Wednesday, November 30, 2016

November 30. Day 335. A big fat drip

Tim Minchin, I'm sorry. I've been a big fat drip. In January I travelled to Sydney and saw Matilda. I expected to be blown away. I love your work. I love Roald Dahl' s work. I loved both the book and the movie Matilda and of course I'm a music theatre tragic. The stars aligned on this one. I would leave the theatre with my heart singing. But I didn't. Frankly I left going "meh". I didn't hate it by any means. Indeed I liked it but the rest of the world raved and I just didn't see it. Tonight I saw it. Tonight I felt the magic, the earth move. Now here are the possible reasons. I saw Matilda in Sydney on January 14 two weeks before the end of the Sydney season. Perhaps the energy was gone. Perhaps it was just because I had an idea in my head about what this would look like and it didn't. The show didn't live up to the pictures in my head created from a combination of the book and the movie. There may be a bit of me a little jaded because there was no flying car, witch, nanny or carpet. No helicopter appears. No chandelier falls. With fresh eyes and a better idea tonight the magic worked. This is a beautiful, quality production. It's clever, funny and heartwarming. And it is a story of justice and a little person with a strong sense of right and wrong taking on the system and winning. Matilda is a heroine in every sense of the word. And the magic I thought was missing? That X factor? Come on. There are kids swinging out over the audience, there's a little cutie being flung by pig tails, chalk writes on a blackboard by itself and glasses of water miraculously tip over. Plus a chocolate cake that pretty much eats itself. I left the theatre singing. I'm glad I give second chances.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

November 29. Day 334. For crying out loud

I sometimes wonder is one of those party girls whose here for a good time not a long time. And like the parent of any young party animal she is determined to take years off my life. Today she escaped twice. The first time she did a runner she took advantage of the pool man moving a barrier. I caught her next door. That was just the warm up act. The next time I decided to take the dogs for a walk after dropping Drama Teen off in the city. We were in the QUT car park, which is only under the freeway and next to a river and a bike path. I stopped the car. The dogs jumped on my lap. I clipped two leads on and opened the car door. Winkle jumped and ran - I'd somehow managed to clip both leads to the same collar. Rumple was very secure and Winkle as free as a bird. I screamed. Oliver screamed. Winkle skipped around having a great time. Across the car park and out on to the bike path she went with me in hot pursuit.  She dodged a couple of fast moving cyclists and then came back. I clipped her on the right lead and pushed my heart back from my mouth to where it belonged. Cats have nine lives. Dogs - and their owners need at least that many.

Monday, November 28, 2016

November 28. Day 333. Open house.

See that kookaburra photo? It's not so unlike many others I have taken at my neighbour Margaret's house before except for one key thing - I was outside looking in and the bird was inside looking out. It's pretty much an open door policy at her place, as long as you have feathers or fur. With people she is far more cautious and that's probably fair enough. Animals are often more honest about what they want with you. My pair make it quite clear. They will take treats or tummy tickles, preferably both. People can be far more devious and manipulative.  As a reader of tabloid newspapers and a consumer of commercial TV news, Margaret is not exactly paranoid but has a healthy eye open for those whose intentions might not be honorable. You'd have to work reasonably hard to pull the wool over her eyes. Still I was a little surprised at the latest development. This one came not from her diet of news but her other favourite media Bold and the Beautiful. As I never watch the program the details escape me but someone was in a coma. He hadn't updated his enduring power of attorney and an old partner was busily cleaning him out. Margaret's not worried about that but she thinks as the person who spends the most time with her these days, I would be the best placed to know what she wants and she trusts me. It's an honour and a responsibility. I rather wonder if the dogs would get it if they could sign ...

Sunday, November 27, 2016

November 27. Day 332. Give me a home among the gum trees

Over dinner last night my sister Lisa asked a favour. Her former boss in Hong Kong had asked a number of current and former employees to write a piece that might be included in the school's 25th anniversary commemmorative magazine. While her words were accepted he asked for a new photo - one that clearly showed where she was living now. This, we feared, probably meant she should be posed with a koala and/or kangaroo outside the Opera House or Uluru, preferably both. She already lives on gum tree filled acreage but it has to look Australian to a foreigner. She didn't want to either insult nor disappoint so we worked on a compromise. Perhaps a beach would do it. Of course the beach closest to me really isn't a beach at all but a man-made lagoon overlooking the city. I needed something from the South Bank markets so the date was set. South Bank beach. This is the face of modern Brisbane, the city's playground. There is not giant red sandstone monolith, no tropical fish and no marsupials but it is Australia as we know and love it. And just in case it wasn't Aussie enough we grabbed an Australian flag. Sure that's ever so slightly piss taking but let's face it that's pretty Australian too. And then we took the dogs to the dog park because that's what these Aussies like to do on a Sunday.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

November 26. Day 331. Santa Paws

Every parent has a story of their child behaving badly with Santa. Here's mine. I was lying in bed first thing this morning when I saw on my Instagram account that they were taking Santa photos at the local pet shop. But bookings closed ages ago. So I rang and they said I could come along but come early. So I pulled on their new Santa suits just brought home from New York and off we went. The line was only one dog deep. I was watching Santa wrangle that dog when it was pointed out to me that both my dogs were weeing on the floor. Big fat wees. Big fat yellow puddles on the floor. Wees of dogs who clearly had not been out the doggy door. Wees of dogs really excited by all the smells. With that over, it was our turn with Santa. And the dogs were perfect at least Santa didn't mention any wee and they were given presents so they have obviously been nice not naughty.

Friday, November 25, 2016

November 25. Day 330. Colourful creatures

You can set your clock by it. Come four o'clcok every afternoon you can hear the lorikeets flying by my mum's place and settling in the trees next door. They know exactly what time the feeding stations will be loaded on the clothes line of my old neighbours and they are ready. The birds in my current location are also trained. They respond to Margaret opening her windows and they know that will bring their pot of gold. Creatures of habit with Pavlovian instincts. Let's face it, we all find comfort in consistency and routine - regular meal times, regular sleep times, regular work times. Fill in the gaps. For 14 years, one of the commitments locked in around which the opitional extras have had to fit has been getting my boy to and from Fame. Those musical theatre lessons once or twice a week have been a mainstay of our existances for most of Drama Teen's life. Until today. In recent times I have followed drop offs with a trip to mum's and a visit to those birds. But not any more. Today the classes ended. Officially concerts next week will round off the Fame journey but the lessons are now over. I'm sad. He's sad. He's ready to leave the nest and fly but that doesn't make the parting any less a sorrow. I can't tell you how many times I've sat in the car waiting well past the scheduled finishing time just wishing it would all just be over. As they say, be careful what you wish for.  Yo don't know what you've got till it's gone. So like the birds who have sucked up the last of the nectar, the time has come to move on. May the next routine be collecting a great big pay cheque or something and repaying you mother for all those drama lessons. I'll take a mention in the awards acceptance speech if you like.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

November 24. Day 329. Running away to join the circus

Many years ago, in  land far, far away – well actually not that far. I can walk there. Anyway we had this Christmas tradition. We would attend the living Christmas tree concert at the South Bank Piazza. It was a spectacular thing which concluded with a nativity procession with donkeys, camels and the like. The highlight for my son out of this whole extravaganza was always the poo count. The more animals that did wees or poos during this procession, the happier he was. I was reminded of this tonight at Cirque du Soleil. If the franchise represents anything it is high quality, jaw droppingly good entertainment. But it’s also good fun with some really, really great clowning and this time one of the acts that got the biggest laughs was a clown dog who weed all over a cameraman. Living freaks doing things that should not be possible and we wet ourselves over a wee. Cirque du Soleil really understands the show biz motto “make ‘em laugh”
The Canadian-based circus juggernaut has spawned a kaleidoscope of different shows - 21 in all right now if my count is correct – and while I’ve only seen half that number I can say there’s not a dud among them. Is this this best? Probably not. But it’s good. Really, really good. Will this have you gasp, hold your breath, clap, cheer, laugh, smile and feel that every hard earned $$$ you forked out was worth it? Totally.
Kooza, according to the blurb is “a return to our origins. KOOZA combines acrobatic performance and the art of clowning, while exploring fear, identity, recognition and power.” It goes on “The Innocent's journey brings him into contact with comic characters from an electrifying world full of surprises, thrills, audacity and total involvement.” Whatever. It may be revealing myself as a philistine but I don’t think I’ve followed a “plot” in any of the shows I’ve seen. Do I care? Not a jolt. I saw people doing things that should not be possible for two hours plus. They contorted, balanced, flipped, clowned, gyrated and showed a complete disregard for such things as the laws of gravity. If circus was an Olympic event, the degree of difficulty of most of the acts would be off the chart. Take something that should be impossible on the ground and then do it on a high wire, on a bicycle, without a net. That sort of thing. But that’s only half the story as to why this is such a spectacular performance experience. No one leaves the tent singing the praises of the lighting but the production values – costumes, sound, lighting, music and staging – all combine to create a show that is magic. And if you need another reason – a dog might cock its leg and wee on you. Yep, something for EVERYONE.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

November 23. Day 328. Hitting the ground running

There's no rest for the wicked which must mean I've been a very bad girl. It would be wrong to imply I have been sprinting but at least interval training with short bursts of speed followed by slightly slower periods. Certainly sleeping off jet lag is not an option. Being out of the home and office for almost two weeks causes a backlog of work and today I was playing catch up. Forms, phone and email dominated the work front. The domestic duties involved such exciting things as a mountain of laundry which really should have involved a sherpa to conquer. And the needs of the fur friends required attending to. Winkle was up for annual vaccinations and both dogs needed flea and tick treatment and worming. And I owed them a little quality time. So off to Nudgee Beach we went. Let's be honest. Nudgee Beach's main redeeming feature is its relative proximity to the Brisbane CBD and its dog friendliness. It's not going to get a mention in Lonely Planet or Trip Adviser. But my dogs can't read and the criteria sheet they use to reference isn't the same as humans. Is there water? Check. Can we run free? Check. Is there stuff to roll in? Check. Right. High distinction for you. And watching the dogs run free is always a quality experience for me. If you are going to hit the ground running, this is the way to do it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

November 22. Day 327. Often licked, never beaten

 One of my favourite scenes from one of my favourite movies is the Heathrow arrivals hall opening moment of Love Actually. There is nothing like a concourse reunion to bring out the best in people. Nothing warms the heart and soul after the misery of a long haul flight quite like seeing your loved ones at the airport. Of course two of my immediate family members are not allowed in an airport because they have no ability to sniff out drugs or explosives (if there was a black market in smuggling Schmackos they would be totally on staff). So our reunion took place  in the Brisbane airport two minute pick up zone. And what a reunion it was. There were hugs and kisses from the humans. Both dogs cried. Both sat on my lap on the journey home. Winkle licked me without stopping (this may have just been a reflection of how bad I smelled after an eternity in transit). And neither let me out of their sight and just to make sure Winkle slept on my backpack. While away it's easy and cheap to make video calls home - to the humans. We spoke twice a day. Dogs are better at the non verbals and virtual reality does not extend to mimicking the warm lick of a dog. It's nice to know they missed me as much as I missed them - and nothing helps clear the cobwebs like a walk with the dogs.

November 21. Day 326. It's a small world after all

Travel certainly expands your horizons and exposes you to things that are exciting, unexpected or just plain weird. It has to be said, however, that when you travel to the great western democracies you realise that the differences are not as big as they once seemed.  Certainly in terms of shopping the surprises are nowhere near as huge as they were in the pre-Internet world. As Disney taught us, it's a small world after all. What Walt didn't say was "especially if you were fortunate enough to be born in an English speaking country". I can't help but wonder what a major international airport would be like if you didn't. I flew Korean airlines and stopped in Seoul. Every airport sign and every announcement was in both Korean and English. As I am clearly not Korean every shop keeper, customs official and flight attendant automatically addressed me in English. It really does take the pain out of that part of the travel. Even so there are some little surprises and one I think boarded on genius was discovered in Incheon International Airport - the potato hotdog. It was what the baby would be if a dagwood dog mated with hot chips all in one package. Yes my mind and my waist-line has been expanded by this trip.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

November 20. Day 325. Long Day's Journey Into Night

 I don't know what's worse. The long journey to your destination. On that leg at least you are fresh and powered by adrenalin. On the return journey the fun is behind you but the desire to be home to your family, your friends and your bed (and of course the dogs) is overwhelming. In both cases you just want the flying business over with so the holding pattern ends and the real business can begin. Any journey from the States to Australia is a serious commitment. Mine, this time around, is 14 hours to Korea and another nine plus home. And I boarded the flight already pretty buggered after what has been a really wild ride. And the week ahead looks pretty full on with unit reports, meeting and an examiner's meeting before working on a conference paper for the end of next week. When I put it like that, I'm tempted to get on another plane right back out of here. If it wasn't for my family, my friends, my bed and my dogs waiting for me, I may well have done just that.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

November 19. Day 324. Something Rotten

 Ordinarily I don't choose to travel alone but there can be something rotten about travelling with others. I was reminded of this when I sat on a tour bus today and listened to a child whinge because her parents were subjecting her to the unimaginable horror of having to tour around New York. The fact that 99.9999 per cent of the world's population probably never gets the chance to do any such thing was clearly lost. And last night in the audience of Falsettos I listened as the bloke behind me explain that he didn't like musicals. Now either he hadn't researched the production at all or he was compromising. And that's the thing about travelling alone. You go where you like, when you like. You don't have to discuss or explain your movements with anyone. Strangely this is the rotten bit of the experience too. You don't get to discuss your movements with anyone. You are on your own Lone Ranger. Anyway, while I don't often do the travel solo thing, I'm not adverse to it when the opportunity presents itself. And today I had a jolly nice time wandering around New York just taking in the sights, sounds and tastes of the city.
Naturally I was also lured by the lights of Broadway. At the matinee I saw the quite stunning Dear Evan Hansen. If it's ever in a city near you, make sure you do yourself a favour. And then tonight I was one street away at Something Rotten. What a laugh that little show is. This week all of the shows are collecting for Broadway Cares, where the casts, crews and audiences contribute to AIDS charities. It goes the same way at every show. After the final bows, a lead cast member asks the audience to stay where they are for a second and then launches into a spiel about why everyone should give. Along with the serious message there is are always a few gags. Tonight at Something Rotten it started the same way ... but they just couldn't resist a reference to the furore that occurred last night when Vice President elect Mike Pence was in the audience of Hamilton. There the cast asked the new VP to see how the cast reflected the diversity of modern America. The incoming president took to Twitter to express his annoyance at the "disrespect" of the cast. So tonight when we were asked to stay for a bit the spiel started "the vice president is in the house" pretty much what was said at Hamilton ans caught on a mobile phone of two. There was laughter. "No, of course he isn't". Pause "He's at Falsettos" Applause. Because who doesn't like a good political joke and frankly Mike Pence is a political joke. If you'd like to tweet about how rotten and disrespectful I am @RealDonaldTrump go right ahead.

Friday, November 18, 2016

November 18. Day 323. Kid in the candy store

This week I am the kid in the candy store - and not just any kid. This kid is the daughter of a dentist so never got near any of the sweet stuff so now it's all there she's binging. So right now I'm in a sugar coma. I mean I am wide-eyed with excitement just because it's New York and I'm staying in the theatre district right by Broadway. But those doors are open to everybody (with the wallet to support it). It's the behind closed doors look at some of the world's great media brands and the chance to pick the brains of the movers and shakers of my chosen industry that is just beyond a great big sugar hit. Today the tour hit The World Street Journal (who wouldn't want a Trump vs Clinton pinball machine in your front office?). After than it was on to City University of New York's School of Graduate Journalism which is, of course, totally aligned with my day job these days. And then Times Square and the half price ticket booth snapping myself a ticket to The Falsettos tonight. Because New York is such a small and unpopulated place (!), I ran into my course colleage Leo from the Al Jazeera affiliate AJ+ and we had dinner at an Italian place. More carbs. More company more good times. I'm going to need a great big detox when I get home. It will be so worth it.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

November 17. Day 322. On a mission

I am a woman on a mission, inspired with missionary zeal. Perhaps this is because I saw The Book of Mormon tonight although I have no desire to tell anyone to do unspeakable things to frogs***. I do, however, have an evangelical desire to tell everyone in Australia to see it. Hot word is that it is coming to Brisbane.
I also have crusading desire to tell everyone about Chartbeat. The real time analytics that can show you who is reading a story, for how long and at which exact point they lose interest will blow your mind. Impressive. And it's a dog friendly workplace. At least four or five pooches were roaming around or curled at owner's feet. Really impressive. Come on Australia. We have so much to learn. But honestly this is all the sideshow. What I can't wait to thump the pulpit about is the future of journalism. There is so much to tell from 360 video - a gateway drug to the world of Virtual Reality - the new collaborations, the growing importance of events he new approach to headlines, and on-demand audio and podcasts and augmented reality. and native advertising. Yes I knew about these things in part before I boarded the plane here but the nuance and the detail is fascinating and incredibly exciting. My head is spinning but the message is that journalism is not dying. Journalism is being reborn and it is exciting. The challenges are still there but the faith is in the solutions. We live in interesting times. Here endeth the lesson.
****Doing unspeakable things to frogs will not cure AIDS. The Book of Mormon tells you so (the musical. I don't think the matter was addressed in the religious text.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

November 16. Day 321. Future (shock!)

 I am old enough to remember when newspapers had compositors. These blokes (and they were normally blokes) actually set the lines of type. Those jobs went when desktop publishing software became a thing. More work for "skilled" labour such as journalists, we thought. A machine can't replace a creative, we thought. Wrong. Today at Associated Press we learned about the automation of the stock exchange earnings reports, little league baseball and from next year college basketball. Essentially these are now being written by robots. The result, we are told, is that instead of reports on a handful of companies all Fortune 500 companies can be reported on AND the reporters are freed from the drudgery of this mundane work. In short, the creatives can create. While they are not churning out financial feeds they get to play with augmented reality, data visualization or on demand audio. It's the same story at all the big players, we've visited. New partnerships, new technology, new ways to tell stories. Digital first is dead. Long live the mobile era. Forget the home page. People aren't coming to you through the front door, they are entering through the side gate with social sharing being the big way of discovering what's happening. But with these new opportunities come new problems such as fake news. For the people at Google, that's a big one this week after widely recirculated inaccurate stories about Donald Trump scoring a greater percentage of the total vote than Hilliary Clinton. Identifying such material in real time and removing ads is not going to be easy but the staff say they are determined to crack this nut. At least the magnificent views, free food and office scooters will make the work environment pleasant while they work on a solution.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

November 15. Day 320. Start spreading the news

 I've seen the future and I like the look of it (sort of). So first stop this morning was at USA Today where we sat in on the morning news conference and then got down to business - where getting down to business included playing with the Virtual Reality tools the company is playing with to tell journalism. The company has a VR team of 8 and think that virtual reality is about to break out of the realm of gamers and hit the eyes of "normal people". Indeed they think 2017 will be the year that happens. I admit a bit (okay a great deal) of skepticism on this point but I am hardly an expert. Then on to NPR where podcasts and the new NPR One App are the flavour of the day. We are used to video on demand but radio on demand has been a bit slower and NPR looks like it has cracked the code.
And then? Union Station and off to New York, New York. Oh happy days.

Monday, November 14, 2016

November 14. Day 319. Brave new world

 I was given The White House today. Sure this White House is probably crappier than any model I could have bought from a souvenir stand. What made this White House special was not only that it was a gift, not only that it was a 3D printed model but it was a left over from a Washington Post journalism initiative. On election night, people on the Washington Post website could watch 3D printers create a model White House as each of the 270 votes needed to gain power was secured. There was a red White House (Trump) and a blue one (Clinton) growing before our eyes. It is, indeed, an exciting time to be a journalist even if somewhat insecure. My head is exploding from things I have learned already about where journalism is heading. My heart is exploding from being able to sit in a Washington Post afternoon news conference and watch the editors debate tomorrow's front page and from being in the actual Watergate building. There is so much history and tradition in the places we visited today but it's their future not their past that is so fascinating - that and their willingness to share both their expertise and time. It's a brave new world out there.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

November 13. Day 318. Keeping the flame alight

According to the commentary on the Washington DC tourist bus I caught today, the eternal flame on JF Kennedy's grave at Arlington National Cemetery has been extinguished only twice - once during a hurricane and one when an over zealous group of Catholic school girls doused it in holy water. I can not verify this (because I have not tried) because in this instance I prefer the old journalistic adage: never let truth get in the way of a good story. Now the truth is that my "profession" has not been journalist for some years but you can not take the journalist out of the girl that easily. I can be waiting for the tour bus and the noise of a procession breaks the normal city buzz. Ears and camera point in the direction of the commotion. See protesters with signs outside Trump Towers, camera snaps in a reflex action. So tonight I was in my element. Tonight I met many of the group who will be my buddies on this media innovations tour of Washington and New York. There are 13 in all and I win the prize for having travelled the furthest to be here. As well as the US-based journalists, there is a woman from the national broadcaster in Denmark, a bloke from South Africa and a journo from Mexico. Tonight's cocktail hour followed by dinner set the scene for what promises to be five most entertaining, illuminating and educational days. Quite frankly, I can not wait. The eternal flames of my journalistic soul are burning bright. Note to self. Stay well clear of any group of Catholic school girls carrying holy water.