Sunday, 2 September 2018

Atop Mt Victoria in Devonport ...

With the days left in New Zealand dwindling to a few I'm suddenly walking around town with a camera. This was taken yesterday from the top of Mt Victoria. My home for the past 7 months is in the far right quadrant of this photo taken on my iPhone.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

IFFM 2018 Day 2: Bollywood Dance Competition

One of the day's many brilliant competitors.

Clearly the fix was in.

Forecasters called for a brutal winter's day in Melbourne yesterday but only light, intermittent rain fell on Melbourne during the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne's outdoor events in Federation Square. Call it luck, call it poor forecasting -- I'll go with the sheer force of Mitu Bhowmick Lange's will, who oversaw the proceedings as usual, and who was safely inside adjacent Deakin Edge theatre later in the day when skies turned surly and rain bucketed down. I pity the rain that threatens Mitu's carefully planned festival.

This year's Bollywood Dance Competition took place on a different stage than previous competitions, but the mood was typically joyous as competitors strut their stuff.

Earlier in the day, Indian acting icon Rani Mukherjee raised India's flag a few days before India's Independence Day.

There are many familiar faces at each year's festival, but few are as ready for their movie-star closeup as Puneet Gulati's.

On the subject of familiar festival faces/movie stars: Multi-talented Bollywood fixture Malaika Arora Khan once again brought her glamour to the Bollywood Dance Competition. I genuinely don't know if I could remember dance moves with a gaze like hers looking up at me. Fellow judge and Bollywood bigwig Nikkhil Advani is beside her

Photographer/model/actual beauty pageant winner Lucia Hou once again captured the action at Federation Square in an outfit befitting motorcycle royalty.

Mitu chats with judge Avtar Panesar, a VP at Yash Raj Films and an early advocate of bringing Bollywood to Australia.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

A sublime soul punch: Tabrez Noorani's 'Love Sonia' opens IFFM 2018

An IFFM opening night tradition was continued by Freida Pinto, Richa Chadda, Mrunal Thakur and Tabrez Noorani
Up late writing the following reaction to Tabrez Noorani's 'Love Sonia', which opened the 2018 Indian Film Festival of Melbourne last night with a soul punch. Just as I knew would happen, I awoke with it still vibrating my brain like fireworks behind my eyelids. A simply phenomenal -- and shockingly NECESSARY -- masterwork by all involved. A full day of panel discussions awaits today so I'll keep this post short. First, what I posted to Instagram from a rented room in Elwood in the early morning hours:
It would be easy to focus solely on the physical effects wrought by #IFFM2018 festival opener #LoveSonia: visceral rage, a galloping pulse long after house lights reveal tear-reddened eyes, an acidic longing for justice in a hellscape of wickedness and perversion. Twenty minutes into this film my nerves were shot ... and that was only the preamble. Director and story creator Tabrez Noorani’s approach is unrelenting, sometimes traumatic, as haunting as the obliteration of innocence in a young girl’s eyes. These effects are real, but they do not matter. No, what MATTERS, and what arms this hypnotically horrifying film with a righteous hammer, is that it connects moviegoers to the plight of sex trafficking victims around the world like live wires on exposed flesh — the resultant shock and public awakening could (and mother-of-all-things-holy SHOULD) save lives. Every facet of this film — acting, writing, directing, the works — is a pinnacle of an art form too often vapid and shameless. However difficult ‘Love Sonia’ may be to sell to a pap-addicted public, it left me in furious awe of director @tabreznoorani and the almost mystical performances of its cast. That @mitulange and @iffmelbourne allowed audiences in two packed cinemas to interact with its stars @therichachadha, @freidapinto and staggering newcomer @mrunalofficial2016 is why I flew from NZ to attend IFFM. Thank you Mitu, and thanks to all responsible for ‘Love Sonia’.
Mrunal Thakur, Tabrez Noorani, Freida Pinto and Richa Chadda introduce a film that several said barely scratches the surface of sex trafficking. 

After fielding questions from both of the cinemas that screened 'Love Sonia' last night, Freida Pinto remains radiant as she leaves.

Bollywood heartthrob Vicky Kaushal escorts Richa Chadda from the cinema.

After praising director Tabrez Noorani's film as 'the most disturbing film I have ever seen', world-renowned director Rajkumar Hirani walks out with a beaming Noorani. 

Mrunal Thakur. As Freida Pinto said while introducing the film, she's the next big thing -- for all the right reasons. 

Friday, 10 August 2018

Melbourne, August morning.

Flew into Melbourne last night. Picked up by Jamie McLellan. We polished a bottle of Honey Jack and nearly choked from laughter. After a stop at Dave Wright's Jimmy the Saint I made it to level 46 of 55 Collins for the opening press conference for the 2018 Indian Film Festival of Melbourne.

As I wrote on Instagram: Why does a place feel like home only after I've left it?

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Mount Cambria Reserve, Devonport

Perfect winter's day yesterday (drizzling and chilly this Sunday morning, i.e., the usual) so I walked around Devonport with a hobo's countenance. This panoramic shot was taken within Mount Cambria Reserve, about 5 minutes from my flat. Per a local history website:
Mount Cambria was a scoria cone, and was quarried away from the 1920s onwards. The scoria was used for roading, garden walls and ship's ballast. The site became the Devonport Council depot, and in the 1990s was replanted and converted to a park which won a national award in 1992.
Mount Cambria is one of approximately 48 volcanoes that make up the Auckland volcanic field. From my second-story deck I've can see North Head to the east and Mt Victoria to the west (Mount Cambria is behind).

As you pan from left to right: The remnants of Mount Cambria form the left frame, followed by a busy Waitematā Harbour (note the massive container ship heading west towards the Auckland dockyards) in the distance. Mt Victoria then rises in the middle of the shot before the right frame is formed by Mount Cambria trees.

Here's a closer look at Waitematā Harbour from Mount Cambria Reserve:

The quarried out Mount Cambria and Mount Victoria rising behind:

Volcanic rock quarried from Mount Cambria was used to build footpaths within the reserve:

Friday, 27 July 2018

An Auckland commute: Devonport to Newmarket

Almost 6 months since I moved from Melbourne to Auckland yet very little has been documented. Outside of a pair of trips to the States in April and May and a visit to New Zealand's spectacular South Island in March, the bulk of my NZ experience has been in Devonport, where I live, and Newmarket, where I work. The above shot shows the view of a sunrise behind North Head from the bottom of my street as I walk to Devonport's ferry wharf.

Unless it's raining I'll sit outside on the ferry and enjoy views like this of the ferry wharf.

A ferry approaching Devonport's wharf. It's a 10-minute ride across Waitematā Harbour to Auckland's CBD, seen here in the distance.

Ferry prep.

Approaching the ferry terminal in what's called Commercial Harbour.

The ferry terminal is located in Britomart, which gets its name from a Royal Navy gunship that first surveyed Waitematā Harbour in 1841. Depending on the time, weather and my mood, I can either take a 10-minute train ride to Newmarket or partake in a 40-minute walk. If I walk, I'll usually take a route that includes the Auckland Domain, a remarkable reserve that includes the Auckland War Memorial Museum, shown here.

Another walking route goes through Auckland University and allows this view of the Sky Tower ...

... and another section of Auckland Domain.

My Newmarket office is on the 4th floor of the building bathed in early morning sun in this photo.

Newmarket train station.

Along a wooded track in yet another section of Auckland Domain.

On occasion, massive cruise ships are docked at Commercial Harbour. This shot shows one being guided by tugboats out of Waitematā Harbour.

On-board a Devonport ferry looking back at Auckland and the Harbour Bridge.

Sunset at Devonport ferry wharf.

Walking along the foreshore in Devonport at dusk.

My housemates Theo and Jasper in our Devonport doorway.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

RIP Viola Wilson

Vi, MB, Patty & Barbara
Before #metoo, before #timesup, before the past few generations of women were born into a world where at least lip-service was paid to equal rights between the sexes, there was the Prudential crew. (I doubt they called themselves that, but it's how I thought of them.)

In 1985, my sophomore year at Seton Hall University, I started working 4pm-8pm weekday shifts as a claims processor at Prudential Insurance. The sprawling offices in suburban NJ were mostly empty when my colleagues and I arrived but we'd catch full-timers at the end of their workdays. It was then I met Vi Wilson, Di Alviggi and Carolyn Jennings, among many others, many of whom remain close after these many decades. Vi, Di and Carolyn were claims supervisors. Not necessarily mine, though over time I probably reported to one or more of them. All three were hilarious. Not joke-telling hilarious ... every-word-out-of-their-mouths hilarious. How many office jobs can you think back to and the first thing you remember is laughter? That's Prudential in the mid-80s for me. (Along with data input computers yellowed by cigarette smoke ...)

If my memory recalls laughter, my consciousness understands how lucky I was to have been managed by women like those three very North Jersey mothers. Yes, their personalities guided their interactions with those they managed, but so did an ironbound dedication to hard work and responsiblity. These women could have led armies, built cities, governed countries. Something tells me weren't expected to pursue 'careers', yet they shined in an environment perhaps viewed as too 'in the trenches' for men with university business degrees and entitled expectations.

The Pru Crew wore competency like a discounted Macys blouse, showed buckets of compassion to those who struggled to keep up, but busted balls when circumstances demanded that balls be busted. Three decades have passed since I was introduced to this crew and I've since worked in offices around the world. The more insecure male managers I've encountered, the more testosterone-laden horseshit I've had to stomach, the more privileged I've felt to have entered the professional workforce under the tutelage of outstanding teachers like Vi, Di and Carolyn, who would have laughed themselves hoarse if you referred to them as 'pioneers' even though, in hindsight, that's exactly what they were, even in the '80s.

I'm undoubtedly being presumptuous but I think their collective ethos could be summed up thusly:

Be good at your job. Just don't take it so f*cking seriously.

In 1987 I got to know Mary Beth, Vi's youngest daughter, who also worked at Prudential. Springsteen made us friends but shared experiences as co-supervisors in a South Jersey office in 1989 made us blood brother and sister. At a house she bought and stamped with her good taste in South Jersey I met her sisters Patty and Barbara and of course got to witness Vi outside of the office, always at the center of a gathering, always the furiously loyal matriarch. I left Prudential for good in 1989 but was blessedly adopted by the Wilson clan, seeing them on holidays and birthdays. MB moved to Freehold in 1998, making it easier for the 'Normas', as they called each other, to congregate, and I was lucky to break bread and drink wine and laugh like hell with them over the years.

Sometimes, I even got referred to as 'Norman'. An honorific I surely did not deserve.

The last time I saw any of the Normas was at MB and Charlie's wedding in 2006. Viola passed away last week at the age of 94. Though it's been almost 12 years since I've shared her company I feel her loss tremendously. She was one person with the force of ten who claimed a spot in my heart many years ago. Like Vi sitting lakeside in her beloved Maine, I'll always have memories of her to reflect upon, and rescue me from my overly serious self.

RIP, Big Norma.

(photo courtesy of MB's Facebook)

Monday, 8 January 2018

Surprise, surprise ...

My friend Dave, from Dave Wright & the Midnight Electric, asked a few days ago if I'd be free to help with a 'project' on Sunday (yesterday). I said of course. He picked me up at 1:00. As we pulled onto a nearby street he said his wife Effie and their twin girls were at a park around the corner from my place. He asked if I wanted to say hello. I said of course. We parked and walked over to them -- one of the girls, Memphis, ran up and hugged my legs -- and after saying hello to Effie and the other twin Sophia, Dave tilted his head in the direction of picnic tables about 10 metres away. I looked that way and saw a good 2 dozen friends: Dave had organised a surprise goodbye picnic.

'Shocked' doesn't begin to describe my mindset. Later on in the day it occurred that I'd never been the recipient of a surprise party. Ever. It was like getting tossed into a pool of ice blocks. My friends, of course, melted those blocks instantaneously and embraced me in a hold that kept me from running back to my place and reclaiming my hermit throne.

Amid the colossal spread of food and booze everyone had brought, there was even a beautiful goodbye gift:

Oh ... why the goodbyes? I've taken a job in Auckland. Rented a place in an Auckland suburb called Devonport. Moving at the end of the month.

After Dave presented the gift and said several kind words I coughed up thanks and tried to express appreciation for the collection of people I've been lucky to call friends here in Melbourne. When Aradhna and I moved to Victoria in December 2007 we knew no one -- literally, no one -- in Melbourne. Bit by bit we began to make friends, mostly through her work, but for me the dam burst after Springsteen's 2014 tour of Australia and New Zealand. I found my Southern Hemisphere kin.

Who are, and always will be, brothers and sisters for life.