Monday, July 31, 2017

July 31. Day 112.Come to your senses

 Have you ever had one of those (hopefully hypothetical) debates with yourself or others about which sense you would prefer to lose? When it comes down to it there is no good answer. This morning the world outside was a bit of a blur but the fog was always going to lift to reveal a picture perfect view. But later it was sound not vision that was proving to be an issue. My neighbour Margaret is pretty hard of hearing but right now can hear just about nothing at all. Today we had one of those conversations where I was talking about batteries and she was talking about bananas. I don't know much about hearing aids but I'm pretty sure changing bananas won't help. I did something I've never had to do before. I resorted to pen and paper to communicate with her - and then I rang the hearing aid people. Turns out that there is clearly a fault with the devices as they don't squeal when they are not in her ears (even with the batteries or bananas changed). Tomorrow I will go to try and get that rectified. But the cone of silence was clearly depressing her. She told me she had written a list of things that needed to be done in case she had to go to hospital. This included such things as giving her wool to Meals on Wheels. She can knit in hospital. I think her head is swirling with possible outcomes worse than an ambulance trip. There was only one thing that brought a smile to her face - the dogs. They don't need spoken language to communicate. My note telling her that the hearing aids and not her hearing was the problem also brought relief. Let's hope it's quickly and easily fixed.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

July 30. Day 211. Feeding the chooks

A former premier used to call it feeding the chooks. Those of us old enough to remember the Sir Joh era will recall (among far more distasteful political snippets), that the State's longest serving premier took great pleasure in gathering the media and then sprinkling grains or "wisdom". I felt a bit like that today (although hopefully my sentences were more coherent). It was QUT Open Day and my duty at this annual event is to front the audience who roll up to hear about the course. I whinge and moan about having to work on a Sunday but actually it's pretty good fun and they give you free lunch which is a total bonus. Also I do try to ease the pain of the horrible process of deciding what you want to do "when you grow up" at a time of life when most teenagers are ill-equipped to make such a decision. My advise "don't stress. Go with your best bet and it's painlessly easy to change your mind later". Because Open Day is at the Gardens Point campus, between presentations I like to have a walk around, see what the other stalls have on offer and check out what's happening in the Botanic Gardens.Today it was pretty much the same as on campus - hungry young things devouring all on offer. Not bad for a Sunday.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

July 29. Day 210. You're the Voice

No-one should have been surprised that John Fanham was a special guest at The Voice concert to raise awareness about domestic violence. The Voice is, after all, his anthem. Except everyone was surprised and you can't really blame them. After all, who has one of Australia's best-known and best-loved entertainers on the bill and doesn't tell anyone? Well, Queensland Music Festival director artistic director Katie Noonan apparently. Well played Katie. The point was to shine light on and unite Australians in one voice against domestic violence. Letting the world know Farnham would be there,  risks diluting the focus. And when you've already got Noonan, Kate Ceberano and Isaiah in your program you've already scored the public's attention. Throwing in Farnham was genius. It was a thing of great power and beauty. Let's hope it achieves its stated aim.

Friday, July 28, 2017

July 28. Day 209. Use your noodle

Love ya, Brisbane. Thank you for bringing two of my favourite things together in one big celebration. The annual noodle markets at South Bank in the shadow of the Wheel of Brisbane are awesome, totally awesome. Tonight we were just window shopping on the way home from the theatre. Well that was the plan. However, there was a dessert that was just calling my name. A smash cake. It's cake that's flash-frozen and whipped and garnished with rose petals and pistachios. It looked too pretty to eat but that didn't stop me. And it tasted goooooddd. Next time it will be octodog, the Japanese dagwood dog. It too looked too good to eat. Again, I've never let that get in my way.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

July 27. Day 208. I want to live in America

Professor Scott Harrison before he produced the letter
If I said I had a girl crush on Andrew Lloyd Webber people would surely question my taste but they would a least know who I was talking about. The man responsible for inflicting Aspects of Love and Starlight Express on the world is a household name. If we get another revival of The C Word (Cats), I might just vomit. And yet the real musical theatre genius of our time is barely known outside the circle of musical theatre tragics. Stephen Sondheim is the man. Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd, Gypsy, A Little Night Music, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Sondheim is a legend in his own lifetime, or at least he should be. But he really isn't. Of course those in the know, know better. Tonight, there was a mic-drop moment at the Conservatorium Theatre when Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University director Scott Harrison presented an actual letter penned by Sondheim. It was at the opening night of West Side Story. In a beautiful symmetry, 2017 is the 60th anniversary of the opening of WWS and the Conservatorium's 60th birthday. The selection of the Sondheim classic for the musical theatre students was clearly a no-brainer. Sondheim marked the occasion by sending a letter. I touched the letter because I am a fan girl. Stephen Sondheim was in his 20s when he wrote WWS. Now 60 years later that piece is as relevant as it ever was. If anything the tensions between the ethnic groups in the US is even greater than it was in the 1950s. That's why Sondheim is a genius in my mind and Lloyd Webber not so much (was Cats ever relevant to anyone?) I came out of the production wanting to sob. The modern day Romeo and Juliet tale is so beautiful and so tragic and the production was phenomenal. Calling this a student production is underselling it by a very long shot. I did the only sensible thing. I ate hot dogs and burgers. And then I raised a class to Stephen Sondheim and the students. Well played. You can listen to the podcast.
***The production images are supplied. The food and drink I took myself!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

July 26. Day 207. Hot stuff

The talented young cast of Blackrock. Pic Dylan Evans 
QUT Drama discipline leader Sandra Gattenhof praises her young charges
In the orange glow of the wood-fired pizza oven at the opening night party of La Boite's production of Blackrock, my son gave me a hug. He said nothing but it said everything. What we had just seen was so powerful that a few moments of silent reflection was called for. But it was more than that. Blackrock is an incredible piece of Australian theatre that shines a light on the horrible reality of sexual assault and violence. It's the sort of show that stops you in your tracks. It works at other levels, too. It's about navigating the often perilous road of being a teenager and parenting a teenager and in that sense it not only whispered but shouted into the ears of Drama Teen and myself. Some may be fortunate to dodge the overt brutality that Enright's play exposes but none can steer clear of the politics of the teen years. Having an immensely talented cast of soon-to-graduate QUT acting students play the teen roles gave the production an authenticity more seasoned actors could not match. This was not comfortable at all but it was excellent. You can hear more of our thoughts on our podcast

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

July 25. Day 206. Food fight

It was a difficult choice for the birds today.  They wanted mince. Margaret had mince. But, and it was a big but, so did the dogs and the dogs were there first.
You could see them weighing up the situation, doing an avian equivalent of a pros and cons list. One the plus side, the possibility of getting food. On the minus side, the possibility of becoming food. But the mince was fresh. But the dogs were barking. The noisy miner camped at the window for a bit and then throwing caution to the wind flew in. Almost immediately it regretted it. It flew up on to the window ledge and wouldn't move. The dogs went crazy. The bird cowered. No-one got anywhere near the mine. It was a standoff that lasted quite a while. Eventually I opened every window I could find and the scared little thing made an escape. You'd think that would make it stay away. Not so.The prospect of food is responsible for many a bad decision (here I am talking about me). As soon as we were out the door it was back - as were half the other birds in the street.

Monday, July 24, 2017

July 24. Day 205. Keep it in the family

Jimi with Mum Agnes and Grandmother Petharie (Photo David Kelly)
Photo David Kelly
Who would you want to play you should your story ever be turned into a movie or a play? It's the sort of question that might arise at a dinner party or in one of those annoying Facebook quizzes but is rarely a real life problem. Except when you are the Bani family of the remote Torres Strait Island of Mabuiag. The family decided that if you want a job done properly do it yourself. It's a brave move. Jimi Bani is an accomplished actor having played Eddie Mabo in Mabo as well as starring in Redfern Now and The Straits. His grandmother Petharie, mother Agnes, brothers Richard and Conwell and son Dmitri lack either professional training or experience and yet the whole family perform together in Queensland Theatre's My Name is Jimi which officially opens at the Bille Brown studio this week. 
Jimi says his family feels a responsibility to perform their own story.
"The amazing thing about them playing themselves and me playing myself on stage is that you as an audience member you relate to us not as a character but as real people.. It becomes more real."
Director and co-creator of My Name is Jimi Jason Klarwein agrees. "It does have an immediacy and an authenticity that you can't get otherwise. When you watch this family interact, it's like watching your family so you sit there saying 'oh it's exactly like my grandma'. I think the story is so personal to the Bani family, the only way to do it was to have as many Bani members on stage as possible."
But convincing the four generations to take part in the ambitious project wasn't easy and may not have happened without the prodding of Jimi's late father Ahdi Dimple Banu the 8th Chief of Wagadagam who died during the play's creation process. Jimi admits he was too scared to ask his family himself "I said 'Dad, you ask them'."
Working with the family hasn't been totally smooth sailing.
"It's tough," Jimi admits. "You need self-discipline. You have to be really careful about not offending. It taught me how to communicate properly with respect. It takes so much energy."
Jason, however, jokes that having performers who are not trained actors has its advantages. "Actors can be pretty difficult," he laughs.  While programming a show with a cast almost exclusively made up of amateurs may have been a huge risk for the State's major theatre company, early indications are really positive. The run was sold out in the play's world premiere in Cairns earlier this month. And previews in the past week suggest Brisbane audiences are also warming to the Bani family.

The whole clan: Jimi, Agnes, Conwell, Dmitri Ahwang-Bani,
  Richard and Petharie (Photo David Kelly) 
Jason says that's not surprising.
"The show is a real positive, hopeful, hilarious piece of theatre."
What may surprise audiences more is the unique, modern approach to telling the story of one of the oldest cultures on earth.
 "We use a lot of different mediums to tell the story. We are using lots of different technology. We are using AV, we are using cameras, we are using miniature models that get filmed, we use a special pop-up book, here's dancing, there's cultural  dancing, there's modern dancing, there's all sorts of different things that are happening in the show."
We'll see Jimi joke in three languages with his grandmother and torture his son with his spontaneous break-dancing.
"There's nothing dry about the piece," Jason says. 
Jimi agrees. "It’s funny and challenging, it’s inclusive and it’s honest, most of all, it’s hopeful."
My Name is Jimi plays at the Bille Brown Theatre until August 13.
You can hear our full interview with Jason Klarwein and Jimi Bani here
Jimi Bani and Jason Klarwein. (Photo David Kelly)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

July 23. Day 204. To make you feel my love

I could make you happy, make your dreams come true. Nothing that I wouldn't do. Go to the ends of the Earth for you, To make you feel my love. To make you feel my love. Glorious lyrics penned by Bob Dylan, first recorded commercially by Billy Joel and today attributed to Adele. Yep, Adele. She may have recorded a wonderful version of it but I'm sorry kids, the song wasn't hers. I smirked in much the same way as I did at a school concert when a little one said I'm a Believer was a song from Shrek. Does it matter? For the record only. What I love is that really great songs stand the test of time and resonate across the generations. Today the "Adele" song was one of a number performed by members of the Fame Theatre Company for guests at senior citizens afternoon tea . The looks on the faces of those in the audience and on stage said it all. And while Dylan/Joel/Adele may have been singing about romantic love, there are other ways to make you happy. Music is a great start.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

July 22. Day 203. A formal affair

Last night I had a dream about my first lecture of the semester which will take place on Monday morning. When I arrived in the lecture room, the computer I am supposed to use to project the lecture slides had been replaced by an X-Box. A fat lot of good that would be. Not that it mattered. I'd actually forgotten to write the lecture. Watching all this was one of my first section editors who happened to be a tutor in the unit. He was giving me the same disapproving scowl he always used to give cadet reporters. A nightmare really. It's common in dreams and it's common in popular culture - the storyline of forgetting something really important. It's a variation on the best man forgetting the wedding rings or the family that left the kid Home Alone when they went on holidays. It's scary because we all know it could happen, it does happen. Today at the hairdresser it was chaos. The place was packed with young people preparing for formals or balls. I struck up a conversation with Laura who was having her hair and make-up done. Turns out she is in the same English class as my niece Cleo. I watched an amazing transformation take place  ... And then it happened. Mum arrived without the dress. The bus to the pre-formal function was to leave in 15 minutes and our Cinderella was still in shorts and a T Shirt. An emergency phone call summonsed dad back from the dog park to grab the dress and shoot across town to the rescue. Just like a fairy godmother he arrived and Cinder-Laura got to go to the ball. Because that's something else popular culture teaches us. It normally works out okay. And I have written that lecture for Monday.

Friday, July 21, 2017

July 21. Day 202. Turkish delight

 My love affair with Turkey began just after my 25th birthday on my first big solo overseas adventure. It was the most beautiful, exotic, mystical place I had ever encountered. From the Grand Bizarre to the Blue Mosque  to the thermal terraces at Pamukkale, it was an Aussie tourist's dreams come true. On that trip I drank my weight in Turkish apple and orange tea and raki, a potent anise-flavoured liquid capable of giving you a hangover just by sniffing it. And then there was the food. These days we'd say hashtag yum but back then we spoke in sentences ...mostly ... at least before the raki. Unfortunately, I've never returned to Turkey but I do like to visit a Turkish restaurant as frequently as possible. Tonight was one such night, this time courtesy of a my dear friend Alison.
We devoured a banquet and washed it down with Turkish apple tea ...  and wine.  My appetite for Turkish food has not diminished at all in the intervening years but the older, wiser me now avoids raki. Some things improve with age ... at least a bit.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

July 20. Day 201. Top dog

When Winkle joined our household, the plan was that she and Rumple would live relatively separate lives. If they were siblings, they would be estranged. Winkle decided she didn't like that plan. She was going to join Rumple's pack. In fact, she was going to lead that pack. She has followed that plan through every day since. They are rarely any distance apart and even have a double lead so they trot along side by side. I call them D1 and D2 or Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dumber. So much for distance. So today was always going to be a test. Rumple needed a day at the vet for dental work. Winkle stayed at home. She knew he wasn't there but would frequently get up and go looking for him. She was little girl lost. She may be top dog most of the time but today she was the hero without the sidekick or more accurately the funny one without her straight guy. The only time she looked comfortable was when we went to visit Margaret. There she seemed to revel in all the one-on-one attention. But as soon as we were back at home she was back to sulking. And then we went to pick up Rumple and the world order was good again.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

July 19. Day 200. Bricking it

I rather like it when life takes me out of my crazy routine and into places not on the normal route. The road less travelled, if you like. It actually gives you time to "see" things. So I was dropping off the photos as discussed in yesterday's blog. In my naivety, I thought that a parking spot would be available somewhere in the same suburb. Not so much. So I walked with a great big folio of photos under my arm which I had to try not to crush. But it did allow me to have a look. A real look. I love the old museum. It felt so sad when it stopped being the museum but small things such as fire risks and complete inadequacy to safely and appropriately display things apparently ruled it out. Anyway we now have a wonderful new museum and a beautiful old space. And my photos are in. Winning.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

July 18. Day 199. Photographic memory

It was a case of deja vu, all over again (yes, yes I know).  This will be the third year in a row  I have entered photographs in the Ekka fine art competition. Let's just say, I'd better be more accomplished with a camera than I am at entering competitions. Third time lucky? Not for me. Practice is not making perfect. It goes like this. You have to enter and pay in May but the actual exhibits are not due until now. Actually they were due at the end of last week. Did I remember? No, I did not. I received a courtesy call today asking about my entries. Audible expletive. Had, I delivered the entries? No, I had not? Had I actually chosen my entries, or printed them, or mounted them? No, I had not. I was given until tomorrow. So bring on super thrust mode. I selected some shots, submitted them online for printing and went off shopping for such things as mounting boards.Then I did what any sensible person would do. I delegated. My lovely niece Scarlett was recruited to carry out the mounting. Against all odds, the whole process was completed in a matter of hours. Am I a happy with them? Honestly, not entirely. Some of the prints are not awesome. If I had more time I would have either chosen different photos or had a couple reprinted. But you can only do what you can do and at the end of the day you have to be in it to win it.

Monday, July 17, 2017

July 17. Day 198. All come out in the wash

Some times in life you are the statue. Some times the pigeon. As long as your life isn't more statue kind of days then you have to count that as a win. Attitude helps but attitude is not always that easy to control. But little things can make the difference. Today I found myself smiling at the pigeons and the dog bowl. The pigeons were taking turns at first drinking from and then bathing in a dog's bowl at one of the cafes near where I work.Clearly the bowl was not there for either purpose but they didn't care and who could blame them. They were having such a jolly old time and it made me smile. It distracted me for so long it made me late for a meeting. However the previous meeting in the room ran over so I was where I needed to be on time. Winning. A statue not a pigeon kind of day.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

July 16. Day 197. Here Comes the Bride

My mother cries at weddings. I don't but I am endlessly fascinated by them even when I know neither the bride nor the groom. So when I saw a wedding party rock up at the Botanic Gardens this afternoon, I was drawn to go take a closer look. Rumple and Winkle made friends with one of the bridesmaids so I struck up a conversation and found out the happy couple are Kaz and AJ. As I watched I also noted how wedding photography has changed. No more superimposing faces in champagne glasses (although why that was ever a thing I don't know). The camera crew was circling the bride and groom, doubtless collecting 360 vision. And the final observation? Soft pastel dresses don't always survive well in a garden photo shoot the day after huge storms.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

July 15. Day 196. Just hanging at South Bank

I'm old enough to remember when celebrity and chef were not words that went together. Ever. But in this world there are celebrity everything and chefs are right up there. As a BIG fan of Masterchef, I decided to wander down to the Regional Flavours event at South Bank and see if I could spot George, Gary or Matt. It might have helped if this fan girl had bothered to check the program. By the time I'd got there they had left and were doubtless off eating deconstructed something somewhere fancy. Anyone would have thought I'd never heard of social media. But all was not lost. Not by a long shot. The Living Room chef  Miguel was still smooching up to the crowd. I have no idea what he was saying - I never do - but in that Spanish accent he can just keep on saying it. Besides on a beautiful Brisbane day like today South Bank is a pretty good place to be even if it is just to watch the street performers.

Friday, July 14, 2017

July 14. Day 195. A Night at the Opera

Opera. So cultured. Except this is Gilbert and Sullivan which is very much at the lighter end of the scale which is a great place to be. Ruddigore is not the fat lady sings type of opera. And Opera Queensland embraced the event with just the right sense of fun. Cardboard cut outs in the same cartoon style of the show and just to prove this isn't the stuffy type of show there was a carnival cut out board where put your head in picture - the only way it was possible before Photoshop and Instagram filters. What I love is that given the right occasion (and perhaps the right amount of alcohol) age, income and the inner child is never really that far away. A good laugh is a really awesome way to bring out that child. And Ruddigore was a right regular laugh, something I didn't associate with Opera. I'm not afraid to admit I was wrong ... but I won't make a habit of it.
Listen to the podcast here.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

July 13. Day 194. Birds of a feather

One of the tales that is on repeat in my mother's Same Story playbook, involves a walk with the dog when my two sisters and I were very young.
According to the story, we were dressed identically for this walk because why wouldn't you dress your daughters like living Babushka Dolls? But that's not the scary bit. An older woman stopped for a chat. Mum, who thinks baby babushka is an attractive thing, expects the lady to comment on how adorable we looked. Instead she admired our pound dog. She said she'd rather raise nine dogs than one child. At that moment, the dog spied and ate poo. I now have a version of this story for my own repertoire. The dogs were beautifully clean and shiny after their regular groom. We went to visit Margaret next door to show off the beautiful hair cuts and bows. Winkle disappeared and had been quiet for too long. She was discovered in the bathroom where she had raided a bin of incontinence pads. It was gut-churningly disgusting. I cleaned her up. Then she did a wee on the floor. We left with our tails between her legs. But would it stop me raising dogs? Not in a million years ... And will it stop Margaret from welcoming the dogs? She'd rather welcome nine dogs than one child