Monday, April 13, 2015

My little Easter Bunnies

It is School Holidays here at the moment. We have just started week 2 of a two week break. This is for Alannah who is in her second year of Pre-school. Juliet is at Day-care, and they only break over Christmas-New Year. Along with this, they both caught a bug over Easter which caused vomiting and yellow noses. Charming, reallyt!

We seem to be coping though, with minimal disruption to the work commitments of their parents. We are hreavily into drawing, Alannah and I. Not colouring in, but designing, and creating out own images. I will pull some in and show you where she is up to. I am quite pleased with her ability to deign and implement that design.

The work on the left was completed in March, and on the right in April. This week her creations are being overwhelmed by the fact that I showed her how to do 2, 3, 5, and 8 the way they will in school next year. So these symbols are constantly cropping up in her drawings.

Not to forget Juliet. When she is not adding the finishing touches to my masterpieces (she has learnt that her life is not worth fiddling with an Alannah masterpiuece!), she is going on a hectic circular scrawl as below. She holds a pen remarkably well, with good control. She has only sucked the ink out of one texta that I know of, and is very careful about putting the lids back on.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The value of having one's marbles ...

The words expleted out of him: "Boring? It's worse than boring."

As I turned the pages in the large print photograph album with Barry and Rosemary, I sensed movement offstage, right.

With an as inconspicuous swivel as I could manage without doing my befuddled head in, there was Pieter, slumped in his chair, his walker parked beside him, waving an iPad at me.

He beckoned me over, and to my astonishment, it was a State Records image of the Mark Foy department store from the good-old-days.
Bored out of his brain after just his first month in aged-care, he had listened in to our conversation across the way.

This centered on a 1952 image of three siblings, Barry, Julie, and Ross, visiting Santa Claus at Mark Foys, on the corner of Elizabeth and Liverpool Streets.

I, in true geek style, was trying to prove it was said store, by the logo imprinted on the wallpaper in the background.

I still have not proved this.
Pieter's eyes twinkled as he bade me guess his age. Trying not to patronise, I guessed between eighty and ninety.

He squirmed with pleasure: "93 tomorrow". Mental note to self, here be a yardstick: accessing images from State Records Photo Investigator, on an iPad, in an aged care facility, aged 93.

Hearing the still thick brogue in his voice, I tried to formulate a question about his provenance, but, second guessing me, he chuckled: "Blood'n'guts Dutch". I had posited, perhaps, Swiss.
He was 16 and working in a dairy in the Netherlands, when the Nazi presence built up to such an extent, that his family knew they had to get out, even though they were not Jews.

Pieter arrived in Australia not long after the cessation of hostilities, and went to work for "Peter's Milk" at their headquarters somewhere down off Campbell Street, within cooee of Mark Foys.

And so the degrees of separation eased to a sliver.
I asked if I may take his photograph.

He instantly made it a deal with the devil.

With a few practised swipes with his longnailed index finger, he raised his iPad, and we double-clicked.

The pleasure was all mine, Pieter.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Bowel Cancer Screening - FOBT and Colonoscopy

The waiting is over. The results were all clear.

No haemmoroids.

No polyps.

And, no cancer.

I guess my wait was short in the grand scheme of things, but not in my mind. From mid-November to 23rd January.

The weight that builds up is tremendous. And it is mostly carried singularly, and silently.

For, really, what is there to talk about?

No facts. Just fears.
The gastroenterologist was Sarah Cho, who was straight-forward and to the point, as am I. She was Sarah. I was Julie. I would not hesitate to have her again.

I guess I will learn the name of the anaesthetist when I receive his invoice for services rendered. I was told that neither charged a Gap for Day Surgery. Let's see if they walk that talk. My excess to my insurer, Medibank Private, was $150. I pay $164 per month for my "Top Hospital" medical insurance. I understand from the press, that this will increase by 7% in the autumn.
The hospital was North Shore Private, located adjacent to Royal North Shore which is a public (government) hospital. Hospitals in Sydney are a bit like McDonalds, and Kentucky Fried. They come in pairs, on a campus. I guess it makes it easier for medicos to double-shuffle.

In June 2013, I spent 5 days in the public hospital with pneumonia. In June 2014, I spent 2 days in the public hospital with heart symptoms. In January 2015 I spent 4 hours in the private hospital for a minor procedure. Too much of a bloody pattern for mine! The private hospital was nice, but then so was the public one. It cost me nothing to go to the public hospital, even when I am delivered by ambulance.

Yesterday, I took a taxi in each direction, costing about $22 each way. I have a booklet of 50% discount vouchers from the government due to my disability, so none of this is crippling ... mmm ... wrong choice of words, Jools.

I am sitting back taking it easy this weekend. My intestines were absolutely voided, and it is painful to fill them up, trying to push out all the air they inflated them with to get their camera around the multitude of s-bends (now I understand what that s really stands for). I am also having trouble with my balance, more strife than usual. I thought I could just traipse into the city today to go to the Museum of Contemporary Art. I honestly believe I would have fainted with the effort.

I asked both the nurse and the anaesthetist not to use Gentamicin. He was a bit taken-aback, saying one would only use that if the patient had some sort of patch in their body. I then told him about the teflon in my heart. And, BANG. I woke up in recovery.

I have the Fecal Occult Bloods done again in two years, and if positive, have another Colonoscopy. I am not irritated by the false positives one little bit.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Water Diviner - good try, but no cigar

I enjoyed this film, which I saw at Dendy Opera Quays at 9:30 Saturday morning. At that time there were very few people in the cinema, even though I'd had to queue for my ticket, so something was popular.

Yes, I enjoyed the film, even though it is not even bordering on a classic. I suspect that both "The Imitation Game", and "Mr Turner" well and truly have the edge on it. This, however, is a ripping good yarn. Just like McCullough's "Thorn Birds" is a ripping good yarn - just don't read it after "Anna Karenina", which I did once, eons ago.

There is mysticism in this film. Divining water with either a forked stick, or a pair of wire rods (Connors implement of choce) is pretty other worldly. When I lived on a farm as a wee slip of a thing, my father had a water diviner come in. Desperation will do that to one. His name was Charlie Asimus, and he stepped it out with his forked stick, much to our delighted sniggers. Dad had a machine did a hole, and found water. But it was brackish, and only of use to the veggie patch, not the house.

But, Connor's mysticism extended further than just finding water. He had flashes of life "appear" to him. This happened while he was on the Gallipoli cliffs. I thought this to be one of the better parts of the film. However, once he realises one of his boys did not perish, the story gets away from Crowe. Crowe doesn't have much range in his facial expressions.

There are many hints of Indiana Jones in this story, from the outfit that appears glued to Connor (sans whip), to the wild chase through the markets, to the scenes around Istanbul in general. The portrayal of another culture is fascinating, even though it is only the more wealthy parts of that culture that pervades the second half of the film. The scene in Istanbul's blue mosque, although gratuitous, is awesome, in the classical meanining of that word.

Check for me please, but I think, right at the beginning of the film, the Turkish Major comes out of a tent, ready for the final charge in December 1915, sipping coffee. I felt certain he was sipping it from one of those modern cardboard cups, instead of whatever the Turks drank out of at that time.

Joshua Connor (Crowe's character), had three boys who were at Gallipoli - Lone Pine actually, on 7th August, 1915. This, of course, is only early in the war, and the Army was still insisting that recruits be of full age. So, let's say Crowe's sons were 21, 23, and 25. This would make their father 50, give or take. Joshua is a water divineer, and well digger. He is a big bear of a man, but he is not battered enough. The part in his hair is bloody immaculate! Yes, yes. I know Crowe himself is 50. But the two lives could not be more different.

It is in the chasing down of his still-surviving, elder son, that Crowe becomes unstuck. The shooting up of the train, and the mad chase by the marauding Greeks, down to the bullying of the British attache. Then the chase up the mountain, and jumping into the well to escape down the rushing mountain stream. Give me a break. The jump down the well nicely links back to the well Connor dug in western Victoria, but this, for mine, served to emphasise how far-fetched the story was becoming.

Which leaves us with the boarding house in Istanbul. There didn't need to be a romantic interest. The little boy is important. The fact that many Turks did not like Australians is important. But introducing the woman detracts from the other meanings that Crowe might have been tying to tease out. And the final scene ... yetch! Crowe smiling his beautiful smile, with his gleaming pearly whites. He was a hard-scrabble farmer from the Wimmera area. Read some of the poems of John Shaw Neilsen for the complexity of this sort of life.

I have an issue with the thick, sludge coffe at the end, too. When the woman "read" his empty cup, earlier in the story, Connor had had to swirl the coffee and gulp it down before giving her the cup, which she promptly turned upsidedowm. No sludge there. Yet, the sludge appeared at the end, even though its meaning eluded me. A host of little issues where Crowe was fashioning scenes on the fly.

I would give this a 2.5 to 3. My next film will be "Still Alice". I have seen four films thus far this summer, so my next film at Dendy will be free.
Summer Cinema

My Old Lady (22 Nov ****)
Mr Turner (21 Dec ****)
The Imitation Game (3 Jan ***)
The Water Diviner (10 Jan **^)

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Imitation Game lacks guts!

Being a film viewer, rather than a film maker, I hesitate to pan my second film in so many weeks. I am not an expert, but I do have opinions, and they must be given an out. So here goes ...

This film lacks structure and it lacks purpose. The creative folk scriptwriters, producers, director) had not bitten the bullet of the true enigma they were dealing with. The name of the film tells us that much. Talk about being hit in the face by a wet fish!

This film would not have been made if Alan Turing had not been a homosexual. The Dam Busters was made in 1955. So there can have been few state secrets involved with that one. But it was a straight forward action film. This one would have been harder to mould because it is about a bunch of geeks in a hut, working on a whirring machine. Turing's life-style and death, make the story interesting, give it a moral core. But they did not grasp this nettle.

There are two tweaks with linear time. We are given the back story of Turing's first love at school: a boy named Christopher, who mysteriously died. This is done with a number of cumulative scenes. But all limp-wristed. Sex doesn't get a guernsey during the entire film.

Turing's eventual arrest sort of book-ends the film. But Cumberbatch is not degraded enough, especially in the first book-end. Here is a man being chemically castrated, yet we only see the effects (both physical and psychological) in the final scenes. Life doesn't have book-ends. He needed to be under pressure in BOTH bookend scenes. The film is poor for these reasons. There are other issues, too.

The creative team does not respect either its subject, or its audience. Beating around the bush about homosexuality is one aspect of disrespect. Another massive aspect is the filmic treatment of Joan Clarke. The way she is introduced is cringe-worthy, and bought guffaws from women in the audience. The worst scene of the entire film is where the moral crevasse yawns before them, of knowing the German's next move, and realising they cannot/shouldnot do anything to stop the slaughter of the innocents. So childish, and amateurish.

And the two leads: Benedict Cumberbatch, and Keira Knightley. Cumberbatch I have not seen in action before. Not once, be it on big screen, or small. He looks like a geek, and acted like a geek. Even when he gave out the apples. When he told the story of the bear, though, his sullen face creased momentarily with a cheeky smirk. Naughty, and should have done the scene again. When he degraded at the end, it was only his actor's face that dehgraded. He still was clean, with combed hair. No grime under his fingernails. This is not the fault of the actor, but of the creative team.

And Knightly? I have seen her in a few other things, but here she was KK dressed dowdy. She still had that wiggle in her walk, and crack in her voice. Joan Clarke was a geek of a woman under the iron press of insular, provincial parents.

Golly, I could only give this one 3 ...

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The year ahead for "the girls"

As we enter 2015, Alannah is 4 years, and 5 months; Juliet is 1 year, and 3 months.

Alannah could have gone to "big school" in 2015, but she is one week older than the cut-off, which is end-July. Her parents have opted for her to spend another year at her Kindergarten-Union Pre-school. She will attend three days per week (up from the two days during 2014), with the majority of the children she spent 2014 with. On Thursdays she will continue to spend the day with Grandad. On Fridays, she will continue to spend the day at the same day-care cottage as Juliet, albeit in a separate building. She will spend most afternoons with me - from 3:30 onwards that is. One afternoon each term week, she is attending gymnastic classes, instead of the ballet she attended during 2014. Ballet was too free-form for Alannah, who thrives on knowing the rules and working within them.

Juliet has a big change ahead of her, but as a second child, she is up for it. During 2014, she spent Fridays in long-day-care, and Wednesdays with Grandad. In 2015, she will spend three days (Wed/Thurs/Fri) in LDC. She will spend Tuesdays with Grandad, and Mondays home with me. We now have an Art House, but more on that when the project is completed next week.

My daughter will be working 5 days per week, with an early morning start, and home by 5:30pm. My SiL will have a later morning start, and a later evening finish. Effectively, Darren does the morning shift, and Kirsten does the evening shift.

My child-care has decreased markedly. However, I am available for sick days, and for Alannah's term breaks. I have two non-home-based activities in mind which I will check out early in the year. My resolutions for 2015 are (read Peter Martin's article here):
  • get all my Family Tree documents in order
  • collect and file my family history images
  • read fiction for an hour each evening
  • listen to more music
  • see a film either in the cinema, or at home, each week.
These resolutions, of course, are in addition to the "things" that I already manage to fit into my neurodegenerative head-space.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Mr Turner: more grist to the mill

A brush with Mr Turner - Why can't films about artists get the painting right? [An article by Andrew Wilton, chairman of The Turner Trust]

I read The Guardian a lot. I also read a lot of other online 'papers'. I stumbled upon this essay this morning. It is worth reflection. Prior to this film, I knew very little about J.M.W. Turner, the man. Nor about Turner, the artist. Now, I need to get a glossy book of his works and see if detail was his thing, or whether he just splattered and spluttered the paint across the canvas as Mike Leigh's film led me to believe.

Last year, or the year before, I was asked if I "believed in climate change". Bit like being asked about God, or if one is a "progressive" or a "conservative". My response to the climate-change challenge (for that is what it was, not simply an innocent query), was that I put my trust in those who work in that field. I have no personal knowledge, but if 99% of the world's scientists with some qualification in a relevant discipline believe that the climate is changing, and that man's impact is causing that change, then that is worth taking seriously.

It is the same with this film, which is an interpretation of a man's life, but presented in a matter which has a massive impact. The film leads me to believe that Turner was a beast who painted like a beast. Now, I have to reassess. The author of this article would appear to have experience and knowledge to backup his claims as to Turner's technique.

If Mike Leigh and his team got this wrong, what else did they get wrong? Perhaps Turner was not a beast at all ...