Thursday, August 31, 2017

August 31. Day 243. Droning on

Fun facts I learned today.
1. Elephants are actually afraid of buzzing insects. I thought that was something cartoonists had invented.
Apparently not. Sally French, AKA The Drone Girl, revealed this during a special presentation to QUT journalism students.
Sally, a Californian native and drone journalism expert, is in Brisbane this week for the World Congress of Drones. This is way too much of a good thing for me to let slide. So I invited her to the campus and she agreed to come. Score. In a wide ranging presentation Sally talked about the good, the bad and the ethical of drones, especially when in the hands of journalists. We learned that rather than shoot elephants who encroach on valuable crops, farmers had learned to take advantage of the elephants' fear of buzzing animals. The drones simulate the insects and herd the elephants away. Drones also have a role to play in whale conservation. Fun Fact 2. Tiny drones known as snot bots can collect DNA samples from the snot whales blow out. This is in equal measures gross and awesome. Drones can be used by journalists in environmental stories, natural disasters, search and rescue, sports or protests. The important thing is not the drone but the footage and what you do with it. The drone isn't the story and nor is the footage alone. It's what you do with it. As drones become cheaper and easier to operate, the questions of how they can be safely and ethically used become greater. This is why I need one NOW. How can I possibly teach this without a drone. The catalogues are wrong. Drones are not the must have gift for Dad this Father's Day on Sunday. They are the gift every mum who just happens to be a journalism lecturer deserves.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

August 30. Day 242. Say 'cheese'

Parenting makes you utter phrases you never imagined possible. "Did you vomit in my shoe?" "Please don't hide in the dishwasher" or "Stop putting Lego up your nose". These things flow out of your mouth with far more ease than they really should.
Today I introduced myself to a professional colleague with the line "I'm Cheese's mother". Brie may be a name but Cheese? Seriously. The drama lecturer walked into the lecture theatre and started setting up masks just as I was leaving. We exchanged small talk. I recognised him as I'd seen him at various theatres around town. My son had pointed him out as one of his tutors, a bloke who remembers students' names by giving each a crazy nickname. My boy is cheese because that's what he'd had in his crepes on the day of the naming ceremony. As someone who is completely crap at remembering names I reckon it's pretty ingenious. I also don't think I'd be any better at remembering a student if I called her Coriander instead of Rosemary. Faces I'm good with. Names not so much but a bloke who specialises in mask work isn't likely to be able to use facial recognition. So like every photographer in the world, the only thing left to you is to say"Cheese".

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

August 29. Day 241. Don't stop till you get enough

It was Michael Jackson who, at the height of the Disco era, told us not to stop until we had enough. Honestly I still don't know enough what, partly because the lyrics were not decipherable and partly because one was never sure that it was Mr Jackson would have been after in large amounts. For me it's food and sleep. Not necessarily in that order. Some poor bloke sitting at the water's edge at South Bank today was left in no doubt about what the birds wouldn't stop without. They were after his food and they had every intention of dive bombing him until they got it. It was not just one bird or even one species of birds. He ended up looking like Snow White with those forest birds around her head. But he stood his ground clearly determined that he was not going to stop enjoying his twilight rest until he's had enough, fair call. I mean, why would you move just because you are under avian attack?

A special preview of [title of show]

No, there wasn't an error in the headline. The title of the show is [title of show]. The Broadway musical is about two struggling New York writers creating a musical for a theatre festival which they hope will go all the way to Broadway. 
Three weeks before entries close they have nothing just the form with those square brackets where they were to insert the entry's title. The creators, Jeff Bowen Brook and Hunter Bell, decided it looked fine just like that. So [title of show] became the title of the show. 
Alex Woodward, the artistic director and founder of Understudy Productions, admits it's not the easiest title to market. 
"I've had people say 'did you stuff up this email'?" admits Alex.
With less than a week before the  Brisbane-based production company opens [title of show] at the Hayward Street Studios at Stafford, Alex admits to being permanently stressed but excited.
Speaking outside the rehearsal space in the Burke Street Studios in Woolloongabba, Alex says there are challenges in attracting attention for lesser known musicals. But, he says, the philosophy of Understudy Productions is not about playing it safe. "It's much harder, but part of what I really wanted to do with Understudy Productions is I wanted to put on works that don't usually get done or if they are works that have been done I wanted to do them in really, really different ways."
Another challenge is that in the original Broadway production Jeff and Hunter play themselves. Alex isn't fazed by that.
"I always come from the perspective that you can never be that person but I can find the similarities in myself and the other performers can find the similarities with the other characters," he says. "I also think there is no point in doing a show exactly the same as its been done. What's the point? Why bother. If people have seen it, why bother?"
Of course, not all promoters or artistic directors share that point of view, given the high rate of repeat seasons of top performing musicals to our city.
"I think it's just because it's very safe. Doing this is such a risk from a producing point of view, money wise. If you are a big company you want to do something you know is going to put bums on seats."
But, Alex says, Brisbane has shown itself to be a city whose residents have a huge appetite for musical theatre and it is now time for the independent scene to step up and provide new opportunities.
"I think it's the job of the independent arts scene to put those shows on that we don't usually get. There are finally some theatres here in Brisbane we are trying to do that with."
He lists the high caliber performing arts training programs in Brisbane and says it should no longer be the expectation that the graduates need to move to Sydney or Melbourne to find work.
"We just need the hubs to perform and producers to put the shows on for people to perform. We don't need to move. We just need people to grow the culture."
[title of show] is one more step along the part to achieving that.
Alex says the music is clever, the show is funny and it's something Brisbane's musical theatre junkies will take to if they give it a go.
"This is great for Brisbane audiences. It's funny. It's not something you get to see all that often here. It's exciting in that sense."
[title of show] stars Alex, Jason McGovern, Aurelie Rogue and Lauren McKenna. 
Tickets are available from the Hayward Street Studios website. Listen to our full interview with Alex Woodward here.

Monday, August 28, 2017

August 28. Day 240. Three's a crowd

There one thing you probably don't consider when you decide great big balloons would be an awesome gift for a friend's 19th birthday - the wind. While waiting outside the ABC to do lunch with my friend Donna, I saw a young woman wrestling balloons. We chatted. She was also meeting a friend for a birthday lunch and was intending to gift the balloons. The friend - not the type to draw attention to herself - would have the pleasure of carrying the balloons. That's what friends are for, right? 

Donna arrived and we left for lunch. Normally when Donna returns home from Japan we are a lunch threesome with Shelley. A funeral prevented that today. The birds decided we needed company. Actually they decided they should join the lunch. The birds at South Bank are a little bit over enthusiastic. At least I was able to protect the delicious chocolates Donna presented me with. Yay, and I didn't have to wrestle with balloons blowing in the wind. Win and win.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

August 27. Day 239. Having a ball on your birthday

The pocket rocket Scarlett in yellow
Kids these days, seriously. As I mentioned yesterday, I've been to two 21st birthday parties this year. In both cases the person we were toasting was a non drinker. The champagne flowed all around but not in their glasses. Back in my day ... we would have all woken up feeling like we'd died or wished that was the case. And today, the morning after the night before on my niece Scarlett's actual birthday, she was at the University of Queensland for a larcrose tournament. It was hot. It was full on and she was totally up for it. Your wallet, your liver and your Sunday thank you for being a non drinker. There was no way my 21-year-old self would have kept up the pace with or without a big night the night before. Indeed my much older self was tired just watching it and went home at half time. Still given larcrose is something she loves there's probably no better way to celebrate a milestone birthday.

August 26. Day 238. That's incredible

Isn't she incredible? My delightful niece Scarlett celebrated her 21st birthday tonight. It's the second 21st birthday I've been to this year. As it happens it's one of two 21st birthday parties I could have attended tonight. Life is like that. It goes in cycles. It's 18th birthday parties every weekend, then 21sts, then weddings, then baby showers, then kids parties and 40th birthdays and 50th birthdays. Now we are back to 21sts. It's pretty cool really. It was a delightful event with family and friends and far too much really awesome food. And champagne. Quality champagne. The wonderful thing about 21 Mark II is that I have learned a little bit about moderation (not when it comes to food obviously). I enjoyed the champagne but only to the extent that I could drive home. So I got to enjoy all the party and remember it. Probably just as well because that delightful non drinking 21-year-old does not need an aunt dancing on the table - or worse. I need to make sure I'm still invited to future weddings, baby showers, kids parties ....

Friday, August 25, 2017

August 25. Day 237. Ladies who lunch

 The birds in our street were not happy today. Margaret was missing from the feeding station. It's Friday. Margaret, who has a very fixed regime, does not go out on Fridays. That's the day Meals on Wheels brings the weekend supplies. The Meals on Wings service is also supposed to be fully operational. Not today. Since the fall and the subsequent hospitalisation Margaret's mobility has not been good where not been good is defined as even more dreadful than usual. I just could not see her negotiating her front steps to head out by taxi to the hairdresser. It's an important part of that fixed regime for a woman who has her hair washed a set once a week. Thursdays equal hairdresser. So I offered to take her but Thursday teaching commitments meant Friday was the only option. She insisted on buying me lunch in return and I'm not going to refuse fish and chips. So we were gone for quite some time. The avian welcoming party on our return was quite special. I think there was quite literally a pecking order. By the time I'd delivered Margaret and the groceries safely inside the kookaburras, butcher birds, magpies, crows, turkeys and noisy miners had all stopped by. Seems so unfair. For me there was no such thing as a free lunch. I didn't see the birds having to put out. Still it was a small price to pay for the peace of mind of knowing her first venture out after the hospital stay was a safe one.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

August 24. Day 236. Colourful character

 A bloke who used to be Spencer Howson dropped by my lecture theatre this morning. I say this very much tongue in cheek because you don't need to be a breakfast radio announcer to be an awesome guest speaker about the value social media engagement in modern journalism. Among the wise words this morning was the sage advice: pick up the bottle, put down the phone. Many a career or a reputation has been ruined by drunk tweeting. There was also a warning to think before political tweeting. That, he said, didn't mean don't do it just consider the implications. It may hurt your career...or you may go on to a career in politics and then who cares? And like just about everyone else this week, he reminded the students to enrol to vote. As I type you have 15 minutes. Go.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

August 23. Day 235. Breast in show

 An exhibitionist I am not. Frankly I do not think the world need to see my breasts. Flashing them or drawing attention to them is not a "thing" I do. The closest I get to breast exposure is watching The Bachelor too closely where quite frankly luck and double-sided tape is the only thing that comes between breast tissue and a wardrobe malfunction. But like any rule there are exceptions and in my case that comes down to the mammogram. Let us be honest about this, while not as dire as the pap smear, the mammogram does not have a lot going for it in terms of fun things to do on a Wednesday afternoon. Having a stranger push your boob into a most uncomfortable positions and then squish it between two hard cold plates does not have a lot going for it. Except of course it has a whole lot going for it which is early detection and the chance to live a longer, happier life. Yep, mammograms suck but we all know the alternative is far, far worse.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

August 22. Day 234. Hair-raising

There was a story on an online news site about three weeks ago that continues to haunt me. Considering all the truly dreadful things that are happening in the world at the moment, the nature of this story surely seems rather inane. But to me it was deeply shocking. Ethicists in growing numbers think it is wrong to keep pets. The issue stems down to treating living things as property; choosing where they live, what the eat, when they exercise and in many cases how and where they die. The article went on that just as we now frown on animals in circuses, the tide will turn on animals as pets. I follow the argument but I reject it out of hand. I reject it because I think the treatment of the animal, the motives of the owner and the feeling of the pets must surely count for something. Yes, Rumple and Winkle make my life a whole lot better, every single day. But it's not all about me. They make life better because of the enormous amount of love they radiate every single time I walk into a room. They love me as much as I love them. They do have choice. They can be anywhere in the house or garden and day or night they will be curled up by a human member of the family, generally with each other. They choose where we go for a walk. they choose when we play ball. They choose where they sleep. There are times when I lay down the law - such as haircut day today - but it is only for their comfort and well being. So ethicists, I challenge to come meet my dogs and look us all in the eyes and tell us there is a moral problem with our relationship. These are not the faces of abuse or neglect. These are the faces of my family. I rest my case.

Monday, August 21, 2017

August 21. Day 233. Have we got story for you

Hugh Parker

Rhys Muldoon
When you've starred in everything from House Husbands to Play School having people come up and interrupt you during a chat is almost certainly an occupational hazard, an irritation. Let me tell you, however, in the unlikely event that Rhys Muldoon happens to butt in on your chat, the feeling is not reciprocated. I know this because it happened today. Drama Teen and I were interviewing Queensland Theatre's artistic director Sam Strong about the 2018 program when up rocked Rhys. He will star as Isaac Newton in David Williamson's new play Nearer The Gods in October. He's greatly looking forward to portraying Newton "an utter bastard" but that's not what he was chomping at the bit to talk about. He was desperately interested in The Longest Minute about the 2015 NRL Grand Final where the Cowboys beat the Broncos 17-16 thanks to a Johnathan Thurston field goal. Rhys outed me immediately as a
David Williamson
non-football fan. Clearly this is because he's an actor and I am not. That was the second surprise of the afternoon. The first surprise came just before we hit the record button on our interview with Australia's most prolific and successful playwright David Williamson. Fan boy Oliver brought out a copy of The Club for Williamson to sign. It turns out that two of Williamson's sons had to study The Club at school. Class mates were less than impressed with the unfair advantage this would give them. Williamson decided that if his son was going to be targeted he might as well get the inside knowledge. He sat him down and told him everything about the play which was duly reproduced on the HSC paper. It was the only piece of assessment his son failed. Note to self. Never enlist David Williamson for homework help. If, however, you want a story featuring greatly conflicted individuals and moral ambiguity, Williamson is your man. His ability to capture an audience with a great stories showing no sign of fading and nor is his enthusiasm for his craft.
The third interview was with Hugh Parker who will star as Richard Hannay in The 39 Steps. I consider Hugh as one of our state's best comic actors. He says it wasn't always that way. Although he has played Hannay before in Scotland, he was better known for more serious roles before being approached by former Queensland Theatre artistic director Wesley Enoch to give comedy a go. He took to it like a duck to water and he's delighted to have a second opportunity to bring the boys' own adventure that is the 39 Steps to life again . I can't wait. And that's just the tip of the iceberg in the 2018 program. You can hear our review of the program here.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

August 20. Day 232. May the force be with you

 I have been known to insinuate that I teach lecture rooms half full of crash test dummies - especially early on a Monday morning. In general terms this is not a university student's finest hour. There's a lot of intelligent life out there but it can be doing a really good job of hiding the fact. Perhaps I misjudged them. Perhaps they are super intelligent AND lifeless. They might just be robots, an area of research my university specialises in. Today was Robotronica, a celebration of all there is to know and love about robotics, AI, surgical bots, panda-bots and more. Th Garden Points campus was packed with geek, nerds and thousands of families determined to see the future or indeed the present. Given my super non-geek status I as just passing through on my way to elsewhere. However what I saw made me believe there is hope that one day I will achieve my childhood dream of having a maid just like Rosie the Robot in the Jetsons.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

August 19. Day 231. Jumping for joy

So I'm a little bit happy. For the third year in a row I've entered photos in the Brisbane exhibition - The Ekka. While the winners are announced in advance, there's a competition within a competition. Because there are so many entries in the photographic classes each photo has to be considered worth just to make it on to the walls. The only way to see if you have made the grade is to check it out yourself (or wait until the exhibits are returned and check the back for a magic sticker). The magic sticker is good. A walk around the show grounds and a Dagwood Dog is better. So off I went, camera in hand. Both my mum and my husband had already been. they reported seeing one of my photos on display. Considering I entered eight that would have been a little disappointing. In fact seven made the passing grade and two have a coveted Commended Certificate. That makes 2017 my best year to date. Ironically I felt my pics this year weren't up to the previous two years. It shows you how little I actually know about photography. Still I'll take the spoils with a big fat juicy smile - and a Dagwood Dog with sauce.

Friday, August 18, 2017

August 18. Day 230. Oh sh*t!

 As a general rule, I find looking at the world through the lens of a camera heightens my attention to detail and my focus, if you like.
But not always. Every rule is made to be broken. So it was when taking pics of a little pied cormorant sunning itself in the city botanic gardens today. I was attracted by its wings which it was flapping about. It was only when I got home that I noticed that there was action happening at the other end. It seems I interrupted a private moment. Oh sh*t. And it was quite impressive given the size of the little thing. It was clearly deeply satisfying too. We were all bad attitude up to that point and after that far more contented with the world. It just goes to show that some things are the same no matter which species you are.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

August 17. Day 229. Laugh, kookaburra laugh

As an Australian (and I am a true blue, ridgee didge, electable to Federal parliament Australian) it is essential that I love kookaburras. Kookas are beautiful birds with laughs that bring a smile to your face even when they wake you before dawn. But my love has limits. Let's face it, Kookaburras are  a little bit intimidating especially when up close and personal. Their beaks are serious instruments designed to catch and kill snakes and rodents. This does not seem to worry my neighbour Margaret. She actually hand feeds them. Today during my visit, not one but two kookas were at Margaret's fly through restaurant. Margaret told me one was male - it had blue markings - and the one with the white markings was female. She had mince on the window sill but also let the birds - see prefers the Aussie slang term jackies  - take bits from her hand. I'd be afraid they'd take a finger or two. There's nothing about a kookaburra that appears in any way malicious but the mere power can not be ignored. What was unmistakable was just how pleased Margaret was at the return of all her beloved birds to her window.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

August 16. Day 228. Home sweet home

Look who's back where she belongs. After 10 days in hospital, my neighbour Margaret was allowed home today. In her own words she was as pleased as punch. As soon as she was she back in her favourite chair, she was up for visitors - of the four-legged kind. The truth is she would have been hard pressed to keep them away. The dogs heard my car come in. They heard our voices and they were kicking up quite a stink about the injustice of not being allowed a visit. The joy of both parties was unmistakable. This really shouldn't have come as much of a surprise. Margaret insisted on having a copy of Winkle Did a Wee with her in hospital to show the nurses ... and the physios ... and the other patients ... and their visitors. She loves those dogs. They love her. Life is back as it should be.