Friday, February 26, 2010

The leaf takes the ice

Globe & Mail.

The Canadian women wrap it up. That's three Olympic Hockey* Golds in a row.

Can the boys do it too?

*On this blog that's always Ice Hockey.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Historic Theatre under threat

We discovered on our visit to the Castlemaine (in regional Victoria) on Saturday that the historic and attractive Theatre Royal is under threat. Ironically the problem is because of the cinema's age, and it is also exacerbated by the same longevity. The summary of the issue on the theatre's website says:

The Castlemaine Theatre Royal is a 150 year old gold rush building that requires expensive refurbishment to meet modern Building Code regulations. If the required works are not completed the Theatre will be forced to close.

Many of the Theatre Royal’s heritage features are now non-compliant due to modern Building Code regulations. These include the height of the handrail on the main staircase, the height of the balcony barrier and the size and nature of the external fire escapes. The works will be complicated and expensive due to Heritage restrictions.

Because of today’s tough economic times, the operators of the Theatre do not have the necessary financial resources to bring this 150 year-old building up to modern building standards. Over the past five years they have made a significant financial contribution to the building (in the region of A$200,000 - US$180,000, £116,000), however these essential works are beyond their means.

They need A$300,000 (US$270,000, £175,000) to bring this 150 year-old building up to standard. Apparently, the Theatre Royal meets the Heritage Section ‘Jobs Fund’ criteria as it provides significant social, cultural and economic benefit to the community. We’ve certainly found the ice creams of great value. And one of the reasons I like it very much is because of the very Art Deco fa├žade. Australian often seem to lament their 'lack of history' but as here we do seem to be a bit careless of really supporting the history we do have.

The Theatre Royal has been around for 150 years. It is the oldest continually running theatre on the mainland and an entertainment, community and tourist hub. If it goes, we lose a cultural icon, and there is no guarantee that the theatre business will come back.

Since it first opened its doors in the 1850s the Theatre Royal has served the district by continually providing entertainment in the form of plays, concerts, recitals, cinema and live music, as well as a restaurant and bar. In recent years it has behaved as a much needed community venue for welcoming new residents such as the Sudanese and Burundi, and has also played host to major film premieres such as Rabbit Proof Fence and Romulus My Father.

The theatre has a form here enabling concerned locals to support the application. Anyone that feels they can justify adding their name to the list is asked to do so, it’s a neat place!


Thursday, February 18, 2010

This one's for the fathers

We've been glued to the TV on Thursday nights for a short 20 minute programme called Gourmet Farmer on SBS. This episode has got Ross and Jim written all over it, with whiskey, truffles, fly fishing, smoking fish and venison...

Matthew Evans was a food critic (and before that a chef*) but decided to give that up to go and run his own farm on Tasmania - with no experience. Thankfully the programme, rather than focusing on the inevitable mistakes, tedious hard work and problems, instead looks at the help he gets from the locals and the experiences - particularly with food - that he has, and most of those experiences and certainly the food are tempting - very tempting. Recipes here.

The show streams online after broadcast here in Australia, so I hope it's viewable overseas. This is the penultimate episode of the first series. It's a well put together and - did I mention - tempting show. We even forgive him for his previous Sydney bias.


*Presumably, then, he's going to end up a poacher.

Sketches and scribbles

Last time I mentioned the drawing and painting activity around here, I was frustrated with the lack of depth I was getting in my paintings.

Now it's a week later and I have gained sufficient distance to show you what I was on about! (Click on the images to see larger versions).

This one is a flower-selling kiosk near where I work.

It was closed for an extended Christmas break, like so many businesses do here. It was a hot day and not as many people as usual were out and about, shadows dark, everyone moving slowly because of the humidity.

I realise now that part of the flatness problem I hated about this painting is the choice of angle.

It's at an angle to me where I was sitting, but not enough to create depth, just a sort of sliding flop to the right. Next time, I'll sit somewhere else!

I would also make the transparency of the glass on the booth windows a bit more obvious. It was reflecting on that day, but I could show the shadowy piled up buckets inside.

All is not lost! I liked the scooter parked by the side of the tram stop, next to the kiosk.

There's always something to be learned or to try out. That's why this painting and sketching lark is so addictive.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Yesterday it rained

A lot. And in less than an hour at one stage.

There's some great photos here on The Age's website, and I was coming back from a meeting on the other side of town and took these pics.

Even where the road had sufficient camber for run off, the weight coming down meant there was about a centimetre plus of standing water.

And it was hard to see even with the wipers on top speed.

It didn't take much of a dip in the road to flood it.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Quick sketch

I saw this lady on Collins Street, carrying a tiny, shiny black handbag. She had a short, very round body and a distinct twinkle in her eye. She looked nice.

Tonight I've been wrestling with the vagaries of perspective (bah!) depth (pthbt) and blobification (that's the technical term). Slow steps, we'll get there (wherever that is!)

For now I'm just showing you the sweet Chinese lady, because she makes me smile.


Sky yacht

High observation deck?

Thanks to the photo archives at LIFE magazine, another period post on my Vintage Aero Writer blog. Pop over for a look at a unique yacht and an early example of the bikini.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cannon Safety Inspector

Sometimes there's an advertisement that just raises a wry smile.

This one from here was one of those.

The cannon in question is actually at Williamstown, across the Yarra mouth from Melbourne and somewhere we've been for the odd day out. I'm glad to know the cannon is rendered safe.

It's a good example of how a great little story can be told on film with minimal props. (Obviously, in that case you don't use your own cannon, but 'borrow' one.)

There's actually an irony over the apparent humour of this idea, as there are still thousands of unexploded bombs across Europe and the UK, many buried under the cities. Likewise some display bombs, cannon and missiles have been found to be not quite as safe as was thought. However most of the taller stories are urban myths, of course.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Hot Dog

When it's 34 degrees C (93 F) a black dog takes any shade he can, including the shadow of a lamp post.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Black Saturday

A year ago today was Australia's worst natural civil disaster; by far the worst disaster in Victoria's history. For details see our post here from then, while our 'bushfires' tag gives a lot more detail.

Sadly it's clear that the various authorities have not responded by drawing the lessons and making changes and resources available, despite their glossy brochures endless Royal Commission and emphasis, today, only on the memories of last year. Many hard questions have not been answered, many clear lessons not learned by those in authority, and any rural dweller will be aware that their own safety and future really is up to them and their local community. Fair enough, to a point, but not a good example of 'your tax dollars at work'.

We are heeding the lessons, and remembering that nature will always have the last word.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Linden Art is Open

Today we went to the opening of the Linden Postcard Show with a group of Bev's friends who very nicely also talked to James as well. It was a beautiful day, and a great day out.

With over 1,700 works submitted, there was a great turnout of artists and friends for the pretty brief speeches and prize hand outs. As you can see, the gallery is in a beautiful colonial Melbourne house. Sympathy moment goes to the prize winner who kicked over and broke a (hopefully empty) wineglass while going to collect her prize!

After the talk, everyone surged in to check out the art. It was packed - both on the walls and with people.

Initially it was overwhelming, but when you realised that this stage was best used to look at the people who'd come to be looked at in the opening, and save the pics for later, it became a lot more fun.

There were people of all ages, and it seemed quite a variety of backgrounds, from the "Eye em en artiste" brigade to those you don't normally expect to see in a gallery without bolt cutters and an eye mask.

On an initial glance, the sheer volume of artworks was overwhelming, but once it's clear what it's about, it's actually very straightforward. So here are the headlines:

  • It's a completely open show - any entry submitted and paid for will be exhibited.
  • Every piece has to fit within a 30cm (nearly 12 inch) cube.
  • Any artist can submit work, no more than three pieces.
  • Several will be chosen by the gallery to become postcard subjects - printed for sale - hence the name of the show.
  • Most are for sale from $100 - $400 dollars (£55 -£222, or US$86 - US$347) although one that we really liked turned out to be marked at $7,000 (£3,800, US$6,000)!
(Official stuff here.)

We really enjoyed looking around, and we intend to go back for a later, more considered look. Who knows, we may take the Piggy Bank and buy something! Discussing it between the two of us and with Bev's friends, we felt that the vast majority of the works were both well executed and presented; most had been well framed or mounted. There was very little pretentious art twaddle or kittens & flower paintings, while there was a lot of humour from the 'laugh lightly once and move on' level, to some quite challenging ideas; and another neat thing was that (obviously) within a 30 cm 'box' there were no big pictures that yelled 'look at me' just because of their size. Something else had to be good: the idea or the execution.

In fact, within a tight set of technical parameters, but completely open subject and media, the artist's challenge was to catch the viewer's eye and then to hold it. No mean feat, but as you may see from the pictures here, any four people would probably pick completely different artworks from the same wall space.

And entertainment was provided by two (pretend) Hawaiian Hula girls on ukuleles - certainly the first time I can remember that type of serenade at an art event!

And then we went off to have coffee and cake, where cake and forthright views on art were shared. James marked it the best gallery experience he can recall for quite a while, and there was plenty of material for the patent RK Gallery Game (which may be explained in a forthcoming blog-post. Or not.)

All in all a good day out, and for those that are in reach of St Kilda ("Isn't everyone, Dahling?") we urge you to get down there. The show is on until 27 March 2010.

James & Bev

Thursday, February 4, 2010

On an Anthology of Short Poems

There have always been, throughout my lucky

life, squadrons of quite unexpected flukes

awaiting me at every turn; this is, no doubt,

a decent working-definition of the Nature of

Existence – I am not now, nor have I ever been –

a claimant to Originality!

But since I'm old and

faltering towards… who knows what… I just feel

absurdly grateful for a book – it's one I found

upon the small, select, usually untroubled

local library shelf of verse – I open it and find

at once a poem by that twisted, hunch-backed dwarf

I thought I knew, old Alexander, Pontiff of the Lock,

extolling piss, because its fount would lead

a knowing seeker to the Heart!

This morning, home abed and comfortable in

calm, agnostic Winter dawn, I reached across

the bedside table, narrowly avoiding

spillage of the dregs of last night's

whisky, and found the Book – I smiled again at

Alexander's earthy flaunting of the blunt,

ironic purposes of smut and all its masculine

appeal; but suddenly, quite unannounced , an

unknown medieval poet, in eight small lines brings

Mary to my bed foot, claims attention, runs with

utter confidence – I almost hear his smiling voice –

a well-honed lance into the swelling

heart that every parent must acknowledge – mine's

ever full – and tells me in such simple terms

that under all the blue-robed iconography She

was a but Mother, and the Rood was nothing

to her but an invitation to her own death!

A blessed unbeliever, I am swamped by

inundating tears – a mere millennium or

two between us, God's Mother, and a

Father Finite of a Blissful Brood who'll never

read this – or if they do, they'll shake their

heads and mutter, 'I guess that's what

the silly bugger might have thought of then!'

Ross Kightly

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Interior by night

Hi there.

We're still chuckling over the 'U-S-B-Wine' over here, but I have been doing a little scanning in between downloading Chateau Plonk to my desktop. The drawings and sketches are stacking up gradually.

I bought myself a sketchpad that is for washes as well as pen. It's great. Just a little A5 pad (5 x 8) but big enough to capture fun stuff. It's been in my purse for a week and there are several scenes captured quickly to paint and learn from. I draw them quickly on the spot, straight in pen (no pencil) and then watercolour over later. Maybe a final touch of pen if I buggered up the drawing (perspective sometimes is just so - twisty!)

Here's the first sketch I did and then painted in colour.

This drawing happened on the same night as the Greeks, just before Christmas. I was sitting with James at a table outside, and we could see in to the cafe where one of the women was carefully pouring frothy tops to cappuccini. Everyone was outside, it being so hot!

After a few days, I decided to come back and paint it. I remembered the strong colours -- the reds of the cups and the things on the counter top, the black wall behind her, and the glow inside. So I tried to catch the red and brown warmth of the scene, and it's late-night surreal feel.

After a little watercolour - Traffic cafe, December 2009.

It's definitely getting easier, but still quite a challenge! I was quite happy with the big glass jars on the counter, and the stripey bowl underneath (not stripey in real life but I wanted some red down there to balance it out.)

Yep, I'm happy.

The coffee was good, too.