Out of the house

Thank goodness for Paul (aka Not quite the day I expected)

The day started off nicely enough, a most beautiful Autumn Sunday. I suspect that the warm sun and the cool breeze was made all the sweeter thanks to the enjoyment of a (child-free) yummy brunch of eggs, bagels and tea with Matt.  A lovely, all too rare, weekend treat.

And then the day turned a little pear shaped, as they say…best laid plans.

After a failed attempt to see Frankenstein at the Nova (don’t ask, really…) and bit of a tantrum on my part, we made the best of a disappointing situation and turned tale to Southland, bought treats and tickets to see Paul.

And can I just say – thank goodness for Paul and for Simon (Pegg) and Nick (Frost). I can always rely on you guys to lift my spirits.

Just as with Sean of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, Simon and Nick’s latest offering is clever and quite hilarious. Paul is of course a tribute to science fiction films past and present, but I’m pleased to say that it doesn’t fall into the trap of parody.

Before seeing the film, I had heard that the sci fi references were a little obvious, somewhat self conscious.  I totally disagree with this, I thought the call-outs were generally pretty subtle and any borrowed lines were worked into the dialogue pretty seamlessly.  I honestly believe that the film would easily stand up with or without the element of homage.

At the end of the day, Paul is funny.  It doesn’t take itself too seriously, but still has enough substance to avoid total frivolity.  It’s a well put together film, effects-wise…Paul’s existence is entirely convincing, and voiced by Seth Rogen he’s terribly likeable.

I reckon this would make a pretty good date movie, especially if you’re a little over the holiday kids-flicks.  I’d not say it’s great for the kids, if for no other reason but that it includes a fair bit of swearing.  The curse-age is completely in context, and very entertaining, but might be a little hard to explain to an 8 year old…

In short – love it, and can’t wait to see it again. and again. and again.

My ears are ringing (in a good way)

Sometimes, just every now and then you get to go to a show that feels a little bit dangerous. Not dangerous to my well being, I’ll admit, but dangerous in the sense that you’ve got NO IDEA what’s coming your way.  No clue what to expect, over and above the fact that it’s bound to be in your face.

Amplification, by Phillip Adams’ company BalletLab was one such show.  I had a sense before walking in that I should be prepared for just about anything, and it did not disappoint.  It seemed to me to be more performance art than contemporary dance, but I’m by no means an expert in either, so I was quite happy to go along for the ride. It most certainly seemed to be largely about movement, and an appreciation of movement most deliberate.

From the outset, it packed a punch. The DJ (on stage throughout the performance) was the first on stage. His introduction was industrial, grinding, shrill.  The dancers commenced to grind along, with frightening, fluid violence.  They actually looked at times as though they might hurt each other.  I shouldn’t have worried though, they were at all times perfectly in control.

The show itself had no obvious linear narrative, but it most certainly made reference to many dark, starkly important themes – power, imprisonment, abuse and gender.

About halfway through the performance the music stopped, leaving a slight ringing in our ears, and the lead dancer continued to dance.  I’ve got to say, this was strange and seemed a little on the silly side, but then I noticed the sounds that her dancing was making.  I was quite thrilled to listen to dancing, the slap of feet on the wooden floor, the light but strong thump as she came into contact with the ground, the slightest rustle of her clothing.

As the performance moved through warehouse industrial, to sitar burial tunes, to a little West-Side Story style dance-fighting, I became aware that this was the first time watching a DJ that I actually got a real sense that they were playing a musical instrument.  His intensity and skill was exactly as you would see from any professional musician. I was impressed to say the least.

The show concluded nakedly. Dancers bodies, lying incredibly, frighteningly still and then moving, intertwined Inferno-esque.  An act not for the faint-hearted, but perfectly in context.

Getting to see this show was a wonderful opportunity, as was meeting @joidesign, and spending an evening with @fionak (my wonderful host).  Thanks for a great Rushcrowds event.

On the cards

I’ve got a pretty busy calendar over the next couple of months, by my standards anyway.  Here’s a few things on the cards…

I must get along to see the exhibition of artworks on paper, Fabric which is being held in Armadale until the 25 March 2011.  This exhibition is apparently quite small but features works by many local artists. The venue itself is also very interesting, the Firestation Print Studio provides a place for professional and amateur printmakers to learn, print and exhibit.  I tried to get along to the show this weekend just gone, but being a long weekend it didn’t happen.  I’m assured by my sports-mad family that after basketball we’ll head on over this Saturday. Full details about this exhibition can be found here

Another local show is being held by Christopher Rimmer, an extremely talented photographer who was heavily involved with the 2010 Pink Lady Art Exhibition.  His exhibition In Africashowcases his latest breathtaking images of his former homeland. The show is running until 8 April 2011 at Galleria Rocco Interiors, 1st floor, 407 Hampton Street Hampton.

I’m looking forward to April, and it starts with a birthday celebration.  The Star Community Cinema in Bendigo turns six years old this year, and they’ll be celebrating on the 1 April with a special screening of True Grit (check their website for full details).  The Star Cinema is a community run enterprise, and is invaluable to the Bendigo region, screening an amazing range of independent and art house films.  They also hold special events throughout the year so be sure to check out their website to see what’s coming up.

Lastly, I’ve booked tickets for Matt and I to go and see Frankenstein. This show is on stage in Britain at the moment and thanks to National Theatre Live, is being shown live on screen in April.  I’ve got tickets for the screening at Cinema Nova Carlton.  The play, by Nick Dear (based on the novel by Mary Shelley) is directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, 127 Hours).  It stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, who alternate the lead roles of Frankenstein and his monster from night to night.  I’m extremely excited about this one…I love horror, and I’m a big fan of Danny Boyle.

So, all going well, March and April are looking very cultured and lots of fun.

Have you guys got anything on the books for the next month or so?

A different kind of twilight

Sometimes I get struck by just how nice life can be.  Friday night was one of those times, an evening when I was able to thoroughly enjoy watching the kids have a ball, pick up a few treats for myself, and have a couple of drinks with friends.

Hampton Primary School held their Twilight Carnival on Friday. Being the first time in many years that the school has run a fete, we were all waiting with bated breath to see how it would come together. In short, the result was spectacular. It was a fab event that’ll be talked about for a long time to come – plenty of fun for the kids, yummy food and shopping treats, and great entertainment. The dedicated group who organised all and sundry should be loudly congratulated and many thanks sent to the school for supporting it.

I got my hands on a few really lovely things worth bragging about.

Needless to say, I couldn’t stay away from the second-hand books. I found a few really lovely kids books which Oscar has already officially approved. I picked up  a couple of pulpy novels for myself too, but by far the highlight was this little find, a really great copy of The Misfits, by Arthur Miller, in Penguin orange no less. I’m quite smitten.

I was also quite taken with another little find, of all things, swap cards…

Swapstar have a really lovely new take on the classic swap card collections.  Locally and lovingly designed, I was particularly taken by this owl set and I couldn’t resist the silhouettes set as well. Now I just have to decide what I want to do with them. Swapstar sell albums, but I’m thinking the cards might be able to be up and out somewhere.  I’ll put my mind to it and let you know what I end up doing.

The constant crowd was well entertained throughout the evening.  The Ulumbra Stage was put to good use –  the school choir was a nice way to start the program, and the duo performances, jazz and otherwise set a lovely tone.  A school favourite, Clinton Bowditch and friends concluded the evening’s entertainment with a handful of tunes.  We were really lucky to have special guest, Clare Bowditch join Clinton and co. for a couple of songs…a really fine way to top off the event.

After a few tunes, I joined my friends in the beer garden…a very popular spot on a balmy Friday. In the end, I’m pretty sure the only reason that we went home was that the mosquitos started to bite.  That, and the fact that it got a bit harder to keep track of the kids in the dark…

So we packed up our books and our chutney, our swap cards and our cupcakes and we went home to look forward to the next carnival.  Well done to all, what a job well done.

A night at the opera

Just to mix it up a little, I asked my friend Fiona to put together a review of a recent night out at the opera (she’s much more civilised than I am)…and here it is. Thanks for your words Fi.

Thank-you to That Book You Love for inviting me to guest post today. Mandi noticed on Twitter that a number of us from RushCrowds had a big night out at the opera and suggested a bit of a review could be good.

Viva Verdi was the name of the first event that we could call a true RushCrowders event. Last Friday night I went to the opera for the first time in maybe eight years.

When Victorian Opera became the third company to test out our RushCrowds platform with a show that looked light-hearted and friendly on paper, I decided that this was the opportunity to wear a proper Victorian opera skirt that I’d purchased in a crazy moment  a couple of years ago from Vintage Rose.

Viva Verdi was dedicated to the Dame Joan Sutherland whose recently passing saddened many true fans of opera.

So back to the skirt –  the designers at Vintage Rose make beautiful garments, many influenced by the Victorian era and Empire line style. However there are very few opportunities to wear a full length opera skirt with bustle and lace-up bodice, so this romantic purchase had been consigned to the back of the cupboard.

On Friday night the skirt and bodice got an outing and it couldn’t have been a nicer way to come out. Viva Verdi was a snapshot of the opera of Verdi – 2 parts – the first from La Traviata and the second from Il Trovatore.

Forget the stitched shirt opinions you may have of opera. With the Victorian Orchestra conducted by the flamboyant Richard Gill, and the opera singers decked up like, well me, the show was one of high gaiety, cheeriness almost a bit bawdy really.

I’m glad there was a translation on our seats because now I know that Verdi had a pretty robust sense of passion, humour and didn’t mind telling folks to stop speaking if they weren’t making any sense!

And Melbourne Town Hall is such a gorgeous venue. The huge pipe organ as the backdrop was suitably impressive but cast your eye around and you could get soaked up into the huge wall frescos and transported by the duck egg blue and gold patterning on the ceiling. Really lovely all round!

On this RushCrowds adventure were several friends from Twitter @digitalkulcha @joidesign @pomegranate02 @pupsinmelb @kelllll and several folk from the Abbotsford Convent  who were curious to see what a night out at the opera might be like these days. Our RushCrowders were on the look out for @kelllll who was there with friends under the RushCrowds special offer but we missed each other’s tweets and I for one felt a tad naughty checking my iPhone during the performance.

Victorian Opera has more excellent shows that we hope to RushCrowd this year, the Magic Flute in March should be a ripper. If you haven’t stumbled across RushCrowds yet but love the notion of meeting up with a bunch of people who are going to the opera, theatre, a meal out, supper etc – then come join us at www.rushcrowds.com and let the RushCrowding begin!

On paper…

Now here’s something to look forward to!

I’ve popped this exhibition on my calendar as a must do, as a chance to catch the work of a few friends and acquaintances.  I love print-making, and works on paper are just my kind of thing.

Fabric includes the work of a number of artists who were involved with the very successful Pink Lady Art Exhibition.  I’ll be watching out for pieces by Louise Einfeld, Trudy Rice, Sue Picot & Lisa Sewards.

The exhibition is on from 3 March to 25 March at Firestation Print Studio, 22 Willis Street, Armadale.  Opening Night is Thursday, 3rd March (6 -8pm).

Stay tuned if you’re interested in a run-down, I’ll work on a bit of a write-up once I’ve seen the show.

Tell me a story?

Last Friday I managed to get out of the house (no small task) and into the Melbourne Town Hall.  At this most impressive of venues, amongst many people (some very like me, others very not) I was told a few stories…

The Gala Night of Storytelling 2011: Voices from Elsewhere, began the Wheeler Centre’s 2011 program and also marked the centre’s first birthday.  I’ve got to say, I think that the Wheeler Centre and all who sail in her, should be given a little clap – it’s a noble endeavour and very warmly received, as evidenced by the impressive crowd in attendance.

The evening itself was a rich mix of themes, places, and people.

The program began very locally, with a generous welcome and a quiet reminder of Melbourne’s sometimes dubious history.

And then came Mem Fox.  Bright yellow jacket and a shock of red hair, a delight. In a tone typical of her picture-book storytelling she told a tale that had goosebumps up and down my arms, the hairs on the back of my neck standing straight up and cold chills running down my spine.  The contrast of tone and content was quite unsettling.  Her story, of a family, was short and powerful. When she finished, the audience was more than a little rattled.

Yannick Haenal was next, and was earnest.  He delivered in French, and I caught myself closing my eyes while he told his story and listening in much the same way as I’ve done in the past at concerts.  The French language is just a little bit musical.  I didn’t understand very much (it’s been a while since High School French), but I could sense that it was a serious story, and its translation proved this to be the case.

What, no smoke-bomb?

Next up was John Birmingham, more familiar in content and style.  The story that he told, with its martial arts theme was humorous, as you might expect, but was just as earnest in its own particular way.  I certainly found myself buying into the idea that his friend’s commitment to a discipline, and his ability to follow his own intuition was what allowed this story its happy-ending.

The next two writers, Abha Dawesar and Murong Xuecun told us stories which had lovely magical twists.  Murong’s ironic set-up was compelling, and it was great to watch him watching us as his story was translated.  He seemed to take great delight in the fact that we were laughing in the right places.

Sonya Harnett, like John, told a story that I could latch onto very quickly.  She chose a story about her Mother, and her Mother’s nursing textbooks.  My Mum was also a nurse, and I still have the little pocket-sized nursing guide that I was so fascinated with as a kid.  I knew exactly what Sonya meant when she described the fact that she couldn’t quite reconcile the grotesque of the texts with her care-giving Mum.

Dagma Leupold‘s recollection of a dream was quite lovely, and I thought her slight detachment from the room was quite fitting given the subject of the story.

Nam Le was both insightful and hilarious.  Much like Sonya’s story, he managed to capture what it is to expect one thing, and get quite another thing entirely.  A funny guy, he summed up nicely why it is so important not to act on assumptions, but also exactly why we are so inclined to do just that.

And then there was Archie Roach.  I could have listened to Archie for a whole extra hour, but alas, only one song.  It was a fabulous way to finish the evening.

I was really fascinated to see how this type of program came together, and I really was impressed by how well this format showcased the writers’ work, their influences and their backgrounds.

To finish, can I just say that if you have a chance to get to any of the Wheeler Centre events – please do.  A pure indulgence in some fine writing and new ideas. Their program for the first bit of 2011 can be found here…

Junk-food for the mind

Commuting is a great chance to zone out for a while, and maybe get a bit of reading done.  Perfect time for a little junk-food for the mind.

In the last two days, I’ve had a quick jet-set up and back to Sydney for work.  The organisation that I work for, PIEF turned 5 years old this year (no small feat for an education foundation) and we celebrated over dinner with the team, the Board and some faithful supporters.

A glass of bubbly and some fine food at L’Aqua in Darling Harbour was, in my opinion a wonderful way to mark the occasion.

On the flights there and back I had a bit of a look around at what people where reading and wasn’t entirely surprised to see that a lot of it was pretty light.  As for myself, I was reading He Died with a Felafel in his Hand which is lots of fun, but not exactly profound. I guess at the end of the day there is no need to try and read a Russian classic or some Shakespearean drama when surrounded by public on mass and loudspeaker announcements.

In saying that, I’ve never been really good with pulp fiction – I’m not very good at picking it or reading it, so now I’m curious.

HELP US OUT?  What was the last light/pulpy/junky read that you had?  Can you give me some suggestions, and let me know if you’d recommend them as worth a look?

Telling stories

I’m feeling quite pleased with myself, as I’ve just booked my tickets to get along to A Gala Night of Storytelling 2011:Voices, at the Wheeler Centre…


They had an amazing program last year of presentations by local and international writers, and other generally interesting people.  To my disappointment, I didn’t manage to get to any of them – I just looked longingly at the Facebook posts as they came through.

Not so this year, as my schedule is now a little less medical and a little more literary.  Ticket is purchased so I can go and join in on 11 Feb for the centre’s first event of the year.  I’m particularly looking forward to hearing from John Birmingham, Mem Fox and Sonya Hartnett, but the international guests look amazing too – an absolute treat!

A quick reading update…

I’m report writing right now, but I can’t wait to finish up so I can get back to reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, by Japanese author Haruki Murakami.  It’s been a while since I’ve been quite so intrigued…I really don’t know where it’s going to end up, wonderful!

If you’re into a bit of fancy, a touch of the surreal, and want to share in a quiet, calm tale of a painful journey, give this book a look I’d say.

I’m half-way through, and as as I said before I really can’t pick how it’s going to resolve, so stay tuned.

But for now, back to the grindstone to get this report finished off and then for a little weekend reading time.

Cheers, Mandi J