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Monday, November 29, 2010

Tom TAM - The Amazing Meeting Australia

The Amazing Meeting (TAM) finally arrived in Australia this weekend, and it was a splendid event.

For those who don't know, TAM is an international gathering of self-proclaimed sceptics, which in this context means those who apply rational ideas and critical thought to all aspects of life. We get a lot of fun out of yeti hunters and ufologists, but more importantly we look at the quacks of alternative medicine and the sinister, life-endangering anti-vaccination lobby.

Most of the weekend was spent at conference style speeches and workshops featuring the likes of Dick Smith and Dr Karl.

Here's a snap of the panel on scepticism and the law, featuring (l-r) Martin Hadley, Nicholas Cowdery, Simon Singh and Julian Morrow:

The event took place over the whole weekend, which gave everybody the chance to meet up with some luminaries of the movement, as well as a whole bunch of like-minded folk. Here's me with some famous-to-a-self-selecting-minority mini-celebs:

The Amazing Randi, godfather of the sceptical scene.

Steve Novella, clinical neurologist and podcaster.

Eugeneie Scott, anti-creationism campaigner extraordinaire.

Sadly, Embiggen Books ran out of some extremely useful products early on:

But we did all get given official Placebo Bands, guaranteed as effective as $30 hologram/natural energy pathways/mumbo-jumbo based Power Band.

It was both fun and educational. Most of all, though, I found it inspirational. Next time I come across some bullshit woo-woo pseudomedicine out to con some innocent and possibly put them in danger, I won't just shrug but I'll do something about it. After all, children's lives may be at stake.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Review: Uncle Vanya at the Sydney Theatre Company

Last night was an outing to see Uncle Vanya at the Sydney Theatre Company. It's a star-studded production, featuring Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, John Bell, Jacki Weaver and Richard Roxburgh. I've seen the play once or twice before so while I'm hardly familiar with it, I had a sense of how things were going to play out.

The direction emphasises humour and physicality over the more elegaic aspects of Chekhov's writing. This generally works thanks to Andrew Upton's ocker translation, although the crucial shooting scene is overplayed and seems to come from nowhere.

Blanchett's Yelena also seems to generally take things a notch too far, and is somewhat ungenerous in taking the limelight from other actors at times. To be fair, the character is supposed not to fit in to the milieu and seem a little OTT, and the effect is exacerbated by a starstruck crowd guffawing at every minor bit of business.

Roxburgh's ramshackle Vanya and Weaving's cynical doctor work well, but the real star for me is Hayley McElhinney as the naive young Sonya who gets some big laughs while maintaining a painful vulnerability.

That sounds a bit negative: it's a great play done well, and I did enjoy myself.

A memorable moment from the evening for me was Ross accidentally toppling a full glass of red wine all over me at the cafe beforehand. I enjoyed the play with a slightly moist groin, smelling faintly of blackberries and tannins.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Growing up

Nothing too much going on with us right now, but a few bits and pieces worth noting.

1) Summer is kicking in, so lots of playing outside

and at the pool.

2) B1 got to look after Charlie the, erm, dog from daycare for a week, which she really enjoyed:

3) Charlie even muscled in on B1's "graduation" (sic) from daycare. It was a big show with a whole bunch of musical numbers that she had been practicing for months. My personal favourite was "Doh Re Mi" from The Sound of Music.

She starts school in January. Scary...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hooray for us!

It was M&I’s 10th wedding anniversary last week. Phew! It really doesn’t seem that long ago that we were dancing to Cliff Richard records with many of our favourite people in a community hall in Brentwood. So many happy memories of that day.

We celebrated with a child-free weekend in the city, staying in a fancy apartment, eating at a too-posh-for-the-likes-of-us restaurant, watching a mediocre play and four (count ‘em) splendid movies. It was very “us”, and we had a lovely time.

Incidentally, the 10th wedding anniversary doubled up as the 13th anniversary of the day we met, watching Primal Scream at the Metro. Guess who we’re going to see at the Metro in January? We’re gonna have a good time, we’re gonna have a party.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


Our Halloween sausage sizzle is beginning to acquire the look of an annual institution. We send out invites midweek and come 5 o’clock we have an array of ghosts, goblins and ghoulies appear on the doorstep for a trawl around the close. Whilst the trick-or-treating is taking place, I get the barbie started and everyone ends up back at our place for a snag in a bun.

We enjoy it because it gets the whole community together for a kid-focussed event that the adults can enjoy too. People seem to appreciate our efforts, so there’s no reason that we can’t continue for years to come.

(The witch near the back is B1, by the way).

Monday, November 01, 2010

Uncle John

Last week was a melancholy affair, a couple of deaths bringing an air of sadness to everything.

The most significant for us was M’s Uncle John, a lovely character whose company I always enjoyed at family get-togethers. He made it to 80 in fine fettle but he died quite suddenly over the weekend. He led an interesting and eventful life but the last few years were tough after the death of his beloved Joan.

The funeral was lovely. John had written a letter to his sons that they found when they were going through his effects, and Craig read it out at the service. It was so moving and really encapsulated many of the things I would like to pass on to my kids after I’m gone.