Sunday, January 27, 2013

Look at the sky

I don't like Canberra.  Even when I was living there, I didn't like the place.  I have always found it to be sterile and manufactured.

I dread even the thought of having to go.  So whenever I am forced to return to Canberra, I generally try to accentuate the positives to reduce the annoyance of the entire experience.

One of these positives is the National Gallery of Australia.

The NGA has become an even nicer place now that the entrance has been completely refurbished.  Some may prefer the old entrance with its imposing brutalist style, but I personally think the new open scheme they have adopted is far better for the gallery and its patrons.  Instead of threatening and terrifying visitors, the new entrance actually welcomes people in.

I did my usual walk around, looking at the permanent displays and my old favourites such as Jackson Pollock's "Blue Poles".  I was even lucky enough to see an excellent exhibition of photographs by the Australian artist Carol Jerrems.  I was tempted to take a photo, but there was something strange about taking a photo of a photo that didn't seem quite right.

After I finished visiting the inside, I went for a walk on the grounds outside.  This was something I hadn't done before.  Visits to the National Gallery had usually occurred on bad days, so it was always an inside event.  I found something beautiful though.
It was an enormous installation piece.  An outside room that surrounded a central monolith.  Looking up, I the brightness of the sky filled into the entire room and gave it a lovely glowing effect.
The National Gallery is a lovely place.  It's a great shame that it always seems to be near empty.

Monday, January 21, 2013


This giant duck in the middle of Darling Harbour is strangely endearing.

When it was first announced, most people scoffed at the concept.  Bringing a gigantic inflatable duck into Darling Harbour did not seem to be the best idea and it did not seem to be the best use of public money.

Yet in a relatively short amount of time, it seems to have won over most of the city.  People crowd around it taking photos, posing in all different manners.  All around the offices and in the city, people talk to each other about seeing the duck and others talk excitedly about how they are going to see the duck.
When I saw the duck myself, I was also quickly won over.
The duck seems to make light all of its surroundings.  Standing near it or even seeing it, makes it difficult to take anything seriously.  The stresses or the city and of work itself seem to disappear.
After all, how serious can a person truly be when standing next to a gigantic rubber duck?

Friday, January 18, 2013


This was so much better than Cirque.

Cirque has lost the special flavour it once had.  It is no longer the unique and inspirational company that it once was.  It is now part of a crowded market and it can no longer claim to be the best of the best.  Many of the acts that Cirque puts on are now mediocre and performed by artists that cannot claim to be the best in their field.  I'm sad (but not surprised) to say that fantastic shows like Empire have eclipsed it.

Sitting in the Spiegeltent and watching this new show gave me the thrill of seeing something new and edgy.
I could only imagine that this was close to what Cirque would have been like when it was first starting.  It wasn't as polished or as produced as what I had become used to in Cirque, but it was intense and there was a thrill to each act.  There was a sense of possible failure and that the performers were trying to push themselves further with each move and twist.
I watched with all my attention focused.  I was no longer dismissive as I had become with other shows.  My applause wasn't polite and my laughter wasn't forced.  I felt a true emotional response.  It was incredible.
I also found myself edging forward.  The show is so intimate and the performers are so close to the audience that edging forward actually had a real impact.  I was actually bringing myself closer to the stage.  Closer to the action.  Closer to these feelings that I thought I wouldn't have again!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Back to the future

I was in a new job in an old place.

I had been away from Martin Place in the middle of Sydney's CBD for about 3 years.  This move back to Martin Place (albeit up the street) made me feel as though nothing had changed in 5 years.  In fact, I was so close that I was able to see my old office from the windows of the new office.

My surroundings were completely the same, the walk to walk was almost identical and even the way people around me looked had barely altered.

There was a horrifying feeling of being on a stationary bike or a treadmill.  It felt as though a huge amount of energy had been extended to get myself absolutely nowhere.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Inside a Cracker Jack box

Cracker Jacks aren't Australian.  They are not something I have grown up with and they are not part of my childhood.

Yet I still remember the first box I ever ate.

The intense sweetness combined with the malty flavour was something I had never experienced before.  It was a complex flavour that I did not expect to come from something so mass produced.
Inside the box I found my "surprise" as well.  This I found a touch disappointing.  I had read that in the past you would get toys, but now it seemed that a sticker or a piece of fold out cardboard was all that you could get.
It made me think about that scene in Breakfast at Tiffany's when George Peppard paid for a ring he found in a Cracker Jack box to be engraved for Audrey Hepburn.

Paul Varjak: [reaches into his pocket at the Tiffany's counter] We could have something engraved, couldn't we? 
Tiffany's salesman: Yes, I suppose so, yes indeed... the only problem is you would more or less have to buy something first if only in order to have some object upon which to place the engraving... You see the difficulty... 
Paul Varjak: Well, uh 
[holds up ring from Cracker Jack box
Paul Varjak: , we could have this engraved, couldn't we? I think it would be very smart. 
Tiffany's salesman: [taking ring and examining it] This, I take it, was not purchased at Tiffany's? 
Paul Varjak: No, actually it was purchased concurrent with, uh, well, actually, came inside of... well, a box of Cracker Jack. 
Tiffany's salesman: I see... 
[continuing to look at ring
Tiffany's salesman: Do they still really have prizes in Cracker Jack boxes? 
Paul Varjak: Oh yes. 
Tiffany's salesman: That's nice to know... It gives one a feeling of solidarity, almost of continuity with the past, that sort of thing. 

The words just didn't seem to ring true anymore.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Apparently this is a thing now

So my brother and his girlfriend just came back from a holiday to New York.  They kindly brought back a present for me, a compost cookie from the famed Momofuku.

It was a tasty cookie.

But it was still just a cookie.
I don't even know what a compost cookie is to be completely honest, but apparently it's a thing and it's famous as well (allegedly).
I honestly believe the global obsession with celebrity chefs is overdone and must surely have peaked.  I am not saying that there will be no more celebrity chefs, but I doubt we will continue to live in times where every chef, irrespective of their true talent, seems to be feted as someone of great importance.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Hong Kong Tang

My views of Hong Kong have been completely changed by this trip.

I had always had a mild dislike for Hong Kong.  For me it had always been a city that was just missing something, almost like it was a machine without a soul.

It didn't help that didn't like the atmosphere of Hong Kong.  It was filled with a constant need for spending for no real purpose.  The lifestyle seemed to involve nothing more than moving from restaurant to bar to restaurant to bar.  The entire purpose of existence in Hong Kong has always been geared towards a never ending cycile of spending that has amazed me.  This was not the type of life that I wanted to be drawn into.  This was Mammon's city.

I was very surprised when I was taken to a Buddhist park near Diamond Hill.
I had been spending some quality time with my parents and my father had been invited to lunch by some of his pharmaceutical industry peers.  My mother and I are never ones to pass up a free meal at the best of times, so we happily invited ourselves to join him.

The location of the lunch was completely unexpected.  The local Buddhist community had come into possession of a large piece of land and had developed it into a traditional Tang dynasty style park.  They could have sold it or turned it into more apartments, but unstead they made something that was truly for the common good of the community.
It was beautiful.
This was an enormous park that was large enough that it sheltered everyone from the noise and intensity of the outside world.
Walking through the park, I wasn't sure where we were going for lunch.  All I could see was the immaculately maintained gardens, some pagodas and a large waterfall.  I didn't see anything that looked like it could provide me with lunch.

We kept walking towards the waterfall and it became clear to me that it was actually the waterfall that was our destination.

Behind its cascade of water was the restaurant.
Inside we were fed with a lunch of vegetarian Buddhist dishes.

The food was clean and simple, with none of the adulteration or additives so common in Hong Kong.

This had been a very surprising trip to Hong Kong.