6:30pm Event Cinemas, George St, a freebie from some mailing list or other. Another Richard E. Grant supporting role in barely a month? I have to wonder at that. Gemma Arterton in the lead, Bill Nighy trying to be funny in an arch and recognizably stereotypical way. Yet another World War II movie, this time from the angle of a woman working on a propaganda film. Romance, patriotism, London during the blitz. You know, you've seen most of it before, probably in another BBC production.
I think I went to Raper St sometime back in the 1990s. That part of Surry Hills hasn't changed too much, but we'll see how it is when the trams start rumbling down Devonshire Street. I rode over in the dry, while inside it rained, afterwards it was blue skies and even a little warm, certainly good conditions for giving the CB400 a clean. Alongside the doors is a miniature of the iconic Almost Once from the Domain.
Whiteley is a big Dylan fan. The current exhibition is titled naked, but really it's closer to arthouse porn, including some very contemporary POV angles. The draw for me was the permanent installation of Alchemy, and the musical event.
One could spend a few days trainspotting Alchemy. I struggled to think of it as a coherent work of art; more a riot. There's a tiny outline of Australia, a Harbour Bridge, a country road with a Bathurst sign, many funny small drawings. The piece pivots on a single panel that says "IT"; to the left we get something perhaps Eastern (Japan, Vietnam), a little foreign (or weird: Nixon), a little mythical, the interior of Australia, whereas to the right it's the city, the beach, the urbanity, the familiar, albeit with a lot of holes, the odd plug, a man trying to extricate himself from a bathtub plughole, the breathtakingly new at the time: Earth from space. There are more words as the thing progresses. Whiteley paints a lot of figures (fetishizing the bits he finds sexy) but almost no faces; I can only remember seeing his both here and in the similarly famous Self portraint in studio (which sits on a nearby wall). All other faces are photographs. He likes birds, but seemingly not domestic animals.
Whiteley would have made a great cartoonist. He was certainly a man of his times, blowing with the trends. Japan, for instance, fascination for which has contracted to its martial arts, its erotica, or in my case, its motorcycles. Apparently he was mates with Patrick White, at least for a while. I should try to go back on a working day, when it's less crowded.
This first concert of the year presents the unique ensemble of flute (Emma Lefroy), bassoon (Zola Baldwin) and marimba (Kaylie Dunstan). Join us for an interesting and diverse program, including the stunning Oblivion by Piazzolla as well as Mosaics by Eric Ewarzen being played in its entirety. With its intricately interwoven parts, this work presents a barcarolle, fugue, pavane and a tarantella as an exciting finale.
$40.01 = $35 + various surcharges, booked 2017-03-16 on fear of it being booked out (it was, and the session I would have preferred — Friday's Auslan-interpreted one — was too). It's been more than three years since I've been to the Carriageworks; their ritz bar doesn't do coffee at 7:30pm on Saturday nights, which makes reading Voss a little more challenging.
The sales pitch for this one was that it was developed collaboratively by people with and without disabilities. I enjoyed the one piece of deaf theatre I saw while studying Auslan in Melbourne, and Adam Hills makes much gentle, powerful humour from sign language and his missing foot. Of course placing young adults with intellectual disabilities at the centre of this sort of thing is challenging for all concerned, and one may wonder if the audience is going to feel things are too Ricky Gervais for comfort.
Well, two girls did leave during the performance. (Actually getting in was a bit of a challenge with all my gear as they forced us through an inflated airlock/vaginal type structure.) The headphones seemed spurious. The first of the three acts (An Insecure God) was something of a mashup of Christian creation myths, somewhat successful. The second (Matter Creates Matter) was a washout. I got thinking that it might have been due to my glasses having a polarization filter as I could make out some shapes clearly through my peripheral vision, but really there wasn't enough to get a grip on. Act 3 (The Human Bond) has the cast play contract cleaners, charting the paucity of personal growth opportunities (driving was verboten for the bloke with Down Syndrome) and in particular romance. It was somewhat effective: Sarah Mainwaring's diction is a wonder, so careful, precise, and evocative she should be making airplane safety ads. Seriously, I would pay attention to those if she was: her every word left me hanging.
I sat in the second row and was surprised to strike up a conversation with the Persian bloke I climbed over to get to a seat. (Theatre seating designers, think a bit about how general admission works, and don't stick one set of steps up the middle; put one on each edge of the risers.) He was generally quite down on Sydney. His partner was silent. Afterwards I rode down to the new-ish Max Brenner's in Alexandria, which strangely enough is open until 11pm.
Last minute freebie. Preview, opens Friday. Straight southern gothic, oh my. The mostly-female cast was great, the production solid in this first outing. It was a bit weird being back at the Old Fitzroy Hotel; the coffee neon in the corner is still there, the bar about the same; it could have been 2005. The ride over and back was quite fun; the city is quite dead after 7:30pm, and the skies had been blue for a few hours. Got the CB400 up to 10.5k revs in first gear on the spaghetti monster flyover. :-)
Late-ish lunch in Centennial Park, then a mid-afternoon soak at Gordons Bay. The place was as packed as I've seen it, unsurprising given the time of day and these few days of respite between extended rainy periods. The water was a tad cool and quite clean. The ride back was a bit fun; shifting gears at 8k-10k RPM is a lot easier than at 4k-5k, and lane filtering makes a huge difference.
Vale, Murray Ball.
This is a dog of a movie. I had mixed expectations from the reviews on IMDB, and given the central issue is the regulation of guns in the U.S., but it turns out that whatever views one holds on that issue there is only one valid conclusion to be reached for this. The arguments are facile, everything is overexplained, Jessica Chastain has no subtlety and her character is absolutely horrible. It's a long way from A Most Violent Year. How could she possibly be the first person to think about organising women to come out against guns? I wonder if this isn't some kind of anti Erin Brockovich (I've never seen it). Mark Strong is the boss in Kick Ass.
$20, booked 2017-02-26. Stupidly I filled this first working week in a long while with night events. I'm toasted.
If one scene makes a play, the final movement of this three-parter, set in a misty eucalyptus forest, evoked by a smoke machine and the passivity of the cast, justifies going to this. The playwright is from Melbourne, and reviews of a production there make me think I missed a lot of what this is about. It's a cliche that people bound through adversity; perhaps there's a new angle in here somewhere. The production is part of the Performance Production course at the School of the Arts and Media at UNSW.
It's been almost 18 months since I last went to the theatre. Earlier this year I signed up to all the whats-on mailing lists I could find — though I expect most of the action is on FaceBook these days — and scored a freebie to a preview of Superhal at NIDA on Monday night past, which I went to with Sugam. I refrain from commenting on it as the performance was a preview; The Sydney Arts Guide reviewed it after it opened.
Kindle. $AU16.99 from the Australian store on the day it was released in this market, which was either a vote of confidence in Mohsin Hamid or in desperation for something decent to read. Having finished it I wish I'd waited: the author repeatedly talks down to his readers, spelling out the detail of a careful, beautiful allusion to a negligible detail. It is this sort of thing that destroys momentum. I was also irritated by his naive politics, him being a fan of more men and accepting the further wholesale destruction of nature that entails. The door mechanism is not even magical, it just is, and that's not enough. His taxation proposal is ... pretty much how things are now? To those who were born into a world with fewer people we will give more? And they wonder why Gen Y is smashing avocados rather than scrimping for their own piece of Australia, or worrying about the long term. I found the characters generally tendentious, almost inhuman, and so much of the refugee experience is made light of. The interstitial stories are generally feeble, merely small portraits of places Hamid has visited, or has friends at. The ending, a reprise, a variant on that of his excellent How to get filthy rich in rising Asia, has the central couple reconnect when aged to no great effect. Why ever does he resist having them come from a specific country?
Michiko Kakutani found more in it than I did. Viet Thanh Nguyen. Andrew Motion. Isaac Chotiner is more skeptical, and while I generally agree with his criticisms, he is in error to hold that Moth Smoke is Hamid's finest.
Kindle. A 2015 collection of shorts (some offcuts from The Orphan Master's Son) which won Johnson a few prizes. The stories seem to have direct antecedents in recent cinema:
- Nirvana: The prez is assassinated and reincarnated R2D2-style as a hologram, and responds in the manner of the I Ching. Yes, relationships with constructs: Dirk Gently, Her, Ex Machina, etc. The reincarnator's wife has a degenerative condition and is a big Cobain fan.
- Hurricanes Anonymous: Louisiana, post hurricane. The bloke works for UPS, probably-his-kid's mum is in prison, his girlfriend is not entirely straight.
- Interesting Facts: Very Sixth Sense.
- George Orwell Was a Friend of Mine: The Reader? The East Germany prison warder narrator is obtuse and reflexively defensive, which in combination with the dog put me in mind of David Ireland's recent outing.
- Dark Meadows bravely reflects on child abuse, and is thoughtfully, provocatively ambiguous. Johnson is not really across his technology though.
- Fortune Smiles is the material left over from the novel. Johnson places two quirky North Korean defectors (one tricked into doing so, the other being his driver) in Seoul. At times it reads like a travel guide, taking us along random subways just for the hell of it. Gangnam Style, for sure.
A recent Fassbender vehicle. Brendan Gleeson plays his father. The family are caravan-dwelling smash-and-grab thieves who appear to have developed their own argot. Sean Harris was awesome in Macbeth, but here I dunno. There's not much to it, and what is there is tediously predictable. Much of it is filmed like a hyped-up episode of The Bill. None of the characters is particularly sympathetic, and their world view is at best archaic and will not be mourned in its passing.
Palace Cinemas, Norton St, 9pm session, $16.00 + 24 cent credit card surcharge. Three rows from the front, decent sized screen, comfortable. Rated MA-15+. I rode the still-nameless CB400 over in the dry, and back in some light rain. Parking is plentiful for bikes at that time of the night; I got a spot near the boom gate at the Norton Plaza, undercover, and there were others closer. I walked past a pristine Ural on the way back from the cinema.
I had to see it, of course, but let's not get too carried away here. I was a bit disappointed that Gandalf didn't reprise his role; it may have made for a nice cameo. The literal cloning of mutants shows the limits of this imagined world, as the plot does, every time, and passes up the obvious innovation of a god of plastic (hat tip to Douglas Adams). The violence is generally gratuitous, quite graphic. Jackman really does need that intravenous dose of viagra to bring out the wolverine. It was good to see Patrick Stewart let off some profanity, but too often he doesn't get past "Logan" (repeat a few times). His Professor X character is always troubling as it is too powerful, and must always be hobbled like a camel, lest it get away. There is some humour, more forced humour. Do all bad guys sport Southern accents now? Richard E. Grant, too weird. Stephen Merchant (Caliban) voiced Wheatley in Portal 2, wow. I had expected more Mad Max cinematography from the short.
As Dave put it, Jackman is once again seeking redemption. This particular portait of suffering is too one-dimensional to get worked up about. To my mind his long-term tenure in this role invites comparison with Arnie's as the Terminator, and it felt like Arnie had done it all before, right down to the grandpa Terminator, time travel, apprentice, empathy, acting with kids, the enemy with the half-blown-off metal head, ... — and we'll see if Jackman comes back from retirement.
In brief, I would have preferred another outing from the First Class crew.
Manohla Dargis. Paul Byrnes. Peter Bradshaw says Jackman "goes into Basil Fawlty mode" on a pickup truck, which is more amusing than the scene itself. Anthony Lane. The IMDB rating slipped from 9 on release to 8.9 the day after, 8.8 the day after, but still parked at #57 in the IMDB top-250.
Notionally 8pm, but twenty minutes or more late, $35 + $3.30 booking fee. The evening was sunny despite predictions of much rain from the BOM; I did walk home through some rain but it wasn't torrential. Before they started I got talking to a lady from Elizabeth Bay / the lower North Shore. She was familiar with the Australian Chamber Orchestra and was expecting some fun, and told me that "giant dwarf" is Andrew Denton's nickname. (This venue was previously the Performance Space, which is now at the Carriageworks.) I was wearing my Pixies tour t-shirt and hoping for Bird Dreams of Olympus Mons, but instead got some Doors (Alabama Song, but really: "Well, show me the way / To the next whisky bar...") and Nirvana (Something in the way, which I know from Tricky). There was also some Bach, Nick Drake, a piece by Richard Tognetti, and something challenging from Eastern Europe. Tonight it was just four: Satu Vänskä, Julian Thompson, Jim Moginie, Brian Ritchie.
This got Jeff Bridges an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He didn't win. It's clear why the role appealed to him, though it isn't as rich as his one in Crazy Heart, largely because the whole thing is satisfied to cruise on its clever bank payback mechanism. Chris Pine and Ben Foster have the most fun as the brothers working the scam. The soundtrack is due to Warren Ellis and Nick Cave, in country-and-western mode, not quite apocalyptic.
Steven Strogatz: Sync: How Order Emerges From Chaos In the Universe, Nature, and Daily Life.Sun, Feb 26, 2017./noise/books | Link
Kindle. I enjoyed Strogatz's wonderment at moving amongst mathematics, biology, physics and bridge design. The idea of things (often brainless) synchronizing is fascinating, and appears to carry significant exploratory force, as he observes about superconductivity and other quantum mechanical phenomena. I would have consulted the significant chunk of endnotes (roughly 25% of the book) as I went along had I known of its existence. The main text may have benefited from a few equations, or more precise descriptions, or directly pointing into the literature, or to deeper popularizations. I didn't manage to visualize the waves he discusses at length, and the repetitions (many almost word-for-word) just made my eyes glaze over. My only beefs are that Strogatz emphasizes the aha moments of scientific insight and plays down the sweat of scientific validation, and that it would have helped if he had multiple metaphors and explanations at hand that target different kinds of thinkers. That sync is an important but limited concept is revealed by his extensive discussion of "small world" networks.
G. Bard Ermentrout's review for the AMS in 2004 is probably what I should have read (but I'm done with this topic for now).
After lunch with Fil Mackay of Digital Asset in the CBD, I headed out to Gordons Bay via the Eastern Distributor. It was chockers at 2pm, and just barely moving; I can't imagine peak hour. Sydney may be on the move but it's pretty much ceased to go to the beach this season: at Gordons Bay almost noone was in the water, though many were hanging out on the rocks. A tad cold in, a bit filthy near the shore but clean out in the bay. I rode back to Newtown to pick up a pair of glasses from Out of Sight.
Late afternoon paddle at Gordons Bay. Far emptier than it has been up to now; Sydney is back at work and forgotten its beaches. A bit cold in, but clear. Windy on the northern headland of Coogee. I had a lamb pizza from Erciyes, which I remembered as better than it actually is. Perhaps the one in Surry Hills does it differently.
After sending some paperwork to the IRS, and organizing a new pair of specs at Out of Sight in Newtown, I headed over to Gordons Bay for a brief paddle. The water was a lot cleaner than yesterday, which is to say that the plant detritus was spread over a far larger area. It was a bit cold in. Afterwards I ate dinner on the northern headland of Coogee and continued with Steven Strogatz's Sync. I wish he'd put in some more math, or pointers to math.
More Kenneth Lonergan completism. Music by Nico Muhly of Bedroom Community fame. I didn't find any of the characters likeable or easy to sympathize with. Mark Ruffalo's bus driver is clearly a cardboard cutout, and Anna Paquin as a teen in the lead is articulate, histrionic, absolutist and irritating. I found her particularly tedious. Many other characters are purified points of view, so unsubtle that it's not so much about what the movie is trying to say but why it is bothering to try to say it. The plot stems from the death of an unknown lady early in the movie. Lonergan himself is the father in distant LA, somehow successful professionally with a disastrous personal life. The classroom scenes exhibit a painfully circular lack of insight.
It seems that just today the IMDB boards have been shuttered.
The weather is very unstable presently, with two erratic and violent storms passing through on Friday and Saturday. Today was notionally clear. Of course the water at Gordons Bay was full of plant detritus (leaves etc.) and other stuff washed off the streets, though somewhat clearer once out in the middle of the bay. I got in off the beach due to an infestation of righteous Englishpeople (with boombox, without shirt) on the southern rocks. Another storm rolled through later on.
With Dave, 6:45pm session at Hoyts Broadway, $52.40 for the pair of us for the "extreme screen" preview. It wasn't entirely packed; we were five rows back with no one in front of us.
This sequel was better than I had any reasonable hope of it being. The continuity with the original navigates a narrow path between nostalgia and exploitation; much of it is a funeral for youthful selves, or in Sickboy's case, arrested development. I really liked Jonny Lee Miller both here and in the original, but it is Ewen Bremner's Spud who owns this episode. Robert Carlyle has to work harder at the Begbie snarl and seems too flabby to have spent twenty years in gaol; the voice is there but the psycho angularity is gone. Ewan McGregor seemed at ease, and I had hopes that Kelly Macdonald would let Diane fully rip once more. Newcomer Anjela Nedyalkova is not up to the standard of the others. There's a slightly clunky Gone Girl disconnection in the middle that is unsurprising and necessary for the plot. The music was interesting, featuring remixes of the old standards and some new stuff; Dad's Best Friend by the Rubberbandits is a standout.
More broadly this is an Edinburgh retrospective, showing the destruction of the buildings that once made Leith an industrial hub; now not even the geography remembers. Spud's residency in one of the few remaining projects is especially poignant. The plot is not much chop, and Irvine Welsh still cannot act, but that's not what anyone was there for.
The big thunder storm of the afternoon demonstrated that the roof over the kitchen of our current abode is not sound.
After lunch with Clem at the Kirribilli Club I rode back to Gordons Bay for a paddle. I just signed up for an E-Toll account so I could go back over the Harbour Bridge; motorcycles do not need to carry a tag, but if you want to avoid the 75 cent plate scan surcharge you need to pay the $40 deposit. It's a bit crazy. I hope it got set up in time. Clearly they have a way of fining you if you don't have an account, so why not just handle all tolls with that mechanism? Oh right: natural monopolies must be privatized, Government's orders.
The bay was flat and quite clear; good snorkelling conditions. Loads of people, some even in the water. I got there a bit earlier than usual (4:30pm-ish).
A comfort book of sorts in these strange times, completed on the northern headland of Coogee beach. Somehow this is far superior to anything else I've read from Greene. I had come to think that he had completed this by 1953 and hence predicted Điện Biên Phủ, but the final lines of the book say he worked on it from March 1952 until June 1955.
Kenneth Lonergan completism. Laura Linney so completely inhabits her character that I couldn't imagine anyone else doing it. She looked so happy clowning around with Matthew Broderick, and who wouldn't be soaked to meet Ferris in the flesh? Mark Ruffalo is also convincing in his role as a modern, young Brando. Upstate New York in summer, Rory Culkin playing the child of one sibling who is liberated by the other, both just holding it together in smalltown USA. I wished there'd been more to the ending, but it's life so things just continue, I guess.
Matthew McConaughey is a gold prospector. There seem to be a lot of movies being made about shysters, for instance American Hustle and I think Christian Bale did a better job there, with the elaborate comb-over. This one is about a whatever-it-takes gold strike in Indonesia in the late 1980s. Everything is OK but doesn't add up to anything.
Headed over to Gordons Bay a bit late, around 5:30pm. The traffic was predictably quite bad, but after some judicious lane splitting on Cleveland west of Chalmers I made OK time. The water was a bit too rough to enjoy. Had some dinner (that I brought with me) and kept reading Graham Greene on the northern headland of Coogee. The days are getting noticeably shorter.
The Farmer's Cinematheque and Chris Abrahams @ The People's Republic.Sat, Feb 11, 2017./noise/music | Link
I had a nice ride back from La Perouse to the People's Republic, which I'd been to a couple of times before. The movie was a sort-of compilation of found footage of farm life from a while back. The daughter of one of the filmmakers provided the narrative focus and was present at this screening, as was Chris Abrahams who did the soundtrack. The whole thing was mildly familiar to me, though I never saw VFL played in western NSW. I got talking to an Irish bloke and his partner afterwards, before Chris Abrahams blessed us with a piano set. He apparently has a new album out.
I'm totally wasted: it's just too damn hot.
I tried to sleep in after a few trying days but it was too hot. Mid-afternoon I headed over to Yen's for a late lunch and then down to La Perouse for a paddle somewhere. The somewhere turned out to be Frenchmans Beach, which was full of all sorts, and very flat, and the paddle turned into more of a soak. I think there was a shark there on Friday or so. The bike went well after a few days of being idle. I grabbed some dinner at Paris Seafood before heading up to Newtown.
Still parked at #14 in the IMDB top-250. Second time around. Made even less sense.
I rode over from Glebe around 4:45pm with blue skies, but when I eventually got to Gordons Bay it was gray and grim. (I tried to be clever and went straight across Anzac Parade from Cleveland, and ended up going most of the way around Centennial Park. My geography is rusty.) Loads of people, hardly anyone in — a bit strange as the water was very pleasant. Read some more Ge Fei on the northern Coogee headland, talked with my parents, got some food at Tum's Thai, rode home.
Kindle. Some sort of completism on my part, having read his only other book in English translation a while ago. It's something of a strange folk tale, heavy on the metaphor and symbols, shy of narrative and possibly meaning didn't make it all the way from the Chinese original. It might just be crap though; the author gives himself an out in the intro:
Whenever anyone complained to me about how difficult it was to understand, I would give the joking response, "I don't blame you. I'm not sure I understand it either."
One thing going for it is that it's short.
Kindle. This is his latest novel, from 2014. Again I scraped this from the Chicago Public Library, but probably would have been better off giving it a miss. Carey knows he's not in a position to write a great cuberpunk / steampunk / Gen Y novel and so pads it out with extraneous conspiracies and historical detail that he's far more comfortable with. Are all of Carey's male leads born in Bacchus Marsh? He stumbles into David Malouf territory by canvassing wartime Brisbane (specifically the Battle of Brisbane), and I didn't see the relevance of the Dismissal or Gough Whitlam's gastronomics, though love letters to the latter are always welcome. This is ethnic lit of the kind Nam Le derides, and is why I won't seek out more from Carey.
Structurally we have two men and a woman in the foreground, her daughter and the daughter's lover in the inner story. There's a touch of Assange-like hacker-god sexual deviancy, a nod to generics like Jackman's risible Swordfish. The foreground settings change regularly but pointlessly, and annoyingly it is about the same for the story the journo is charged with telling. The endless staving-off of plot progression saps the thing of tension, and we're often stuck most uncomfortably between verifiable fact and light fiction. The burning house evoked Manchester by the Sea. I'm bored with Carey's alcoholic normalism, and his descriptions are far weaker than those he managed for high art. He really shows his lack of chops when championing the Nintendo, so thoroughly rubbished by Clune in his memoir of 80s gameplaying. Zork is beyond anachronistic, and who has ever seen an acoustic coupling modem? The main weakness is probably that he has nothing to say.
Early evening paddle at Gordons Bay. Loads of people hanging around on the southern rocks, so I got in off the beach. Perfect conditions, pretty much, after a day of extreme heat and threatened thunder storms. (I didn't see any, just oppressive humidity.) I saw some flying fish (long silver guys) while floating out in the middle somewhere. Afterwards I finished off Peter Carey's latest on the northern headland of Coogee and ate my leftovers. I head back to Glebe via the CBD so the bike gets some time at higher revs on the Syd Einfeld.
Lunch at Paris Seafood, La Perouse, same-old. I wandered up to the Yarra Bay Sailing Club and back. There's not much in the way of bubblers. After that I rode up to Little Bay for a coffee, and kept reading Peter Carey's Amnesia. Late afternoon I headed down to the beach, stood around and tried to avoid the blue bottles. The old Prince Henry site is rife with Audis and Mercs, and attitudes to match. The ride back to Glebe was fine, but I probably should have taken Southern Cross Drive rather than Anzac Parade. Done about 250km in a bit more than a week.
Casey Affleck is clearly the man for this job, and Michelle Williams makes the most of her limited screen time. It's good, and I have to wonder why Ben Affleck didn't try for something like this instead of continuing to trawl Lehane's oeuvre. Kyle Chandler in some ways anchors the thing. The structure is a bit Gone Girl, with some untelegraphed flashbacks that take some getting used to. There's something of Erskineville Kings here too. I wondered how the thing would resolve, and somehow the bleakness is OK. I'll be digging into the rest of Kenneth Lonergan's output presently.
Francine Prose wants to talk about life since Trump. Her conclusion is bleaker than the movie's. A. O. Scott is right, it's very funny, and quite geographically (Massachusetts) and socially (Catholic, white, male) specific. Anthony Lane. Dana Stevens is a bit off: Affleck's character is busted beyond repair. He's given up on himself, but honours his familial obligations.
Kindle. Kate recommended this one to me after I told her I'm not a fan of Carey. I have vague memories of abandoning Oscar and Lucinda after the first 100 or so pages; perhaps I extracted it from mrak's Ashfield abode a long time ago. Ah yes, I did read Bliss. The Chicago Public Library had the ebook of Theft, and I was glad to find that my membership still works.
It is indeed an agreeable read, putting me in mind of Patrick White's The Vivisector and David Malouf's Harland's Half Acre that I read too long ago. (Here is Andrew Reimer expressing similar sentiments about Malouf, and Patrick Ness relating this book to a few of White's.) Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that Carey owes something to these predecessors, given he published this in 2006. Fundamentally these are all riffs on class and how art of all forms is somehow a weird conceit in this country; it seems that all Australian painters come from rough stock, and their art grants access to women and places otherwise denied to the likes of them. Carey goes to extremes with location specificity, naming streets, pubs, creeks, dating a place by the arrival of refrigeration and the presence of wonder (here in the patriarchal butcher). I liked the jag up to Bellingen but Japan and New York struck me as superfluous. The perspective switching between the first-person narration of the two brothers works well; Hugh in particular is a reactionary voice from an almost-extinct Australia. Marlene is from Benalla, for which I retain a soft spot. I have no idea if their high school was ever burnt down, let alone by a gamine.
The language here is completely unaffected, with both brothers trying to act normal, and the artist anti-snobbily refusing to dumb down technique and palette. Bacchus Marsh is where Carey was born, says Radhika Jones. James Wood.
I had one of these on Betts. This time around I got a pack-rack (and not the sport-rack) as I saw it working very well with a milk crate on a Vespa. I ordered it last Friday, and picked it up from Close Motorcycles in Redfern yesterday. Installation was easy (it essentially replaces the grab bar) once one has the requisite Allen/hex keys, which I procured from Bunnings this morning. For reasons unknown the Kiwis decided to supply four bolts, two of size 6 and the other pair size 8, all for the uniform purpose of attaching the lugs to the bike.
You don't get a lot for your $350; the fittings for this CB400 are dinky. I think I would have preferred the rack to go straight up from the mount points, and may yet spin it around to face forward. As it stands a bag attached to the frame ends up sitting on the plastic beyond the pillion seat.
Next up, I need to fit the milk crate and see if I can wire up a USB outlet. The challenge is figuring out which circuit to use.
I scored a freebie to this from the State Library, and cashed it at the Verona 8.45pm screening after having dinner at Time for Thai in Kensington. Parking is a bit painful there due to the lightrail construction. The bike is going well, though I need to get used to riding at higher revs. I understand the appeal of sports machines now. The theatre was about a quarter full. I was a bit surprised to see Joel Edgerton in the short for Loving looking like a roughed-up Val Kilmer. Unfortunately it felt like a movie that's entirely contained in its trailer.
Moonlight was produced by Brad Pitt, which perhaps means that he felt this to be a story that needed to be told, or Barry Jenkins is an exceptionally promising director. Mahershala Ali was brilliant in the role of Juan, and the three-way between him, his girl Teresa (an equally solid Janelle Monáe, though she had less to work with) and Little (Alex R. Hibbert, yes, excellent) was magic. Naomie Harris has the hard job of being an erratic, sometimes drug-addled mother. Unfortunately the succeeding acts don't measure up to the first, and narrative possibility evaporates as the time-honoured cliches of drugs, poverty and blackness are given a slight gloss by some decent and subtle acting. The acorn didn't fall so far from the tree (I hoped he'd morph into a nuclear physicist), thereby knackering the more personal parts of this tale of self-discovery. The whole thing is wonderfully slow, and some scenes so powerfully ordinary, which seems so daring in these strange times. I guess I wish there'd been more humour.
Ben Affleck's latest: screen-written, directed, and starring in. It's a bit too much. This is the film version of the predecessor of the Lehane novel I read a while back, and if I was paying attention to either I may have figured that out at the time. Unfortunately Affleck is at his most wooden, and the whole thing is overstuffed with cliche; it's just a pastiche of all the 1920s gangster flicks that have come before. The cast is great, and it's clearly the material that is wanting. When will Zoe Saldana get a decent role?
Late afternoon paddle at Gordons Bay. I rode the as-yet nameless CB400 over. The traffic was respectful, I guess, but a bit stupid: every SUV driver thinks they'll be the lucky one to score a park on Moore St. I guess they can't tell the difference between SUVs looking for parks, and SUVs leaving and actually opening up parks. Anyway, the water seemed super-clean and a nice temperature, though there were some stagnant pools on the southern rocks.
... you get a 2012 model with reasonable kilometres (about 8800km) for reasonable money ($7,000), and find yourself once again the third owner of a bike in good nick. The second owner lives in West Ryde for now, soon to move to London, and was keen to offload it. The first bought it in Sydney and took it to Newcastle. Dave gave me a lift there, and the ride back to Glebe was uneventful. There's not much traffic on this Australia Day, and what there was was placid.
The market for these is thinning out now that Honda has decided that Australia is unworthy of Japanese-built small motorcycles. I called quite a few dealers trying to scare one up, and it seems I'm 6-12 months too late — the last model sold new is from 2015. It was always a bit of a strange arrangement as apparently the (modern) CB400 is not available anywhere but Japan and Australia, though the web suggests there are new ones to be had in Singapore presently. Perhaps Honda wanted to compete with Ducati and others at higher end of the LAMS market, and ended up flooding it between 2008 and 2015.
The model numbers for these things are weird. The compliance plate says it's a CB400. It has ABS, which I would have thought made it a CB400A. The rego says it's a CB400C, about which the internet knows little. The appeal was four cylinders, so she'll go on the highway. It's a tad low but otherwise what I had in mind.
Steven Strogatz: The Joy of x: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity.Wed, Jan 25, 2017./noise/books | Link
Kindle. This is a compilation of his columns in the New York Times from a few years back. There are some hits, some misses, and almost all could do with expansion; the notes make up for this somewhat. Strogatz wisely defers to others for depth and I have quite a few pointers to chase now. I guess that was his intention.
Kindle. I was in the mood for some shorts, even sci-fi shorts, and figured Johnson is a safe pair of hands. Well, the style is a precursor to his later novel, but these are not as good. There are some very funny descriptions and dialogue. The Canadanaut takes some cheap shots at Canada, has a lot of fun crazy particle physics and sends Wolverine (?) to the dark side of the moon. The opening Teen Sniper made me think I was in for a Charles Yu tale but rougher, and I was a bit disappointed it didn't go that way. There's a lot of isolation and brokenness, and overall you can kind-of see why people voted Trump but not why they stay together or want to continue.
Michiko Kakutani, at the time.
I missed the 370 by half a minute and then had to wait twenty for the next one. Finished my book on the headland at Coogee. Quite pleasant in. Met a very friendly long haired black retriever-ish thing who was waiting for her owner to finish his swim. Indian at the takeaway in Coogee then another glacial 370 back to Glebe.
I wish I'd seen this in 70mm at the cinema.
I saw an an ad for this at the Chauvel: the live broadcast was on December 15, 2016 and they'll replay it sometime soon. The draw is Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart on the stage doing Pinter's No Man's Land. I enjoyed his work while I was in Chicago; this production is more arch and less fun. Perhaps the Brits venerate him too much. The set is pretty boring.
A hellish ride on the 370 over to Coogee from Glebe, after waiting at least twenty minutes at the stop. That's what I get for heading over so late. Super hot day, and quite crowded. I was too lazy to walk up to Gordons, and so just had a dip in the northern end. Completely flat. The ride back on the 372 was a lot less painful.
I think I saw this venerable Scorcese effort at one of the old midnight screenings on George St in the 1990s. The electioneering — Goodwin: A return to greatness — is so very 2016, as are the vigilantism and bald assertions of pseudo-fact, the unhinged behaviour of the strong. It's been picked over for decades now. The cinematography comes off as a bit try-hard, something that larger budgets presumably sorted out. I hadn't realised how much of this was raided by Stone for Natural Born Killers.
Late afternoon paddle at Gordons Bay, off the beach. Not too many people around, apart from a large group on the southern rocks. A bloke had some girls out on surfboards, paddling lengths of the bay and presumably around to Clovelly or Coogee.
The reasons for making this movie could hardly be less interesting than the movie itself. I don't remember why I picked this one out: Otto Preminger is not really on his game here, and Paul Newman is excruciatingly wooden. Lurv in a time of nation building is quite painful to watch; apparently there are no valid arguments against violence in the service of a future state, here Israel. Everyone becomes a Zionist inside five minutes, whatever their priors, and the ethics is down at the level of Star Wars-esque who-shot-first. The dialogue is generally horrible. There is some OK cinematography but nothing for the ages. The score was very familiar: I think I've heard Mantovani's version of it before. It is very long and tendentious.
Kindle. I stumbled upon this Pulitzer Prize winner via a review of his shorts Fortune Smiles in the New York Times. In some ways it's an update on George Orwell, an exploration of identity in totalitarian North Korea, just as biting but far funnier than that might sound. Kim Jong-il rules with a thin-skinned capricious forcefulness that propaganda can't really obscure; the people seem to know there's more out there, but not what it might be. The leading nameless character undergoes a lengthy journey from the orphanage to the yangban milieu, from zero-light tunnel fighter to third mate on a fishing boat, to people thief, to Minister for the Mines. Some scenes shock, even though they are unsurprising. Johnson has a great talent for breaking the tension by cashing in his Chekhovian devices at what seem almost arbitrary times, at will, and wearing his research lightly. My only very minor beef is that the behaviour of several characters wasn't entirely plausible within Johnson's North Korean logic itself.
Michiko Kakutani. Barbara Demick warns that there's a lot of make believe here. Johnson talking with Karan Mahajan. Wyatt Mason at the New Yorker is more critical. I think the second half works as the setting moves to Pyongyang, itself a place of magical realism.
Bussed it to Coogee, finished reading my book on the northern headland, and had an early-evening paddle off the southern rocks at Gordons Bay. Not many people there. The wind was quite strong. I got the impression the tide was rising but it was harder work getting back to the rocks than I expected. After that I schlepped up to a modern upscale fastfood place on Clovelly Road; the fried seafood joint I had in mind had a queue out the door, just to order.
At the Verona, 8:50pm session, membership freebie, $4.50 for a flat white. I walked there from Gordons Bay via Centennial Park and Oxford St with some hope that there was more to it than was in the short. There wasn't. The problem with using an adblocker all the time is that it makes me more susceptible to advertising when I do encounter it. There were loads of people going to something else, probably La La Land. In my absence the Verona has changed to allocated seating.
The entire thing is horribly unimaginative, featuring Brad Pitt at his most wooden, leaving it to Marion Cotillard to supply all the energy. The plot is entirely risible; in these post-Gone Girl days you can't get away with something as dumbly linear as this. In some ways it's a humourless retread of Inglourious Basterds; in others a humourless pretread of The Tree of Life. Pitt sure has been in a lot of war movies recently, and particularly WWII ones. The nods to Casablanca signal desperation, co-option.
A. O. Scott saw another movie.
10am-ish soak with Ben at the north end of Coogee beach. Super-hot day. While having a coffee at Morning Glory, heaps of emergency response vehicles turned up; we later found out that a teenager had not quite managed to jump off a cliff on the northern headland and severely injured herself. (No media was present and coverage since has been scant.) Afterwards I schlepped back up to Randwick after for some sushi.
Got a bus to Central and hence to Coogee for an early-evening paddle at Gordons Bay. Not too many people there. Very pleasant once in, and seemingly quite clean. Lots of erosion on the beach due to runoff.
Kindle. This seems to be offcuts (pre-cuts?) of her first novel, Telex from Cuba. There are three stories:
- The Great Exception, about the discovery of Cuba by the Portuguese. Cannibalism and a randy Queen. Also a credulous American lady named Aloha taking up residence and being fleeced by a Ferdinand K.
- Debouchment: a short take on the debauched idle lives of Americans prior to the revolution, and just-as-it-happened.
- The Strange Case of Rachel K. The leading lady is a cabaret dancer, and her customers of note are the Cuban President before Batista's coup and a French Nazi.
The writing is good, and there's something to everything she describes. It's not at all funny, or spectacularly horrible.
Headed down to La Perouse with Dave for lunch at Paris Seafood, and a couple of dips at Little Congwong. Beautiful day for it, occasional light wind, flat, sunny, not too hot.
This is a well-produced vacuity about the failure of current-day economics to be stable, and of economists to study instability. It is larded with tautology and leans on some big names who probably didn't know they'd be so bowdlerized; I guess Terry Jones's Monty Python pedigree opens doors to people who should know better. Good for Hyman Minsky that he predicted what happened in 2008; poor form of the producers to include Steve Keen and not reflect on his failure as prognosticator. Hint: it's all in the timing boys.
Ken Kaworowski was impressed.
Peter Cameron: Finishing School for Blokes: College Life Exposed.Thu, Jan 05, 2017./noise/books | Link
A HBO telemovie about LBJ's first election, and the civil rights fight/mess/campaign/... of 1964. It's a touch hagiographic, as one would expect given the generally poor(er) quality of presidents since. I hadn't realized how young he was at the time. Bryan Cranston is mostly solid in the lead, as is Melissa Leo as his wife. The lines are a bit too pat and didactic, posturing, for this to really work as it may have on the stage. Anthony Mackie does not succeed as Martin Luther King Jr. Bo Foxworth is a serviceable Robert S. McNamara, albeit more robotic than the original ever was, I'd guess. Ray Wise, from Twin Peaks, plays Senator Everett Dirksen.
Chauvel, 3:30pm session, $16. I also signed up for the Palace Cinemas movie club again for $19 for a year. The mostly-grey audience hardly made a dent on Cinema 1. A new Jarmusch: I enjoyed the last one (Only Lovers Left Alive) and figured I could do with another love-letter to an American city. This one is more about the small things in married city life, and would be more appropriately billed as studies in sleeping together. Adam Driver does passively OK with very little material, but his wife (Golshifteh Farahani) is far less persuasive. The dog carried most of the comedic moments. I can't help but think that Hal Hartley was wise to keep the poetry off screen in Henry Fool. It's meditative, and not much happens.
Kindle. Three shorts and a novella. All are a lot like Kobek's i hate the internet but generally funnier and more effort to parse. The inventive language is sometimes laugh-out-loud ludicrous.
- Emission. A drug sub-dealer's life is ruined by ... the internet. It's revved up, and Cohen has some with the characters' epistemics: the shady fix-it lady already knows all that we know. Some great terse, economical imagery.
- McDonald's. Should writers use brand names? A quote near the end — "[...] there's a clock there, ticking shifts above the citations and mugshots: Employee of the Month wanted for armed robbery, nonsupport." — evoked the missing-persons board in the Maccas on Broadway. There's no plot and not much to hang onto, but certainly Halalabad.
- The College Borough. Washed out writer goes to ... Iowa? The prof exiled from NYC literally addresses his students' writing flaws by prescribing apt vocational manual labour. They recplicate the Flatiron, he jumps. I guess it's a riff on the shopcraft as soulcraft meme, current at the time.
- Sent. Ruminations on internet porn, the amateurs, small town Eastern Europe, finishing school and failing to launch.
Mildly surprisingly to me, Rachel Kushner reviewed it for the New York Times about six months (early 2013) after Dwight Garner (mid 2012). Both are spot on, and make me want to dig into Kushner's oeuvre.
Second time around.
A segue from The Handmaiden via its IMDB forum, where many claimed The Wailing to be the best Korean feature of 2016. Well, perhaps not: this ghost/horror/zombie flick is mostly derivative and only terrifying in its length. The lead actor is too hammy to take seriously, perhaps due to the character or direction or both. I'm not going to pretend I understood what was going on, though those who enjoy reading things into tealeaves may enjoy the loose and confusing plot. There's a sacrifice scene in the middle that aims at Apocalypse Now. The cinematography is decent but uninspired, and there's not much humour. I guess the Japanese serve as stereotypical devils for the Koreans, and the literalism struck me as entirely lazy.