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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

PLANETARIUM: Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner, Sufjan Stevens, Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House (28/05/2012)

This was the most extraordinary evening, totally enthralling, and living up to the reports I had heard about 'Planetarium' played in London. I knew Muhly's work a little, and love his minimalist somewhat atonic style. I did not know Dressner or Stevens, and I guess that is because I am about two generations too old.
The Australian Orava String Quartet began the evening by performing pieces composed by the three composers. Muhly’s Diacritical Marks was what I had expected, and knew I would love - ethereal. 
Nico Muhly
(Photo by Matthew Murphy
from the online biog

Bryce Dessner
(Press Photo by Rene Cervantes
from the Post Hoc Management site)

Stevens' Year of the Boar, Year of the Horse and Year of Our Lord were just wonderful pieces of music, more lyrical and beautifully interpreted by the quartet. Dessner’s Aheym was true to his own description of  'metal music for violins' and there was an electric thrill to the whole piece and a sense of awe at how Orava got themselves through. If and when published, this will be a must buy!
Sufjan Stevens
(photo from SMH online)
Planetarium was not exactly an update on Gustav Holst's Planets yet the sense of other-worldliness was quickly captured in what is a unique compositional collaboration - the Generation Y tribute to the greater context in which we live. Each of our planets was interpreted in music, perhaps based on some of our mythology about the Gods of Earth, and with somewhat naff concepts - Neptune being water, Mars about war, Venus about love. Put that to one side, and the ride for each individual piece was spectacular with images sprayed onto a giant orb hanging above the artists which reminded me of the psychedylic light shows we had at parties in the 1960s. Neptune, JupiterVenus, Mars, Mercury, Saturn, Uranus and Earth were each a delight with different styles - some with vocals, some just orchestrated. Even Pluto rated a mention.
This was a true 'rock' concert with classical overtones, exquisite work from Orava, a surprising depth of sound from seven trombones (how bizarre is that?), and merry quips between Muhly, Dessner and Stevens in between the suites.
Did I enjoy the experience ? You bet; bloody brilliant. Would I go again ? You bet. Will I buy the CD? No I will download from iTunes... I am up with the times...

Here is an official recording

Shame on the Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House

On Monday night we went to the Concert Hall at the Sydney Opera House to listen to music by Nico Muhly (see my next blog post). It was a special occasion - a belated birthday present, and part of a rare weekend in Sydney soaking up bits of culture.
As readers of this blog will know, I am still handicapped somewhat from Transverse Myelitis contracted over 2 years ago. Effectively this means I can walk, but not great distances; I can climb stairs as I do the 17 at my home in Brisbane. Anyway, we caught a cab from the hotel, and the very kind cabbie dropped us really close to the entrance to the Concert Hall. No lifts working! Apparently there is a lift that can carry handicapped people to the first floor, but it was not working on Monday. So, 3 flights of 14 stairs to manage. Well the tickets had been expensive at $90 each, so I was not going to miss out. At the first floor, I was faced with more stairs to get to the third floor where we had seats in Box B. Not just a few stairs, but another 50 or so. What do you do? You take one step at a time.
Of course after the performance, we had the serious problem of coming back down the stairs. OK, a serious challenge, and holding the handrail and Jan's hand, I managed. Actually there was no bloody choice.

It is a public shame. When I booked the tickets, I did not know there were no facilities for handicapped people. How can a great facility like the Sydney Opera House not have facilities for handicapped people? How can a public utility in a great city in 2012 be allowed not to have suitable facilities? Does anywhere advertise "We have a great performance by world class performers, at vast cost; oh, by the way if you are handicapped or in a wheelchair, don't bother to apply!'
Shame on the Opera House. Shame on Sydney.

The Archibald Prize, Art Gallery of NSW (till June 3rd)

We just had an exquisite weekend in Sydney. High on the 'to do' list was a visit to the Art Gallery of NSW. to see the finalists for the Archibald Prize. What an array of beautiful work. What an array of artistic technique. Bliss for a couple of hours working our way through the crowd, standing in awe, trying to get a sense if why the artist chose to paint this person, at this time in this way.
Loved Kate Tucker's 'Melody'. Overwhelmed by Jodi Daley's 'Private X' and Vernon Ah Kee's 'Isee deadly people'. Struggled for some with Tim Storrier's 'The histrionic wayfarer', until I got it - and then could see just how brilliant it is with all it's allegory. Also felt the pain of Jenny Sage's 'After Jack' (we have been there, Jenny).
There is so much phenomenal talent in this country.
And then we had lunch in the Gallery restaurant. Double bliss, double artistic talent.

I just got 'craoked' by Mind Yoga

The Random Act of Kindness group on Facebook (see my last blogpost) ( seems to have meant something to many people. Just the idea that by doing something small for another being, we make the world a better place... So there have been a string of beautiful personal stories which make delightful reading. In fact each of them has made me smile.
Someone then CRAOKed me. This apparently stands for Create a Random Act of Kindness today. Nice. You can take a look at the CRAOK idea at

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Old photos never die; they, like the memories, just fade a bit...

Going through some slides found in a box in the cupboard, clearly my father's photos we had never seen. Pictures of Jan and I as teenagers on our first visit to Australia in 1963. Precious photos of my Mother - precious because she never liked having her photo taken, and so these are gold dust. Photos of my two sons as littlies in the garden of a beautiful old house we lived in in Kent (Old Gates, Coleman's Stairs Rd, Birchington). Photos of my sister with a Dachshund we had as children (Mitzi). Photos of a dog we had when our children were small (Scamp).
So we made a decision to buy a digitizer to convert the really good ones to a format for computers. Then we can share them.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Bigoted Psychiatrists and Sexual Preference

Sometimes my colleagues leave me in utter despair. What do these supposedly knowledgeable people think they are doing? There is absolutely no evidence that sexual preference has any impact on the way Australian children grow up.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Random Acts of Kindness (2) The FB RAK Group

This group sets out to increase the number of random acts of kindness across the world. These are usually small actions that cost nothing except a little time perhaps. RAKs do not set out to change others' lives, redirect them, or in any way control - they do not really have a purpose; you just do them because it occurred to you at the time.You don't have to 'try' to do a random act of kindness
However, they may encourage other people in their own lives, help them out of the holes they seem to fall into. RAKs may offer a helping hand, improve self confidence or self-esteem. make another human being smile, or just remind them they are alive.
There is no set upper or lower limit on how many you should do in any set time frame. However, you might like to achieve at least one RAK per day.
Please tell us what you did, or how it happened, or what you imagine the impact may have been. I guess the other side of this might be that someone shared a RAK with you. Tell us what you felt...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Due to talk at the Transverse Myelitis Association Thursday 17th May

I have been asked to reflect on my recovery from Acute Transverse Myelitis at the Transverse Myelitis Association meeting next week, and it is troubling me. Me, who can talk under water and never gets nerves. We have discussed reading bits from chapters from my book. But which chapters do you choose? Should I choose those that might resonate with other sufferers - the struggles to come to terms with being handicapped, the awfulness of being a cypher in the system? Or should I choose those that are about my recovery. I suspect there will be people there who may not have had the supports I have had, have not been able to access Acupuncture, or were just more serious at the beginning. I don't want to offend. Mmmm, what a lot of dilemmas.

Monday, May 7, 2012

What exactly is a Random Act of Kindness?

As it says, a RAK is something spontaneous and unplanned. You are in place at a time when another human needs a small amount of help. You respond without really thinking, and go on your way. You may reflect on it later, or you may forget that you ever gave a helping hand. Your soul will never forget, and the person who received the Random Act of Kindness may never know your name, and never have the opportunity to repay your kindness, but they are also unlikely to forget.
It takes seconds of your time, costs next to nothing, but leaves a glow.
Join a Facebook discussion group about Random Acts of Kindness. Contribute to the group; change a bit of your world. Remind yourself to be aware enough to offer something when needed.

Random Acts of Kindness Facebook Group.