Friday, September 29, 2006

Pasta Shapes (pt 1)

The first rule of blog creation is "make it entertaining", a step up from the first creative rule I learnt in primary school which was more like "make it out of pasta shapes glued to coloured cardboard." I don’t know how entertaining these travel posts will be, though, but I hope they mean something to the people who actually know me. To the rest of you, feel free to request pasta shapes.

Fear of terrorism really needs its own term, doesn’t it? After all, the fear inspired by a bag left unattended on the tube isn’t that same sharp pang brought on by a stranger stepping out of a dark cobblestoned alley, or a sudden crash waking you from a deep sleep. There’s no keen-edged adrenaline ignition when the chirpy morning newscaster in London offer reports of the Pakistan-born woman detained at Heathrow yesterday. When a steward comes over the intercom during our flight to ask for the owner of the mobile phone found in the bathroom, the mind begins to dread, not panic. Though terrorist acts may occur suddenly, the fear of terrorism has little to do with abruptness. Terrorism seems more about waiting.When I was 20, I was forced to wait at Singapore’s Changi Airport for 14 hours. My connecting flight to Melbourne was delayed, then delayed again, and then again. I had no money, so I couldn’t pay the 15 bucks required to leave the airport itself, and obviously I couldn’t afford a book or anything to pass the time (food, too, was out of the question, so the slow gnaw of hunger kept me company most of the time). Anyone familiar with airports will know that they’re all about waiting, but you need to find something to keep you occupied. By the time I realised I was in it for the long haul, I had begun measuring out things like bathroom stops: taking a trip to the toilet became as exciting as a visit to Coney Island, and I would wait as long as I could to savour that thrill. A trip on one of the 100 ft long travelators was like a rollercoaster of fun, and the newsagent was a forbidden joy, since I could only spend a few minutes of browsing magazines before someone would ask if I was there to buy.This was a decade before 9/11. My waiting was contained, safe, and bound by the implicit knowledge that public spaces like airports or shopping centres were tightly controlled by security and surveillance. Wondering was limited. I knew my flight would eventually take me home. Waiting was about delay, but I never doubted that I’d make it back in the end.Waiting at Tullamarine for a flight to Sydney a few weeks ago was a different matter. I sat scanning the faces of the other travellers, business commuters mostly. The staring, sweaty face of a man fidgeting with the strap of his case, or the hard-eyed middle-aged woman with the carefully avoiding gaze; our waiting took on new dimensions of meaning. Nobody expected anything untoward to occur, but the possibility lingered, floated above us.Terrorism is all about waiting. We all know, or are told that something devastating will happen somewhere, at some time, but there’s nothing we can do about it. It probably won’t happen to us, but will happen to someone like us, like us in our insignificance, that is. And it’s out of our control. It strikes me that this dread is akin to more common, less dramatic situations. Love and affection, for instance. Not knowing whether this will last, whether it will all come crashing down or whether the detonation will be stayed another day. Waiting, of course; waiting to take action but knowing that the decision to flick the switch is not yours. Left plucking daisy petals, pretending assurance can be found in random signs, but knowing nonetheless that the waiting is bigger than you, is some way defines you.In this way, we are in a terrible, typical and unendurable life. All flights have been delayed indefinitely.

In the meantime, if you're already turned off by the lack of Jean Claude in the trip so far, this is pretty much a summary of the rest of my time overseas. Especially the guy at the start.

My Euro Trip

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Players

So, I've been pulling together the notes I made during my recent Ill-Advised Adventures in European Sojourning and am almost ready to post them up. So, for those coming here looking for half-baked arts commentary, you'll have to come back later (maybe in a week). Those looking for 'uncontrollable nerve shocks', sorry I couldn't help (unless I did). To the person who translated my page into (presumably) some kind of Hispanic language using an online service: impresionante! Everyone else, fasten your seatbelts as we put it into first gear and begin to edge this baby out of the driveway, looking both ways (twice)! ROCK!










Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Everybody Loves Raymonda

I'm currently held hostage by a particularly threatening bout of jetlag, and those who've done the London-Melbourne 24-hourer will know the mental quicksand one's brain must wade through to come up with a coherent sentence post-return. I was hoping last night's opening of the new Australian Ballet show Raymonda would be a rip-cord to yank me up out of this, but alas, it wasn't quite the case. One thing is certain, though: it really does live up to its name, most definitely featuring a character named Raymonda.

It turns out that this particular number was first created way back in 1898, when cavemen were just discovering fire. You wouldn't know it from this production, however; guest choreographer Stephen Baynes has turned the original into a homage to Grace Kelly and the Golden Age of Hollywood. It's an easy fit: the screen goddess of the title becomes engaged to a handsome European Prince, goes to live in his lovely land (with notably less casinos than Monaco, though) but has doubts on her wedding night and dreams about dancing with hot dudes in sleazy bars. Pretty much your average kitchen sink drama then, you know, like a Ken Loach film or something.

But I was disappointed to find that it didn't live up to all the hype. I mean, I was really looking forward to this. The pre-press sounded great, and the whole Hollywood angle had me about as excited as if they'd said the next AB production would feature giant robots duking it out over Tokyo.

The cast were excellent, especially Kirsty Martin as Raymonda, who actually creates a character and delivers some expression and an emotional journey. Ray also being played by Lisa Bolte and Rachel Rawlins, and I would have liked to see Rawlins give it a burl since she really impressed me in La Sylphide.

The set was gorgeous, but there just wasn't enough of it. Often, we were given a few items of furniture and a simple backdrop, but that's it. Where were the lavish, glittering spectacles of The Sleeping Beauty or La Boheme? I guess this Prince was from one of those countries where the monarchy is just a lingering bunch of old freaks who still think people care that they're alive (like England or something).

The lighting was impressive, especially when Ray wakes up after her long, luscious dream (and as an aside, there was a genuinely funny moment when new hubby finds her sleeping and notices the empty liquor bottle next to her, giving a look which jovially suggests "Whoops, wifey's got substance abuse issues! Didn't see that coming!"). And costumes were fine, and music and stuff. But I didn't feel there was enough of anything here, the show going for subtlety and delicacy over big impact showstoppers.

You know, I suppose that's not really a criticism, is it? But when you're desperately trying to stay conscious and aware that your body thinks it's 12 hours past bedtime, subtlety and delicacy just don't work. Still, everybody else loved Raymonda.

Now when I get a chance, I'll be posting some stuff on my trip, just for friends and not the casual reader such as yourself who got here looking for pictures of Jean-Claude dancing or the tablature to Hello Dolly or the lyrics of a certain George Michael song.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A Salzburger with Fries

Just a quick update to let readers know that I'm alive, reasonably well (apart from a cold that has come from nowhere), rather poor, lightly tanned, cleanly attired, perpetually confused, occasionally lost, constantly tired but never hungry, pleased to have found a cheap internet cafe but reluctant to stay long due to the atmosphere or lack thereof, pleasantly housed and soon to be homeward bound. Where in the world is Born Dancin'?

Here's a hint: the hills behind me are, I'm positively informed, alive with the sound of music. Also, for some reason, blunderbusses, fired by a squadron of men in green felt hats and lederhosen at 11.45 this morning. No idea what was going on there, but just to be safe I'll be staying on the right side of the law until I leave on Monday. Then it's back to London for a few days and home again, where I'll be able to post what I've written on this trip and haven't had time to type.

Until then, I'll be cycling around this beautiful town and climbing every mountain (I've been up a few so far) and singing to myself in an effort to stave off madness (and beggars).