Monday, November 20, 2017

November 20. Day 324. Hard to digest

Bloody annoying things cicadas. I'd rather not have to listen to them but at the same time I normally avoid watching them being consumed whole. Okay, the natural order of things dictates that noisy friar birds eat cicadas. They just do although until today I've never actually witnessed it. At this time of year the cicadas are swarming and when that happens an opportunist bird is going to pick off one or two. I mean, those little suckers don't exactly take steps to avoid detection. Just the opposite. The sound of the cicada is a sound of summer, just like like the cricket. Officially we are still a couple of weeks short of the start of summer but I'm prepared to go early. My evidence is as follows: 1. I'm at the beach. 2. Second semester marks were locked and loaded today. 3. The Ashes test starts at The Gabba on Thursday. 4. The Schoolies have descended on the Gold Coast and 5. The ads for mangoes and cherries have begun. Roll on summer. Just remember the insect repellent.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

November 19. Day 323. The early bird

I think today's weather may have been decided by committee. It was like a compromise decision where no-one ended up with a satisfactory outcome. But it could have been worse. All night it rained. It would ease off and then bucket down. Repeat. By morning it looked like it may have cleared. It turned out to be a false dawn but the rain respite held up for long enough for a trip to the beach to allow the dogs to run wild and our young visitor Molly to jump in the sand and collect shells. And then we retreated before the rain returned - plus it was time for breakfast. The birds had a jump on us. On the path from the beach a grey butcherbird was already grazing. According to BirdsinBackyards, this avian preys on small animals hiding uneaten food in the fork or branch of a tree or impaling it. That explains exactly what I saw going on. I love it when I see a creature behaving exactly as the guide predicts. And then I went home and ate the food I'd hidden uneaten in the door of the fridge, just the way nature intended.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

November 18. Day 322. Soggy Saturday

I've found myself in weird positions in pursuit of "the money shot" but today's antics were right up there. The dogs and I made it as far as the front gate when it started to pour in the style of Noah's Ark. I don't mind drizzle on my walk but not torrential downpour. So we retreated. No beach photos today. But rain or no rain, the birds still need to eat so they settled in the bottlebrush outside. They were soggy and the best place to capture that was from the bathroom. It seemed kind of ironic to be taking a wet photo standing in a bathtub but there you have it.

Friday, November 17, 2017

November 17. Day 321. Four and twenty black birds

I get terribly excited when I photograph a bird that I haven't shot before. I also get terribly excited when I christen a new lens. Yes, I have a sad life. Anyway, be that as it may today I photographed yellow tailed black cockatoos for the first time with a brand spanking new 70-300 lens.
I LOVE a zoom lens. It is my lens of preference and the one I use 95% of the time.
My old one has taken a battering.
It was near retirement. But the issue was forced yesterday when it went missing. Two weeks on the beach without a zoom lens felt unthinkable (although the wide angle works pretty well for the sunrise pic). Anyway, I bought myself an early Christmas present.
The universe applauded my decision by sending a very large flock of yellow tailed black cockatoos to play exactly where Drama Teen, the dogs and I take our afternoon beach walk.
And it's not as though black cockatoos are the type of bird you have to crawl quietly through the trees to spot. These guys are noisy, really noisy and big fat posers. Perfect.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

November 16. Day 320. Soaring

Hello holidays. For the next two weeks I will be at the Sunshine Coast with dogs. Other family members will come and go as their commitments allow. This is a break I booked in the middle of hepatitis hell. My plan is to walk along the beach in the morning and afternoon and do not much else. So I started as I planned to finish... with a nap when we arrived followed by an afternoon beach walk. The dogs agreed it was an excellent plan, Rumple even broke out one of his signature begs for nothing in particular as far as we could tell. He was just happy. This time we are at Mudjimba, a decision based entirely on the availability of dog-friendly accommodation near an off leash beach. The people who wear the pants in this family don't even own pants. No-one is complaining. It's how we all like it.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

November 15. Day 319. Yes, yes, yes ... but it still bugs me

The postal vote results are in. Our nation has supported Same Sex Marriage. This is, of course, awesome. This is, of course, well overdue. But I can't help but feel seriously annoyed. Our politicians are weak and spineless. Our politicians are crazily cavalier with our $$$. We are somehow supposed to be over-joyed that the vote "only" cost $100 million. Sure that is $23 million cheaper than the projected cost. It is also $100 million more than should have been spent. The result was pretty much exactly what the opinion polls predicted and they cost the public nothing. But rather than except the public will, rather than do what they are paid for they outsourced the responsibility. Sure in a democratic system, the public's opinion matters bit we exercise that through the ballot box not the mail. Yes, we achieved the right result. But hell we went the wrong way about it.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

November 14. Day 318. My Christmas crackers

 For retailers, Christmas seems to start in about September. Certainly as soon as the witches hats and spiders of Halloween are removed from the shelves, the tinsel and baubles are decorating the aisles. And those hideous Christmas carols start to assault our ears. I have a two-staged approach to the start of the festive season. Stage two is December 1 when the Christmas tree goes up. Stage one is the annual dog grooming with Christmas bows and subsequent photo session. So it's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. The fur babies will have another trim just so they look nice not naughty for Santa but they have to get their awesome on early for the Christmas card photo. Once again, the nailed the brief.

Monday, November 13, 2017

November 13. Day 317. What a load of rubbish

They are aged between 9 and 16 and they are amazing. For a start, the things that they can do with their bodies are quite extraordinary, even allowing for the fact that they are young and flexible. These 12 young people are members of the Flipside Circus performance troupe. Between November 24 and December 2, the troupe will stage four performances of Wasteland at the Brisbane Powerhouse. Today they invited me in to check out their rehearsal and explained the philosophy behind their show. Exhibiting wisdom far beyond their years, the performers talked about using the physicality of circus and waste and reclaimed products rather traditional circus equipment to talk about the damage we are doing to the environment. We need to clean up our act - literally - or we will all have to leap over mountains of junk. Expect tumbling, aerials and juggling in a show about resilience, survival and the collective need to do better. And expect to see plastic shopping bags in ways far beyond what the makers intended. I'll miss this show because I'll be out of town. The rest of you shouldn't let the opportunity go to waste!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

November 12. Day 316. Popping out

If sleeping was to become an Olympic sport, today I put in a gold medal performance.
Drug test me if you like, but I promise my lack of performance in anything productive today was in no way influenced by substances.
I just crashed into a wall and couldn't get up.
It could be that a party and the theatre yesterday was too much for my recovering body.
Or it could be the virus circulating around the house came down upon me like a tonne of bricks.
But either way, any more than 30 minutes vertical and I needed to sleep for several hours.
By late afternoon, I decided I had to force myself to do something, anything.
Drama Teen and the dogs agreed to accompany me. We walked around the University of Queensland lakes.
The fresh air and sunshine was good for the soul.
And then I went home and went to bed.
Because that's what I do.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

November 11. Day 315. Fifty years and counting

Fifty years. That's a long time in anyone's language. That's almost as long as I've been alive. That's two life sentences in the Queensland legal system. That's also how long my "neighbours" John and Clare have been married. Technically they are not my neighbours any more but they were for most of my youth. They don't even live next door to Mum any more. Neither party moved but as is the way in Brisbane, a subdivision means there is a house in between. Anyway back to John and Clare, two wonderful people who are kind, giving and generous to anyone in need. Both seemed genuinely surprised to see my siblings and our families at the celebration at Shorncliffe today. Yeah, right. If you can't make a gathering twice in a century what kind of a friend are you? Congratulations to both.

Friday, November 10, 2017

November 10. Day 314. He works hard for the money

Marking sucks. It really does but even I have to admit that there are much harder ways to earn a living. Not only can I mark in my PJs, I actually don't even need to get out of bed. When I find it all too much I can just roll over and have a nap. Compared to many I have it easy. Tonight in the Mall I met a busker, the likes of whom I'd never seen before. He was supporting his weight on a basketball and dancing. His upper body strength was incredible. His lower limbs were missing. Between songs, or when the crowd thinned he's lie on the cold mall pavers and regain his strength. Then he was up and at 'em again. We chatted. I think he said his name was John but my marking weary brain has forgotten. I commented that it looked exhausting and he said it's work and everyone's job is tiring in its own way. Perhaps but while I sometimes feel like I've processed my own body weight in essays I know it's not true. And I don't have to rely on tips ... which is probably just as well.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

November 9. Day 313. Technically speaking, it's awesome

Guess what? I am a theatre tragic. I know. This piece of news comes as a stunning surprise (not).
I love every bit of the theatrical process. And tonight I saw one of the best examples of the craft, The Wizard of Oz, at QPAC. I left the theatre singing "we're off to see the Wizard".
Richard Rodgers, of Rodgers and Hammerstein fame, is right. "No-one leaves the theatre humming the scenery".
But he's also wrong. Implicit in that statement is that compared to the music, the set is irrelevant. Wrong, wrong, wrong. The music might be in your head but the lights, the sound, the set design, the special effects all of those things combine to create the awesomeness that is live theatre. The technical production team are the unsung heroes of the stage.
Today I wandered through an exhibit of the work of graduating QUT Technical production students. There was the lighting and wizardry as well as the models that brought productions to life. It was a wonderful thing. I'm sure I'll see their work on stages across the country in the future. Unfortunately, there's every chance I won't know because are the behind the scene magic makers of the theatre. So right now I'm taking the opportunity to say thanks for what you have done and what you are about to do.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

November 8. Day 312. Where there's a will, there's a relative

 There's this porcelain dog that has sat on a window pelmet in my mother's lounge room for at least four decades. It's hideous. My siblings and I all hate it. I joke that one day we will all be fighting over who should get that dog. As the saying goes "where there's a will, there's a relative". I'm confident my family is immune to this type of mean, vindictive, angry, ugly dynamic. But the people we love are often the people we are worst to. And that's the basis of The Lonesome West, a play by Martin McDonagh. It's insightful, dark and deeply troubling but at the same time irreverent and very, very funny. Like life, it's full of contradictions. It is, like the setting, very Irish. And being Irish there is much boozing, religion and a lot of lyrical language. It's hardly a positive reflection on family dynamics and you won't leave the theatre doing cartwheels of joy up Brunswick Street but it will make you think and stay with you for a long time.
The Lonesome West by Troop Productions is on at the Judith Wright Centre until Saturday November 18. Listen to our interview with the creatives or hear our review .

November 7. Day 311. I'll eat my hat

Melbourne Cup Day. It would be un-Australian not to mark the occasion. I'm still not much or a party animal and I'm sure as hell not going to test my liver with anything stronger than a sparkling mineral water. So I invited some work colleagues over for a very sensible lunch. I made them wear very non-sensible hats because it is Melbourne Cup Day. I hadn't actually left the house to place a bet so I decided to go all high tech and use the William Hill app. It was the least intuitive app, I've ever used. I managed to back Johannes Vermeer $5 each way twice. When it came in second, I wasn't so concerned about the inadequacy of the app. I was not, however, as excited as Drama Teen who backed the winner. Indeed, A Die Hard quote Yippie-Ki-Yay, Motherf***** may have come out of his mouth. Well if it's good enough for John McClane .....

Monday, November 6, 2017

November 6. Day 310. Nice work if you can get it

I am in equal measures impressed by the athleticism of dragonflies and appalled by morbid fascination of watching creatures having sex.
Today was back at work #Day 1. I slept really badly. I always sleep really badly the night before I return to work after an extended period off. In the end, I marked essays from midnight until 3am. Marking seemed preferable to watching the ceiling. Also it meant I had three hours of marking credit allowing me a nap and a wander around South Bank. I watched the ducks go dive bombing. I like watching ducks splashing around. In that state the analogy that ducks are calm on top and paddling like mad under the water falls apart. In that state, the ducks are like the rest of us, head down, bum up furiously paddling trying to stay afloat. But I found myself distracted by the dragonflies. Mid air mating takes style and stamina. I'm impressed. It sure beats marking.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

November 5. Day 309. Room for improvement

I've watched a lot of home improvement shows and through them I've learned two clear messages:
1. Throw cushions are essential and
2. Renovations always take a lot longer and are a lot more complicated than initially planned for.
The throw cushions I can deal with. The renovations, not so much. So I feel really, really sorry for Villanova Players.  Their home at Morningside TAFE was closed for a short time while work on the campus was carried out. By the time they move back in next year, they will have been gone for three years. In the interim they have been performing at the Yeronga State High School auditorium. It means the sets have to be moved in and out after each show to let the school go about its business in school hours. In addition the fees paid to the school over the period, have covered the cost of air conditioning the auditorium. It will be nice and cool just as they are counting down to move out. But in the best theatrical tradition, the show must go on. This is not a theatre group that takes the easy way out. I mean, why perform the Shakespearean comedy Much Ado about Nothing as The Bard originally intended when you can re-image it and set it in the wild west? It's risky but the risks paid off. Performing the work in a combination of Mexican accents and Texan drawl made absolute sense - at least to me. But not everyone was convinced and one patron was quite prepared to tell the director why she got it wrong. The accents made it too hard to follow, she said. That wasn't my experience. But let's assume for a minute she was right. What exactly would she hope to achieve by confronting the director? It's not as though it would be possible to switch accents mid run even if you wanted to. So in my mind it falls into the category of "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all". Or at least take the approach I employ with marking, something I call a positivity sandwich. Start and end your feedback with a positive and sandwich the "room for improvement" bit in the middle. You can learn from your mistakes without being beaten around the head with them... Well that's my opinion. Feel free to correct me. But please soften the blow with throw cushions.
You can hear our review of Much Ado About Nothing here

Saturday, November 4, 2017

November 4. Day 308. Brotherly love

I met my neighbour Margaret's baby brother Laurence today. She was  telling the gathering of family and neighbours that Laurence, who lives at Bribie Island, did not feel capable of driving to her 90th birthday party. And then out of nowhere 86-year-old Laurence appeared. What he didn't say was that while he couldn't drive, his son could pick her up and bring him. Her delight was immediate and obvious and so was his. They sat side by side for the two hour gathering. Four generations of Margaret's family were present at the gathering. She was in her element, as happy as a pig in mud. The reminisced. Laurence confessed to being a bit of a terror as a young one. He told me about hiding under the house and listening while his family frantically looked for him. He talked about going to school at Dutton Park State School in the shadow of the still operating prison. He told me about the fish and crabs he used to catch, too many for anyone in the area to eat.  And they laughed and ate and drank lemonade. And Margaret tickled and played with 16-month-old Olivia, the youngest member of the extended family.
Margaret had said 90 was no big deal because her mother had lived to one hundred and one and eight months.
But she was clearly delighted that others thought differently.
She was also pleased to be using her mother's wheelchair for the first time.
It was like her mother was at the gathering in a small way
By nightfall she was tired, her house looked like a florist but she was very, very happy with how things went.