Monday, July 31, 2006

Travelogue Day 18


Adam's Apples (2005, Anders Thomas Jensen)
Opens with a long shot of a lone bus in a landscape of wheat fields. The bus stops in the middle of nowhere to let off a lone passenger, adam. As the bus pulls away, he scratches the paint with a pocket knife. He's left standing until a van pulls up, and we have the feeling this film will be quite heavy. It is, but how surprised are we when it turns out to also be hilarious?

How could it not be with the cast of characters? Ivan, the priest who indefatigably sees the best in everything; Khalid, the Saudi who robs Statoil stations to set right his father's loss of land to a multinational oil company; Gunnar, the former tennis star who went bad and alcoholic when he had one fatefull ball called out when it was in; and, of course, Adam, the "evil" neo-Nazi intent on thrusting them all into the world as he knows it.

Everyone has to accomplish a self-set goal before leaving the church/half-way house, and Adam's is to bake a pie with apples from the church's apple tree. The only trouble is that every time he tries pulling the church residents toward his world, the baking of the pie becomes more and more difficult. The humor is often created in the overcoming each of these hardhsips all the way through to a rather pleasing ending.

This is probably going to be my favourite film of the festival

Ra Choi (2005, Michael Frank)
Not much different from other films of a similar subject. A guy goes to jail for stealing and dealing to get by squatting on the street but realizes the error of his ways. He isn't given a chance because he's an ex-con, and he falls back into his old ways. Squatter kids going what they have to do to keep up their heroin habit (hooking, stealing, dealing). Of course, the one with a kid steals from the kid. One of the squatter girls dies, which prompts another to quit. The young boy turns gay, then tranny, prostitute to keep his habit (and continues even after a gang rape). Yes, it's bad, but not a new tale. The differences: it's in Sydney, and they're Vietnamese.

The Director says the film is supposed to highlight racism in Aussie policing too (3 Vietnamese kids = gang, 3 white kids = 3 white kids), but I didn't really see much of that.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Travelogue Day 17


The Balanda and the Bark Canoes
Balanda translates to white man in the Aboriginal languages of Arnhem Land. This film is a documentary on the making of Ten Canoes and what it meant to the people in Arnhem Land.

Ten Canoes acted as a very important event for the peoples of Arnhem Land and Murwangi. They had lost many of their cultureal traditions over the years, and this was seen as a way to relearn some of them and as a document to pass down to the next generation, something concrete they can point to when the balanda ask "where is your culture?"

There were many projects for the people in that area named by different numbers of canoes (ten = the film, eleven = video production training for the children of the area, twelve = community website, &c. for a book and other things).

Aboriginal languages are more than just structurally different from English. For example, English is hierarchical and full of classification where Aboriginal languages emphasize a oneness in everything. Also, if I recall correctly, there are no personal posessive pronouns in Aboriginal languages, but there are 16 different words for 'we.'

Favela Rising
What began as a quite engaging documentary about the sad state of affairs in the favelas on the hills surrounding Rio de Janeiro and one man's attempts to make things better/stop the unending violence ended in catastrophe when the projection equipment refused to function properly. A great disappointment considering the film's potential. I'll have to try to get this on Netflix.

Barrett, the gangster who has lost his taste for his job, turns over a new leaf (the Aussie Larrikin?).

The timing changes on transition pans is interesting, but feels out of place at times. Some of the moving from section to section felt a little too quick.

Barrett is interested in jazz, has a hooker for a girlfriend, killer with morals; his life comes full circle. Rampant police corruption a return to the old bushranger film's depiction of cops?

The question and answer with the actors and director after the screening was rather entertaining. This film was the winner of Project Greenlight Australia.

Travelogue Day 16


I still haven't booked my travel for my week's holiday. I need to get on that before the festival makes me forget it entirely.

I made myself look terrible with my performance on this morning's quiz. I hope to fix my image after that. We saw Look Both Ways today. It was rather good, instructed us to remember to look at things from a perspective outside our normal approach.

Opening night of the festival. Ten Canoes and a fancy party are in store. Perhaps I'll actually mingle, maybe even do it well.

We got ourselves all dressed up and headed down to the State Theatre. A.C., Joy, Marc, and Donna went to dinner somewhere expensive while Mike, Tom, Devon, and I didn't. Instead, we got to the theatre early and walked down the blue carpet, having our pictures taken as we made our way to our seats.

Ten Canoes (2006, Rolf De Heer)
Stories being told in three different times all about origins and the past. The story of "our people." Good story. Present = colour, past = black and white, distant past = colour, all = one big cycle (present is past is ancient all at the same time) for Aborigines(?)

After the screening, we (the entire film studies crew including Daryl, Fred, and Greg) went to the party at the Argyle in the Rocks. The bus I was on made a wrong turn, so those of us on it got to take one round trip across the harbour bridge before arriving. The venue was pretty good. It had five interconnected areas, each with its own feel. I tended toward the cellar area because the cover band above just wasn't my thing.

Beer and wine flowed constantly until they tossed us out, as did the food. Trays of tasty things were circulating throughout the night. Various wraps, miniature meat pies, fried prawns, fish and chips boxes, and much more were to be had.

I did a little mingling and ran into various people. Paul Burns said hello, and I spoke with many of the Ten Canoes cast members in attendance that night. Richard Birrinbirrin was a very nice fellow, and we spoke of what he was doing now. Jamie and David Gulpilil were both rather nice as well. I met David's daughter Toni (not sure if that's how she spells it) and ex-wife too. Toni had a few suggestions for good clubs to seek out, and I probably spent too much time talking with her.

We also ran into Rolf De Heer. He and I seem to lean the same direction with regard to American politics, and he gave Devon, Greg, and I (the other kids had run off in excitement after Daryl had played a little joke on them by saying he'd heard Johnny Depp was in attendance) the story of how Ten Canoes got made.

The night wore on, and they tossed us out around 02:30. We film studies kids were hoping to catch a last minute bus back to the UniLodge (walking a few kilometers in fancy shoes is not a pleasant prospect) from Circular Quay when we ran into Fred again. We had thought he was walking back (he and his wife had walked all the way across Spain a year or two before, so this wasn't unthinkable even with the fancy shoes), but he didn't like the prospect of walking that far in dress shoes any more than we.

The group of us started to walk in the direction of UniLodge while trying to hail a couple of cabs. This didn't work out too well, but we did get one eventually. We got everyone but Fred, Devon, and I in the first cab, and we expected a second cab would not be too far away. Little did we know that the cab drivers that night would be so fickle. At least two just drove off without a word after hearing our intended destination. We were saved by some of the internship kids who had been at a pub near where we were hailing taxis. They had managed to stop two, if I recall correctly, and had us along.

Travelogue Day 15


Saw Better than Sex and Lantana in class today. Better than Sex is a rare sort of thing, a "chick movie" that I actually enjoyed. Lantana looks at the dynamics of marriage and family, among other things (lantana itself is a lot like kudzu in the southeastern US, a foreign plant brought in that has now run rampant and is taking over, still not sure what that is saying), and it was better than I remember it having been.

We were given our first assignment for Greg this evening. We are to plan the online portion of a promotional program for a fictional theatre company. It promises to be fun.

Devon and I killed two-thirds to three-quarters of a bottle of absinth this evening. We then went out for beers because, well, that much absinth only feels like three to four beers until you get other alcohol in you. I don't intend to repeat this.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Travelogue Day 14


Devon and I watched Alvin Purple. It was a great '60s sex romp. Alvin is irresistable to women from the time he's sixteen, and that sets up a film that is unafraid of nudity and full of double entendre. How can you not like it, especially when it even has a car chase, sky diving, a transvestite surprise, crazy psychiatrists, a psychadelic sex room, and nuns? That's right, nuns. Highly recommended.

We had our first class at Greg's offices in Darling Harbour today. They're in a rather swank location, and his meeting room even comes with a terrace. On that terrace: a barbecue grill.

The group split as we went to get some dinner. The males went looking for something affordable on the harbour, but when that took a while, I left them and got pizza in Glebe from Lavera. It was pretty good but not T Anthony's. It was also a good decision to not continue the search on the harbour because I'm told the food they did find wasn't up to expectations.

Travelogue Day 13


Finished the lecture on Australian film to present and watched The Castle in class today. Clips from Alvin Purple make it look very entertaining too. Lynden Barber, artistic director for the Sydney Film Festival, came in to talk to us today as well. He was rather interesting and many of his festival picks were already on my screening list.

Later, we watched Candy at the Dendy theater in Newtown. The Dendy cinemas are very comfortable, well put together. The movie was alright. I, of course, disliked te covers of "Song to the Siren" they used. It also ran a bit long for my tastes. I would have had it end when Dan came home to find Candy gone and their story written on the walls. Everything else was ok, but it didn't put me off heroin like Requiem for a Dream.

After the absinth last night, I awoke feeling like a million dollars. I did, however, wake a few times during the night whispering something I believe must have been about whatever I was dreaming at the time. I'm hoping for a repreat performance tonight. Well, not the whispering bit, but if I wake tomorrow feeling as much better than today as I did this morning with regard to yesterday, I'll be well and rather pleased.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Travelogue Day 12


I'm still sick. Damnit! If all indications are correct, I'm doing alright. It should pass in the next few days. I hope the absinth helps.

I picked up absinth today. It was $60, so it had better last me at least two days. I've been drinking it by just mixing it with breakfast juice and have noticed no psychedelic effects, but I remain surprisingly alert.

I'm quite tired of this sinus issue keeping me in. How will I experience the fullness of Sydney (read chat up Aussie girls) when I'm required to remain indoors due to illness? Liquor had best make me better.

"Adult's Only" Big Brother is on tonight. It's rumored to have full frontal nudity on occasion. Do I tune in or no? The mystery must be excruciating for the reader.

Travelogue Day 11


Walked to the Italian festival after the presentation from Al's highly attractive travel agent acquaintance. It was decidedly underwhelming. Devon and I then walked down to Circular Quay and had lunch at a reasonably affordable place. My lunch was very good, and I will be finding my way back there again.

We made it back to the UniLodge and, later, Devon, Mike, and Tom bought a bottle of absinth. I'll pick one up for myself tomorrow.

**I don't have a picture of the bottle they got and couldn't find one on the internet, sorry.

Travelogue Day 10


I went on the harbour cruise. We started in Darling Harbour and went under the bridge and around the various inlets of the greater Sydney Harbour. We saw where the ocean met the harbour and even got to look in the windows of some far too expensive harbourside condos as we floated past. The food on the cruise was pretty good, and I met some of the internship kids. They seem nice enough overall.

Got back and picked up some Jacob's Creek reserve shiraz. It was pretty tasty and left me with a clear head, which was nice. Afterward, we went to the Lansdowne for dinner and drinks. I met four nice young ladies, but began feeling poorly again, so I had to call it a night rather than accompany them to King's Cross.

**Some of the too few pictures I took during the harbour cruise will be posted once I set up a flickr account.

Travelogue Day 9


Had an Asian cinema primer with Paul Burns (former artistic director of the Sydney Film Festival among other things) that was quite good. A lot of overlap with Warren's class, but a lot of new information too. I missed the first bit of Picnic at Hanging Rock because the queue barely moved at all when I went to finish my film fesitval bookings.

During my walk back, I picked up some jiaogulan tea (translation of the Japanese name for this tea is: happy grass) from a shop in the Asian district. It's rather good and will, hopefully, keep away whatever is trying to make me sick. If I don't feel significantly better by tomorrow, I will have to miss the harbour cruise.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Travelogue Days 7 and 8


Watched Bliss, another excellent film. Devon, Mike, and I went with Daryl to the Broadway Cafe during the break before our 14:00 meeting with Greg, the instructor of our entertainment promotion class. I learned that Aussie businesses tend not to quibble over big bills ($100 to pay a $3.80 bill) and had some interesting conversation.

I'll be making my way down to the State Theatre again today. I have to get the rest of my tickets for the festival. I think I'll price out some chartreuse while I'm here since I'll be seeing a doco about the monastic order that distills it.

Greg's class was intersting. All indications are that I'll be putting together a promotional program for the Creative Commons organization. It promises to be an experience. After class I watched the interviews with Chopper on the Chopper DVD. He's just as charismatic as Eric Bana portrayed him.

Went to Newtown Thai II. The food was good. The company reinforced my determination to never go anywhere with <one of our number> if I can at all avoid it.


Saw The Tracker and a number of film clips as well. Many more are still to be seen.

This evening I saw The Herd at the Manning Pub on the Sydney University campus. Aussie hip-hop is pretty good. Tonight also saw the origin of the "ride the bus" joke.

I've spent far too much on booze tonight.

Travelogue Day 6


Watched Chopper in class today. It was quite good, cold colours, lighthearted violence, and a criminal you can't help but like. Afterward, Daryl led us down to Darling Harbour by way of Chinatown. It's easily a tourist trap, but quite pretty. There is a Chinese garden down there that I must go back to visit.

We then walked over to the State Theatre on Market Street. It's set amongst what appear to be some rather fancy shops. It is one of the old picture palaces and adorned properly. I must go back sometime to photograph the entryway, at the very least.

Walking back to the UniLodge by way of George/Broadway Street seemed to take much longer than the journey out. I fell asleep far too early (~19:00) and missed an interesting night out.

**Sadly, I never got any photos of the State Theatre myself despite going there far too many times for screenings. These photos were taken from here without permission. I hope they don't mind.

Travelogue Day 5


First day of class, and it was good, a lot of information.

We watched a DVD on the history of Sydney (need to see if I can get a copy of this somewhere), and Devon and I had some quality conversation with Daryl and Fred. We also worked out which films at the Sydney Film Festival would be compulsory today.

After class, Devon, Marc, and I went to Chinatown for lunch. Yum cha is good (tea time menu: small plates of three to four tasty items). I also tried some of Marc's shark fin soup. It was rather bland. I don't get the hype. Later, Devon and I went to the Australian Youth. It was nice, a possible local, but the search for a permanent local is still on.

I got far too much pancetta at the deli today. I must get used to using metric units. It also seems like Aussie food labels could help you eat healthier once you know how to read them. They tend to tell you in more detail what percentage of which ingredients compose your food, within reason, and also make it easy to find which preservatives and flavour enhancers are in there too once you know which one is flavour enhancer 220.

The faculty and organizers of this program are great. We should definitely treat them to drinks before we leave.

Travelogue Day 4


For breakfast: pancakes. They come with one strawberry, dusted in icing sugar, and accompanied by both maple syrup and King Island cream. They are awesome.

Breakfast ended late for some of our number , and that, plus being interrupted by The Amazing Race people, led to us being 30 minutes late meeting Daryl. We did, however, get to Manly on the ferry, meet up with Daryl, and set off on our beach/bush discovery trek.

Daryl took us to a former military installation that has been turned back over to the people as a national park. It has some great places to take photos and access to beaches. He took us to Shelly Beach, Manly beach, and Palm Beach among others. The walk from Shelly to Manly beaches was lined with all sorts of interesting things like salt water pools carved from rock (Daryl tells us that they are refreshed every day when the tide comes in to wash them out), and little sculptures on the rocks along the way. We also rode the Palm Beach Ferry for a circuit and saw various places where you can camp in that bay (some accessible only by water).

After seeing some more rally nice beaches, Daryl dropped s back off at the Manly Wharf where we took the ferry back to Circular Quay. I took some interesting (to me) night shots from the deck of the ferry as we were pulling back in.

We made our way back to the UniLodge, and I finally went out to get some grocieries. I'll have to pick up a notebook tomorrow. Now to sort through the massive amounts of information Daryl gave to us.

Side note: Apparently most beaches in Australia are public and unable to be made private. You can buy a house on the beach, but the beach behind it remains for public use.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Travelogue Day 3


Mark meets us in the lobby for a whirlwind historical tour. I'll need A.C.'s notes to adequately recall the information, but we learned a lot about when which buildings were built where (Most of the oldest good looking buildings were due to governor Macquarie, as were many roads and other such infrastructural things), the discovery and growth of Australia, and a bit about Australia's history with its indigenous peoples.

We visited the Sydney (or is it New South Wales?) library, old customs house,
Australia Museum, the Rocks, Hyde Park, and many other places. I took many pictures that should refresh the memory. After Mark's wife Charlie met us for lunch, he left us to our own devices for the rest of the day. While everyone else went to the markets in Glebe (which I hear weren't as hippie as expected), Devon and I walked around in the Royal Botanic Gardens, taking photos of exotic (for us) plants and wildlife. Bats, birds, and great views were in abundance at the botanical gardens, and we only covered maybe one quarter of its space. (sadly, we didn't make it into the sex and death exhibit)

We made our way back, enlisted Mike, Marc, and Tom, and headed back to the Lansdowne for dinner. The Thai fishcakes weren't bad, and Coopers red label was good.

We adjourned back to the UniLodge for some beers on the roof with everyone (the UniLodge roof has a great view of the Sydney skyline) before losing three and going to another bar, whose sign just read Sports Bar, for $2.50 Victoria Bitters and drinking games that I wasn't quite into.


** All photos were taken by me. Yes, I have (far too) many more. Some of these have had the brightness and/or contrast adjusted for the better or worse. The bats will look blurry because I was using the digital zoom on a point-and-shoot digital camera. They were rather high in the air.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Travelogue Day 2

26/5/06 (What happened to 25? I think it must have fallen down a hole somewhere)

I get in feeling more refreshed than when I left (thank you Qantas). Once through customs, we met Al and were driven to the UniLodge by the crazy Russian shuttle service. I say this because the driver of the van that Devon, Marc, and I were in spent the entire time on a walkie talkie, going back and forth with someone in russian while trying to drive with his other hand. We made it to the UniLodge ok and got checked in with Pascal. My room is quite spacious as it was intended for two.

I managed to get unpacked, showered, and changed by the time we were to meet Al downstairs for the surprisingly short walk to the classroom building.

Al, Mark, Pascal, and everyone had bought us our second large coffees of the day by this tme, and we were introduced to everyone. We got the course timeline, a general idea of the courses, our mobile phones, and a Sydney magazine among other things. At this point, I was experienceing tactile hallucinations, so I'm sure I lost a lot of the info from today.

We took our things back to our rooms, had lunch at a very affordable place attached to the UniLodge, and headed down to Circular Quay (pronounced key). We walked a bit, saw the Opera House and the Rocks, and walked around learning a lot of things I'm sure I've forgotten before coming back for dinner. We were met by everyone at the Lansdowne, a place with a really great meal deal where you get a meal for $5 or $10 when you purchase a drink. The food was good, the beer was good, and it was all expensed. Mark and Pascal also suggested the Clare and Australian Youth as possible locals. I'll have to check them out.

I crashed into bed quite early. Having a bed that rolls so easily is interesting. I must try to stabilize it.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Rules of Idiot

1. Every player is dealt three cards, which they aren't allowed to look at and must remain face-down until the end of the game.

2. They are, then, dealt seven cards each from which they pick their best possible penultimate hand and place those cards face-up on the three hidden cards. You want high numerical value, multiple, or wild cards if you have them.

3. After all players have put down at least three cards (to cover the hidden cards), they take as many cards from the deck as they put down (you must have at least seven cards in you hand so long as there is still a deck to draw from). The players are allowed to alter the penultimate hand for the first two rounds after which it is locked in.

4. Cards retain their numerical values and no attention is paid to suit. Three cards are essentially trump cards: Twos can be played to any card and restart the values, Tens clear the pile and the player is allowed to place another card in the middle, Aces are the highest card and can only be beaten by another ace or trump. Also, if four of a kind appears, the four cards are removed from play and the player who threw the fourth matching card gets another turn (i.e. if player 1 throws a 6, player 2 throws two 6s, and player 3 throws the fourth 6, then the four 6s are removed from play and player 3 goes again.).

5. The game is played such that each player is required to meet, beat, or trump the card(s) thrown by the previous player. This continues until one player has no more cards.

6. You can throw multiples if you have them (i.e. you can put three 5s down at the same time), and if you have four of a kind, you get another turn.

7. If you can't meet, beat, or trump the card, you may draw a card fromt he deck. If that card can meet, beat, or trump, you may play it. If not, you pick up that card and the entire pile, all of which becomes your hand.

8. Again, all players must have a minimum of seven cards in their hands while there is still a deck to draw from.

9. The player who runs out of cards first wins.

10. Every time cards are played is a round (the first round is started by whoever has the lowest value card), and are allowed to adjust the penultimate hand for the first three rounds, but only while it is still your turn.

Travelogue Day 1


I didn't get all of my cleaning done before leaving the apartment, so that'll be fun to come back to. I also left 30 minutes later than I had intended, but I still managed to get to the airport, check in, and get through security by the time I had intended to arrive at the airport. Sometimes the speed of the MBTA is surprising. Now, I sit looking out the windows listening to the breaking news of an airport fire in Istanbul on CNN.

DFW: In 30 minutes early. I actually remembered the rules to the card game I know as Idiot thanks to two pretty girls sitting next to me on the flight who were playing cards, which jogged my memory. The rules can be found here.

LAX: Got in about on time and, luckily, Qantas departures to Sydney are run out of the same terminal that American Airlines uses. I had a very short walk from picking up my bags to the beginning of the best flying experience of all my traveling.

The Qantas people at check-in were very pleasant and helpful. Getting through security was a bit of a pain because they only had two screening stations open, but once through, the wait for the plane wasn't bad. I met Devon, and we had a little something to eat as we waited for everyone else to arrive.

Once on the plane, the experience got very much better. I was seated in a window rather than an aisle seat, but it made little difference. The gentleman seated at the aisle was quite agreeable and accomodated me each time I wanted to get up.

Qantas gives each passenger on overnight flights a little kit with a sleeping mask, socks, and a travel toothbrush with a bit of toothpaste. On our plane, we even had personal terminals with on-demand access to the onboard media library of 40 or more movies, various TV episodes, a number of CDs, and video games (if I'm leaving anything out, it's because there was just so much to take in). The whole setup is great. In the morning, the crew even came by with hot cloths for freshening up.

Speaking of the crew, they were excellent as well. I have absolutely no complaints with this flight; it was super. I don't know if all Qantas flights are like this one, but if they are, I would encourage anyone thinking of flying to Australia to travel with Qantas. Any possible extra cost for the ticket is more than made up for by the quality of the experience.
(No, they aren't paying me to say that)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I'm back

and I'm still whinging about it. That's mostly because I'm still in a bad mood from being depressed about leaving Aussieland. I'll make my way back to normal enough after I've had a significant amount of alcohol. For the meantime, I still have plenty to be angry about (one of the bottles of wine I brought back shattered into heaps of tiny pieces, leading to me having to rewash many clothes, and my conditioner exploded in another suitcase).

Eventually I'll get some more of the money I'm advancing myself from 30 years in the future and pick up my mail. I'll also be publishing my travelogue/viewing notes once I have the time to change certain details to protect the guilty.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Now more than ever

I miss my music. I've missed not having my music around for the duration of my trip to Oz, but now that it's coming time to write papers and finish assignments, the longing is worse. I'm not used to working without musical accompaniment. Where are the auditory hallucinations when I need them?