peteg's blog

Wombeyan Caves

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Betts strikes a pose at the famous sandstone tunnel.

Most of the way there.

I'd been eyeing off this journey into the deep inaccessible south of the Blue Mountains / Sydney's water supply since my ride down to Kangaroo Valley; Dad surprised me when he said he'd never been there. I set off at 11:30am and hightailed it down the Hume in perfect conditions. Perhaps there was less wind, but Betts had no trouble doing upwards of 90kph this time, excepting the hills. Things got decidedly slower when I got to Wombeyan Caves Road, west of Mittagong.

I kept her in second gear most of the way along the 40km or so of unsealed dirt, and was fortunate that there was no traffic. (I honked on all corners, and not just the blind ones.) The moon surface was easier to handle than the loose stuff, and Betts showed she's a real city girl, tottering on her heels as she picked her way through the gravel. About halfway along some Herefords lined me up: a bull, a cow and calf, some hangers-on. The whole track was hot and almost entirely exposed. I got to the Caves around 4pm, with some breaks. (A 4WD website led me to believe the whole thing would take more like six hours.) The creek was dry, which is unsurprising to those in the know as the whole area is sandstone, so no cool down / clean up for me.

View Randwick to Wombeyan Caves in a larger map

Scenes from Kangaroo Shit Park.

Camping next to the Wombeyan Creek.

I aimlessly cruised around the Wombeyan campsite for a bit until a ranger set me straight: the kiosk was closed for the day, and I could setup wherever I felt like it. It's a huge area with quite a few fireplaces and water taps. Over the picket fence is Kangaroo Shit Park, and yes, the roos are tame, as are the magpies. I pitched the tent up and had dinner, all ready to go to sleep by about 6pm, so I took a stroll over to the caves and other facilities. I think it's a little lame that they close so early in summer. After a pleasant early-evening doze on the thermarest Alison gifted me (far superior to the Kathmandu one I bought years ago), I was all set for a restless night of tossing and turning until the dawn chorus got me moving.

The Knapsack? Lennox? Bridge on Mitchells Pass at Blaxland.

I figured it wasn't worth hanging around for another couple of hours until the kiosk opened, so I hit the road going west around 7.15am. "Can't be too far to the Maccas at Blaxland," I thought. Yeah right. After about 90 minutes, including 20km of dirt, I made it to the little general store at Black Springs where a chatty Kiwi lass made me a very welcome coffee. The road from there to Oberon and on to Hartley was pretty cruisy, with Victoria Pass and so forth so very familiar. I did stop at the Blaxland Maccas for another coffee and to check my email.

As I'd been meaning to find the Lennox Bridge for ages, I pushed on further down the road running next to the Maccas, which becomes Mitchell's Pass at some point. It dumped me in Penrith on the old Great Western Highway. After that I took a break in Parramatta, figured out how to get onto Victoria Road, and ran into some hideous traffic in the south and east of the CBD due to the eastern distributor being closed. Apparently a tip-truck's tray came unstuck in one of feeder tunnels.


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Digging through my old CDs reminded me of this 1980s classic. The first half is quite tight, and then it goes all wobbly when the plot gets needy.

Inside Llewyn Davis

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With Dave at the Verona, 9.40pm session. Mercifully only 1h40min. I quite enjoyed this somewhat aimless amble by the Coen brothers. Some good acting, especially from the cat. I liked Carey Mulligan's unrelenting vitriol; it was almost Australian. I didn't really get the John Goodman sequence.

Anthony Lane contends that the inability of the main character to be the centre of things extends to the leading man (Oscar Isaac) having the same problem. Dana Stevens got right into it, as did A. O. Scott at the New York Times.

Vince Jones at Foundry 616.

/noise/music | Link

With Dave. Someone is trying to revive the Sydney jazz scene with this cute little venue near the University of Technology, Sydney; the last time I remember seeing Vince Jones was at the Harbourside Brasserie in the late 1990s. The place was packed so we propped up the bar for a bit, got some food in Chinatown at interval, and sat near the door for the second set. I was/am still pretty out of it and struggled to get into much: I did enjoy the piano a lot though, and was a bit stunned when he played Gil Scott Heron's Winter in America.

Mick Turner, live at the Sydney Festival.

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"This is a song about finding yourself at an airport with James Brown one day and Mick Turner... Mick Turner, ladies and gentlemen... boy from Sandringham, done good..."

There comes a time in every man's life when he's listened to the Dirty Three's Live at Meredith so many times he can lip sync to Warren Ellis, and it is that very moment, when the bits have worn off those CDs, to see what the boy can do solo. I grant that a tiny circus tent on the edge of Hyde Park, and the Sydney Festival itself, is not that conducive to ruminating on new tunes, especially when one is totally preoccupied with showing that a garbage collector collects garbage, and only the garbage.

Atypically he played with a band featuring three ladies and two other blokes. I sat in a strategically stupid spot and got the Warren Ellis treatment, i.e. he faced away from me the whole time. In fact the only person I could see was the (entirely agreeable) bassist Peggy Frew, and I got the impression that his tunes were not taxing her. One lady did vocals, the other keyboards. A bloke played some kind of backing guitar and the drummer was up against it with Jim White sitting in the crowd, though maybe I hallucinated that last part.

Bernie always reckoned Mick Turner was too much of a doodler to take the lead, and he was somewhat right; however as I'm looking for that kind of spaced-out non-intrusive and not-boring thing that he carried off so well on Ocean Songs, I later blew another $85 on what's available from his online shop.

All this came at the end of an afternoon in the State Library. Their internet is still all Port 80, which precluded a commit that I've been aiming for all week. I was also very tired, and am not sleeping enough presently. Betts got parked out front of the Lands Office, in a 2hr zone next to a red CB250 with ~30,000km on it, and a bit later on, next to the adventuring kind of BMW I just don't want.

Her (2013)

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At the 9.35pm session at the dear old Verona. There's a tiny loading bay out front of the Three Weeds pub on Oxford St, and Betts was the last horse on the sand when I got out near midnight. I was expecting something closer to 1h40m, and that's probably what the editor should have aimed for.

This movie has been a long time in coming to Australia, and it was a long way from Commodus to this for Joaquin Phoenix, though perhaps not so far from the lead of The Master. Scarlett must now hold the record for the most number of sex scenes without putting in an actual showing; this being the second Scarlett flick for the week I'm feeling a bit overloaded. Amy Adams is more Amy Adams here than in American Hustle — and her over-emoting drove me nuts; I guess I'm not in love with her any more. At least she wasn't as frosty here as she was in The Master.

As for the movie itself: well, what can one say. As I walk the streets I see that everyone is now a computer addict, just like I've been for about thirty years. I'm pretty sure I don't want my machine to sound like Scarlett. The flight of the OSs reminded me of Douglas Adams's dolphins, but without the fishbowls, and as it was all about the fishbowls, Jonze missed out on a major plot opportunity. That the OSs ran off, and didn't procreate, struck me as not very compassionate; there was plenty of scope for a dynasty of Scarletts, each more tuned to Joaquin than the previous, at no cost to her. I guess this is what happens when liberal arts types speculate about software. The marshmallow man is pretty funny; that and the ending put me in mind of Fight Club, but without the Pixies, which brings me back to the fishbowls and their lack.

Manohla Dargis got right into it for the New York Times, as did Dana Stevens. Anthony Lane observes that Phoenix's shirts and moustache are ill-advised. There are a few postings on the New Yorker blog: Christine Smallwood finds the final twist ("humans who have given all their attention to their devices find that they can't hold their devices' attention in return.") good; I infer she is not a software person or big on empathy. Richard Brody summarises: "with its dewy tone and gentle manners, [it] plays like a feature-length kitten video [...]".

I talked to Sean about it on Wednesday. He observed that the protaganist is atypical: a sensitive bloke who's not a complete tool. Phoenix's date with Olivia Wilde got his goat, and mine too. I think he got more into this flick than I did.

Luke's ABC Open Christmas special.

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Luke did an awesome Christmas special on a lightshow in Lithgow for ABC Open. It made it on to 7.30 at the time. I just got around to watching it now.

Bullet Catch at the Carriageworks.

/noise/theatre | Link

The being January I just had to go something in the Sydney Festival... but what? Pickings were unusually slim this year. I plumped for this and Mick Turner on Thursday. I can only hope I get more for my other $40 (including booking fee) in a couple of days than I did tonight.

In brief, solo performer Rob Drummond, sporting a Scottish or possibly Geordie accent, gives us something of a potted history of this trick mixed in with some mind reading and sundry second-rank trickery. He sure is a great reader of body language, assuming they weren't all plants. In contrast his history is at odds with Wikipedia, and this being an era of Government-by-Wikipedia, I expect he's been deported by now. A major part of the show involved audience participation, which was mostly in the form of a lady who was out with her partner, up (err, down) on stage. Unfortunately the interaction led to much tedious and boring interjection from know-everythings; in that sense it was perfect for the Festival. The central moral quandry was whether he should reveal the mystery of the levitating side-table. (The lady's partner was in fact a magician himself and quite allergic to this spilling of tradecraft.)

As for the climax: the test shot failed to shatter the plate and so it was clear that the bullets were blanks. Colour me surprised. I hope he sacked his roadie.

The massive Christian Boltanski installation still crowds the foyer. The house was packed, and the line snaked all the way back to the bar.

/noise/beach/2013-2014 | Link

Day-long trip to Wattamolla with Jacob and Barb, Alex and Alana. I didn't get to swim much. Alex has the makings of a master sand craftsman. Alana is a brave waterbaby, wanting to jump off the rocks like all the bigger kids — but Barb wisely put the kabosh on that as she isn't even treading water yet. Betts enjoyed the ride down more than I did; I didn't feel sufficiently mindful to really relax into it. The traffic was fairly placid however, with the few homicidal drivers easily avoided with some lane splitting (while the traffic was stopped, honest!).

Computer Chess

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What a weird little movie: a very naturalistic take on a fictional computer chess tournament circa 1984. The cinematography is pure VHS, with the odd Easy Riders space out. There are some quite funny bits near the beginning before it starts to go off the rails. Would someone consider this Wes Anderson-ish? — but this is more genre and less generic kook. The director Andrew Bujalski is my age and seems to specialise in this sort of thing. Hal Hartley he is not, however.

I came to this from a generous review in the New York Times by A. O. Scott.

/noise/beach/2013-2014 | Link

Late afternoon paddle at Little Bay. Loads of people there. Fairly flat with the tide out.

Don Jon

/noise/movies | Link

Gordon-Levitt as writer/director takes us a long way from Brick by spoiling a tepid piece of sexploitation with some sort of moral fabulation: like Love and Other Drugs, the central conceit is provocative but the race is on to reach the safety of cliché. The whole thing is emptier than one would credit from the enjoyably over-the-top family scenes featuring Brie Larson's expressive silence and Tony Danza's hysterics. Glenne Headly is good too. Gordon-Levitt's histrionics in his car would be familiar to any of my passengers.

Here we have not only the Irish but also the Italians treating sin as a negotiable currency.

Manohla Dargis at the New York Times.

/noise/beach/2013-2014 | Link

Snorkel at the north end of the beach with Ben. We intended to try the south end again but it seemed too rough. Loads of people there at 6pm. Still no squid. Loads of small fry. Pretty good visibility.

/noise/beach/2013-2014 | Link

Snorkel off the scuba ramp at Gordons Bay. The search for squid continues.

The Usual Suspects

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I'd forgotten many details of the plot in this one, and found that even knowing how it goes in broad terms doesn't ruin it. The cinematography is very fine, and the pacing just about perfect.

The Missouri Breaks (1976)

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Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando in a mildly meh northern-Western. Jack rustles horses and Marlon is a "regulator" who is paid to be allergic to that. I can see what they were trying to do.

/noise/beach/2013-2014 | Link

Another evening paddle at Gordons Bay. More people attempting to fish there, but succeeding only in standing around looking self conscious.

/noise/beach/2013-2014 | Link

Early evening paddle at Gordons Bay. Quite pleasant in.

John Wilton Solo in a drain

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As advertised by the NOW now, John Wilton was bashing a cymbal in the drain under Sydenham Station. I think he also had some post-processing that lent it a spooky ambience.

Chicago in the depths of winter.

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Grégoire and the Bean.

I chose a really terrible time for a fly-by-night trip to Chicago. The temperature on Monday was at record setting lowest maximums, apparently due to an "Arctic vortex" that spread the cold air usually contained at the pole; Tuesday was marginally better. It's hard to talk weather with Americans as they still use Fahrenheit, but in Celsius Monday ranged from something like -26° to -23°, ignoring the windchill off Lake Michigan, and when they talk about it being "above zero" they don't mean the snow is going to melt. Some say that was colder than Antartica. While I was there the Chicago River near the downtown went from perhaps 10% iced over to closer to 70% (my guesswork). I schlepped down to the park with Grégoire on Sunday when it was still snowing, and again on Tuesday when it was marginally warmer. This kind of cold is far beyond what I'd experienced in Sweden, being unforgivingly brutal on any exposed skin.

Generation Kill

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At Dave's repeated insistence, and I'm glad he did insist given what an awesome piece of work it is. As war movies go, this is some amalgam of Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket, with many of the archetypes of the latter directly imported. Military command is generally held to be incompetent.