Friday, November 28, 2003

Art, the agony

Ye Gods. There is no worse combination than a rustic venue and hot weather. Back to the Old Queens for not one but two shows on a stinking hot night. A feeble fan in a corner and a jumbo jet-sized room packed with people under a corrugated iron roof. Did I say it was hot? Oh my, oh my!
The first show was a bit flakey - unneven. Made worthwhile by a singer-songwriter with the most original and witty absurdist songs. A genre all of his own, almost. I always get a charge when I encounter fresh talent. But I was so weak with the heat I felt quite faint. Vile. Sucking down water but it seemed not to refresh at all, only to make me feel full of water, bloated, like a hot water bottle.
I tottered back to the office in the hour between shows and tried to cool down in the airconditioning while writing a review - and then braved the heat again for the second one, still feeling rotten with an incipient heat headache. It could only be an hour long, I reassured myself. I will get through it. I took a hand fan I keep in the drawer for festivals. Smart move.
Arriving at the theatre it was to be told the show would start late - first 10 minutes, then 15. It started 25 minutes late. 25 hot minutes late. And there we were packed that vile performance space steaming together. I was rather popular with those around me. The air from my fan was cooling everyone in the row. But I was still melting. Then my colleague, Jamie, did an amazing thing. He slipped a bottle of cold water down the back of my seat where it started to cool my boiling back...and then, miraculously, revive me - enough to be annoyed at the delays.
It's not the performer's fault, said a caring tech, worried to see the critic frowning. No, it is the organisation's fault. Messy programming. The delay was caused by an adjoining performance running late.
As it happened, the show and its bright young performer had the goods to save the day. It wasn't bad at all. Although I was still damned glad to get out of that hideous performance space. Remind me to refuse any gigs there in future, will you!

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

The Madam Who Married in White

It's not every day one goes to a Madam's wedding. Our Stormy Summers runs a high-class brothel in a spectacular glass-fronted building on one of the city squares. Her penthouse apartment (over the shop) looks down on the square and she refers to it as her front garden. So, she convinced the City Fathers to let her fence off a large area of the square for her wedding today. And the towering monument to the City Founder in the centre of the square she covered in white gauze, wrapping the rails around the mirror pond in red ribbons. Marquees lined the enclosure, and a sound stage...tables and chairs dotted around the lawns beneath the trees.
She requested that none of the guests brought cameras or camera phones and heavy security ensured that they did not. Metal detectors and the lot were there to scan the arrivals. Once cleared, we were all fitted with white entry bracelets.
Of course the guests were a diverse crowd - in extremis. Stormy has run for City Mayor and she has run for Parliament. She is involved in charity for street kids and druggies. And she has connections in the sex industry and the underworld.
She is a tough heart-of-gold woman, a colorful character and I, for one, am very glad to know her.
She also has style.
But of course it was not an ordinary wedding. Stormy's bridesmaids were clad in blood-red satin sheath dresses and carried white roses. One of them, Stormy's partner, has purple hair.
The groomsmen were huge, shaven-headed biker types, attired in black tail suits with red ties and red roses in their lapels. The groom was in an ankle-length black coat and dark glasses. He is a bouncer and he looks like it. A massive, powerful, fierce-looking man. Stormy is petite. She arrived in a vintage Essex and, taking the arm of her burly groom, she walked the red carpet to the monument, the diamond embedded in her front tooth glinting merrily and she smiled in the sunshine. Her wedding dress was every girl's fairytale - shimmering white satin embroidered with fine lace and thousands of tiny pearls. Her train was at least ten feet long. She had bleached her hair to champagne blonde, curled it into a floss of long curls and pulled it tightly back at the front presenting a high, Elizabethan-style forehead on which she had a loop of pearls. She carried a sheath of rich red roses.
And there they stood arrayed upon the dais beneath the priapic monument - the row of tough guys in black on one side, the bridesmaids in red on the other, and Mark and Stormy, black and white, big and little, in the centre - with a grey-haired celebrant who is a retired department store Father Christmas.
Somehow, as I looked upon this scene, I felt as if I was in Savannah, dropped into a moment from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. This made strange sense insofar as Adelaide's City Founder, Colonel Light, used Savannah as his inspiration for the design of this city - hence all the squares. Somehow the city spirits conjoined in a surreal moment.
Stormy is not exactly young and she has had a tough life with plenty of grief. But she is a handsome, glamorous woman and on this day she looked a picture of youth and joy and love. The Madam was a blushing bride.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Dean saves the day

Look what I found. Howard Dean shows the way - again!
This is his stand:

Given our existing nuclear arsenal, the deployment of nuclear weapons of low yields or new weapons to destroy deeply buried targets is unnecessary for deterrence and would undercut diplomatic efforts to halt nuclear proliferation. Research and development would therefore be a misplaced priority. Our focus should be on ensuring that our conventional capabilities can meet any military requirements and that our diplomatic efforts halt the proliferation of such weapons.

Tricky Dicky

Dick Gephardt is my unfavorite candidate in the Dem Pres Primaries. If sending his kids around the campaign trail was galling, his preoccupation with attacking his rivals is just plain unworthy. He strikes me as small-minded.

It has been strange keeping track of the Primaries in the face of the other news which emanates from the US. Search as I may, I can find no response from the candidates on Congress's approval of $7.5 million for the studying of Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrators. In an era of hunting down Weapons of Mass Destruction, the US is right into making them. I'm absolutely gob-smacked. Surely the presidential candidates should be making a stand on this. Or at least comment.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Da boids, da boids

Of all the world's songbirds, I'm ready to argue that the Australian magpie has the sweetest song - and one of the most complex and varied. It's the chortle which captivates. A truly joyous sound. Lyrical and musical.
Yes, I've heard nightingales. I once lived in one of their most famous English habitats and could listen to them night after night through the casement windows of our old farmhouse. Very complex calls - but not what I'd call pretty. Not like the maggie.
Of course a lot of Aussie birds are plain raucous. The parrots of every variety really. The galahs and corellas shriek. The black cockatoos have a mournful and strident call which they seem to make almost incessantly in flight. Rosellas and lorikeets have a sweeter call.
But the maggie, the darling maggie. And it is a clever, warbling bird with a long lifespan.
Each day our magpie family comes to the balcony at Encounter Bay looking for the morsels of ground beef we offer. They announce their presence with a few soft calls or a warbling song. The parent birds take the food from our hands. The young this year are more timid. They are getting bolder, but they still like us to stand back and leave the mince on the rail for them. Last year's brood was infinitely more confident. One of them used to open its beak for us to put the food in as its parents do.
But they all have their distinct characters - which is evident in their calls. No two are quite the same. And the young have to learn - sometimes not very easily. They have to work on those chortles. The early efforts can be utterly awful as they reach in their throats to find the resonances which will warble.
Today one of the young birds made the first morning visit alone. He was approaching his morsel on the rail when a couple of ravenous seagulls tried to make a dive for the food. Suddenly a parent magpie materialised. He must have been watching the young one from the trees. And oh, boy, did he swoop in to defend the territory - fierce and fast across the lawn for a direct hit at the fleeing seagulls. The gull, minus a feather or two, flew back to the beach and the parent magpie landed on the rail, wings curved out around the body and, before he would accept any food, he insisted on singing to me - a long, triumphant and eloquenct warbling which, I think, was his way of saying that he was lord of all he surveyed and had just demonstrated same in dispatching a rude intruder.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Arts in extreme

I've always said that one surfs on the highs of the arts. Good art has the capacity to energise one. Bad art drains.
Most specifically, of course, I refer to theatre, although I'd say the phenomenon applies broadly. For instance, leaving the art gallery after viewing the Conder exhibition and also the Clifford Possum, I was floating on the pleasures of the eye.

But then there was one night this week, oh such a hot night, when I was plunged to the depths, the nadir. My heart plummeted treacherously the very instant that the performer entered. Alarm bells screamed in my head. All I could think was, oh, how am I to endure this. I do not have the option of leaving a show - and when a couple rose and quietly left, I was consumed by envy. I found myself checking my watch frequently - a useless and frustrating pursuit. The performer shouted away tediously, leapt about the stage desperately, throttled a zillion props and devoured the audience in heavily-accented offensive. Poor thing, I thought - but only briefly. I needed all my pity for myself.

Tonight I went to the amateur theatre and had one of those rewarding experiences - one of the highs. The production of a Ray Cooney London farce was worthy of the West End. The timing was split-second, the cast consummately able. And it was so devastatingly, absurdly and wildly funny that we, the audience, were so sapped of energy after the endless convulsions of mirth that we barely had the strength to applause.

I was exhausted when I got home. Drained but on a high.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Summers of our discontent

I'd like to say that Anne Summers stormed into town - for her appearance at the Big Book Club was immediately after the belated storm. But Anne came weary - the bearer of bad news and heavily burdened by it. Her book, "The End of Equality", has been written sadly and not willingly. Summers was one of the forces of feminism in the 70s when many of the bridges to equality were crossed. Now, she discovers, the progress of that time has been eroded, equality in the workplace and in society has slipped back - and we didn't even notice. We were too busy. And we had been immersed in the "me" era - in which, as she put it, we "privatised" women's issues and thought they applied just to me or me or me. And that we somehow were responsible. No one talked about it. Everybody was too busy.
And come the year 2003, women are earning considerably less than men, child care is in crisis and keeping women out of the workforce, women have turned into part-time workers or, if they want to succeed in careers, they have abandoned the idea of having children, so the birthrate is falling and the population cannot reproduce itself and must rely in immigration. Few women are in top executive positions and domestic violence has been on the increase. A litany of failure.
And we have a Government, or at least a Prime Minister, who thinks the answer lies in keeping women at home having babies - in, what Summers calls, "a white picket fence prison".
Progress? Not.

So there needs to be a third wave of feminism to repair the damage. At a time when feminism is outre. Young women who have never so much as looked over their shoulders to see where their freedom of choice came from, must activate and help to pressure for solutions. But they are too busy, too. Everyone is too busy. The feminist structures are all gone. Feminism is a dirty word. Or is it? The girly magazines have jumped at the publication of Anne's book - and the mainstream media has paid attention. Maybe, just maybe, if the girls start to cyber-agitate....

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

What's with the tropics?

The dryest state in the dryest continent has turned steamy. We are not at all accustomed to humidity. Dry heat is what we know. Suddenly we are enervated. Leaden with heat. We grow limp. Waiting for a storm. It is taking its time.
I am wasting time. Waiting for the storm. Waiting for the storm.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Down down down they dumb

They call it "Lifestyle" - and they give it to us night and day. No television news service is complete without some lifestyle items - and, of course, the so-called news review programs are nothing but lifestyle, if you exclude the odd "landlord from hell" or "builder from hell" stories.
BY sad default, news-watchers become expert in cellulite treatments, hair replacement treatments, weight loss treatments, back pain treatments...
They are commercially based, ever a promo with, I am sure, plenty of product for the presenters. And the market would seem to lap them up. They are suckers for consumerism. Naivete rules. Gee, this product has been developed after years of research by "a professor". Must be good.
Professor of what? Perchance economics. We are never told.

It is all phony news. It ain't news. It is marketing. But the world is so contentedly dumbed down that it siphons it all up and considers it to be information.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Squirrel halloween

My glorious golden pumpkin is a sludgy mess all over the balcony, B tells me.
It turns out that squirrels like pumpkin, too. And the rapacious local population could not bear to see such a fine food source used as a mere decoration - so they invaded it, gnawed out the innards, ate the seeds and left a disgusting mess of pulp and fibre all over the balcony. Poor B has to clean it up. I can only say "there there". For indeed, he is "there" and I am "here".

The great political divide

While the Democrats are eating each other alive in the States, I see the first signs of the way in which the rivalries of the Primaries may cause rifts in friendships. Not that I would allow this to happen. But a mail from a mate in Mass. reveals not only that she has joined the Clark campaign but that she has gone right off my favorite candidate, Howard Dean. She gave her spiel on his faults in response to my mail telling her that I still favored him. I can see us engaging in a debate on the merits of our candidates - dividing within the same alliegance. How wildly ironic.

Now I see the advantages of the Australian system wherein the Party chooses a leader and the leader of the party becomes Prime Minister on winning the election. We vote only for the party. On these lines, the divides between friends are quite clear. They are straight-out, plain and simple political differences. Left versus Right.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Trying to do the fashionable list thing

1. I write for a living.
2. I have written for as long as I can remember.
3. I had 50 penpals by the time I was 12.
4. My father was a writer.
5. I grew up in the shadow of my father's fame.
6. I tried not to be a writer, and failed.
7. I grew up in a bookshop.
8. I love the smell of new books. I don't like library books.
9. I am fascinated by spiders.
10. I am not fascinated by shoes.
11. I only wear silver jewellery.
12. I first travelled the world at 8.
13. I love driving and hate being a passenger.
14. I have lived many places and loved almost all of them.
15. I belive that people are innately good.
16. I adore blueberries.
17. I love my bed.
18. I am not good with money.
19. I adore dogs.
20. I can't give up smoking.
21. Theatre foyers are my natural habitat.
22. The sea is my solace.
23. I was a hippie.
24. Cooking is my zen thing.
25. Chilis are my favorite energy source.
26. I don't like cheap chocolate.
27. I was born under Taurus in the year of the Dog.
28. Nobody knows, but I am actually shy.
29. I don't understand laziness.
30. I can't resist buying tote bags.
31. I like to wear sarongs.
32. I love flowers and fossils.
33. I cannot sing.
34. I think party people are vapid.
35. I wish there were more hours in the day.
36. I think tall people are arrogant.
37. I love tidiness.
38. I burn incense and perfume my sheets.
39. I never wear dresses.
40. I prefer 3-ply toilet tissue.
41. I don't understand stingy people.
42. I used to speak passable Indonesian.
43. Mangosteens are my very favorite fruit.
44. I can't go to sleep without a book in my hand.
45. I paint my toenails green.
46. I read people by the way they walk.
47. I admire the Dalai Lama.
48. I love trying new food.
49. Pelicans are my totem bird.
50. Coffee is the only thing that gets me out of bed.
51. As a child, I was a committed tree-climber.
52. I went to an all-girls college - from kindergarten to leaving honors.
53. I think lists like this are very arch and twee.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

A crime of critics? A catastrophe of critics? Nah, a celebration!

It was the big Critics Circle meeting tonight - the grand finale when the nominations are laid out and we vote for the winners. We give 8 awards a year - six within the realms of professional performing arts and two in the amateur sphere.
Critics follow their nominations through the selection process giving a "pitch" for their nominees prior to voting. Some of these pitches can be extensive - a review in itself. Because, believe it or not, critics are positive people. They love to see performers and productions succeed. There is nothing more miserable than writing a damning review. Believe me. It is a lonely job. Words are like blood. Writing a rave, on the other hand, is a high.
So the critics come keen to see their nominees succeed - because winning a Critics Circle Award gives a huge boost to the career of a performer/designer/writer/director/composer - not to mention the money and the hand-made silver trophy. There is nothing like being able to put "award-winning" before your name.
We gathered at a long table in our usual restaurant meeting place. Fine supporter that it is, it stays open to accommodate us and give us privacy - for these meetings have to be very secret. We don't want the word to get out early. We want the town to hum with gossip and anticipation.
There were lots of proxy votes from absent critics - and passionate speeches from those present as they fought for their nominees. There were a few snipes, of course. But only from one critic to another, perhaps reminding them that their opinion does not make a fact. There were a few dissents. But yet again, amazingly, the winners emerged to the general satisfaction of the group. If one does not mention the music critic who stalked out when his nomination lost by a whisker.

Every year I feel a pleasant buzz at the completion of this task. Of course there is still a lot of work to do. We have to rally the product sponsors for the wine and beer to be provided, write letters to all the nominees ensuring that they attend, check out the guest list, the invitations, a press release, follow up that the trophies will be ready in time, ensure the presenters are confirmed, organiser waiters for the ceremony, a sound system....get gifts for the presenters and sponsors...organise the updating of the website...thinking, thinking.
Oh well, I am sure it will be all right on the night.

Monday, November 10, 2003

The Supermum syndrome

I was up with the birds this morning, lovely morning that it was - albeit that I ache all over from a fall on Saturday.
There is some much piled up at work with deadline pressure that I was keen to get to the office and bite into it. Which I did, punctuating the day with a pleasant walk to the market with colleagues for a quick lunch of oh, so fragrant and fresh Vietnamese noodles followed by classy coffee and Portugese tart. Oh yes, we live well. And the market is a joy to have so close - a plenitude of vivid produce, of scents and colors and characters. It restores the soul - and always one walks back to the office with a spring in the step.
And it was more intense concentration glued to the computer through the afternoon until at least one major task was completed. But punctuated by demands for an urgent after-hours assignment with a yesterday deadline. A bit of jumping through hoops. Grabbed what research I could glean and headed for the car.
I was not yet home when my phoned beeped an SMS announcing that news of what I was cooking for dinner had attracted two more to the table. Oops. Need more ingredients to plump out the quantities.
I used to find cooking after work a sort of zen release from the intensity of work. These days I think a sit down is more zen. But if one is going to sit down, one needs to cook first. So I did.
Of course the sit down was not for relaxation. Oh no, the outside job had to be written - with scant information as a rush job. Tough.
Now it, too, is out of the way...and I think I am just too damned tired to leave the computer.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Pushing mother love

These many years there has always been that domestic chaos of things never being where you put them, things disappearing most adamantly without explanation. The dog took it. What the dog wants with tweezers, scissors, nail clippers, loo paper and dictionaries beats me. But there you go.
Now living with an adult son at home, I find the same whats-yours-is-mine attitude perpetuated - and I can call no corner of the house my own or anything I buy or put down my own.
This includes my computer, my work tool - which is now laden with downloads of I know not what. A quiet resentment burns within in along with a terrible sorrow that for mothers these things never seem to change.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Blog boggling

I knew there were a lot of blogs, but researching this blog feature I come upon the official stats - which give the total number of active bloggers as 2.9 million.

No wonder I am having trouble getting through them all.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Two worlds

No one over here has heard of Howard Dean, John Kerry et al. Not even here at the newspaper. A couple have heard of Wesley Clark, though. Which goes to show the power of television. But that there is another side to America, a different view within America - no one seems to know.
And the mood of anti-Americanism grows and thrives under the shadow of the relentless Bush propaganda machine. Disheartening.

So I have pinned a Dean for America button to my cap - so people will ask me what it is all about and I can introduce them to the amazing concept of the American Democrats and the fact that not everyone in the USA is slavishly devoted to Bush and war and Halliburton etc.

Thus attired I swanned out to collect the test car of the moment - a gorgeous little Alpha Romeo Spider. Bright blue. I am not a sportscar person at all - but it is a perfect day and I succumbed to the open top. The moment I took off in the car, several decades seem to melt off my age, just like that, and I felt young a free and sublimely in control. I was a bit surprised. I had not expected to like it so much. Aaaah, I think there's some subliminal embodied in these extravagant little boy toys.

Monday, November 03, 2003

By the seaside

It's a long drive to work on Monday mornings. Perhaps not by American standards. But an hour and a quarter in the car gets one a lot of news radio.
It's not a bad way to start the day, though. Skimming along almost deserted country roads with a landscape still green in its winter coat. Bottle brush here and there, a flash of vivid red. Bright purple fields of Salvation Jane. The vineyards all lush in their spring growth.
About half way to town the traffic starts to materialise and once on the main south road it turns into the commuter syndrome and everything slows down. Not the pleasant part of the drive.
But it is a small price to pay for waking up with the sun on the sea.

We seemed to spend the weekend eating and foraging. Garage sales are always have a quaintly voyeuristic attraction - peeks into the flotsam of others' lives. And then there are the junk shops and weekend markets. We poked around them all.
It was not exactly a warm weekend, but when it rained, there were dazzling, perfect rainbows. Once a double rainbow reaching from our little island to the land.
In the night I woke to a tremendous wind, the fish flag tugging wildly at the flagpole. I thought this would be its final test. That fish has flown for years, growing more faded and tattered. And yet it hangs on. As it did on Saturday night.
And when I woke again, it was first light - a wonderful yellow sky.
And I curled up in my soft, white bed and allowed myself the luxury of a little more sleep while the sun rose.
When next I woke, the early morning walkers were out with their dogs or powerwalking to the store for newspapers.
I powerwalked to the kitchen and put on the coffee.
And I sat down with a view of the sea and my highlighter pen, and got back to the required reading for work. Work is never far away.

On Sunday my magnificent Hair Guru came down with his wife for a working lunch, so to speak. He did my hair while I gazed at the ever-changing hues of the sea. And then we had a very long Sunday lunch - spinach soup followed by Coorong Mullet followed by a massive cheese and fruit platter, all with an exquisite, light white wine.
And for afters, a ritual feeding of the seagulls and pelicans before a long walk to the screwpile jetty.