looked like it would be difficult.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Kangaroo Valley wombats

We recently spent an extended weekend at Kangaroo Valley, in a group of holiday cabins up in the isolated hills.

Besides being beautifully peaceful, and having a very handy pool (it was one of the hottest weekends of the summer), the most lovely thing about the place was the animals.

There were the domestics - 2 donkeys, ducks, 4 chooks, 2 rabbits, and Miss Millie the pig (so cute! such an enthusiastic eater!).

And there was the wild. We saw one kangaroo, as well as a goana. And at night there were wombats all over. Two were munching grass outside our cabin one night. And driving down to the valley's main street at night, we had to stop more than half a dozen times for these rather large animals (somehow managing to move both more slowy and faster than you'd expect).

A local said that years ago there were no wombats in KV. But as housing estates and high speed roads take over the region, huge numbers of the creatures have found their safe haven in the valley.

2006 is kaput

2006 is gone! Time for some thoughts on it from the position of middle-brow cultural consumerism.
Movies - There was a lot of good alternative stuff coming out of the US for a change, a little challenging, a little wacky - Borat, Little Miss Sunshine, United 93, An Inconvenient Truth, Shortbus, The Aristocrats. The Devil Wears Prada & Casino Royale were solid popcorn fun.
Only saw one Australian film, and it was worthy - Ten Canoes.
Mission Impossible 3 was the worst film I saw at the movies (why won't Tom Cruise's character just die!!!), while Date Movie was the worst new film I saw on dvd. Burn the copies. All of them!
Music - most enjoyable aspect this year for me was getting to know some tuneful man bands better - Keane, Belle & Sebastian, Matthew Sweet and The Sleepy Jackson come to mind.
And of course, there was the memorable 2 seconds during which Chris Isaak shook my hand.
Books - I'm rarely as grateful for the new release of a book as I was for Chris Masters' much-needed Jonestown. And after all the subtle threats before publication, no lawsuit from Jonesy? Pity the pathetic ABC management had to behave so foolishly about the whole thing.
The most powerful novel I read all year was The Leopard, by Guiseppe De Lampdesua, while the most powerful short story I've EVER read turned out to be Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx.
Media - With the publication of Jonestown, Noami Robson leaving Today Tonight, and the improving fortunes of and The Monthly, is the Australian Media a safer saner place? Even Murdoch's papers have changed their tune (at master's orders) over global warming & climate change. Still, channel 9 has Eddie Maguire, and Shane Warne & wifey are poised to be the new over-exposed tv celebrities of '07, so all isn't completely safe.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Front Porch Cat

A few months ago I bought a chair to go on the front porch.
Many afternoons I sit out there, reading a book as the sun goes down.

Now, a local cat (collar-less), has taken to spending half the day on it. From a safe distance, she (I think it's a she) can comfortably watch everyone passing on the street.
She's very friendly, likes a pat, and will chat if you talk to her.
It doesn't seem to bother her in the slightest to hear dogs running around inside the house. Of course, they're totally ignorant of the fact that she's out there.

Part of me's always wanted a cat, and this one doesn't even expect us to feed her, so lucky me. I'm quite chuffed she's chosen our porch actually.

And feel free to give her a pat if you're ever visiting here.