Thursday, 25 July 2019

"Pose" Season 2, Episode 6, "Love's in need of love today" Musical references

"Pose" Season 2 certainly maintains the standard. Ryan Murphy has proved himself the master for staging television musical numbers. Episode 5's funeral home climax ("What would Candy do?") left Baz Luhrmann in the shade.

You don't have to be in the LBGT community to enjoy this show. It helps if you were an adult in the 80's to appreciate the references.
This episode certainly ticked lots of boxes. Nods to gay icons Judy Garland and Madonna, plus another, Patti Lupone, sings the Sondheim "Follies" classic "I'm still here".
From classic torch songs "The man that got away" (Harold Arlen/Ira Gershwin) to Stevie Wonder's "Love's in need of love today" to close the episode.
Not one, but two Sondheims: "Sooner or Later" (Madonna's "Dick Tracy" torch song).
All packed into under 50 minutes.

NB. Lupone's Frederica Norman is a thinly disguised NYC "Queen of Mean" Leona Helmsley.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Five great things about the mini-series "Lambs of God"

  • It's only four short episodes. Many mini-series wear out their welcome with 8 or 10 episodes.
  • Esse Davis (so glamorous as 1920's detective Phryne Fisher) is almost unrecognisable playing Sister Iphigenia. Love the contact lenses.
  • Sister Carla's "Moses in the bullrushes" word play.
  • 85 year old Donald McAlpine's glorious cinematography.
  • The east coast of Tasmania locations (Tasman Island, Cape Pillar) used to stand in for the isolated English island.

Monday, 22 July 2019

Five great things about Epix's "Pennyworth"

  • Jack Bannon, looking like a young Dirk Bogarde crossed with Michael Caine's "Alfie"

  • Paloma Faith - stealing every scene, channelling ITV's "Vera"

  • London art direction: 1700's/1940/swinging 60's -  WW2 barrage balloons, airships overhead, gibbets and criminals in stocks arranged around Trafalgar Square, Soho neons ("The Rubber Strumpet"). Like "Gotham", loads of steam and smoke billowing across the landscape.

  • Lord Harwood's (Jason Flemyng) entrance alighting from his Rolls Royce (Licenced plates "1964"), striding across the mall in flowing supervillain robes.

  • Co-Producer Bruce Heller's snappy dialogue and weird walk-ons. Who was the waiter dressed as a forest creature in the gentleman's club at the start of  Episode 3?

Wendy Whiteley's Secret Garden - free entry

How to get there:
Wendy Whiteley's (Brett Whiteley's widow) Secret Garden is in Lavender Bay, North Sydney. 
Please respect the place, as well as Ms Whiteley privacy.

Closest ferry wharf is Milsons Bay (Luna Park)
Walk along the Lavender Bay coastal trail (Peter Kingston Walkway) until you get to the railway overpass

Climb the stairs, look for the distinctive 4 storey house next to the huge Moreton Bay Fig
Once a wasteland on public land, this garden is open to the public. There is a visitor book to sign.

The garden is filled with places to sit. There is a network of paths following the steep banks.

The end of the garden

North Sydney Public Art Trail "The Comic Walk"

The trail begins behind Luna Park (closest ferry is Milsons Point). Some of the art works (all on pedestals) are hidden amongst scrubs and grasses.

Keep your eyes peeled for Norman Lindsay's The Magic Pudding, Pat Sullivan's Felix the Cat, May Gibbs' The Gumnut Babies, The Banksia Men and Ginger Meggs.

Lavender Bay

Dorothy Wall's Blinky Bill 

Michael Leunig's Teapot and duck

Arthur 'Art' Barton - 'the Rembrandt of Luna Park' - responsible for the funfair's artwork for 35 years
Peter Kingston Walkway, with Coney Island/Luna Park in the background.

Sydney Hilton vs Sofitel Darling Harbour - How do they measure up?

1. Location

Sofitel is right on the Light Rail, close to ferry wharves; but Hilton is more central - Queen Victoria Building, Pitt Street Mall, Town Hall metro station .
Sofitel has the views (if you pay extra for a Darling Harbour facing room)
Sofitel Darling Harbour

Hilton's central location - some rooms have harbour views

2. Club Lounge Access
 Sofitel's top floor Club Millesime is spectacular but the food and beverage offered during "Evening Canapes" is disappointing compared to Hilton's Executive Lounge.
Club Millesime Evening drinks 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

Hilton's evening canapes - prawns, salads, hot dishes, antipasto

Hilton lounge - fresh bread

Hilton's executive lounge - afternoon tea

Generous 'top ups' in the bar (unlike Sofitel)

Hilton's lounge during evening drinks (6 p.m. - 8 p.m.)

Hilton has several sections in their lounge, feels more intimate
3. Breakfast

Hilton's Glass restaurant. Breakfast. Incredible range of buffet dishes plus a la carte. Sofitel's breakfast looks meagre by comparison.
4. Rooms
Sofitel's rooms are over furnished and seem cramped. The lighting system is poorly designed, no indirect lighting. The night light is more dazzling. Many rooms have the bed right up against the open planned bathroom.
Sofitel King Room

Hilton's "Relaxation Room" is spacious and well designed.
5. Swimming Pool/Gym
Sofitel's (infinity) pool is outdoor and barely heated. There are pleasant views across Darling Harbour/Cockle Bay. The gym is on the same level.
Hilton shares a huge gym and lap pool with Fitness First in the Basement level. There are poolside saunas, steam rooms and jacuzzi. Mornings can get busy with the before-work crowd.

Verdict: Hilton wins in all categories.

The only positive with Sofitel's lounge is the 'no kids under 12 years' policy during evening drinks period.

Sydney Harbour's Secret Beaches - Athol Beach

Athol Beach is a 9 minute walk from the Taronga Zoo ferry wharf. There is no parking, hence no crowds. The crowds from the ferry either queue for the chairlift (to the zoo) or enter via the lower entrance. No one seems to notice the track to the beach (off the Bradley Head trail).

Athol Bay, with Taronga Zoo ferry wharf in the background

The Best (Short) Walk in Sydney? Taronga Zoo Wharf to Bradley's Head

The coastal walking trail starts at the lower entrance to Taronga Park Zoo, winding through Sydney Harbour National Park. There is a picnic ground amongst the fortifications on the hill above the HMAS Sydney I Memorial Mast. 
You can continue on to Chowder Head via Taylors Bay (add an extra 60 minutes including stops).

Wave as the Manly ferry passes Bradley's Head

Found a friend on the trail near Athol Hall

HMAS Sydney I  Memorial Mast

Fortifications date back to the 1840's

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Berlin's Museum Island - one day pass

The best value is to buy a one day pass for 18 euros. Admission to only one museum (e.g. the jaw-dropping Pergamon) is 12 euros. The one day pass includes admission to all the biggies. Arrive before opening time of 10 a.m. to avoid queues.
Note: The Pergamon Altar is closed for refurbishment until at least 2020.

"Museum Island"

Pergamon Museum - Ishtar Gate of Babylon
Bode-Museum on the Spree

A total of  15 admissions are included for 18 euros
Each museum provides you with free guide brochures.

Friday, 19 July 2019

The best free thing to do in Berlin - Reichstag Building

Free book available at Reception
The public is allowed access to the dome and walkways of the German Parliament only if you register online through the website:

Register one month in advance and select your desired admission time. You will be emailed confirmation. Bring this confirmation letter as well as your passport on the day.
Arrive at least 20 minutes early.

You will be provided with headphones for the self-guided tour which provides an excellent orientation of Berlin's history and its landmarks.

The closest beach to Sydney CBD

Lavender Bay is in North Sydney. It is a 5 minute ferry ride across from Circular Quay.
A coastal walking track leads from Milsons Point ferry wharf, past Luna Park to a small beach (Qubaree Park) with spectacular harbour views.

The trail back to Luna Park

Quibaree Park, Lavender Bay - popular with the local bush turkeys