Sunday 30 September 2007

In Rush Hour 3, Hiroyuki Sanada is Kenji, a Triad operative with close ties to Chief Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan). They go way back to boarding school in southern China but Kenji is ruthless. So when we see these two slashing away with swords on the superstructure of the Eiffel Tower, at night, there is a lot going on. Kenji makes the final choice.

The film is saturated with ideas currently floating around in the global marketplace, and deals with them with aplomb. Chris Tucker (Detective James Carter) seems to have a riposte for every situation. Often these verbal sallies are from popular culture as when, in the Jules Verne Restaurant in the point of the Eiffel Tower, he breaks out into Kung Fu Fighting, the 1974 classic by Carl Douglas (b. 1942 in Jamaica), after downing four black-suited gangsters.

It seems pop culture has the answer for every eventuality. Even inside the 'gentlemens' club' at 50 Rue Franklin D. Roosevelt, Carter maintains the furious persona of an over-sexed, under-appreciated L.A. cop as he attempts to woo Genevieve (Noemie Lenoir) at the baccarat table. When they meet later, she is more forthcoming but has a hidden agenda.

Max Von Sydow is Reynard (French for 'fox') and he's also very crafty. It seems the arm of the Triads extends to the highest levels of world authority, in this case the World Criminal Court (not a real entity). But the holy grail turns out to be a tattoo with the names of the 13 top members of the gang.

Yvan Attal is George, the cab driver who, infected by American triumphalism, finally gets to kill someone. The scruffy Frenchman was previously seen opposite Nicole Kidman in The Interpreter. His flaccid features and baggy eyes are the perfect foil for the rugged masculinity of Chan and Tucker.

This is an action movie but it crosses a lot of cultural ground. The message isn't particularly deep and the method is familiar, but there are a lot of scenes with a subtle dynamic deriving from the actors' ethnicity and, as I mentioned earlier, the global 'issues' it brings into focus.

Well worth the 15 bucks. As a bonus, the French policeman with the rubber gloves is Roman Polanski.

Saturday 29 September 2007

In War on Democracy, John Pilger demonstrates a stale dialectic. It's a new song sung to an old tune. It's a revival of the old methods: demonise one side to buttress the other. In the case of Venezuela, the word 'buttress' is used here deliberately.

Pilger's white hair is styled with care to denote 'elder statesman' but his message is hackneyed. He spoke at the screening tonight, and obviously enjoys talking to admiring crowds. The cinema was almost full. In the film, he interviews Hugo Chavez, the slightly-barmy president of a tin-pot economy. Here he is dressed in a white suit with a read-and-white tie. The black shirt and jeans of his Web site dinkus are gone.

He's demonstrating 'respect'. Sadly, the kind of respect Venezuelans desire, as do people throughout South America, is of the same quaint cast as that desired by Aboriginal Australians. Pilger at one point asks Chavez why, despite his reforms, and given the enormous wealth flowing into the country in oil revenues, the people don't get richer. Chavez says "we don't want enormous wealth like the Americans, that's stupid".

What Pilger fails to ask is why a guy like Chavez, who says idiotic things like this, while his constituents live in dilapidated slums sprawling across the endless hills about Caracas, even got elected. Pilger fails to draw a comparison between Chavez and the kind of odd-ball demagogues who came to power during the French revolution.

He fails to do this because he doesn't ask the question that needs asking: why are these people so ignorant and lacking in the basic habits of democracy? Let's forget 'rights', please. Those comes later.

These issues troubled the Romantic poets, following Napoleon's rise. They even troubled people like John Stuart Mill, because he knew that the average working-class dude didn't have the education to make an informed choice. Mill was against secret ballots for this reason. Wordsworth shuddered at the potential for mayhem if the common people were given the vote.

Of course, in England it didn't happen because the franchise was restricted (by how much income tax was paid annually) for a sufficient period of time to allow the education system to catch up with the trend to democratise. In Venezuela, no such period of transition happened and the result is Chavez.

There are many stories in the film, and unfortunately the trailer and Web site don't detail them. It would be nice to remove all the oracular trimming from the film and just show these clips of ordinary people faced with an extraordinary task: how to turn a pre-industrial economy into a post-industrial one. It just won't happen.
Hairspray combines elemental Protestant martyrology with a Sesame Street aesthetic to deliver a musical with a (not very subtle) point. But the fact is that this is how, in 50 or 100 years, the American civil rights movement will be remembered. Clearly the model is John Fox's Book of Martyrs (1563), which became a rich vein of narrative for such writers as Shakespeare. And the 'down-home' version of American street culture owes everything to Jim Henson's puppet program, which debuted in 1969.

Yet another seminal moment might be 1994's Muriel's Wedding, which also shows an outcast from the rigid heirarchies of school politics triumphing in the face of adversity. This is an Australian film.

In Hairspray, the weak point is John Travolta, who plays Tracy Turnblad's fat mum. There's something wrong about the way the character moves and it's because it's not a woman actor.

Tracy (Nikki Blonsky) herself is not entirely satisfying since her standard dance moves barely encroach on the outer fringes of the accomplishment demonstrated by the black characters, headed by Seaweed (Elijah Kelley). These dance routines, in the schoolroom, outside the playground fence, and in the school bus, are fantastic.

In fact it is black dancing that is the real hero of this film drawing, regardless of prior prejudice, popular acclaim. The way these men and women move is revelatory, in the context of this film. It is a very nice comparison, neatly done, and clearly showing how black rhythms and body movements have impacted on our understanding of elegance today.

Friday 28 September 2007

Maryanne Coutts' self-portrait titled Melbourne nabs the Portia Geach Memorial Award, which hangs at the S.H. Ervin Gallery (Observatory Hill, Sydney) until 4 November. In its 43rd year, the prize is for a portrait "painted from life of some man or woman distinguished in Art, Letters or the Sciences", which is a duty statement similar to that of the more-famous Archibald Prize.

In The Sydney Morning Herald, Louise Schwartzkoff quotes Jane Watters, the gallery's director and one of the judges: "There's not a dull moment in the painting. Your eye is continually moving from one thing to another." It's an apt comment, if a little tailored for the media, who generally collapse in a rumpled mass of 'she says'es' when confronted by anything approximating real analysis of fine art.

The slideshow is available on the newspaper's home page. It shows that the dominant line is rectilinear with foreground colours generally muted against a more vibrant background. But in the centre of this ground a mass of high-rise construction rendered in a gorgeous blue-dissolving-in-purple hue stands between the figure, which was painted in a mirror, says the artist, and the horizon.

On the left, this is highlighted by a lemon-yellow sky. On the right it is capped by a mass of lowering, grey cloud with a greenish tint. And the Dandenong Ranges ripple across the picture like laughter. This line is echoed in the outline of the subject's tracksuit top, especially around the shoulders.

But against the dominant straight-up-and-down dialectic several delicate oblique lines militate. The most prominent is the one created by the subject's hand, which holds the brush. Nearby is a drooping cloth in orange and lime.

The generally muted colours are relieved by some lovely canonical splashes. On the left we've already met the yellow sky. Beneath it is a clump of buildings in a similar, only lighter, hue. On the right, a field of orange shaped like a knife cuts across the muddy tints of the distant suburbs.

Most stunning, however, is a vertical sliver of white, also on the right, that stabs upward, pointing toward a brown blind that droops dangerously and is shaped like the blade of a guillotine.

Thursday 27 September 2007

Alana De La Garza (Connie Rubirosa) in NBC's Law and Order possesses a beauty that I'd call almost that of an alien. Enormous, slanted eyes are similar to those of Bratz, the dolls for pre-teens now kicking Barbie's butt worldwide. Eccentric eyebrows that have a kick in the middle. A tiny nose (Bratz echoes, again).

She plays opposite Sam Waterston (Executive D.A. Jack McCoy) whose close-set eyes and thin-lipped, wide mouth bestow a sheriff's grim air. The contrast is striking, as it's meant to be. Alana was born "to a Mexican-American father and an Irish-American mother", according to the Web site.

The extra label you always get (cf African-American) in the public eye in the U.S. contrasts to the confused attempts at political correctness experienced by journalists in Australia. We don't have the triumphalist add-on they get over there. Here, we're officially from a 'culturally and linguistically diverse background', the term now preferred over 'non-English-speaking background'.

But stereotypes are persistent. In fact my dad, who worked as director of a large engineering company for twenty years, said he would never have got that post in an Australian-owned firm. We talk of 'heritage' while they are all 'American'. We refer to ethnicity ('ethnically-Chinese') while they emphasise a common destiny.

But we love to lambast the American mode of selfhood, as if it were responsible for all the ills in the world.

Law and Order is, like the other U.S. TV cop dramas I love, made with extremely high production values. It is this I love. There's really nothing like them in Australia. In Britain, they've moved in the same direction, as we see in such prime dramas as Spooks.

The excitement of highly-dramatised product of this kind is partly the result of the production values they keep to, the producers. If we can move in that direction, too, I think we might see more people watching themselves on-screen, rather than complaining of how the media treats them.

Wednesday 26 September 2007

Following New Zealand's lead, in 1895 South Australia permitted women to vote. Unlike Victoria and Queensland, it was never part of the colony of New South Wales. Property is significantly cheaper than in Sydney, where mortgage stress (more than 30 per cent of after-tax income goes to pay the mortgage) is experienced by many. It seems like a nice place to live.

But a man can't be in two places at once and, right now, I work in Sydney. Another area New Zealand seems to be leading is in legislation as Arjun Ramachandran notes in today's The Sydney Morning Herald. A police officer says "the person on the street" is "a customer" (note the indefinite pronoun).

It's all about a wiki the NZ police are using to allow individuals to "contribute to the drafting of the country's new policing act". The old, 1958, act was becoming "anachronistic", say the police. Ramachandran quotes a pundit, Laurel Papworth, who talks about "participatory legislation". On her blog, Papworth's dinkus shows a grumpy-looking, dark-skinned, large-eyed girl with violet hair.

The blog also shows her Facebook details, including a mobile phone number and photograph. On her page, you can learn that she is a "Lecturer at the University of Sydney in Social Media/Networks". She gives courses via the Centre for Continuing Education (CCE). Her name doesn't appear in the uni's phonebook (online).

"The wiki version of the Policing Act will be viewed by New Zealand parliamentarians, before an official bill is introduced into Parliament," writes Ramachandran.

Tuesday 25 September 2007

These lovely people, again, today, in Ashfield. The old lady in the pic has dementia and, as I wrote last week, they are active in the Cadigal room, which is part of Ashfield Municipal pool, each Tuesday. I like this photo. Each of the four women with dementia has a male carer. In the case of this woman, it's her son (also in pic).

I picked Karen up from near her flat at 1pm and the first thing I noticed was the perfume. Then the short, yellow skirt. The red scarf and matching red top. The red shoes I'd notice only later, when we got to Ashfield. Why the gear?

The session today was slightly different, but the goal was the same: write a profile about a woman with dementia. As before, I took photos only in profile so the women would not be singled out in the community for being different. Karen chose, not this woman, but the one who calls herself Mary. As before, she asked me my name.

Just before we got to the pool, Karen told me the Japanese name a colleague (also Chinese) gave me when I was in Tokyo, was typically applied to people with my name. Translated literally, 'ma shu' means 'horse' and 'fix' (or 'modify', added Karen in her bright, postgrad style). What this means, however, is anyone's guess.

The exercises were the same as before. After these we sat down and, because it's the Autumn moon festival (in the Chinese calendar it's 15 August today), there is a riddle game. Of course, I couldn't follow. But they enjoyed it.

They also enjoyed it when stories were told. With dementia, your most recent memories are the first to disappear. So telling stories, with a person who does not have dementia perhaps taking the lead, allows the people with dementia to reminisce.

I asked Jenny Tsang, a volunteer who attends weekly, about the issue of regression. If, I suggested, these women gradually retreated into a past they may not have enjoyed and which, in fact, may have been full of fear or sadness (war, revolution), how did that manifest itself?

"They feel safe here, in Australia," she said. Short, but rich with significance.

I had some difficulty sitting opposite Karen due to the extreme brevity of her attire.

We didn't record voices this time. I offered the voice recorder to Karen, but she just sat in the circle and got involved with the game. She didn't focus on one of the women and talk, as she had done last time. This time, there would not be 45 MB of recordings to transcribe.

This time, we were here to enjoy the festival of the moon.

Monday 24 September 2007

Neil McMahon’s story in today’s Sydney Morning Herald (‘Ever in a hurry, Casey conquers the world’) ignores a salient point: it’s Ducati’s first MotoGP win in 34 years. Of course, Mick Doohan’s comment that it’s “like a 21-year-old Aussie kid beating Tiger Woods at golf or Roger Federer at tennis”, is apt.

Nevertheless, to blithely ignore team Ducati’s engineers and their achievement with a truly marquee brand, is obtuse in the extreme.

The Desmosedici engine responsible for the win is unique in the motorcycle world, and is based on the legendary Desmodromic, two-cylinder, two-valve-per-cylinder unit that powered my 900 Dharma (pic) in the mid-80s.

Even then, the technology was outdated and although the Ducati offered an unparalleled riding sensation, with torque allowing a virtually flat curve even when accelerating from below 1000rpm, it couldn’t compete with a zippy, Japanese four-cylinder powerhouse for sheer acceleration.

The new, liquid-cooled, 90-degree, V4, four-stroke unit Stoner is mounted on uses a Desmodromic DOHC valve action system, which has a belt running from the drive shaft to the valve cam at the top of each cylinder pair.

In the Desmodromic system, there is a valve cam but no spring. Each valve is lifted up and down ("positive action") by a special arrangement that includes a cam and that is activated by a rapidly-spinning rod. The rod runs from a gear located at the end of the drive shaft to the top of each cylinder which, as with the cylinder configuration of the modern exponent, is oriented at an angle of 90 degrees to its twin.

The rods are mounted on the other side of the bike from that shown in the pic. The engine is air-cooled using fins.

Ducati’s cachet is only equalled among bike enthusiasts by the Hog, the preferred vehicle of motorcycle gangs. Aspirational bike freaks want a Ducati because of its elegant European styling, minimal decal action, and superb exhaust sound.

The fruity roar of a classic Ducati as it rumbles down the street is without parallel, especially when fitted with premier after-market tubes. Because the current models use a four-cylinder unit, the effect is not quite the same. But it’s still considered a ‘good’ sound when compared to the peaky scream produced by comparable Japanese models.

If you go to the Ducati website, you can open a sound file to play the tone of a modern Ducati going full-bore.

Ducati has built bike engines in Bologna since 1946. The company had made radio components since the 1920s. The first ‘sport’ motorcycles appeared in 1956. In 1958 the first Desmodromic engine was marketed.

Sunday 23 September 2007

Jean-louis Coulloc'h's hazel eyes and stubby penis enthrall, in his role as the gamekeeper Oliver Parkin, the brown-eyed Lady Chatterley (Marina Hands). And while the film is a whopping 168 minutes long -- that's just shy of three hours, folks -- it never lags. There's no fat in this baby, movie lovers!

The film is quintessentially French, though based on a draft of D. H. Lawrence's ground-breaking 1928 novel, and this is evident in its extreme purity of execution. Or maybe that's just the consumate skill of the director, Pascale Ferran.

Take the first scene, for example.

A woman who turns out to be Lady Chatterley, stands in front of a house and a car is running. Beside it stands a man (who turns out to be a doctor). She kisses him au revoir. The car exits, frame right. Shot of woman. Shot of vista, panning right: a river, lush meads, brittle copses of leafless trees. Autumn. New shot: the house, which is like a castle. It is grey, imposing, cold, inhuman. The woman enters the house.

This is just one scene to kick off a fabulous cavalcade of brilliant shooting and superb acting. As I said, at almost three hours there is ample scope for boredom. But IT DOES NOT HAPPEN. Not for an instant.

Consider the changes of costume. The first time Connie goes into the wood she's wearing a purple wollen coat belted tightly at the waist. Move forward: the coat is unbelted and the dark purple felt hat is given up in favour of a lightweight boater-like number. She's letting her hair down.

Consider also the language. Listen to the definition of suzerainty given by the wheelchair-bound Sir Clifford (Hyppolit Girardot): highly nominalised, abstract. The language of power. Compare it to the language in the closing scene, where the lovers plight their eternal troth: full of verbs, simple constructions, the type of language a child would use.

If this is an homage to a great 20th-century thinker by an admiring French constituency, then it is a wonderful gift to English free-thinking. The scene where the lovers run, uninhibited, through the grass and the woods, to finally collapse in a tangle of limbs and perfervid carresses, is acclaim of the highest order.

It reminded me of the Adamites, early protestants who, inspired by the Hussite movement in 15th-century Bohemia, ran naked in the woods and begot children in amazing numbers. (They were subsequently condemned by less radical elements of the heresy, and persecuted.)

Lawrence isn't my favourite author but, with this film, I see how his ideas can carry a profound message of tolerance and truth. Peace be upon him.

Saturday 22 September 2007

Superbad is a horrendously complex film that entertains hugely. Really. But if you want movie info, skip the official site as it only has details about the male actors. And it is the women who make the movie a success.

How to deal with such common media issues as raunch culture, bullying, adolescent alcohol abuse, 'adultescents', and the difficult transition from teenagerhood to adulthood? This film attacks these issues head-on, and comes out the other side smiling.

There are, however, losers (pic). They appear during the evening that is the subject for most of the film, which starts at school (final year, two weeks out from matriculation). The zany cops (Seth Rogen and Bill Hader) are a catalyst for adventure, in which the three intrepid geeks (Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse) embark on a quest for pussy and fun.

Anatomical epithets fly thick and fast. From the start, when Seth (Hill) drives up to Evan's (Cera) house discussing on his mobile which porn site to subcribe to, the great unattainable of the adolescent is centre-stage. Fogell (Mintz-Plasse) has a fake ID made that will let the boys buy the alcohol the girls want. Jules (Emma Stone) is Seth's wet-dream and Becca (Martha MacIsaac) is Evan's.

Fogell isn't in this particular loop, and early gets separated when the liquor store he's in is robbed. When the cops arrive, he goes with them.

Meanwhile, Evan and Seth end up in the house of a guy who is an acquaintance of the guy who accidentally knocks Seth down with his car. The people in this house are the 'other' required to generate unity among the three friends. And they are deliberately creepy.

But not too off-colour. Just unpleasant-looking enough to let you be concerned for the physical safety of Seth, who gets menstrual blood on his leg while dancing with a woman he meets there, and Evan, who is forced to serenade a roomful of men otherwise occupied doing lines of coke.

Basically, this is a film about the victory of nerd-dom over superficial suavetee. Becca, pissed off her brain, gets Evan into a bedroom and is all over him before throwing up on the bedcover. Evan, naturally, is concerned about the ethical aspects of this scenario.

Outside, Seth falls flat on his face, crashing into Jules in the process, but recovers in time to rescue Evan from the marauding policemen. This likeable pair of men in blue are fantastics of the highest order of improbability and their lurching, alcohol-fuelled vendetta against the two heroes ends when they total their cruiser and let Fogell empty a pistol into the burning wreck, gangsta style.

They make his fame among the schoolies by pretending to arrest him. But this victory pales in comparison to the one Evan and Seth enjoy when, the morning after, in the shopping centre, they meet up accidentally with Becca and Jules.

Seth and Jules pair up, descending the escalator into a region of higher fancy. Becca and Evan walk away past the shops in search of food and two new bedcovers.

This is director Greg Mottola's first major film, and it is a classic. Seth Rogan, who plays the weird cop with glasses, wrote the script with Evan Goldberg.

Friday 21 September 2007

Strummer is a bummer and it's because this documentary's makers have decided, a priori, that there's something interesting here. Cut to childhood: boarding school rules (either be bullied or be a bully), father in the foreign service, middle class upbringing.

It could have got interesting at this point. Instead, the makers use a series of vox pops with those who knew the musician in his youth, to tell a story. But the story never gets off the ground. It sunders in a welter of reminiscence, grainy flashbacks, and brief (too-brief) music grabs.

Reggae seems to be an influence. So, too, the Rolling Stones. The narrative wants to lift off, but there's a tailwind: these guys don't know how to make a film.

Suggest: listen to original tracks, forget the flim-flam.

Thursday 20 September 2007

Westfield Mt Druitt's security guards Stephen Henry and Guy Buschmann (pic) are accused by the family of a 36-year-old schizophrenic man, Koksal Akbaba, of using "undue force" to tackle and hold him down in August 2003.

Akbaba's sister, Banu Baran, translated words from Koksal's father outside the Coroner's Court today, as reported by Channel Seven. The story did not run on another network. The security guards told police they "thought he was a wanted man". Baran says he was "a gentle schizophrenic".

"He did nothing wrong. This is what we can't accept. He hasn't done anything wrong," said Baran. Witnesses told the coroner they saw Akbaba "go limp and die" when the two burly men "restrained" him. Henry did not appear at the inquest. "Can I ask why Steven Henry hasn't turned up today?" asked the Seven reporter. His lawyer did not reply.

It appears that Henry has a record of violence. He had "previously been convicted for assault, for kicking a ball in a toddler's face". He worked at the time for SECUREcorp. Going by the awards the company has won since its establishment in 1998, Henry and Buschmann seem to be exceptions to a rule.

But the death by "restraint related positional asphyxia" is not the worst part of the story. That must be the simple fact that no record exists on the Internet or in comprehensive database Factiva, about the death. Westfield spin doctors have worked hard to keep the news out of the media. And they succeeded. Kudos to Seven for airing the story.

Further damning evidence of obstruction of justice lies in the fact that security camera evidence was "missing for four years". It "finally found its way to court today," reports Seven. The footage was not tendered at the manslaughter trial of Henry and Buschmann. And again, there's no record anywhere of that proceeding.

Update (23 September): The Sun-Herald's Belinda Cranston reports on the hearing at Westmead's Coroner's Court, providing correct spellings, which I've included in the post above.

Wednesday 19 September 2007

Channel Nine's Damages, is "the series of the year", the Web site says. It opens with Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne, an Australian actor) exiting a New York apartment block dressed only in a blood-spattered khaki raincoat.

These segments are rendered in a desaturated and dodged pallette that creates an unreal ambience. Other segments of the story, which hinges on a court case for damages against "allegedly corrupt" billionaire Frobisher (Ted Danson) and the machinations perpetrated by lawyer Patty Hewes (Glenn Close), are rendered in relatively rich colour. That doesn't come close to the super-saturated shooting of CSI: Miami, however.

The marquee cast necessitates an up-market decor. Hewes' offices, apartment and country house are suitably stark, minimalist, relatively monochrome. Frobisher's house, by contrast, in a leafy suburb, is typical for this kind of drama: high-roofed, with a pool, surrounded by lush verdure. What any guy with too much money would want to live in. Days of Our Lives kitsch.

Parson's doctor boyfriend's sister Katie Connor (Anastasia Griffith) is deeply involved, to her detriment, in the class action but we don't know the details. Hewes plays a tight line, feeding Parsons some information but holding more back. It's not clear if Hewes hired Parsons for the access her relationship gives her (Hewes) to Katie. It's also not clear why Hewes fires her "senior legal associate" Tom Shayes (Tate Donovan) only to rehire him, and paying with envelopes of cash, to gather information about Parsons.

Frobisher and Katie have history. Katie catered for him in Florida in 2002, then met a 'nice' guy and slept with him, got pregnant, terminated it, and returned to New York with a promise from Frobisher to fund a new restaurant she would run.

The first episode was last Sunday. The next is, again, on Sunday. So we get two instalments (there are 13 altogether) weekly.

David Connor (Noah Bean) is killed. We know that from the beginning. And there's more mayhem: Frobisher takes out a contract on Katie because she won't sign a confidentiality agreement. Eventually, she confronts the assassin in the street and then signs the agreement.

The attorney Ray Fiske (Željko Ivanek) is good value as is the guy Frobisher, reluctantly and only after energetically screwing a woman in the back seat of his SUV and taking something up his nose, asks to kill Katie. This guy asks another guy, drab in a beige sports jacket, to off the young Katie, whose blonde good looks are in contrast to Byrne's moony brunette.

As outlined it's clear that the attraction of the drama is in casting decisions, rather than in terms of originality. In fact, the frames showing New York architecture that are used for the opening credits, are superior aesthetically to either the shooting of the drama or its rather dull plot.

It needs more speed and energy. Just relying on Close to inject spice by being nasty doesn't take the edge off the dullness. I doubt I'll make it through the remaining 11 episodes.

Tuesday 18 September 2007

Australian Nursing Home Foundation (est. 1980) helps older Chinese people in Sydney live a decent life, even those, like the two women in the pic, who are living with dementia. "They remember when it's Tuesday," a volunteer at the Cadigal room, a space attached to Ashfield municipal swimming pool, told me. "Even when they don't remember anything else."

This woman's mother in Hong Kong lives with the disease and she volunteers here, she says, so that when she goes back there, she can do the same things ANHF does. Her three children live in Australia. But this conversation happened after the fun.

With Karen, my classmate, I sat in on the activities used to stimulate and enhance the wellbeing of the four women and their carers, often family members. While one ANHF staffer takes the people with dementia (PWD) through a series of exercises and games, the carers sit off to one side, behind a whiteboard set as a screen in the middle of the room. It's a place of improvisations in more ways than one.

The door to the Cadigal room can't be opened from the outside, so when I first entered I had to step around a blue, cloth-covered chair. Others were stacked against the wall. Directly in front of the entrance a dozen of them were arranged in a circle. The carers and the PWD milled about.

We were greeted by Bridget, on whose black suit jacket an ANHF badge told us she was a staff member (forget the appellation). We discussed photos. "It's alright if you don't identify them, to use the photos in the media," she said. I suggested a three-quarters shot. She thought about it for a moment and said she'd ask the carers.

We sat down. Chinese people are known to do gentle exercise. In Shanghai, the little, dirt-covered parks in the big city are dotted with older people doing tai-chi of a morning. When the ANHF staffer began to run through a series of arm movements, some of the PWD followed. One, clearly more deeply affected by the disease, did not. But she laughed a lot. We all laughed at her grimaces and antics. A real card.

Before we played a new game Bridget came to me and told me it was OK to use a profile shot "if you depict our activities in a positive light". I didn't promise it, but I know now, having been there for two hours, that I could do nothing else.

In the new game, in the middle of the circle of PWD, five red cardboard squares with Chinese characters embossed in gold, were laid out in a square. Five dayglo-yellow cushions were passed to the first person in the circle. You have to throw a cushion into a square. Hand-eye coordination suffers with dementia, so this game has a practical application as well as being fun. Karen and I, naturally, played too.

After a while, we began to throw the little yellow cushions at random between us. It became quite riotous as the pace picked up and we started challenging each other to catch them.

Then tea. Oolong-cha for me, no sugar. At this point Karen took my voice recorder and sat with the women, talking. She made three files totalling about 45 MB in size. These will be transcribed and translated, forming part of our resources for the material we must write for assessment and submission to the media.

We had so much fun and I learned a lot about the disease. The carer of the PWD on the right in the pic, sat with me and we talked. He gave me his card. He said he was forced to quit his software programming job to care for his mother, and now runs a business out of his home. Government income is not sufficient to live, he says.

Bridget and I established a good rapport, through playing with the PWD, and she gave me details of another person I can talk to. Then Karen and I got into my car and we drove back to the uni so I could get to class on time.

Before going to the Cadigal room, I had spent an hour with the client, planning the media release. All in all a very constructive and rewarding day. I'll never forget it.

Monday 17 September 2007

It's often an event at the Sydney Masonic Centre but today was my first chance to see inside the main chamber. Last time I went there was for a rare book fair. Today, it was a conference on dementia.

The SMC is in the 'brutalist' style typical of many 70s-vintage buildings but to me it's beautiful and I've always thought so. Far more attractive, in my eyes, than the bland, fully-glazed pipes typical of the following dacade.

Inside, the SMC is an average event centre, with rooms leading off corridors. But in the chamber I sat in from 3.30 to 5 this afternoon, there were some things to remark. It has benches around the periphery. The ticking on the benches is worn, cream-coloured cloth. A dais with a pelmet in an 18th-century, neo-classical style is set against the north wall. There is a gallery up a flight of stairs.

Most strange, however, is a large, golden 'G' hanging from a cord attached to the ceiling. Wonder what it means?

For the conference they set up a table to the fore of the dais for speakers, including ABC journalist Sophie Scott. You know her if you live in this country. She specialises in health stories, always placed near the end of the broadcast. She's something of a fave of mine. She's just published a book, Live a Longer Life.

It includes bits about dementia and ways to reduce risk of onset. Many of these are lifestyle choices, such as regular exercise, antioxidant-rich foods, and mental stimulation.

An earlier session about handling dementia among people from non-English-speaking backgrounds was also highly illuminating. Tomorrow I go to see our 'client' and will also talk with Chinese dementia carers in a nearby suburb. Assessment is relentless and I've got about 5000 words to write for this unit of study.

Sunday 16 September 2007

Tory: "It's weird. Being so close to something this dangerous." Will: "They're not as bad as they look."

Money. Class. Power. Greed. Crime. Sex. Death.

The Bet, written by ex-corporate lawyer Caroline Gerard, wants to impress but on its own terms. This is a neat movie and three stars from Margaret and David, as well as really negative press elsewhere, is undeserved. It rocks.

The Machiavellian Angus (Aden Young) is handsome, rich, and descended from 'exclusives' (early Australian colonists without any taint of convict). The other side is played by Will (Matthew Newton): eager, upstart, son of a father who lives in a fibro cottage out in the 'burbs. Tory (Sybilla Budd) belongs more to Aden's class than Will's, but it's Will she wants.

The scene in the acquarium (pic) reveals the makers' hand: not too much subtlety lest the hard-edged, hard-boiled matter their story deals in, be broken by false atmosphere. The plot is fiendishly simple. The poetry is in the small moments. The musical score is brilliant and is accompanied by a grungy set of audio effects intended to heighten the viewer's excitement.

The film is 'about' Sydney. The most beautiful city in the world? Probably. Certainly, the most unlikely success. But while we like to ponder this irony we forget that early colonialists were not all convicts. In fact, the existence of a landed gentry in the form of the fabled squattocracy, surely hastened granting of democratic institutions by London. Without men like Angus, New South Wales may not have got its parliament so early. Nevertheless, it's men like Will we barrack for now.

The visuals, too, are very nice: simple yet rich with symbolism. Tory's flat is superb and can be considered a member of the cast in its own right. Likewise the views from Burns Bay Road, where Will is shot jogging one morning, with its gorgeous vistas of the towered skyline looming just beyond this quiet, dappled arm of lovely Port Jackson.

If I were to give this film a set of stars, it would be at least four-and-a-half. It reminded me, in its stripped-down modernist aesthetic, of the early Paul Cox films I will never grow tired of watching.
Michael Clarke says "Dennis Dugan's new film is as awkward and clunky as the 2004 Australian movie [Strange Bedfellows]."

I beg to disagree.

But first we must all admit that, yes, the script is a rip-off, using the story from Dean Murphy's movie (with Michael Caton and Paul Hogan). The two Aussie actors are iconic (that word!) and the situation needs to be recognised. Copyright will not apply, but kudos must be granted.

The new movie, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, however, has a secret weapon guaranteed to make any straight guy take notice: Jessica Biel (pics).

First, she's a lawyer. Second, she's got a great smile. Third, her hall table probably cost around $2000. Fourth, there's a full-frontal (next pic) in skimpy underwear during which Adam Sandler gropes her tits. OK, it's not subtle, but this is frankly not an unpleasant scene to watch.

The Australian original didn't have such a character, nor:

  • Firemen fighting fires (danger, cameraderie)
  • Two devastatingly charming children (enlightened, honest)
  • Ving Rhames as the black guy who comes out (stunning acting)
  • Steve Buscemi as the dastardly city investigator
  • Dan Ackroyd as the crumbling fire chief
  • A Japanese-Canadian minister (Rob Schneider)
  • A gay mailman (beautifully played by Robert Smigel)
  • A 'crazy homeless man' (Blake Clark) who witnesses their marriage and does a Russian dance before hooking up with the mailman

The fireman thing (heavy symbolism post-9/11) is exploited and, as I said, the film isn't subtle. It's vaudeville, complete with pratfalls and slapstick. People fall down, take off their clothes, do the splits, tap-dance, fight, hit each other, and mug. To promote tolerance.

So if the film can entertain as well, that's a good thing.

You'll pardon me for returning to Jessica Biel for a moment. It's not just the semi-nudity. There's also this: she's in charge.

When I worked for the cops back in the 80s, the door guard talked with me about his domestic situation on occasion. He married a woman who subsequently went through law school and became a lawyer. He felt out of his depth and I think they split up.

It's sad. Why shouldn't the woman be the more successful, the more powerful, the more in control of her life? And, in Biel's case, be beautiful as well. The Cat Woman outfit floated my boat, for sure.

Clarke and, I suspect, others dump on the film due to Sandler's caddish rep and the clunky mechanism but we can't have everything all at once. One day a great Hollywood movie on gay desire will be made to rival such classics as Caravaggio (Jarman, 1986) and Querelle (Fassbinder, 1982).

They are the touchstones from my youth and I, for one, hold with the program.

Saturday 15 September 2007

The Lane Cove Tunnel runs from near Artarmon at the top of the freeway matrix that flattened the suburb of Naremburn in the 60s. It is 3.6 kilometres under several expensive suburbs that slope down to an arm of Port Jackson. It exits at Epping Road near the M2 Motorway.

You can use a credit card to buy an 'e-pass' online that allows you to travel in the tunnel. A camera snaps your number plate during the trip, and the image is processed so a deduction is automatically made.

My goal on Tuesday night was a student amenities building (SAM) at Macquarie University, where a talk on dementia would take place. The published start time was 6pm. My tute ended at 5pm and I made straight for the carpark then crossed Broadway down Bay Street, turned right at Wentworth Park, left into Wattle Street, and right into Fig Street and the Harbour Bridge approaches.

From the city, then, to the LCT exit was uninterrupted progress taking, say, 15 minutes and this constituted the bulk of my trip. Cars such as the Lexus LF-A (pic) were overtaking me in the tunnel, where the speed limit is a pedestrian 80km/h. The traverse is smooth and my car wanted to go faster. I let the BMWs and Lexuses cruise past: let them get booked.

But from the Epping Road ramp to the campus was a solid mass of traffic and despite it being only a couple of kilometres, this part of the trip took another 15 minutes. So I arrived on time, parking as instructed by an info sheet organisers made available.

Two people stood out because they are experts in dementia care. Alan Powys spoke at the front of the room to the 11 people who attended. Questions came faster and the session got really interesting. Everyone had a story about the disease. Elizabeth Latimer Hill, a Macquarie Uni teacher, sat at the back of the room and spoke up from time to time.

Dementia is something I am interested in as we're doing a media campaign on it for an assignment. But it also looks like dad may be going there. His sister, my aunt Sally, died five years ago not knowing her husband, who would go to visit her daily. My uncle, mum's little brother, now lives in a locked section of a nursing home near Castle Hill.

It's in the family and very likely to take me.

Prevention and care are two elements of the disease that are becoming better-known. All up, there's about a 30-per-cent awareness that lifestyle choices can increase or decrease risk of succumbing to the disease. Journalists are generally knowledgeable but the broader community remains pretty ignorant about dementia, the most common form of which is Alzheimer's disease.

It is impossible to know for sure what form of dementia exists until death, when an autopsy can show the pathology. However, there are indicators, especially behavioural ones, clinicians rely on to diagnose and medicate.

From onset to death takes about five years, but proper care can extend life to eight, in some cases. Unfortunately, 'in some cases', though unsatisfactory, is about as accurate as experts can be.

I plan to drive up to Queensland in November or December to see mum and dad. Last time we spoke on the phone, he asked me when I was coming up. When I told him, he said: "I might not be around then."

Friday 14 September 2007

Free offers and gifts, along with unsolicited links to nasty sites, are part of the Web paradigm. But do they work? Le Monde, a leading French national daily, offers "le tee-shirt" and "le carnet" (lovely word) if you subscribe.

U.K. book chain Waterstones sends invitations to sign up for a special card you can use to buy books on the Web site. The value-add is a newsletter that is regular but too U.K.-centric to have much appeal.

American Express goes for the executive style: the chance to win free tickets to a sporting event, or a holiday on some island paradise.

Fairfax tells me I can win a computer if I make their Web page my home page. It already is, and you never win these comps, anyway, so what's the point.

Some outlets provide good information, however.

AbeBooks has a regular newsletter detailing a distinctive book event, such as the auction of a rare first edition.

Toyota's emails showcase new concept cars or events. The latest to arrive is about a series of events linking fitness with hybrid power technology. Toyota, releasing the Prius in 1997, was the first automaker to add a hybrid model to its standard line-up.

My favourite is from Peter at which includes, most recently, a new catalogue listing hundreds of interesting, and not-so-interesting, items, mainly Australiana.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation offers good detail in their rather 90s-looking E-News. It's monthly, and has headings like this:

(((((((AUSTRALIAN HISTORY)))))))) ancient, in Internet terms. But the content is rather less heavily 'flacked' than most arrivals. PR types make good money spinning out these offerings, but you can see that, for me, it's the unusual and unique that get the nod.

Thursday 13 September 2007

I'm feeling particularly venomous so no picture today. There's no better cure for wisdom than wisdom itself. You can't ask for more, not when you live among those who are content in their superficial understanding of the world and its mysterious ways.

To backtrack. Following a fairly interesting talk by two PR operatives whose main claim on my attention is the number of years they have spent processing stories for media companies, I went to drinks with a colleague and her friend. It felt like a set-up.

"You must meet this interesting man. He's so intelligent and well-read."

I pity the poor woman. The other one had a few too many and in any case can't hold her liquor. But this one's two-dimensional mind couldn't keep up with her sensitive heart. It's all too common. The big event remains the Dismissal (1975). But despite her vague leftie sentiments (you couldn't call them ideas) she is doing a postgrad course.

Aspirational after all. How to tell her socialism is dead and the king is yet to ascend the throne of glory? What chance did she have? 1649? (Are you sure?) And before the Enlightenment we had the Renaissance? (Are you sure?) Oh, yes, of course these large, blocky categories are useful in preliminary discussions before you start looking at the detail...

But how to discuss large, blocky categories with a woman who thinks Australians have a 'right' to a 'fair go'? A what? 1852? 1789? Mary Shelley's mother was who? And the husband's name? 'Real' scholarship started when?

At least they knew who Jane Austen was. The movie was great. And Darcy is so handsome!

Wednesday 12 September 2007

Lamborghini's Reventon would cost $2.4 million in Australia but as only 20 units will be made, none will appear on Sydney's streets. The car's 6.5-litre, V12 engine puts out 471kW of power and can attain 100km/h in 3.4 seconds. Top speed is 340km/h. The Aurion's 3.5-litre, V6, 200kW engine means my speedo tops at 260.

Look at the styling. The Sydney Morning Herald's Toby Hagon says it was "inspired by military jet fighter planes". I can vouch for it. In the mid-90s with my wife I visited El Paso, TX, where an air show is held annually. A feature that year was a stealth bomber, the U.S.-made aircraft they won't sell to anyone else. Even at home the plane was surrounded by uniformed men to prevent photos taken and too-close approach.

The car's lines are highly reminiscent of Northrop Grumman's B-2 Spirit. The pic doesn't show them, but the plane's planes are irregular to escape radar detection. Irregularities so secret all pictures online omit them and depict superceded models. The eccentric angles on the craft I experienced up-close on a Texas airfield's tarmac aren't visible.

But in the Reventon you perceive their echo. According to the Auto Blog, "It lurked between three women dressed in beige overalls and work boots." It was covered by a beige tarp. A connoisseur's Hummer, another mil-spec item for rich men, the new Lamborghini will certainly turn heads. Jonathon Ramsey, on the blog, starts to hyperventilate: it's "the most terrific piece of sculpture to breath (sic) God's oxygen in years."

"The Reventón looks like it will hurt you badly, slowly, and enjoy every second of it." A press release from the car maker puzzles: "The Reventón is not only 'haute couture' but it also stands out for its elevated dynamism whilst being entirely suitable for every day use".

Entirely suitable for WHAT?????

More PR hype follows, in the understated style only the very rich can afford. Recent cars are remarkable for "the clear language of their shape". "Sharp edges, precise lines and clean surfaces: these are ingredients of a style reduced to the essential." What a load of crap. The car speaks the language of the street and is saturated with the aesthetics of high-tech utility. Military hardware contains no style but by imitating its aesthetic the carmaker is only using style to achieve a heavy symbolism.

Tuesday 11 September 2007

The Spanish ambassador set to appear on-screen when Elizabeth: The Golden Age opens, is suitably 'woggy'. Dark eyes, thick lips, and devilish, he's easily a match for the dashing WR (Clive Owen).

Who in real life was a pirate, no more no less. But we love these rugged types in jack-boots and doublet.

Who could resist this film?

England's relations with Spain (which possessed, at the time, the Netherlands) were rocky at best. Elizabeth's father had 'illegally' divorced Katherine of Aragon. Then came the outrageous Mary of Scots debacle, during which the silly woman managed to lose not only her throne but also her head (1587).

The next year Phillip decided to try his luck, but it rested with the English in the form of a tremendous storm that prevented the fleet of warships from landing. It is possible the smaller English ships had something to do with the defeat, but I doubt it.

Four years later the "upstart Crow" would cause similar panic among the university wits although to modern minds the early stuff is not quite up to snuff.

Elizabeth appeals to Americans, children of the 17th century and its violent discords. Would that they made a film about William III and the power of parliament! For us Aussies (children of the 18th century and its domesticated royal families, cause for laughter not fear) this story may be more compelling.

Sunday 9 September 2007

Why is Zoe (Abigail Breslin) smiling? She's smiling because Nick (Aaron Eckhart) is in the kitchen cooking with her. No Reservations is 'about' a lot of things. The fact that Zoe is happy is one of the main ones. But the off-centre tang of the film disguises, like a too-strong sauce, its conservative message.

In Australia, politicians use the word 'family' a lot. At every available opportunity, this word pops up next to other words, in order to capture the centre vote. Moving toward the election (end of year) the frequency with which the word appears is a bit off-putting.

The movie deals with a competitive, professional woman who is given the custody of a niece following the mother's death in a car. This theme survives until the end, yet Zoe's smile is the touchstone of achievement. Zoe likes Nick, the rugged, opera-loving, pickup-driving sous-chef in Kate Armstrong's (Catherine Zeta-Jones) kitchen.

Kate is very proud and capable and will not compromise. She's also very territorial. So when Nick appears and starts to massage the menu, Kate bridles. Paula (Patricia Clarkson) owns 22 Bleecker Street, the restaurant. She likes Nick. Everyone does. But it's not until Zoe smiles that Kate takes notice.

Love is in the air. A little drama when Zoe goes missing one day. The Irish guy downstairs with two boys. The capable nanny. Playing Monopoly (and wanting to win). Director Scott Hicks (Shine) has made a Hollywood movie for the naughties. But the thin veneer of odd-ball eccentricity is transparent. Ordinary, 'family' values are clearly visible through it.

Saturday 8 September 2007

Julia Stiles plays Nicky Parsons in The Bourne Ultimatum, the third in a series of action blockbusters. Jason Bourne is searching for his identity, having been brainwashed by the secret agency he worked for, to become an assassin. The movie spins from London to Paris to Madrid to Tangier to New York.

A journalist is targeted by both Bourne and the agency. The journo is investigating Bourne's case, and Bourne reads an article in The Guardian while on a train. Bourne wants to know who a source used in the article is. The journo will do a lot to protect his source but it turns out that's not enough.

Notes by the journo take Bourne to Madrid, then to Tangier, where he meets Parsons (pic) and where the best action sequence takes place. Now the action is highly abstract, consisting of a rapid series of blurred images accompanied by regular thumps signalling impact. As the agency's 'asset' (assassin) tracks Parsons through narrow lanes and apartments, Bourne tracks the assassin. The fight scene is extraordinary in its violence and speed.

Parsons is the first woman in the movie to 'turn' in order to assist Bourne. There will be another woman who does this indicating, perhaps, that women remain the conscience of society. The second woman will also fax a bundle of secret documents (to a newspaper?).

The role of the media in this movie indicates that journalism still may have a role in cases where government oversteps its role. In fact the second woman to turn will say "I didn't sign up for this". David Strathairn is a credible CIA Deputy Director Noah Vosen having just the right amount of space showing between his shirt collar and his neck to suggest 'bureaucrat'. But his words are pure totalitarian. A government giving too much power to a secretive and secret agency.

The result is assassination in order "to save American lives". These last words are from the mouth of Dr. Albert Hirsch (Albert Finney) who was the guy who 'conditioned' Bourne, and who Bourne ultimately seeks out.

Parson's smile as Bourne is announced 'unaccounted for' is eloquent. She barely changed expression throughout the whole movie although she gets a lot of camera time. The final scene is of a dark, submerged figure twisting to life against a speckled blue ground: the undersurface of the East River.

Friday 7 September 2007

Sandra Hall says The Final Winter is 'about' "hot-blooded tribal loyalties versus cold-blooded corporatism" but she's wrong. Mat Nable's (pic) script is tight and it floats, but when you watch the movie you navigate broader waters than that narrow harbour.

True, the story is simple, but deceptively so. The boys interviewed on Village TV admit getting John Jarratt to play the 'evil' corporate (team owner-cum-real estate agent) was a coup. The kudos must go to Jarratt for picking such a great script.

Likewise Tom Kenneally, a bit player in the white coat of a gate attendant who ushers Grub and family into the grounds prior to his final game, is astute in consenting to appear, if briefly, on-screen.

Grub gets the only flashback -- to the sixties (??) -- when his old man takes him to the local (in then-working class Marrickville) -- for a beer. He's underage. No, father tells the youth, wait, "you've gotta let it breathe". 'Old-school' dad (complete with tat) then proceeds to serve an 'outsider' his deserts when an altercation arises over turning off the radio.

Jarratt's Perry 'Colgate' Murray is efficient, but this isn't Dickens. The bad guy, of course, will be right in the end: sport has gone corporate. But has it lost its 'soul'? Not if you go by attendances, which are probably higher than they've ever been, and are more inclusive. There will always be those who dislike violent sport (like I do), but Easts is now no longer labelled 'silver-tail' except as some sort of double-quote dig that has lost its sting.

Raelee Hill also gives a great performance as the mum with two children to look after while Grub tackles and gouges. Michelle Langstone, wife of Grub's brother and nemesis, gives a great performance as the aspirational Mia. This 'type' (shoulder pads, glossy lippy, chardonnay) is surely a model for Kath, of the Seven Network's flagship Australian drama Kath & Kim.

This is a stunning fucking good film, replete with the period tune 'Short Note' by Matt Finish (I loved the album in my twenties). Go see it.

Thursday 6 September 2007

Amalgamated Holdings Limited (AHL) is "one of Australia's premier entertainment, hospitality, and tourism and leisure companies", according to the Web site. They own, among other things, the Greater Union chain of cinemas. My closest complex, at Burwood, has 11 cinemas and is convenient because the Westfield carpark in the building is open late. It takes about ten minutes to drive there.

As a rule, I prefer the Dendy at Newtown, but they don't offer the range plus it's further to go.

Tonight I went to Burwood to watch The Bourne Ultimatum but left the cinema and got a refund. The commercials and trailers were still running 25 minutes after I took my seat. In 25 minutes, I can achieve a lot. It's about the time needed to do a blog post, including a graphic. Or read the hard news section of a broadsheet. Or read five or so pages of a text book.

The only ads that showed any originality were one for Bundy Rum and one for a Japanese-made home entertainment unit, the name of which I forget. The former displays, however, rather disturbing messages about ethnicity and class. In it, to the tune of Jupiter, from the Planets Suite by Holst, various English 'types' sing a song with the refrain "we wish England was Australia".

It's amusing because it quotes every available stereotype about England: bad weather, small houses, unhealthy punters. And about Australia: relaxed, healthy. (Of course, we could add: anti-intellectual, proudly uncultured, conservative.)

The disturbing element is from a similarity to a book I got on AbeBooks but didn't read (due to study commitments): Body Culture by Isobel Crombie. I got through half-a-dozen pages and found the writing a bit of a chore. It's not tight and because it derived from a thesis, the style is a bit ass-backwards. Instead of starting with the juicy bits, Crombie starts with an abstract and then gets down to making points, from the beginning.

The Japanese commercial was good. In it, on a dark set with silvery light, a mass of drum kits sits on a stagey platform. Then a series of out-of-date cars starts falling from the sky. The retro theme is fun and while the relationship of the visuals to the product is thin, there is a certain appeal here.

But I left the cinema, got a refund, and drove home. I wrote a letter to AHL, with a copy going to Choice magazine (a consumer-oriented vehicle of long standing, with offices in Marrickville).

What really pissed me off was the appearance, on the screen, about twenty minutes into the ads, of a message telling viewers they still had time to go to the snack bar for more high-calorie junk food.

I guess this experience echoes the big Angus and Robertson debacle I posted about last month, and which made the news here (SMH, ABC etc.). This is because both the bookstore and the movie chain are owned by holding companies with priorities that are not necessarily the same as those of customers on the street. Here's some blurb from AHL's 'about' page:

By working closely together, the businesses of AHL are able to share opportunities for revenue growth and rationalise operational processes across the Group. The effective application of this strategy is achieving the synergies required to underpin our profitability going forward.

(When I hear the expression 'going forward' I reach for my gun...)

Here's some from Pacific Equity Partners, which owns A&R: "Pacific Equity Partners strives to deliver superior returns to our investors."

I've bolded the words that seem to epitomise both my dissatisfaction and that of commenters on the Undercover blog post about the A&R scandal, which caused the company to offer an apology of sorts.

Tuesday 4 September 2007

Quechup is a British online community that offers email, blogs, podcasting and other features in one interface. It is also aggressively viral.

I got an invite from a trusted source and set up an account. The next day, several questions arrived in my inbox from people I'd apparently 'invited' to Quechup. What happened, I don't know, and was quite sure I'd not intentionally invited anyone. The interface did it.

In addition to this piece of rampant message spawning, an email from a 27-year-old secretary in England arrived. The email said I had a message from her, and included a small dinkus (see enlarged pic here). Naturally, intrigued, I clicked to accept the friend invite. I also clicked to read the message she'd sent me.

This is where Quechup reveals its true nature. Unlike Facebook, which is free, to view messages you must subscribe. It costs about 4 euros per month to do this.

So, here is me: a 45-year-old single man with no regular girlfriend and I suddenly get a message from a 27-year old, single woman who likes to go on holidays and is interested in fun and dating, among other things. What should I do????

I'm choosing to ignore it. The suggestive pose Julies holds in the photo, the easy-going tone of the blog posts -- two since the beginning of the year -- and the out-of-the-blue atmosphere it is accompanied by, means I'm not going to fall for the ruse. I'm keeping my 4 euros a month in the bank.

Monday 3 September 2007

In the movie Fracture we see an eccentric millionaire engineer (Anthony Hopkins) in a battle for supremacy with Willie (Ryan Gosling), a sassy assistant district attorney (i.e. public prosecutor). The main difference is that while Ted Crawford shoots his wife, Willie gets to have sex with the attractive senior partner (??) Nikki Gardner (Rosamund Pike).

And eat Thanksgiving dinner with her family, which includes a retired judge.

But Ted gets all the best lines. In fact, he's so clever and interesting that (a) we root for him all the way through the film, and (b) the way it all turns on an overlooked technicality is, frankly, unsatisfying. I mean, you'd have to say that the double jeopardy clause is well-known.

Or not. I can't say for another, but it seems unlikely this error would creep in where none had surfaced before.

In terms of the cinematography, they did a good job: the film is visually interesting. This despite a few outrageous cliches (Willie's burgundy 80s-vintage Beemer, the perky secretary Mona, the grizzled DA, the Guggenheim appearing frequently in-frame).

I'd say that the success of super-saturated shows like CSI Miami have had an influence on 'quality' cinema (this is a New Line production) in terms of colour. The pic above, for example, has a vivid green that would not look out of place on these small-screen shows. Here, however, the story is slightly more interesting. But only slightly.

Likewise Mona (Zoe Kazan) has quite a lot of the Scarlet Johanssen look about her, especially the slightly-receeding chin and full-lipped mouth. A degree in theatre from Yale and some illustrious antecedents (director Elia Kazan was her grandfather) plus obvious talent mean she is set to appear again on-screen in the near future.

Sunday 2 September 2007

Craig Waddell's Dobell drawing prize entry among the finalists at the Art Gallery of NSW impressed me more than the drawing that won: Anna Pollack's Mullett Creek, which nevertheless possesses a deft animation so you can almost see the fish beneath the still water's surface.

Waddell's Sea of love, portrait of J.C. is a nude. The woman faces you with her legs spread. Rendered with confident, rugged strokes, the figure seems to twist while retaining the solidity needed to convince the viewer that it is, in fact, a human figure.

Looking at his Web site, you see equal levels of strength and confidence in paintings mainly, in recent years, of objects and animals usually found on farms. Of interest is the fact that he spent some years learning print-making in Thailand. Now he is based "on the family farm which has been worked for generations", according to the blurb. The pic here was in a Hunter Valley newspaper because he won a local art prize.

Another stand-out for me is Del Kathryn Barton's I come into myself ... far away I am there too, which borrows heavily from Gustave Klimt and/or Egon Schiele, as do other works on various Web sites currently available. "She currently lives and works in Sydney where she is represented by Ray Hughes Gallery," says a review in Art & Australia magazine.

Barton's sense of colour is a delight and here, again, we find a confident line that possibly owes more to Modernism prior to World War II than more recent exponents. It has a rhythmic timbre that causes me to think of the Italian Modernists who assembled under various banners during the 20s and 30s.

Saturday 1 September 2007

Once, a new Irish movie, starts promisingly with the theme of aspiration and intellect but soon deteriorates as the conventional 'romantic' trope takes over the narrative.

I am enjoying the primary soundtrack item as I type, with its repeated 'once' looking back, like me, to the movie's beginning and its promise of redemption through mental exercise.

A particularly memorable moment is when the guy (Glen Hansard) sings at the top of his voice while standing before the entrance to a small, blue-lit alleyway, which makes a canonical splash centre-frame though it is flanked by pale yellow windows to complete a rather theatrical backdrop.

Up comes the girl (Marketa Irglova) and I don't recall how their conversation starts but in it the guy mentions that he only sings this particular song at night as, to make money during the day, he usually only sings "what people know". It is a nice moment.

The girl takes the guy to a music store where she is wont to practice the piano and they do a little duet that contains a huge volume of concealed meaning. Mendlessohn? I think it was, but he doesn't know it. "It's good," he says when she tells him the name of the composer.

He has never heard of Mendelssohn. With this we see how the guy recognises something familiar the name of which he has never seen. It's a cogent moment laden with deep significance that some readers will recognise.

The irony is that the girl's mother doesn't speak much English. I think they speak Polish, but I can't be sure. Ironic since it is the easterner who introduces the westerner to the westerner's cultural heritage. Here is recognition of the cultural sophistication of the east but we are always conscious that it is the guy who pulls the creative strings.

Another neat moment is when he sings her stories about his past while they are seated together at the back of a bus. He does a clever little riff in heavy-metal mode that echoes a theme in the story -- how his former love left him for another guy. The Romantic angst of metal music is fulsomely pointed at.

But regardless, as soon as I felt the story manoeuvring these interesting characters toward the bedroom, I got up and left. I didn't even finish my Coke.