Friday, July 30, 2010

The spirit of Schumann the shoeman?

Shoe mystery

When I spotted these shoes this foggy winter morning, I was originally convinced I was seeing two birds on the rail. Trying to work out why one bird was seemingly hanging upside down, I approached slowly. Was it a bat? As I took out my iPhone to snap a quick shot, I was also bewildered as to why the other bird hadn't yet flown away.

What remains unexplained is that these beautiful shoes aren't even a matched pair! If you've read and enjoyed the poignant CBCA shortlisted picture book, "Schumann the shoeman" by John & Stella Danalis, you'll understand why this local example of urban art gave me a few chills.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Ensign Sue Must Die!: Pot Luck Comics

If you're a fan of JJ Abrams' "Star Trek" movie, or an appreciator of the "Mary Sue" phenomenon, in which female fans would place a glorification of themselves into "Star Trek" fan fiction, to flirt with Kirk (or Spock, or both), look glamorous, save the ship and still e home for breakfast, you might enjoy Ensign Mary Amethyst Star Enoby Aiko Archer Picard Janeway Sue in this marvelous comic strip parody:

Pot Luck Comics present... ENSIGN SUE MUST DIE!:

Cast of "Ensign Sue Must Die!"

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Da Vinci Secrets: Anatomy to Robots

Vitruvian Andorian
"The Vitruvian Andorian"

Today, I went to an exhibition called "Da Vinci Secrets: Anatomy to Robots", a fascinating set of three-dimensional attempts to realise, using materials available in Leonardo da Vinci's time, some of Da Vinci's amazing drawings and designs.

DaVinci's wooden robot
Early Data prototype?

Of course, da Vinci has connections to at least two "Star Trek" series. Immortal Mr Flint, in "Requiem for Methuselah", met Kirk and Spock and claimed to be Leonardo da Vinci, among many other creative historical figures, and Captain Janeway (in "Star Trek: Voyager") spent many hours relaxing with a holographic da Vinci in a recreation of his workshop.

Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo always knew where his towel was.

Note the beginner's kickboard he invented to the left. I guess his Floaties are under his robes?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Room to Read!

What a fun night at Room to Read! The Sydney chapter of this highly worthwhile children's charity held its bimonthly function tonight at the Kirribilli Club. Had I not walked right past this club on Monday night, filling in time before my new course started at the Sydney Writers' Centre, I might not have made the effort to attend.

I'm so glad I did.

"Room to Read" is an international organisation that raises funds to help children in the developing world by building libraries in schools, providing locally published books, and maintaining the children's right to read and girls' right to an education; an attempt to end poverty and change the world.

Room to Read
Back row: Sarah Charles, Linly Goh, Susanne Gervay, Deb Abela, Ian McLean.
Front row: Gus Gordon, Tristan Bancks. Photo courtesy of Susanne Gervay.

Deb Abela gave a warm and enthusiastic reading of the new picture book, "Zak the yak with books on his back" by John Wood & Abin Shrestha, and we all received a free copy of this book for attending.

I look forward to finding out a lot more about "Room to Read" in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Miss Playtrek's triumphant return: the journey continues

Playtrek logo

Aussie Playtrekker, Sam English, was getting a little worried about Miss Playtrek, but she arrived today. Sam has big plans for her brief sojourn back in Oz.

Miss Playtrek back in Oz

Monday, July 19, 2010

Luna Park at dusk

Luna Park at dusk

Tonight, on my way to a course at the Sydney Writers' Centre, Milson's Point, I had a little time to kill and decided to wander off in the opposite direction towards Luna Park. With the light fading quickly, I snapped an unusual angle of the lit pylons that hold up the famous face (below left) and arrived at the bottom of the stairs just as the dusk bathed the face in the most extraordinarily blue cast (above). I was thrilled with the result, immediately uploaded the photo to Facebook, where it received many positive comments. The dumb luck involved in what often makes a really great photo - sometimes so much more important than skill - continues to amaze me.

Luna Park PylonswhiteLuna Park slides in Coney Island
Above right: The ever-popular Coney Island giant slides.

Bridge at night
The spectacular view from the new location of the Writers' Centre.

The course I am enrolled in, Build Your Online Profile, runs for five weeks. Our tutor is Tristan Bancks, a Web 2.0 savvy author of books for young people - and a familiar face from his days as Tug on the long-running Aussie soap opera, "Home and Away". Session #1 was excellent. Now I have to tackle my homework: buying a domain name for my web presence.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ben presents "Where the wild things are"

I spent last Christmas with a young friend, three-year-old Ben, of Brisbane. I gave him a copy of the picture book, "Where the wild things are" by Maurice Sendak, but the festive season was so frantic he didn't get much of an opportunity to explore it until the New Year. It has become a firm favourite.

His parents have uploaded the following Youtube video:

Great work, Ben! I'm proud of you!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Memories of the Times

In January 1984, this then-young Aussie on his first trip to New York City was advised by well-meaning friends to stay at the classy Gramercy Park Hotel, but it was twice as expensive as I'd anticipated. After one night there, I checked my finances, admitted defeat - and a local tourist advisory service recommended the Times Square Hotel on 43rd Street, instead, as "a place where Aussies often stayed when they couldn't afford the usual NYC prices".

My NY penpal was kind of horrified when she heard my new location. When I told Carolyn that I'd switched hotels she said, "New York's fine, so long as you stay away from Times Square. So where are you staying?"

Me: (in high pitched voice): "Times Square Hotel."

Yes, I couldn't have gotten much closer to Times Square itself if I'd tried! I must say that the Times Square Hotel's revolving door, quaint old foyer, cashier window, rickety elevator, incredibly noisy water pipes (at 3.30am every morning, like clockwork), a friendly maid who thumped on the door to clean the room at about 6.30am, the portable b/w TV with "rabbit ears" aerial (that had to be supplemented by touching the TV and raising one arm), the pathetic pigeon sheltering on a window sill from the blizzard outside, and not to mention the little mouse who visited me every night... Wow! What a way to get to know the real New York! I loved every second of it!

Times Square Hotel

I was under the impression that the hotel may have been demolished, but a bit of Googling today revealed that the Times Square Hotel is alive and well! Now a subsidised block of apartments, it is owned and operated by COMMON GROUND an organisation that develops solutions to homelessness.

According to a current resident, The Hotel Times Square "was built in the mid 1920s. It was a moderate-priced alternative to the great hotels in the neighborhood, the Hotel Astor (demolished) and the Knickerbocker (converted, still standing on B’way and 42nd St. The Hotel Times Square is very famous, since it was the neighbor to the New York Times building for much of the 20th Century. The NY Times moved to a new skyscraper a few blocks downtown, on Eighth Ave.

"The Hotel Times Square is on 255 W 43rd Street, at Eighth Avenue. It has a very grand lobby, a nice mezzanine, and a fine rooftop terrace/garden. It is not open to the public, but one may walk through the revolving door and have a quick look without trouble.

"There is an art gallery on the mezzanine. Most of the artwork is not terribly distinguished; but it is one way to get into the building. Ask to see the art gallery."
(The New York Times' In Transit blog.)

Very cool! I must go through my album of pics. Somewhere I have a 3D photo of my little friend, the New York pigeon, who huddled on the opposite window's sill every night. I snapped a great picture the night of a freezing blizzard and I was thrilled to get a photo of "3D snow"! January 1984 now seems so very long ago, but almost like yesterday.

Ah, found it:

3D Blizzard

And here's why I couldn't find Times Square Hotel on Google Earth "street view" last year! The building's front was being renovated (2009)!

Times Square Hotel - street view