Monday, October 30, 2006

Dirty? Oh yeah baby!

You see a surprising amount of good theatre in Australia - up to two years before you see it in the UK - because a surprising number of theatre producers live in Australia, and it is a superb test market for the USA and UK. Which is why we saw a Dirty Dancing preview two weeks ago on the recommendation of Universal Mother-In-Law, who visited recently from Brisbane.

Being male, I am a bit cynical about Dirty Dancing. And, in much the same way that Universal Wifey has never seen any of the Star Wars movies, and cares not for The Godfather I, II or III; I never bothered to see the Dirty Dancing when it was a film. Which is why I found myself standing outside the Aldwych theatre with two Dirty Dancing tickets in my hand, waiting for Universal Wifey to arrive directly from her flight from Switzerland.

First the theatre. (Well, you don't want me to ploughing straight in there, do you girls - gratification is better delayed.) The Aldwych theatre has been extensively re-modelled in time for Dirty Dancing so the steats work without squeaking, the bathrooms are functional, the paint un-chipped, the carpet not the slightest bit sticky and the chandeleir cleaned and polished to twinkly gorgeousness - so make sure you walk down the front to buy an icecream or a bottle of water from the vendors in the auditorium so you can stand in line and look up the the building - it really is fabulous.

Now the performance. I would like to trash it as "...soft porn for women..." as the Sunday Times already has, but I think that is short-changing it. Sure it is largely a platform for Josef Brown's rippling V-shaped torso to be paraded atop his thrusting, black-denim-clad groin; sure the singing is of the quality you usually expect from dancers; sure the storyline is a fine gossamer thread tenuously linking opportunities to dance, sing or see Josef Brown's rippling V-shaped torso paraded atop his thrusting, black-denim-clad groin; and sure the audience is 70% daughters of the eighties and their mothers, who become one gagging, gibbering mess by the end of it. But there is enough to keep gentlemen entertained too: first you will be surprised that the story consists of more than boy-meets-girl, they dance, they kiss, they dance, end of holiday; second you get see Georgina Rich writhing around in all her curvy, girl-next-door, innocent-yet-dirty,-teenage-sexbomb, dancing, singing glory; third, if Georgina is too subtle for you, Nadine Coote spends a good part of the performance wearing something black and sprayed on; and if that isn't enough, she dances with Georgina Rich enough for you to delude yourself that it's girl-on-girl action.

So, in sort, it's not soft porn for women. It's soft porn for everyone. It's about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on; it's a sure-thing on a first date and it's going to run for about as long as testosterone and estrogen come packaged in boys and girls.

Dirty Dancing
Aldwych Theatre, London, WC2B 4DF
Phone 020 7279 3367
Tickets £25-£55 from ticketmaster on 0870 400 0805

Thursday, October 26, 2006

I would have helped if I understood all the questions

Having been religiuosly confused for some time - I think of myself as spiritual, rather than pious - I thought I would have a look at Beliefnet's Belief-0-matic.

It's summary of my religious proclivities is:
1. Neo-Pagan (100%)
2. Mahayana Buddhism (84%)
3. New Age (80%)
4. Unitarian Universalism (76%)
5. Reform Judaism (70%)
6. Hinduism (69%)
7. Sikhism (69%)
8. Liberal Quakers (68%)
9. New Thought (68%)
10. Scientology (67%)
11. Theravada Buddhism (65%)
12. Orthodox Judaism (55%)
13. Bah�'� Faith (52%)
14. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (52%)
15. Jainism (52%)
16. Taoism (52%)
17. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (52%)
18. Secular Humanism (45%)
19. Islam (41%)
20. Orthodox Quaker (31%)
21. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (30%)
22. Eastern Orthodox (30%)
23. Roman Catholic (30%)
24. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (28%)
25. Nontheist (28%)
26. Jehovah's Witness (19%)
27. Seventh Day Adventist (12%)

I suspect it would be much simpler if the Belief-o-matic had a setting for Lapsed Catholic.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Fetishes I don't understand

I've always been a little puzzled by foot fetishes, largely because I am not a foot fetishist. Although I can somewhat see the point, because feet are rich in nerve endings and so could provide pleasing sensations of a sensual nature.

I am even metrosexual enough to have an inkling of an understanding of why girls like shoes so much, and I have certainly noticed that the right girl in the right pair of shoes can look damn good.

But this - - puts me so far out of my depth I don't know where to begin.

Is it erotica for cobblers?

Friday, October 06, 2006

Finding a darker narnia

I wasn't exactly complimentary about John Connolly's last book, The Black Angel, and I glanced into The Book of Lost Things before I recognised the author, read a paragraph and was hooked. This is so entirely different to his last book that it could have been written by a different person.

David is twelve, his mum has died and he's a little bit obsessive compulsive. He feels like is the only one grieving his mother's death, and racket from the books is irritating him. Yes, he hears books talk - hillariously at his psychiatrist's office, when they call out, "Charlatan, fraud!" or, "well done old man, good question," depending on his performance; and sadly when the obsolete reference books in his bedroom fight to be heard, knowing deep down that their autority and worth has been stripped from them.

And then it feels like someone has been in his room.

Ultimately David discoveres another world through a crack in the old sunken garden he can see from his window. This is no Narnia though - this is a world of horror, of wolves, worse-than-wolves, and other horrors. Of huntresses who cross children and animals to make better quarry; and of a dying king who is losing control of his kingdom. Every human that has entered the world has bought its fears with it, increasing the population of horrific creatures - some of which are Davids, and must be conquered before he can leave. The book is superb - I had a month to read it and finished it in four days.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

When good people stay silent

I forget who it was, but some wise person said that, "Bad things happen when good people stay silent."

Whistleblowers are the people of integrity who sacrifice their career, their bank balance, sometimes their life and often their marriage on the altar of thier own integrity. They are the good people who see something bad happening and stand up to stop it. You might remember them from school - they were the little person who stood up to the bully - and sometimes got their arse whipped. I know some of this because it happened to my dad. It ended-up being the best thing that ever happened to him - got him out of a dead-end job and into a high-flying executive career. And it destroyed his confidence for a long time, and it made his life difficult; but he avoided any fame and he got on with his life. His two whistleblower colleagues' careers were obliterated.

So I was interested when I found the author of this book in on Petite's comments page. I haven't read it yet - I'll write it up when I do.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Getting Sharp with Kingo

I haven't seen this exhibition, but I can vouch for the artists - having spent a very pleasurable day building a large, ferry shaped sand-castle on Palm Beach with them. We won equal first prize!

Martin Sharp I have only met once - on the sandcastle day. He looks like a slightly more weatherbeaten Keith Richards. His early art is cartoonlike, vibrant, and colourful. He has matured into a smootly sophisticated modern artist.

Kingo is my friend. We met while trying to save Hegarty's Ferries, the old wooden ferries that used to ply the waters between Circular Quay and Luna Park, and I try to visit him whenever I am in Sydney. He paints wonderful sea-scapes and harbour-scapes - many from his window overlooking Lavender Bay, where he lives next door to the house of the late Brett Whitely - another great lover of the bay. Peter Kingston and Wendy Whitely still tend gardens in the public park in front of their houses, and Peter has lined the foreshore walk in Lavender bay with miniature bronze sculptures from The Magic Pudding and Blinky Bill.

His paintings are more epic than Martin's - although he does his share of cartoon style pictures too - and a very nice line in chess sets. His recent painting style is possibly more grown-up than Martin's, incorporating some abstract impressionism and elements of both Lloyd Rees - the great grandaddy of North Shore painters, and Brett Whitely. He paints water beautifully and he paints moods.

Peter, for all his enthusiasm and passion, has a slight air of sadness about him - he misses his dog, he misses his ferries and he struggles to preserve the vanishing bits of maritime herritage around Sydney Harbour. And you can feel the mood in his paintings. Especially Self-Portrait as a Rope Thrower - which unfortunatley is not in the exhibition. It depicts Peter as the ropeman, standing in the rain on The Emerald Star - the most lovely of Hegarty's old ferries - having just tied it up at the wharf. The painting is almost monochrome, with little bits of colour reflecting out of the puddles - you can see the bittersweet style at the exhibition in Shag Shed Resumes. The rain in the self-portrait is like the tears of loss, and Peter is there, like a ghost, on a ghostly boat. The painting is hauntingly beautiful, but also like a big cartoon - again Peter's mix sad and happy, all in one place, just like life. The painting should be in The Archibald Prize, because it would be a contender for victory - I have never seen a painting that captures the personality of its subject so perfectly. So if you don't ever meet Peter Kingston, find his Self-Portrait as a Rope Thrower and stand in front of it for a while. You'll have met him then.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Anti-terrorism strategies: two in the hold are worth one in the overhead compartment

It's been all over the British media today that the Home Office has shifted the security alert to its highest level - a terrorist attack is imminent.

The nature of the attack is said to be a bomb carried onto an aeroplane in someone's hand luggage. There is no indication in the media that the proposed bomb is a dirty bomb, but just a bomb that goes bang and destroys things.

The recommended course of action is for airlines to ban hand luggage until further notice - meaning that people will not be allowed to carry any more than a lipstick and a piece of fruit on board, in a clear plastic bag, like a shopping bag - which seems like overkill given that they are also going to be swabbing passengers for explosive residues. Surely you could hand-search a handbag sized piece of luggage in the time it takes for the swab to be processed, and it would distract the passengers from thinking about how much they are being delayed.

Those questions aside. My big question is, why is a bomb unacceptable in the cabin, but acceptable in checked luggage?

And of course, if it's a dirty bomb, an aeroplane is about the best place for it. Everybody already has an oxygen mask, and you can remove the toxins in about a second by de-pressurising the cabin. If the dirty bomb is in the hold - which isn't usually pressurised - surely there will be bomb residue all over the luggage, which may end-up being tracked all through a foreign city by a bunch of travellers grumbling about all the dust on their luggage after being in the plane.