Sunday, 18 February 2018

White Night, Melbourne 2018

More consistent than previous years. No 'dead areas'. More performers. Excellent crowd control. 
Tip to avoid the crowds and the queuing: 
Arrive in the early hours of the morning. Trains and trams run all night. 
We arrived at 3:40 a.m. (from Parliament Station - closest to Exhibition Building) then headed south on Swanston Street, finishing at N.G.V. and Alexandra Gardens, leaving on 7:00 a.m. train from Flinders Street.
Town Hall, with opera performance from balcony

National Gallery of Victoria

"The Secret Life of Books" projections inside Reading Room, State Library

Retro projections, Forum Theatre

State Library

Friday, 16 February 2018

"Vicious Circle" Joe Pickett #17 by C. J. Box - review

The immensely enjoyable crime-fiction series about the Wyoming Game Warden has not run out of puff after seventeen books. The latest instalment is one of C. J. Box's best.

Published 2017, 367 pages
Missy Vankueren, the mother-in-law from Hell is back. Retired assassin and master falconer, Nate Romanowski, returns half way through the book. Joe's knack of attracting trouble is an understatement in "Vicious Circle" - there's a plethora of varmints and villains.
Whether you are a first time visitor to Saddlestring, Wyoming or a regular, you will enjoy this read.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

"The Shadow District" A Reykjavik Wartime Mystery by Arnaldur Indridason

Book 1 published 2017
You know what to expect with an Indridason thriller. Recurring themes are: secrets, guilt, loneliness, social class, old age, the past meeting the present, folklore and the power of the Icelandic landscape.

This new series introduces the 1940's detective, Flovent, part of the city's fledgling C.I.D. and Thorson, a liaison officer for the occupying U.S. forces and the Icelandic police.
Flovent has a fascinating backstory comprising an abusive father, dodgy seances and a spell in Edinburgh studying criminology. Thorson is a loner and closet homosexual with a passionate sense of  honour and justice. Flovent seems to be an ongoing character. I do hope we return to Thorson in later books. This character is as rich as the aging detective Erlendur (from previous novels).

"The Shadow District" is cleverly structured. Present day (retired) detective Konrad investigates an old crime - a young woman is found strangled in 1944 (prior to Iceland's independence).
Past melds with present as both Thorson and Konrad carry out parallel investigations 70 years apart. A simple murder in a shady part of Reykjavik escalates into a tangled tale of rape, sexual mores, misfits, superstition, political intrigue and family secrets.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

National Gallery of Victoria Triennial 2018

"Manga Chairs" designed by Oki Sato

"Eternity-Buddha in Nirvana" by Xu Zhen

Yamagami Yukihiro’s installation "Shinjuku calling" Meticulously drawn in pencil, superimposed with moving image.

Ron Mueck's "Mass" Over 100 giant skulls hidden away on Level 3 amongst the European Masters Collection.
Melbourne's NGV free-entry blockbuster finishes April 15, 2018. Allow yourself at least 3 hours if you want to take in Virtual Reality installation and cinematic productions ("Incoming" and "Wilson Must Go").

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Queensland's cheap public transport - Go Card Senior

It even comes with a card wallet and instruction leaflet

Our Senior Go Cards just arrived in the mail. Couldn't have easier.
My wife and I are living in Melbourne, Victoria. We plan to use public transport in Brisbane when we visit next month. We applied online, citing our Victorian Seniors Card numbers. The system in Sydney is more complicated and your Opal Card (Senior) only last 2 months for interstate visitors.
The card is free (you pay $10, but the $5 deposit is refundable and the card comes with $5 of pre-stored value).
You can use the card for 50% off travel on trains, buses, light rail (new Gold Coast link) and Brisbane River ferries/Citycats. If you travel off-peak ( between 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., after 7 p.m. on weekdays and all on weekends) it is a further 20% discount.
You can use the card in Queensland tourist areas (Sunshine Coast and Cairns). Once you get your card (posted to any state or territory in Australia within 10 business days,) you can register online for auto top-ups. Validity of the Go Card Senior is 10 years. Queensland is certainly tourist-friendly.

Go to
Comfortable train journey to Brisbane from Varsity Lakes (closest station to Gold Coast Airport). Easy bus transfer from airport (Route 760).

City Cat ferry - great way to explore Brisbane 
You can travel to all stops on the Brisbane River for around $1.30 (round trip, if you stay on board). The red "City Hopper" ferry (limited stops) is a free service.
City Cat interior

Friday, 10 November 2017

"Trigger Mortis" (2015) A James Bond tribute by Anthony Horowitz

Better known for teenage fiction "Stormbreaker" series, Horowitz has tried to stay true to the Ian Fleming books with his 2015 stand alone novel. 
It is 1957. Bond having just polished off Goldfinger and Oddjob, returns to London for a bit of R+R with, you guessed it, Pussy Galore. But things don't go as planned.
Horowitz takes some excepts from an unfinished Ian Fleming television script about Grand Prix racing and then moves the action from a Swiss castle to east coast U.S. The rocket launch sabotage plot pays homage to "Dr No". This time it's a Korean millionaire/psychopath/super villain (nicknamed Jason Sin). His backstory is just as interesting.
SMERSH rears its ugly head. Bond's new female companion/ally is the feisty Jeopardy Lane (also possessing a cool back story). Attention to 1950's detail - locales, social mores, transport, food, alcohol - is a delightful pastiche to Fleming.

"Solo" by William Boyd (2013) is also a cracking read and probably the best written of the James Bond spinoffs. Faithful to Ian Fleming's James Bond, it is less spectacular but more believable.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

"Doctor X" 1931 From the Video Vault

I have mixed feelings about this campy horror pic. It is bizarre, corny, tedious and confounding in equal doses. Its 77 minutes running time seems more like 107 minutes. The two-colour Technicolour adds to the the film's weirdness. Production design is very German Expressionist. The sets are the stars (seedy waterfronts, spooky manor, dark corridors, strange staircases), although Lionel Atwill ("Son of Frankenstein") has fun.
Forget the grating main hero's (Lee Tracy) vaudevillian antics. When the villain starts his "Synthetic flesh! Synthetic flesh" scene, your jaw will drop.
First National (Warner Bros) tried to jump on Universal's horror bandwagon (after the release of "Dracula" and "Frankenstein"), so we have mad scientists, a full-moon killer, rape and cannibalism. This film was made pre- Hays Censorship Code. But the film doesn't really work as a horror movie or a who-done-it.

Image: courtesy of

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Bagan accommodation Unbeatable location and value - Thande Hotel in Old Bagan

View from outdoor bar - sunset 

Buffet breakfast under the giant Acacia trees - river views

5 minutes' walk from the hotel, climb a temple for the sunrise

Pool and spa area - perfect for cooling off after morning touring

We stayed in a very comfortable Superior Bungalow (Garden view). No need to pay double the rate for a River view room (they face west so you cannot sit outside - too hot in the afernoon). The killer view is in the outdoor bar and restaurant under shady trees. Agoda price was lower than hotel website.
Rooms spotless, comfy beds, excellent toiletries for a 3 star hotel, even gowns in the room. The location is unbeatable. Free wifi.
Buffet breakfast catered for all. Dinner meals around from US$10. Five minutes walk to Uncle Lay's Restaurant (Delicious meals from $AUD2.50, $1 Rum Sour, $2 beer!). A torch is available at Reception for night walks.
You can hire e-bikes from hotel or down the road (a bit cheaper). ATM on site. You can pay in US$ (no change given so do your maths) or kyat or credit card. Great to relax by the attractive pool after a morning of touring. Loved watching the squirrels from our private verandah.
Just be wary of the foot of the bed. My wife and I knocked our feet on the exposed wooden edges.