Sunday, September 30, 2018

Canberra and the American Masters

I've been in Canberra for most of the past week.

The original plan was to come up to help one of my students who is doing some work with specimens from the Australian National Insect Collection (yes, the country has a national insect collection and its based in Canberra). Unfortunately the fancy microscope we needed to us was not working so the student flew back to Melbourne and I took a mini 'sabbatical' at the ANU.

It's been great. I got a lot more work done than I would back in Melbourne (lack of construction work noises across the corridor makes a big difference).

I've been catching the bus to and from the ANU. I've probably used the Canberra buses more in the last few days than in the previous 25 years. Canberra public transport isn't the most efficient but it was far easier than what I remember it to be compared to the last time I caught a bus in the ACT.

Today I went to see the American Masters exhibition at the NGA, which is drawn entirely from the National Gallery's own collection. The exhibition really sheets home what a world class collection of American art is actually held here in Canberra. There were heaps of big name artists in the show, from Rothko and Wharhol to de Kooning and Pollock. Of course, Pollock's Blue Poles, purchased during the Whitlam era, is arguably the most well known. I loved the Morris Louis works the best.

The plan after the gallery was to go meet the rest of the family for lunch in the city. Unfortunately, one of my nieces, after polishing off most of a very sizeable portion of chocolate milkshake at a cafe near the gallery, then proceeded to throw it all up over herself and my sister. So, lunch in the city was cancelled and we went home so my sister could get herself and my youngest niece cleaned off.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Counting pennies

I went into a vintage furniture and decorative arts shop today in Richmond. I started talking to the owner and we must have chatted for an hour.

The owner told me about a man and a woman who had earlier pulled up to the front of the shop in their Aston Martin, and were interested in buying a vase. However, the couple didn't want to pay the asking price and tried to haggle down the price. The owner politely said 'no', and so the couple left.

Unbeknownst to the shop owner, it was the same vase I had admired when I walked into the shop, so I bought it. The owner gave me a discount (even though I didn't ask for it).

I don't have an Aston Martin but I now have a nice vintage vase.

Melbourne Symphony

A colleague invited me to see a performance by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO) at Hamer Hall tonight.

I had never been inside the concert hall before and it was really impressive. Indeed, I don't really listen to orchestral music so this was somewhat of an initiation for me. The MSO was performing the New World Symphony. The piece turned out to be quite familiar. I assume I must have heard it in a movie.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Lack of client focus

A service provider  in the USA contacted me asking if I'd like to engage them for a conference I am organising in 2020 here in Australia.

They wanted to set up a Skype meeting. I said 'ok'.

They then send me a list of options for meeting times.

Two problems. First, all the times they gave were in Central US time, which was very annoying as I then had to work out what times those corresponded to here in Melbourne. Second, and even more annoyingly, all the times they offered were at ridiculously late hours of the night (1 am, really?).

I wrote back a polite email pointing all of this out and said that I don't think it's going to work. They have since sent me two emails apologising for the mistake. I'm normally a very forgiving kinda guy but lack of client focus is a big fail. Too many alarm bells.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Two deaths

A friend from my time working in the US posted a note on messenger this week saying that someone we knew had died. Will accidentally fell out of a boat. He was 35.

A day later, a close friend reminded me of the tragic death of another young man we both knew. Jared died many years ago but I guess the circumstances of his death still haunts my friend who felt compelled to write about it for a national newspaper. Jared was a scientist working in the US. He was driving home late one night after work. A drunk driver crashed into the back of his car at an intersection. Both cars burst into flames. Bystanders managed to rescue the drunk driver but Jared couldn't be rescued. He was 33.

Two deaths. Both sad. One was a tragic accident. The other was entirely avoidable.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Parallel visions

I went to see the new Baldessin/Whiteley: Parallel Visions exhibition at the NGV today.

I assume that Brett Whiteley will probably be the big drawcard to the exhibition as most people would be familiar with his work.

I, on the other hand, was there to see the Baldessins.

I'm a huge fan of George Baldessin's work, long before I even knew who Baldessin was.

Ever since I was a kid, I have admired the giant pear sculptures that sat on the front lawn of the National Gallery in Canberra.

I only found out a few years ago that they were sculpted by Baldessin (I hadn't even heard of him until then).

Hopefully this exhibition will showcase what a fantastic Australian artist he was.


I caught up with a friend mid week for dumplings in the city.

Towards the end of our meal, four customers walked in, two of whom were transgender.

Before the customers had even taken their seats, I could hear the waiters commenting to each other in Chinese. "They're men," one of them said.

I was so disappointed, especially given the rainbow sticker on the front door of the restaurant.