Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Wattle Day

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National Wattle Day 1 September 2005

On Thursday 1 September, All Australians are asked to wear the green and the gold (Australia’s colours) or a sprig of wattle and welcome each other with a G’day, a smile, a wink or a handshake in the same way as the wattle blossoms gold to welcome in the Australian Spring.

I was surprised to see that the Wattle tree at the end of my garden was actually in flower for Wattle Day this year. Other years I've been mildly annoyed to see it blooming later than any of the other Wattles around the district, but this year it's a mass of golden blossoms for the big day.





Here's one for the Neil Diamond fans: Monday night was the warmest August night ever recorded in Hobart.

The lowest temperature was 15 degrees [about 58ยบ F], up from the previous record of 14.4 degrees.

The weather bureau's Ian Barnes-Keoghan says a windy and cloudy night in the south and east meant daytime temperatures did not drop away as they normally would.

He says the new Hobart minimum breaks a record that has stood for 120 years.

"That's above the previous record of 14.4. That occurred back in 1885, so it's a very long established record that one". A hot August night indeed.

Yet so erratic is the winter weather this month that by Wednesday afternoon Deloraine and parts of northern Tasmania were flooded. The Mersey River has broken its banks and caused localised flooding around Latrobe.

The Main Road at Balyhoo Creek between Tarleton Road and Latrobe Road has been closed, and people are advised to use the Bass Highway to get to and from Latrobe and Devonport.

The State Emergency Service regional manager, Bevis Dutton, says Kentish, Central Coast and Latrobe emergency services will be on stand-by throughout the night.

What can we expect next??




Very sluggish on Wednesday morning. I was still asleep and dreaming when someone phoned to ask if I wanted to sell some raffle tickets for charity. No I didn't.

I wish I could remember that dream in detail. It would knock Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard right off the bookshelves. It was so detailed -- when I woke up I could remember in detail the uniforms that the soldiers wore in the other world I'd dreamed up.

Alas, all the memories fly forgotten as the old hymn has it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Sunday thoughts

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
and clothed in righteousness divine.
Bold I approach the eternal throne
and claim the crown through Christ, my own.



God Sent His People

Our minister R1 took to the pulpit on Sunday morning at the end of “Missions Month”, read from the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles and mused on just what we were celebrating.

The chief missionary of the church, he said, is the Holy Spirit – through that work a light is shone on Jesus Christ.

It’s estimated there are 400,000 people involved in cross-cultural activities around the world. This is what the popular idea of a missionary is. But the real work of missions is God’s people witnessing for the Lord – you and me, not some missionary toiling in a far-off jungle.

We are the living embodiment of mission [John 17:13-21]. We are called by God to be a witness to his glory among those we rub shoulders with on a daily basis.

It might be possible to live in a Christian ghetto, mixing only with those with similar beliefs and consuming only the books and music sold at the local Christian bookshop. The wider community wouldn’t even know we were there. That would be as far away from mission as possible.

Our lifestyles should signify as much as our words – we need to be more like Christ if we want to influence others in his cause. If we don’t have that inner joy, we can’t spread the Good News of the Gospel to others

We should live for Christ by living as Christ.

Still on and on the anthems spread,
of hallelujah voices;
in concert with the holy dead,
the warrior church rejoices;
their snow-white robes are washed in blood,
their golden harps are ringing;
earth and the Paradise of God
one triumph song are singing.

He comes, whose advent-trumpet drowns
the last of time's evangels,
Immanuel, crowned with many crowns,
the Lord of saints and angels,
O Life, Light, Love, the great I AM,
Triune, who changes never,
the throne of God and of the Lamb
is Yours, and Yours forever.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Deadly Nightcap

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We had a few days of culture this week. On Friday we went from a bookshop via the Cafe 73 restaurant to the art galleries and then on to the theatre.

This month's play at The Playhouse was an old Francis Durbridge whodunit "Deadly Nightcap".

After a deceptively quiet first few minutes, the plot begins to thicken rapidly with an amazing twist at the end of Act One. From there on we had enough red herrings to stock a seafood restaurant before the mystery was resolved at last.

Leonie Adams starred as the much put-upon Sarah Radford -- a very different part to her role in Away earlier this year.

A gripping piece of entertainment from the creator of Paul Temple.

The final attraction for the year is a double-feature of two one-act plays, including the amusing The Real Inspector Hound which I remember seeing at the Theatre Royal many years ago.

And while I think of it a big Thank You to the ushers at the Playhouse for letting us in after I left the tickets at home.




Unfortunately we missed the fact that that Friday was the annual Gallery Crawl bus trip around the city's galleries for Tasmanian Living Artists Week. We usually take the tour round the city, but this time we had to settle for a hasty walk around the art gallery belt in Salamanca Place before the theatre.

We'll try to get to some of the other exhibitions while they're on.




The Hobart Jazz Club has been talking about holding a jazz festival in North Hobart for the last five years. This year they finally got it off the ground under the title Hot August Jazz, spanning the pubs and restaurants between Burnett Street and Federal Street.

Sunday we spent the afternoon going up and down the main drag, sampling all the attractions. It was a mixed bag, with all different sorts of bands, styles and venues.

The venerable Ian Pearce Quartet were playing to a capacity crowd at the Queens' Head hotel when we arrived, followed by Mei Wei Lim and the Hobart Jazz Chorus.

Across the road, we looked in on Kaye Payne's Eklektika band at the Trout Bar [the old Commercial hotel] but someone had decided to amp up the volume and the blaring speakers were unsympathetic to her style. I've seen her in a more intimate venue and enjoyed it more.

Down at the Republic Bar [formerly the Empire Hotel] the Late Bloomers trio were better served by their sound system, bowling along nicely with some old favourites. The venue also boasts a nice collection of Art Deco bric-a-brac and antique travel posters.

Julie and Jan took a few minutes out to study the window of the St Vincent de Paul shop. "Look at that lovely twin set. Do you think they'd hold it for me if I phoned them on Monday morning?"

Of course not all venues were really sympathetic to things. The La Porchetta restaurant featured Mei Wei Lim playing a selection of George Gershwin and Cole Porter, but it was only for the diners with no options for anyone else to hang around and listen.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

spring up

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Can you believe this weather? Last week we were shivering in the icy wind blowing off the mountain. This afternoon it was so warm and sunny while I was in the city that I stopped for an ice cream!

All the trees are coming out in blossom -- even our notoriously slow wattle is in flower. There's even a sprinkling of daisies coming up on the back lawn.




Thanks to those generous people at OTRCAT I was able to listen to an episode of the classic American radio series Lights Out last week.

Lights Out debuted in 1934 and was radio's premier horror series created by writer/director Willis Cooper, who later scripted Boris Karloff's 1939 classic Son of Frankenstein. Cooper was succeeded by Arch Oboler, one of the great dramatists of Old Time Radio. Oboler had scripted Mae West's infamous "Garden of Eden" sketch and brought a new level of psychological horror to radio in scripts like "Cat Wife," "Sub-Basement," and "Chicken Heart" [famously recalled by Bill Cosby in one of his funniest routines].

Although I've known of the show for years (it ran till 1947) and once owned a vinyl LP of horror stories written by Oboler, I'd never actually heard an episode of the programme before.

The story in question was "Oxychloride X" and is one of two Oboler stories about the end of the world. (The other is the over-the-top classic "The Chicken Heart".) This starts out quietly and calmly until the introverted protagonist goes berserk in the college laboratory and invents an unstoppable solvent.

The events that follow makes Orson Welles' famous War of the Worlds broadcast sound like the chimps' picnic at the zoo. Oboler destroys not just the human race but the entire planet! However, in the style of Alfred Hitchcock's end-of-story disclaimers, there's a soothing final scene in which we discover it was all a dream.

Certainly a lively half-hour. Really brings back the feel of the Golden Age of radio.




Whenever a new sound media comes along, we're told how wonderful and durable it is. I remember in the early days of magnetic tape, one manufacturer had an advertisement in which tape was frozen in a block of ice, thawed out and played perfectly. The fact that such a thing was unlikely to happen in the average home was glossed over.

In the real world, cassette tapes proved to have built-in drawbacks including stretching, bleed through and sticking together, making them impractical for long-term storage.

Enter the Compact Disc.

When the CD was first introduced, it was of course described as being the perfect medium for sound recording. People had exaggerated idea of the durability of the discs, only to be disillusioned by problems caused by scratches and dust.

I remember when the DVD came out, I was taken in at first by the hype which described it (you guessed it) as the perfect medium for conveying sound and vision. I was brought down to earth by hiring a George Clooney movie from my local video library and discovering it was so badly scratched it couldn't be played at all.

So after all that I wasn't at all surprised to see that the Imation company have brought out a CD-R which promises to have fewer problems than a normal disc.

Marketed with the catchphrase "Don't your memories deserve an extra layer of protection?", the Imation Forcefield disc promises a scratch-resistant coating, anti-static repulsion of dust particles, and wipe-clean surface in case of smears and smudges.

But can you freeze it in a block of ice?




PETROL PATROL: Fuel is up to $1.25 a litre in Hobart, but a recent letter in the local press points out we're still not paying as much as some countries are. Quite high enough for me, though.




It's usually the habit of television networks to program like against like. Rather than put shows of different types against each other, they prefer to match the opposition with a clone of their hit show and try and split the audience.

Wednesday night here is a perfect example of this. Beyond Tomorrow and The New Inventors compete for the attention of the audience interested in science/technology. Later the audience who enjoy police drama in the Big Apple have to decide between Without a Trace or Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

But of course that's why they invented the VCR.





I hear on Tony Delroy's radio show while I'm typing this that someone wants to make a new version of the science fiction film Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Excuse me?

Last time I looked there had been two feature films, one black-and-white and one in colour, and I think at least two telemovies.

Not to mention the original novel which was a serial in Collier's magazine before that.

Do we really need another re-make?




CD of the Day:

Back In The Swing
Anthony Warlow with the
Victorian Philharmonic Orchestra
Polydor Records 1993

People often ask me what style of music I like to sing when I'm not performing on the Opera or Musical Theatre stage. This album is the best I can give. From the romance of "Autumn Leaves" to the crazy fun of "Orange Coloured Sky" this collection celebrates the music of a golden era, the Swing Era. So whether you're hearing these songs for the first time or rediscovering an old favourite, I hope you'll enjoy listening to the music I enjoy singing.

Yes, it's an album of show tunes by Anthony Warlow. All the usual suspects: Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, Hoagy Carmichael, George Gershwin, Lerner & Loewe etc etc.

The 15 tracks here make for pleasant listening, though the first number is a bit of a surprise: "Blue Heaven" from the antique musical The Desert Song. I don't think I've ever heard such an uptempo version of Sigmund Romberg.






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Monday, August 22, 2005

back in Winter



The weather continued unsettled in August, with a few days of balmy weather followed by a weekend that snapped back to winter.

On Sunday morning the skies opened while we were on the way into town and I was almost soaked making my way into church. I took my place in the pews and sat there steaming slightly as we opened our hymnbooks.

At lunchtime the sun shone weakly through the drizzle - an infallible sign of snow falling on the mountain.

Maybe the weather is part of the reason my back is playing up today.

I felt all right when I eventually got out of bed this morning, but within half an hour I was conscious of some discomfort. (Now that I think of it, it was just after I helped Julie get the chickens out of their coop, which involved a bit of stretching and twisting.)

By lunchtime I had trouble turning my body to look at anything. This was a bit of a problem since while we were at my sister's house I planned to walk the dogs and unload a couple of sacks of feed. Neither seemed like a good idea anymore.

We bought a couple of smaller bags, and between Julie and myself we managed to get them out of the car and into the storage drum without straining ourselves. I took the dogs out in the yard and let them run around chasing some apples I threw for them. Not quite as much fun as a walk, but less strenuous for me.

We stopped for a cup of coffee in North Hobart. Called in at Aroma, an unusual shop that combines selling CDs with food & drink. I'm not sure if it's a record bar with a coffee machine or a coffee shop with a CD table, but in any case the coffee is really good and the food is edible.

It's funny but I can tolerate mediocre food if the coffee is good, but there are several places I never patronise simply because the coffee is undrinkable.

In the evening we had something to eat so Julie could dose me with anti-inflammatories and see if it made my back any better (so far it's helped a little). We watched the episode of Mythbusters where they experiment to see if it's true that buttered toast always falls face down; afterwards we went out into the kitchen and made a plate of buttered toast!




I quite like the new weekend line-up on ABC television.

Saturday nigh we have classic whodunit stuff in Midsommer Murders, amusing con-man stuff in Hustle and the story of country music in Lost Highway.

I also enoy Sunday night's Broadway: the American Musical and the comedy-thriller about an unorthodox police squad New Tricks.

Who needs commercial television?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Harlem Lounge

Harlem Lounge lays down a deep swinging groove that never loses its cool.



Last week at the Moonah Arts Centre there was a live performance by the jazz sextet Harlem Lounge, who claim to be influenced by bop, salsa, blues, acid jazz, funk, reggae and soul.

The enthusiastic Dan Sulzberger was on piano (at one point he was so excited he was pounding away standing up at the piano), Sean Brady wallopped the drums and Damien O'Toole put so much energy into the double bass I thought he might keel over before the finale.



In an era when so much so-called jazz is quiet and laid-back, it was a nice change to see a band that was genuinely and unabashedly noisy!

The audience applauded madly and after the show there was a chance to buy copies of the group's forthcoming CD if you were quick enough. (We were.)

Enormously entertaining.




Drove down to Ranelagh for lunch at Sara's farm the other day. It was a quieter trip than I had expected -- we were carrying a rooster in the back of the car and I had half-expected it to crow all the way down the Southern Outlet.

But it never made a peep all the way. In fact I was relieved when we opened the box at the other end and found he was still alive and well.

Before we had lunch, we popped the rooster into the enclosure with Sara's hens. They seemed to settle in quickly together and we kept an eye on them from the dining room window.

Sara as always put on a great spread. She provided a choice of either chicken or steak & kidney but she needn't have worried; everyone opted for the steak & kidney.

A discussion of one of the family photographs on the wall led to reminiscences about the royal visit to the farm in 1970.

Sara had met the Queen, which set me thinking about the famous "Six Degrees of Separation" idea; if you know someone who's met the Queen, this connects you by only three degrees to anybody famous in the world.

It is indeed a small world.




My BGL readings continue to be cause for concern. Yesterday morning it registered 8.6 which is much too high.

Something must be done.




The weekend also saw the climax of the first season of the new Doctor Who series. The final episode "Parting of the Ways" was gripping stuff, with great scripts for Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper.

I've been very pleased with this series and I look forward to the second season with David Tennant taking over the role of The Doctor.




Having a fully grown goose living in your backyard makes for some surprises sometimes.

One night last week I went out to feed her and she wasn't that interested. She sat between two shrubs and just looked at me. "Are you building a nest?" I asked but she didn't reply.

The next morning she'd laid her first egg.

A few days later I went out again to put out her supper and the yard was silent as the grave. I walked around calling her name and there was not a sound.

Fetching a flashlight, I began investigating all the little corners and niches around the garden. Finally I found her curled up in the walkway just past the laundry door, surrounded by a little levee of paper and clutter that she'd gathered from the backyard.

"Don't do that!" I said. "We thought something had happened to you."

At the end of the week we had four large goose eggs. Julie cooked them up with some milk, corn and parmesan cheese. Washed down with some unwooded chardonnay, it made quite an acceptable frittata.

My sister assures me we won't get four eggs every week. If we did, we'd have to learn to love omlettes, I suspect. There's a lot of nourishment in one goose egg.

And it's high protein, which was good for my BGL reading that night. I won't tell you what it was this morning -- I'm trying to forget.





Good news for Web log publishers with aspirations of making money off their sites--compared to the average Internet user, visitors to Web logs, or blogs, tend to be younger and to belong to a wealthier household, a study has found.

Blog visitors are also more likely to shop online and to connect to the Internet using a broadband connection, according to the study "Behaviors of the Blogosphere" conducted by comScore Networks. Unsurprisingly, blog visitors are also more active online, visiting almost twice as many Web pages as the average Internet user.

ComScore defines blogs as "mostly amateur online diaries." In terms of unique visitors, FreeRepublic.com ranked first in the first quarter, followed by DrudgeReport.com, Fleshbot.com, Gawker.com, and Fark.com. By visits, DrudgeReport came in first, followed by Fark.com, FreeRepublic.com, Gawker.com, and Slashdot.org.

"ComScore found that blog visitors represent a demographically attractive advertising audience. Blog visitors are disproportionately likely to be affluent, young, and broadband-enabled," reads the study, published this week.

Blog visitors are 11 percent more likely than the average Internet user to have incomes of $75,000 or more, and are 30 percent more likely to live in households headed by someone between the ages of 18 and 34, the study found.

During the first quarter, the average blog visitor viewed 77 percent more Web pages than the average Internet user, and spent 23 hours per week online, compared with 13 hours per week for the average user, according to the study. Regarding e-commerce behavior, blog visitors are 30 percent more likely to shop online than the average user.

Proof of the rising popularity of blogs is that about 50 million U.S. Internet users (about 30 percent of all U.S. Internet users) visited blog sites in the first quarter of 2005, up 45 percent compared with 2004's first quarter, according to the study.

The most popular type of blog is the political one, according to the study, which was sponsored by blogging software and service vendor Six Apart and by blog publisher Gawker Media. The study was based on comScore's tracking of the online activity of over 2 million Internet users.





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Thursday, August 11, 2005

winter wow

The press are warning about severe weather tonight and tomorrow in Tasmania. Queenstown on the west coast is apparently already cut off, and snowfalls down to sea level are predicted for southern parts of the island tomorrow.

Here in Hobart, there's snow on Mount Wellington down to about 300 meters. The afternoon show on ABC radio bravely announced they were defying the weather and would stay on air playing summer music, sipping cocktails and wearing Hawaiian shirts!

Driving through north Hobart I noticed at least one car with snow piled on its bonnet, a local custom on winter days to show that you've driven up to the snows and back.



Quote of the day:
"What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others." ~ Pericles





The shuttle has landed safely. (Praise God!) Before the Challenger disaster (and more recent tragedies) there was a feeling that spaceflight was safe and routine. The truth, of course, is very different.

Every astronaut takes their lives in their hands when they volunteer for space. That they return safely should be a cause for celebration after every flight.




Checking the latest Mandrake comic strip last week I was unpleasantly surprised to find that the King Features website now only offers you the current week instead of a month of strips. The reason is not surprising; they now have a paid service which allows you full access to that and many other comic strips.

That's become an increasingly common thing. Companies offer their stuff on-line for free till you become accustomed to immediate access to it. Then they bring in the paid option....

Other sites like Comics.com, comicspage.com and Ucomics are still free, but I wouldn't put any big bets on them staying that way forever.




Small Victories department.

I've managed to get Kay back on-line. After I gave her a lift home on Tuesday evening I had a look at her computer and tried out the new ISP a couple of times.

Here's your trouble, I told her. When you typed in the phone number, you put an extra digit in the middle. All we have to do it delete that and... hey presto!

She was quite pleased. Not only has she been off-line for several weeks, but she now has a connection to Netspace that costs her only $8 a month.

I didn't try to explain the new Netspace Accelerator programme to her; let's just enjoy our little success.






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Saturday, August 06, 2005

Millions

Went out one afternoon to a preview screening of the new movie Millions over at Eastlands – I don't go to the cinema much nowadays, but we were lucky enough to score some free tickets.

And it's a lovely movie. A small boy, alienated and grieving, suddenly stumbles across a small fortune in cash. What will he do with it? Will it change his life or can he use it to change the lives of his family and neighbours?

The American film critic Roger Ebert nails it pretty well when he says that director Danny Boyle and writer Frank Boyce "are serious filmmakers who do not know how to talk down to an audience, and although Millions uses special effects and materializing saints, it's a film about real ideas, real issues and real kids. It's not sanitized brainless eye candy. Like all great family movies, it plays equally well for adults -- maybe better, since we know how unusual it is."




Friday night, for the first time in ages, I actually got eight hours sleep. I felt so good when I woke up this morning that I forgot all about doing my Blood Glucose test before I had breakfast.

That's a shame, because the last two mornings I'd been pleased to find my BGL was down to 6.4 which is where it used to be a couple of months ago. For some reason it's been going up steadily all this month, hitting 8.0 one day.

That's not good. It's not disastrous, but it's not good.

Maybe I felt so well I just forgot I had diabetes.

Trust me, months of not getting enough sleep make you feel really run-down. Maybe when you're in your twenties you can tolerate that sort of thing – but as you go along you find you simply can't do it anymore.





Saturday we spent part of the day at the Veterinarian. Julie has been worried about her mastiff Saj, who has been off his food this week.

Fortunately her favourite vet was on duty and he carefully examined Saj from top to tail. Nothing obvious was wrong but he recommended leaving him there for further tests.

This we did and they gave him the full gamut. Blood tests, urine analysis and a cardiac and abdominal ultrasound. Everything seemed fine for an 11-year-old dog and they prescribed some anti-inflammatories in case arthritis was a factor.

As we left, I said to Saj "You're in better health than most people are at your age!" He didn't answer, merely made a bee-line for the exit.

While we were there, Julie had asked about her Cornish Rex cat Jezebel. The Feliway didn't seem to be helping calm her down, so they gave us some "pussycat prozac" for her.

Now these are small tablets, and it's been quite a while since we've had to give a cat pills.

I had forgotten ("Hold her head!") just how difficult ("And her front paws!") it can be ("Ouch! And her back paws....") to get pills down a cat's throat.

We managed to get one down her in the end. At least I think so. It's hard to say for certain since I didn't notice much change in her attitude that evening.

But then that's cats for you. You often have to accommodate your personality to theirs rather than vice-versa.





I've been enthralled by the new series of Doctor Who we've had on television this year. Sequels and re-makes are always a bit dubious but this one works great.

The penultimate episode of series 1, "Bad Wolf", was fascinating. It turns out that reality television is actually a plot by aliens to soften us up for an invasion. That explains a lot!

The episode would have worked even better if the ABC hadn't shown us in the preview the previous week that the Daleks were the power behind it all. I think that was supposed to be a surprise, folks!





I've been listening to quite a few different radio programmes on the BBC website in the last year or so, but in the last couple of months I've added another to my list.

Brian Kay's Light Programme explores the "diverse world of light music", which is a very particular niche market. You may not understand the name, but you'll know it when you hear it. (If you recognise the name Eric Coates this is probably for you.)

What I like about it is hard for me to explain -- it features music I like but which I haven't heard before.

There are plenty of "nostalgia" or "easy listening" programmes and albums that could easily have been produced by a computer. You know the sort of thing: take one song each by Bing Crosby, the Mills Brothers, Judy Garland, Richard Tauber, throw in an amusing novelty song and a couple of instrumentals and voila!

The music that Brian Kay plays on his show certainly has an agreeable sound, but they are nearly all tunes that are not already familiar to me. Sometimes you don't want to hear a particular song for the 83rd time, you want something that's equally pleasing to the ear but is new to you!

I remember when Magic 103.9 started broadcasting in Hobart, they had a very strict Golden Oldies format. The first time I listened to the station for a long spell, I realised that I knew all the words to every song. That's all right now and again, but the human mind likes a bit of novelty occasionally.