Wednesday, 27 April 2016

"Hypothermia" and "Strange Shores" by Arnaldur Indridason. Two books that must be read together

Subzero temperatures, Arctic storms, frozen fjords - great poolside reading on a sweltering afternoon.

This time Erlendur investigates suicide, sex and seances. Another cold case (sorry) that stirs up memories of his 8 year old brother's death in the snowstorm. Like a recurring nightmare, he returns to the ordeal and its aftermath. He relives painful memories of childhood summers in the East Fjords.
I defy the reader not to be moved by the final chapter.

"I'm interested in stories about ordeals in the wilderness" intones the obsessed Inspector Erlendur in the follow up book, "Strange Shores". This novel should be read in conjunction with "Hypothermia" as you find out more details about Erlendur's obsession and subsequent guilt about his brother's tragedy.
"Strange Shores" is all about guilt, graves and grief. The haunted Erlendur returns to his birthplace, Bakkasel, to discover how a young woman, Matthildur, disappeared in the late 1940's. I love the way this 'lone wolf" finds other similar characters in his investigations (the fox hunter, Boas; Matthildur's sister, Hrund and the tormented Ezra).
The latter section of "Strange Shores" includes a gristly Edgar Allan Poe-like tale. The last few chapters will knock your socks off.
I am now a convert to this guy's writing. Goodbye, Jo Nesbo.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

"Penny Dreadful" Season 3 Highlights

Great to see the quality has been maintained in Episode 1, as well as the tongue-in-cheek tone.
The camp Professor of Antiquities (so pleased he's back) sets the scene with this exchange to the tortured Vanessa (the smoky voiced and sexy Eva Green): "I like what you've done with the place!" This leads to a return visit from Patti LuPone, now reincarnated as the savvy shrink. Her secretary is Renfield (an inspired way of introducing a new character). More fun in a disused factory with scuttling-choreographed minions of Dracula.
John Clare, alias the Creature (Rory Kinnear), has a poignant scene in the stranded Arctic ship.
In New Mexico we have a terrific Sergio Leone/Tarantino-esque train shoot out. More new characters with Doctor Jekyll (an old school chum of Victor F). Jekyll looks Indian (a link with ITV's recent confusing reboot of "Jekyll and Hyde"?).
John Logan plays with time here. Mary Shelley's novel was published in 1818. While R. L. Stevenson wrote his short story in 1886. Any way it's now 1892 and London is decked out in black for the death of Tennyson.

Episode 2 features a delightful magic lantern show recreation.
Dorian and Lily create havoc in a Hellfire Club setting. Jekyll has a nifty laboratory in the basement of Bedlam (where else?) with a barber's chair for his subject (a nod to Sweeney Todd?).
The American Indian belief in Shapeshifters is cleverly integrated with the story of lycanthrope, Ethan. His family name of Talbot is the same as Universal's Wolfman from the 1940's (Lon Chaney Jr played Lawrence/Larry Talbot).
The final reveal of Dracula's identity ensures fun and games for Vanessa in the coming episodes.

Episode 3
Renfield gives a nod to "The Shining" when he produces reams of "Vanessa....." instead of "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy".
Vanessa reprises her sexy medium bit from Season 1, this time with her shrink.
Sir Malcolm verbally rips a red neck train passenger to shreds. The one scene that isn't strewn with gore.
Dorian and Lily's new protege, Justine, resembles a 1950's Shirley Maclaine (think "The Trouble with Harry"). Incidentally, you have to pity their maid. The blood-drenched parquetry floors and sodden bed sheets!
It is hard to see Henry Jekyll as Clem Fandango in "Toast of London".
That Hall of Mirrors scene has fun with the vampires and reflection malarkey.

Episode 4
An ambitious two-hander between Vanessa and orderly John Clare (pre-The Creature) with most of the action confined to the padded cell. Eva Green and Rory Kinnear are consummate actors, so the hour never drags. I particularly liked the reference by Clare to "the frozen North", so important in his next life as The Creature.
I suppose next week we are back to flashy sets, the Wild West, laboratories and buckets of gore.
Unfortunately we have to wait until Episode 6 to see the return of scene stealer Ferdinand Lyle (Simon Russell Beale).

Episode 5
What's better than one 'mad scientist'? Two, of course. But how long will the Frankenstein/Jekyll dream team last?
Back  'out West' we have a novel sand castle building technique and a campfire scene (minus Mel Brooks' baked beans). How come super-witch can command myriad serpents but can't conjure up a canteen of water for her parched throat?
Brian Cox (Talbot patriarch) has a terrific scene in the family chapel with the prodigal (evil?) son.

Episode 6
Farewell Prof. Lyle. You will be twuly missed.
A lovely scene with John Clare and his ailing son ("Are you an angel?").
Lots of knives (a spot of fencing) in this episode. Very 'Go sisters'. Lily's self-defence lessons for the ladies of the night (Justine is a little too keen). Vanessa teams up with the indomitable Catriona Hartdegen for future vampire-hunting. An eventful steak dinner at Chez Talbot and a rootin' tootin' gunfight. Even though John Logan is not writing these current episodes, they are truly satisfying.

Episode 7
Lily's "Rise up!" speech to her sisters crawling along Dorian's vast dining table.  Dorian Grey, Frankenstein and Jekyll (representing Victorian males) kidnap Lily (the voice of the new woman, new in more ways than one) to force her to be a 'proper woman'. John Logan's script this episode.

Episode 8
When was the last time you saw the word "miasma" on cable TV?
Samuel Barnett's Renfield is a delight. Being born in Whitby must have looked too good to be true on the actor's resume.
Dracula gets to do the "children of the night...what music they make" line.
Lucky there was a full moon in the last few minutes. Great final scene.

Episode 9
The series went out on a high. Loved gun-slinging LuPone ("I'm a native New Yorker").
All loose ends tied. Did I miss what happened to Renfield? John Logan even got some pathos from Dorian Gray ("I'll always be here.").
Classy closing scene.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

When tourism helps the environment - Keep Bali Clean

Nusa Dua Beach, Bali, Indonesia

Every morning workers from beachfront hotels, restaurants and bars rake and collect rubbish (predominantly plastic bottles, wrappers) dropped or swept ashore. The beaches of Kuta and Legian are noticeably cleaner than this time last year. The Keep Bali Clean initiative (started in 2014) seems to be definitely working.
Laneways and main streets have organised stacks of refuse, ready for collection. Less dog droppings also this year.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

The other side of Legian-Kuta - away from the tourists

Venture down a "gang" (lane)
 Just 10 minutes walk from the tourist areas of Jalan Legian, on Jalan Patih Jelantik, is another side of Denpasar. No spruiking ("Transport?", "Excuse me, I'm not selling anything ..."), nor tattoo-covered, beer swilling bogans "That's awesome, Jayden!").
Towering fig trees, quiet temples and interesting curio shops.

Solitude, 20 minutes from the Legian Beach

Nautical fittings shop - great for the yuppy beach house
Tribal art and antiques
Native American kitsch (next door)
Clever re-using of materials - handbags, flooring, steps

Friday, 22 April 2016

Low impact exercise for 50+ year olds, body surfing & water aerobics

Surf at Legian Beach, Bali

Each morning I see red-faced seniors jogging along the beach. I prefer to kill two birds with one stone - body surf as well as water aerobics. 
After catching each wave or waiting for a good one, you are moving through the surging water (see video) around 50 - 100 metres between waves. Catch 20 waves that's 1-2 km of low impact exercise. Cup your hands to increase resistance through the water. Great to tone up your arm and leg muscles. My dicky knee feels a whole lot better with this treatment. 

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

The best doughnuts in Bali?

Custard filled, melt in the mouth. Forget the lard tasting Krispy Kreme Krap

Part of the bread buffet, loaves still warm, no need for a toaster

I remember coming to Bali in the 80's and 90's and having to put up with crap bread for breakfast (tasteless sliced bread, no grains). Things have certainly changed. The above pics were taken at the Kuta Beach Heritage Hotel (next to Mercure/Hard Rock). This is definitely the best $10 (AUD) breakfast I've had in Bali. No Nescafe or tasteless toast. Terrific Indonesian selection also. Great smoothies, fruit selection, eggs to order, noodle bar, waffles and crepe bar.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

5 good things about "Victor Frankenstein"

The much maligned of 2015 movie has several points of interest.
Lighten up critics, it wasn't that bad. If it was a double episode of "Penny Dreadful", it would have been applauded.
Don't get me wrong, John Logan's series is wonderful. But I digress... here's the highlights.
  1. Imaginative art direction. I am a sucker for steampunk. I will admit to enjoying "Van Helsing" and "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" (two other so called bombs).
  2. Casting: James McAvoy has fun in the title role. Daniel Radcliffe is always exceptional. Charles Dance as Frankenstein Senior. Also Andrew Scott and Mark Gatiss from "Sherlock".
  3. Some terrific throwaway lines: "It's pronounced Fronkenstein" (thanks Mel Brooks), "They will only remember the monster, not you" (says Frankenstein's beau).
  4. Scottish composer Craig Armstrong's score (amazing credits: "Ray", "Love Actually", "The Quiet American", Baz Luhrmann's "Romeo + Juliet" and "Moulin Rouge!")
  5. That extended monkey scene in the medical college. Truly disturbing.
 I saw this film on a long distance flight. Does this make a difference? Okay, it's at least a tremendous 'plane movie'.

Monday, 11 April 2016

New Order & Pet Shop Boys - Grandads of Electro - Seniors of Synthpop

We loved them in the 80's.
Over 30 years on, New Order and Pet Shop Boys have still got it.
In September 2015 New Order released their latest album "Music Complete" (though without Peter Hook). There is not a dud track on the album. My favourite at the moment is in the link below.
"Tutti Frutti" Official video via You Tube

In April 2016 Pet Shop Boys released their 13th album "Super". Also a terrific album. "The Pop Kids" (about 30 secs in, it'll knock yer socks off), "Burn" (shades of Hot Chip), "Happiness" (the closest the boys have come to C&W), "Undertow" and "Say it to Me" are also boppy highlights.

 My partner and I first saw Pet Shop Boys perform the single "The Pop Kids" on "The Graham Norton Show"(our brand of 'old fart' TV). The clip is on You Tube too. Later in the year PSB are performing at the London Royal Opera House. Classy venue, but it is an 'old fart' venue?
Click for You Tube: "The Pop Kids" (sound only)

Bernard Sumner is 60 (my age).
Neil Tennant is 61, Chris Lowe is 57.

P.S. "Blur" doesn't qualify in the synthpop category, but "Magic Whip" in 2015 was brilliant and a great way to go out.
Damon Albarn is 48.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

"Plebs" Series 3 - As good as ever

It's pleasing when a TV show can maintain its standard into its third season. Okay, with "Plebs" I use the word 'standard' loosely, there's still the required willy, bum and poo jokes. I was impressed by the first episode of the series, "The Beasts". It was consistently funny and cleverly structured. Good to see the writing team (Tom Basden and Sam Leifer) stays the same.
The clever CGI in the exteriors makes the show look terrific. The scene with the lion The lion was real, the crowds weren't) in the Collesseum was a standout and achingly funny. Grumio (Ryan Sampson) again has the best lines.
Having scene-stealer Maureen Lipman as the landlady is the cherry on the cake.

Episode 2 had its moments (Women's volleyball intro), but wasn't as good as first episode. Poor Grumio/Justin, always getting abandoned "on a hill".

Episode 3 skilfully links Vestal Virgins, blue cheese and hand-knitted jumpers.

It was weird to see Joel Fry playing it deadly serious (as Hizdahr zo Loraq) in Seasons 4 and 5 of "Game of Thrones".