75th Anniversary Bridge Walk

March 19, 2007 at 11:44 am | Posted in Australia, General, Out and About, Sydney | 5 Comments

Sunday evening Miki and I went to North Sydney to participate in the 75th Sydney Harbour Bridge walk. While there was a delay at Town Hall station – resulting in a bit of a crush and some very annoying passengers – we managed to disembark and begin the walk without difficulty.

While you had to register ahead of time at no time during the walk were we asked for our details – which probably explains why according to late night Channel 9 news 500,000 walked across, 300,000 more than had registered!  Prior to getting onto the bridge itself you could collect a free cap. Green during the day and orange with a small light in the evening. We looked like a couple of miners and the light is still working 24hrs later! It appeared they had a considerable stockpile and that seems to indicate the organisers were prepared for the influx of people.

It was not that busy on the bridge, with plenty of space to walk around and stop for any number of photos. Unfortunately I only used my standard settings resulting in almost pitch black photos and only later did I start to figure out how to use the night options and as an amateur they occasionally came out a tad blurry.

As for the walk, it was quite cool with lights turning the frame blue, the pylons red and now throw in a bunch of white spotlights all of over the place. Adding to the all of this was a soundscape with speakers pumping out newscasts and songs from different eras. It sounds a little bit tacky but in the end all of the elements including a festive atmosphere made the experience worthwhile.

After the walk we ate and wandered over to the Opera Bar to look out over at the bridge and do a serious bit of people watching. While there, a number of people asked us and others if or when the fireworks would start. I understand that everything in Sydney normally leads to fireworks at the bridge but it was not included in the day’s official schedule so I remain a little confused as to how this rumour got started.  People with their cameras and tripods were still waiting at 11 for fireworks that would never come.

According to the BBC they decided against fireworks because “the organisers do not want to distract from the magnificence of the bridge.” Even though almost all events in Sydney use the bridge as a hub for fireworks. Cynically, I think they declined to have them because this would result in a concentration of crowds and traffic chaos would result. Something Sydney-siders would not appreciate again and officials would find distasteful this close to an election. Although given current polls the government could have had a traffic meltdown and still win.

People walking on the bridge:
Sydney Harbour 75th Birthday (25)
The bridge after the show:
Sydney Harbour 75th Birthday (39)
A silent and shut down George Street (kind of creepy):
Sydney Harbour 75th Birthday (16)
A vague effort to use the correct settings on my camera:
Sydney Harbour 75th Birthday (29)

Cafe Hernandez, what’s happened?

March 19, 2007 at 10:34 am | Posted in Australia, Cafes & Restaurants, Coffee, General, Out and About, Sydney | Leave a comment

Cafe Hernandez is a bit of an institution in Kings Cross/ Potts Point, known for its coffee and being open 24 hours. The last time I’d been here was about 8 months ago while I was studying late at night, needed caffeine and a chance to get out of the apartment. If memory serves it was quite tasty and on other earlier occasions the food was also pretty good.

Unfortunately, a few weeks ago I went back there and tonight visited its new shop just off Oxford Street and frankly, the quality of the food, coffee and service have all taken a serious dive. Perhaps splitting their attention has weakened their capacity in both.

Service at both has become (more) surly and quite slow, which is particularly surprising when there are no people in the shop. The food lacks taste and was quite bland and uninteresting. I had pasta tonight and sought out the burnt pieces as this gave it overall food just a little more badly needed flavour. The coffee is ok but nothing worthy of the self-congratulatory tone on their website.

Cafe Hernandez you’ve failed me twice in almost as many weeks. Even if I was staying in Sydney I would not be back and should I require a caffeine hit late at night I’ll stick with whatever I can find at a local convenience store.

Is this it? For Sydney?

March 14, 2007 at 12:05 am | Posted in General, Sydney, work | 4 Comments

After much pondering and thought, based in part on the conclusion of my contract at the end of April, I have almost decided to leave Sydney for hopefully greener pastures in London and more broadly Europe, sometime in May. I’ll make my final decision at the end of March but at this stage I probably will not change my mind. If possible, en route, I’ll stop in Japan to have a break and catch up with friends.

I do feel relieved to have made this choice and while anxious and nervous, it feels like the right one – at least right now.

I’ve already started pondering my “lasts” and while I do feel sad in leaving Sydney, a city I love, a neighbourhood I love and friends I love. However, Miki made an excellent point that it is better to leave on a high rather than growing disgusted at some point in the future. Nonetheless, I can certainly see myself coming back to Sydney.

Before I go I’ve still a few places to see, such as Taronga Zoo but if anyone has a suggestion of a Sydney-must please let me know.

Behind the times

March 13, 2007 at 12:00 pm | Posted in ICRC, Random, Red Cross | Leave a comment

On the 14th January the latest addition to the ICRC’s list of emblems increased with the addition of the Red Crystal which now supplements the perennial Red Cross and Crescent. I do recall a lecturer mentioning that this might occur but that was last year and since then I’d obviously forgotten – until now. Admittedly, I haven’t been watching the news that much lately but I do read a lot online at work and I am surprised that the Red Crystal did not receive greater fanfare.

At any rate we (very much a global we) now have three symbols to assist in the protection of humanitarian affairs. Only time will tell whether the ICRC can successfully promote the Crystal as a symbol of protection for civilians that is treated on the same level as the Red Cross and Crescent. Granted and sadly the latter aren’t always respected.

Tokyo Fiesta?

March 13, 2007 at 12:05 am | Posted in Australia, General, Japan, Out and About, Random, Sydney | Leave a comment

Monday saw the arrival of the Tokyo Fiesta in Martin Place as part of a tourism push for the city – albeit coincidentally on the same day Prime Minister Howard is in Tokyo to sign some defence and intelligence agreements. Putting aside the confusing question of why this was called a fiesta let’s cover what was on offer. There were a number of performers on offer throughout the day such as drummers who I only heard in my office tower and traditional street performers. There were also master craftspeople showing off their wares as well as numerous travel brochures.

All of this pales into insignificance compared to the major attractions of a video about Tokyo and large pictures of Tokyo that you can get your photo taken in front of – like you are really there! So, no need to actually go now is there? I was actually amazed to see that people were lining up to get their photographs!

I did think it was kind of cool and I can appreciate that they are trying to promote a more traditional Japan and thus appeal to a different tourist but this is done on the backdrop of providing anime convention flyers and talking about the technology district in Akihabara  – neither of which had any presence within the fiesta itself.

Lunch time saw an interesting juxtaposition with the Fiesta on one side, David Hicks on the other and a Big Issue seller in the middle. All just a tad odd but all part of the reason I love Martin Place. The other, of course being free stuff at the station – although I can do without cereal!

Not just Astro Boy or Portraits – Art Gallery exhibits

March 12, 2007 at 12:40 pm | Posted in Anime & Manga, Australia, General, Out and About, Random, Sydney | Leave a comment

Over the past two weeks I’ve made my way to the Art Gallery checking out the Tezuka, Archibald and Artexpress exhibits. I enjoyed each but at the end of the day I question the cost.

The Tezuka exhibit was interesting and engaging. I had limited exposure to his work, with the exception of that old chestnut of Astro Boy although I was aware that he was one of the father’s of modern manga and anime. While he has created any number of pieces this exhibit showed a snapshot of the variety and intensity of his work but graphically and story-wise. Seeing his shifting styles, within the broader context of his work, was valuable but for those who aren’t fans or intrigued by the art I seriously doubt that the entry fee is worthwhile. While obviously there’s an economic drive for profit, if one of the goals is to expand understanding and recognition of manga then I wonder if perhaps a free version, or at least a small sample taster gallery, would have been beneficial. The exhibit showcases a broad spectrum of his work but of course the Art Gallery shop only had Astro Boy paraphernalia.

I was pleasantly surprised at my first Archibald Prize. I only found Iemma’s portrait particularly bland. Otherwise, there was such a variety of subject and styles it is impossible to get bored and at the end of the day I could not choose my favourite; I was drawn to most of them for one reason or another. I didn’t realize that there was more than portraits, with the inclusion of the Sulman and Wynne competitions as well. I enjoyed the landscapes in the Wynne collection – full of evocative and memorable images of our surroundings – or what we imagine our surroundings could be. The Sulman collection, with its representations of the every day was fun and a nice and thoughtful way of ending the walk around the finalists. Honestly, I feel that this collection was worth the money, predominantly because of the variety and number of paintings and the relative fame (evidenced by the crowds) that is generated each year by the competition.

Artexpress – a collection of HSC (Year 12) final year works – is currently on display and is free as part of the standard gallery. This a wonderful chance to see the growth and development of Australia’s young artists. Each piece has a brief description by the student and while these can be a little cloying it is genuinely refreshing to see a sense of hope and optimism (at least in the ones I read). Title wise my favourite is the pertinent “Taking photos and having small adventures”.

Lastly I finally asked an attendant why the outside of the Art Gallery is incomplete. Apparently, work was underway but then World War I came along and resources diverted elsewhere and afterwards they never got around to finishing it and now in perhaps a postmodern twist it will remain incomplete. The attendant likened it to Shubert’s Unfinished Symphony.

At least that’s cleared up now.

While these collections are in town you should check them out and if you’re interested in anime/manga and the styles employed go to Tezuka’s as well.

Mardi Gras 2007

March 5, 2007 at 12:05 am | Posted in Australia, Gay and Lesbian, General, Out and About, Sydney, Travel | 2 Comments

The first Mardi Gras I went to was something of a disappointment; I was pleased to see that this year’s was an improvement. With several big screens set up it didn’t matter that I didn’t come hours earlier for a prime location. I staked myself out by Taylor Square’s screen to watch the festivities on the street and in the crowd. The only downside to this arrangement was the impossible task of taking photos of the floats. Oh well I was content watching it on the screen.

Mardi Gras

I have a short attention span so by the close of hour one I was getting kind of bored but decided to stick it out – mainly so I could catch up with Miki and Richard after. There were any number of spectacular floats and good looking people parading alongside in celebration. Not to mention a few dodgy ones but everyone seemed to be having a fun time.

Crowd wise, I found myself in human thoroughfares more often than not but this was considerably better than a few years ago when any number of waves of people pushed us right into the barricades. After the parade I noticed they had widened the pedestrian section and this no doubt alleviated the problem. Unless I’m particularly old there were a lot of young (under-aged) people attending. On the plus side I assume this is a good sign of acceptance/tolerance, on the bad, there did appear to be a (legal?) segment that weren’t able to hold their alcohol and were a tad unruly. Overall, despite some dickery, I thought the people were all very friendly.

My two criticisms of the event were the complete lack of rubbish bins – resulting in the streets being lined with garbage during and after the event. While I can appreciate from an efficiency perspective if it is easier just to sweep it all up at once but from a public safety view broken glass and thongs/sandals are nota  good combination, nor is the appearance of the city for all of the tourists, especially with Clean Up Australia Day and floats espousing environmentalism.

The Mardi Gras staple – Milk Crates.

The other minor complaint is that the screen occasionally had music playing. Personally, it would have been even more of a party atmosphere if they’d played music all night or at least more regularly and surely there is enough variety that they don’t need to play the same tracks more than once in a night?

I had a good time hanging out at Oxford Street and watching all of the activity and being able to wander freely through the area afterwards but I don’t feel compelled to come every year.

Quick note to Myer

March 4, 2007 at 10:36 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Myer the 80s are not and should not come back so please stop stocking and dressing your mannequins with such awful throwbacks and playing 80s music in some sort of vain attempt to add credibility to your evil scheme.

On the plus side I was stoked to see you had already discounted Final Fantasy XII on the day of its release – making it cheaper than EB – a rare deal.

Nothing like playing a new FF to eat up the hours!

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