Archive for May, 2012

G’day from LA 2011

Posted: May 25, 2012 in Travel

Looking for a slight culture change from Boston and what better place than LA. Qantas flies in and out of there naturally and this time we thought we should squeeze in a couple of days in LA before heading home. It was jam packed couple of days and we probably only saw one side of this town but it was great – in fact so many great times and photos from Universal Studios will leave that one day to a separate post.

Flew in late one night from NYC and we were staying at Hilton Universal City so had investigated shuttle buses and their appeared to be some suitable alternatives. However methinks there may be some money changing hands as it was very difficult to line up the shuttle we wanted with the supposed “hired help” Due to time of night we took the sensible though expensive option of a taxi. It was a nice drive through LA at nightime but when the head hit the pillow it was time for rest. We woke up next day to a bright sunny day and time to check out some glitz and glamour. Off to Hollywood Boulevard and check out some famous footprints and equally famous breasts.

Its a great walk up and down looking at the stars and we were lucky as got there early and not too crowded. Checked out Kodak theatre and had a dim sim at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and then we went looking for that distant far off HOLLYWOOD sign. But first we had to deal with the infamous casting couch! As usual CLP simply sat there doing nothing!

We had a segway tour booked for later in the day around Beverly Hills. These Segways are pretty easy to move around on once you get the hang of them but the tirck is to speed up you have to lean forward; to slow down you lean back. Simple Pimple really – but we went along a lot of sidewalks and crossed streets and back up the sloped culvets onto the sidewalk. I found it very difficult to lean forward while going uphill so nearly fell off a few times trying to travel 0.3 m up a 10 degree incline. Not pretty. What was pretty though was zooming along quiet back streets of LA checking out some famous houses- none more famous than the one shared by MM and the Yankee Clipper – and then onto Rodeo Drive. Once again glorious weather.

There was still a lot of daylight left on this glorious day so thought lets head down to Venice Beach. Unlike the subway system in NYC and Washington the public transport here was a lot more difficult to line up so after a couple of buses and some walking we went for the taxi option once more. We had seen Coney Island somewaht deserted on a glorious day but there were plenty of people around the boardwalks here and doubt many of them paid taxes. The medicinal weed doctor seeemd especially popular and of course what is Venice Beach without the outdoor gym.

Then we had the problem of getting back to the Hilton Universal as the sun was setting. Another taxi through some peak hour traffic got us back just in time as the sun was setting and we had a quick stroll through Universal City walk barely taking time to reflect on how much we had done and seen in our first day – LA is that sorta town I guess. There was not time to hang around though even if pictures may suggest otherwise. It was a glorious night and was hard to walk away but we knew we would be back tomorrow. USA, the land of contrast, had thrown up another.

30 Rock

Posted: May 25, 2012 in TV

I watch 30 Rock every week like I watch Curb every week – not every episode is great but you sure dont want to miss one just in case. Seinfeld never really had a weak episode except maybe the first couple whereas Curb and 30 Rock had some weak ones in later seasons. Happy to report that Epiosde 22 of 30 Rock this week was great. The first 2 minutes (clip 1 below) had some great lines in it and then we had the finger tapping scenes followed by the wedding/divorce and Kim Jong the Waiter. The Pippa Middleton Ass reference (clip 2) was gold Baby. I am happy to fess up that Tina Fey floats my boat in so many ways so even when the epiosode may go off the rails TF is just around the corner with her unique brand of flawed eternal optimism. Tracy Jordan is very hit and miss, Kenneth, Jack and Jenna uniformly good while the new Page girl Hazel has some of the best lines and scenes. Banks has great comic timing and is smoking hot. I understand next season is last and that sounds about right

Clip 1

Clip 2

Vanishing Point (1971)

Posted: May 23, 2012 in 70's Retrospective

The third entry for Retrospective Night is yet another 1971 movie. The previous 2 had cult heroes – Dirty Harry and Billy Jack – who dealt with the baddies by their own moral code. In this one we have more of an anti-hero in Kowalski played by the briefly famous Barry Newman who was rather hot for a couple of years in the early 70’s. Then again perhaps the true hero of this movie is a 1970 Dodge Challenger? Like another 1971 “road” movie Duel there were many long sweeping shots of one car on a long highway and it can certainly be effective. However this movie has dated badly. It developed a certain cult status at the time with comparisons to other classic movies with memorable car chases in it like Bullit which is ridiculous. Of course the director was not trying to do Bullit 2 so the comparison is pointless. Long before Blazing Saddles Cleavon Little has a major role as the guiding DJ Super Soul but is a fairly stereotypical caricature.This is very much a period piece – loved at the time but largely forgettable now. It certainly had a different feel about it at the time and the imagery was strong – the definition of “Vanishing point: is

1.The point at which receding parallel lines viewed in perspective appear to converge.

2.The point at which something that has been growing smaller or increasingly faint disappears altogether.

The ending first time up of course has impact which is lost on repeated viewing. Flashbacks tell us a bit more about the character and what led to the final scenario unfolding. It is revealing to rewatch some of these 70’s faves and see which ones hold up and which ones fade. It confirms to me what a great movie Dirty Harry remains. Must be time for a comedy methinks – I see more Cleavon Little on the horizon?

Cheers from Boston

Posted: May 17, 2012 in Travel

Walking from our Washington digs to the station we walked through some markets dragging our luggage behind us. One of the stall ladies called out “Have a great trip folks” .Never seen her before but rather indicative of the general friendliness of the Americans we dealt with. First experience with USA internal flights – unfortunately the night before had read in the local paper a review of all of the Flight companies (by customers) and ours came last in all categories – Delta! The check in was fine apart from a minor security check – memo to visitors USE THE TSA APPROVED LOCKS – and the flight was fine if a little cramped. We had been spoilt by Qantas Clubs up til now so at end of day the product reflected the price. Got a private car to The Copley Inn which was fine if a little creaky. Did not know much about Boston to be honest except maybe Cheers TV show and Red Sox Baseball. If pressed I would have stated that generally I assumed it was bit upper class so was surprised when we bumped into the mayor on our walk through the gardens – friendly guy though

Beautiful gardens with plenty of water around supporting a plethora of paddlers but the ducks don’t eat much. Then again they don’t chase you either. Good location for a picnic or even a Tea Party?

After wandering through the gardens it was time to check out this famous Freedom Trail. Luckily it was free of people. Luckily there was a big red line to follow. We followed this trail over hill and dale past some significant sites until we came to the revered grave site of Paul. What is this American fascination with The Beatles!

Next stop was some more Paul Revere memorabilia. There was a statue of him on horse. The old saying “one if by land two if by sea” completely confused me as we had come by air! We crossed over more sea than land so compromised. Then we travelled on to his house which suddenly made The Copley Inn look spacious. Think I might go for long rides at night too.

There were some men dressed in soldier outfits prancing around for some reason but there out of the corner of my eye I glimpsed the Holy Grail! The Cheers Pub at last. Or was it. It was certainly called Cheers but it appears that the “real pub” is downstairs in a more exclusive area of town. I needed a drink and the people hanging around here seemed like my kinda people. CLP of course had one too many as usual. Can’t take her anywhere without her eventually finding her way home!


It had been a full day so was time to head back to Copley Inn and what better way than a Hansom cab ride. We had travelled around Central Park NYC as dusk set in and was tres romantic. Apparently they don’t have horses in Boston but there are plenty of impoverished students who will pull you along on a bicycle. The CLP thougt the view was better than a horse’s rear end and hard to argue there – being a devout heterosexual though I was more pleased in the significant price drop!

Next day dawned cloudy and overcast but time was short so it was off on the hop on hop off city bus.First stop was Fenway Park. We had seen Yankee Stadium but only from the outside. Now it was time to mingle with the great unwashed … and it was great. Plenty of history here and the volunteer tour guide who was 100 if he was a day was very knowledgeable. Sadly the fifteenth set of stairs was too much for him – let’s just say the pitcher’s mound had some extra padding from that day forward.

Then it was back on the bus and head downtown fore lunch. Apparently Boston has a famous oyster house where JFK use to regularly attend. Went around the block 3 times looking for the tell tale sign of Marilyn with her legs in the air but it alludes me to this day. So we settled on Ye Olde Oyster House as who can resist ye olde anglais.Lo and behold there was a JFK booth but you had to give over your first born to sit at that table. Memo to self – take boy child one on next trip. So it then transpired that I put the second worst tasting fleshy mess in my mouth ever!

As it was still a gloomy day even misty one could say time to check out Mystic River territory. This involved a fair walk past some historical sites like Bunker Hill amongst the very classic Bostonian neighbourhood with the window flower planter boxes. Then we came across what one could only call the poorer part of town. It was a leisurely walk down and a quick walk back – think I saw Omar walking the streets wondering to myself why he had left Baltimore but deciding it wasn’t worth finding out.

Time to check out this place called Harvard. Easy subway to the centre of knowledge which reminded me of chewing gum stuck in your hair. Never quite worked out where the University started and ended. Still time for some fun and it was an easy walk around the place even if I didnt really know when I was on University grounds.

Last full day dawned bright and sunny which was ideal as this was the day we were going to cruise around the harbour. But first we had to listen to the Sate of Origin rugby league match on the radio via the iPad – Rusty Crowe had organised for Fox Sports to show it in USA but Copley Inn was too tight for cable channels! Stll Qld won so all was good with the world. Off to the water. Great views back to the city and across the bay to the bridge. Very pleasant way to fill in the morning.

So we had a great few days in Boston and saw a lot more than could relate in this short blog. We had seen NYC and Washington – the big guns – and even a few hours in Philly. Our last few days would be spent somewhere a little different which should round out a varied exploration of the good old USA and some of its big cities. Next stop – Gooday LA! Think I better have a drink first

Passing through Philadelphia 2011

Posted: May 15, 2012 in Travel

Like a knife through cheese? For some odd reason we thought we may not need a full week in Washington – duh?- so organised for a day trip from Washington on the train to Philadelphia to see why the cheese was so damn creamy. Apparently it played a fair role in American history but that is not as well known as its cheese. The other interest for me personally was to try and track down Smokin Joes gym. I had recently watched the rather excellent Thrilla in Manila doco which for a change had told the story more from Joe’s point of view and had recent interviews with a still proud still bitter man. Alas it was not to be on this short trip but we did come across that other “boxer”

Off the Acela Express and straight to The Liberty Bell which is not all its cracked up to be. Get it?? This was located next to The President’s House where George and John lived for a time ( Paul and Ringo were around the corner apparently). It appears that they also had trouble with Builders Unions back then as it definitely had an unfinished feel about it.
Given the limited time we had a 2 hour bus tour around the city to see the sights seemed like a good idea. So we bought our ticket and while waiting the 10 minutes ducked around the corner to have a gander at Ben’s grave site. Struck by lightning apparently – who would have thought eh?

So off we went on our bus tour and while the city is steeped in history there are not the recognisable land marks of a Washington or NYC. It is still an impressive skyline though with Liberty Place (bearing a striking resemblance to the Chrylser Building)and City Hall standing out.There was some brotherly love to share around and some rather impressive murals on the side of buildings. The tour guide was suitably knowledgeable and the part this burgh played in American history was impressive but where was that damn cheese factory??

So anyway it was time for a break and a bit of morning tea before the “higlight of the tour” ?? The 3 raw eggs served up should have been the clue. As we rounded the corner and approached the Museum of Art it all came flooding back to me. I hate museums – if I want to see something ancient but well preserved I need to look no further than the mirror in the morning. However out of the corner of my eye I saw Sylvester Stallone giving some acting lessons. It took me 5 minutes to realise it was only a statue so reminiscent of his acting skills it was. The tear running down my eye convinced Bob the Bus Driver this was a photo opportunity not to be missed and he gladly pulled over. So I ran up the first 2 steps and promptly threw up the raw eggs – who knew you had to shell them first?

Back on the bus and a trip around Penn’s Landing which was about as thrilling as it sounds before heading back to the station for the trip back to Washington. So the eternal hunt for the famous Philadelphia Cream Cheese ended up much like the Monty Python sketch.

We could never do this city justice in the short time we spent there but our aim on this holiday was to see as many different US cities as we could in our short month but the focus was clearly on NYC and Washington. We were surprised at the significant role that Philadelphia played in the American Revolution. Much like the subway system the intercity trains run well although we were spoilt with our first Acela Express ride which was first class from NYC to Washington – no rail trip after quite lived up to that. Now we had to experience internal USA flights. Next stop – Bawston.

Wandering around Washington 2011

Posted: May 15, 2012 in Travel

NYC is the city that never sleeps that you immerse yourself in and its hustle and bustle to fully appreciate it. Washington is like Canberra on steroids – beautifully laid out and it is fine just to sit back and take in the wondrous monuments and structures. The beauty of the often ridiculed patriotism of Americans is that they are so proud of their history and achievements that they want to show it to the world and let them rejoice along with them. England feels like their heritage is their god given right and if you want to see it , it is going to cost you especially if you want to park near by! So, when reminiscing about Washington your mind does return to the numerous monuments and museums. The iconic structures of New York are invariably displayed in La La land as singular, easily recognisable iconic structures. For Washington it is more often the rather stunning vista that runs from The Capitol through the Washington Monument and up to Old Abe himself. Like all iconic structures these dominate the skyline and are easily recognisable but it would be difficult to imagine a more impressive couple of kilometers of national heritage anywhere in the world. And the real beauty of all this is that is that it is an easy walk and you can even throw in The White House and Jefferson Memorial and still be home in time for a Budweiser and a hot dog on the back porch as the sun sets. So the highlights are the obvious ones naturally and the other amazing aspect of them in this land known for its excesses is their wonderfully understated and reverential presentation, never more ably demonstrated then our first stop on the tour

1. Iwo Jima Memorial/Arlington

The Memorial is simply stunning, set as it is in a nondesript field, it dominates the scene. We were very lucky to arrive just before a busload of tourists and so were virtually by ourselves which added considerably to the solemn nature of the scene. As mentioned in other ramblings I need to come back to these places without a camera so as to simply let them wash over you. Arlington is similarly solemn and equally impressive. While drawn to the JFK grave site the simplicity of the RFK site was strikingly effective.

2. Jefferson Memorial

Another stunningly simple monument that is both amazing up close or from afar. The glimpse of the statue through the columns from across the water is mesmerizing. This one is a bit removed from the central avenue of monuments but well worth the walk and then continue around the lake and shake hands with FDR.

3. The Capitol

We walked up to and around this one every day as we were staying in the general area – highly recommended, quiet and very safe. However we only did the tour on the last morning and trust me you need to line up early. However, as majestic and dominating as the building is from the outside its true magic lies on the inside. Ceilings that would do Michaelangelo proud dominate many rooms but history beckons at every turn.

4. The Washington Monument

Separates The Capitol from the Lincoln Memorial and can be seen from anywhere in Washington. If you plan on getting to the top try booking tickets 6 months in advance otherwise you have no chance. Once again simple it its elegance it is strikingly effective. From its vantage point even on the ground you look to the right for your first glimpse of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave

5. The Lincoln Memorial

These monuments in Washington are easily accessible but there are a couple of rules. You dont go up and sit on Abe’s lap for instance. They have a chain across the front of the statue – and if that is not enough there are plenty of signs. Wondered why they had a couple of guards around. Sure enough after only a few minutes some idiot jumps the chain for a better photo. Frog marched out quick smart

6 The White House

Final stop on the pilgrimmage and rather fitting that it is the seat of power in the good old USA. You are not going to get close to it but once again this is not a problem. Any thoughts of a tour better be organised with the Red Wranger about 6 months before leaving Aussie Land.

So another 6 of the best that are rather obvious but not to be missed. In between these there is so much else to see including the Smithsonian series of museums, memorable memorials like Vietnam and Korea, Library of Congress and the Pentagon. Too much for individual photos – cue slideshow please

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Billy Jack

Posted: May 14, 2012 in 70's Retrospective

Sunday night has become 70’s retrospective night for me. Last night was Dirty Harry and the week before was the cult classic Billy Jack. Both movies were released in 1971 but BJ has dated somewhat more than Harry. However it remains a favourite of mine and I would have seen it 6 times in the year of release. I mentioned the use of music in Dirty Harry for dramatic effect. BJ had a popular soundtrack at the time but the only song that holds up well is the title track

Created by the husband and wife team of Laughlin and Taylor it also spawned some inferior sequels and even an earlier forgettable effort with Born Losers. Billy Jack struck a chord though – the half breed ex green beret hapkido expert ( kickee thump for us) who abhorred violence but realised at times it was the only option. If he wasnt saving wild mustangs becoming dog meat he was protecting the “hippies” from the Freedom school run by Taylor. The scenes with these “kids” are the ones that have dated poorly as have the songs. The villian of the piece is a familiar figure – the rich man with the spoilt tosser son. The most recognised scene is the “I just go beserk” in the ice cream parlour followed by the gang fight in the city park when Billy plants one on Posner’s ear and there is nothing he can do about it. There are many familiar characters in this movie – the honest abe sherriff torn between duty and humanity; the dirty deputy; the rebellious daughter etc.

Bruce Lee had not broken yet so Billy Jack became the hero to many a young man in its day – much like Harry Callahan actually but you didnt need a big gun to be Billy. There are scenes that drag now especially those involving the Indian ceremonies but it still holds a special place in my heart. It reminds me of simpler times when going to the movies was a real event and you walked out into the afternoon sun bouncing on your heels ready for action as the theme song played on spool in your head. Harry and Billy were heroes in a time of social change and their simple values and strong moral code seemed to offer an easy solution to the world’s problems. The questionable logic of this didn’t bother a youth in the 70’s and isn’t that the joy of movies?

Dirty Harry

Posted: May 13, 2012 in 70's Retrospective

The 70’s is a favourite era of mine for 2 reasons – some true classics were made and I got to see most of them on the big screen when first released. Two things invariably distinquish 70’s movies for me – the colour and the music. The colour still looks great today, the music tends to date them significantly. The background music in this film however adds dramatic effect to many scenes and is well used and rarely better in this era of films. I have clear recollection of seeing this first on the big screen although as it was released in 1971 and was R rated I must not have seen it on Premiere. I snuck into many an R rated movie before I turned the magic age but even I would not have tried it at 13! Many viewings subsequently and now this last Sunday night all in its Blu Ray glory. I have to say it never loses its appeal for me.

San Francisco makes a great set for movies with iconic structures and streets.Bullit utilised this perfectly. This movie tends to stay away from the obvious ones although we do have glimpses of Golden Gate Bridge at times including one powerful framed shot when the young girl’s body is recovered. One aspect of San Francisco alluded to in the early stages of this film was the growing gay subculture. The third installment (The Enforcer) uses Alcatraz extensively but suffers in all comparisons. This is clearly the original and best Callahan movie although Magnun Force has its moments and its message. There are some wonderfully framed shots in this movie from the first appearance of Scorpio approaching the cross in the park, the brutality of the stadium scene, Harry standing on the overhead bridge and even the final kick to the head from the thug earning $200 the easy way. Siegel is fond of the long distance fade away and it works well, none better than the final scene as police sirens approach in the distance and Harry tosses badge 2211 away. Don Siegel had earlier made Coogan’s Bluff with Eastwood but Callahan has evolved from the Raylan like Coogan into a more complex character. Early in the movie there are a couple of religous symbols – Jesus Saves, The Cross in the park – is Harry playing God? No, Harry is happy being Judge, Jury and executioner and has his own strong moral code. The movie raises the issues of civil liberties and the rights of all people not just the victims. This does not sit well in the black and white world Harry lives in. His wife was killed in a random drink driving accident while scum like Scorpio have rights? He understands why Chico should walk away from the job but cant explain why he stays.

Andy Robinson is a superb as the psychopath ably displaying the swift transition from seemingly normal to mental disintegration in the blink of an eye. The other star of the movie of course is the 44 Magnum which takes on a character all of its own at times in this and subsequent installments and as Scorpio quite succintly acknowledges “ooh its a big one”. Once again Siegel often frames the shot around this centrepiece and then slowly draws back to Harry – the final framing with just a single drop of blood on the gun sight works wonderfully well. There are many iconic scenes and the one most often quoted plays out in a suitably circular fashion. Have I fired 5 or 6 shots – well do you feel lucky punk? When it counts he always has the one bullet he needs – much like when there is a dirty job to be done we always have Harry to do it.

Eastwood knows films. In one scene we see Play Misty For Me (released same year) is showing at the cinema in the background. It is easy to dismiss Eastwood as always playing similar characters but there is always an extra dimension to his tough guy character that is difficult to pinpoint. A certain easy charm maybe but you always sense Eastwood subtly enriches the words on the page before they become images before our eyes which is why he became the director he is. Its a simple film – good versus bad – but there are layers there that make it a enjoyable watch on repeat veiwings.You know what you are getting and yet somehow find a little extra every time.

Sam Rocks

Posted: May 13, 2012 in Travel

As mentioned in previous riveting ramblings there are changes occurring in Maryhole Pathology next Monday. One thing that wont change is the calming presence of Sam Rock , our front desk paper weight. Sam does do 24/7 shifts week in week out but is a happy fella because he has probably seen more of the world then most. Lets see how many places you recognise

NYC – 6 Flashman Favourites

Posted: May 13, 2012 in Travel

We visited NYC in May 2011 as part of the USA or Bust – You Cant have Both tour and it was great. The iconic structures are all fantastic but as Viggo the Venison would say you can google all of the stunning shots of them you want so lets go with six of the best occasions that struck a particular chord with me

1. Madison Square Garden

For someone who was a young man in the early 70’s when Heavyweight Boxing ruled the sporting world Madison Square Garden stood out like a beacon of sporting events and it never shone brighter than March 8th , 1971 when The Fight of the Century and its 2 combatants transcended sport. So a visit to MSQ was mandatory and on a miserable rainy day I ran from the taxi to a largely non descript building that was well concealed in a typical NYC city block. You could not get anywhere near the actual arena or so the 3 x 6′ 8″ security guards seemed to confirm. However dominating the “foyer” was the banner celebrating that special event. No more was needed.

2. Top of the Rock

The NYC skyline is stunning whether day or night and there are many vantage points to take it all in. We did go to top of Empire State late on a Friday night and the view was indeed stunning. I love the view from top of Rockerfeller center though as it shows the amazing expanse of Central Park in amongst all of this human sprawl.

3. NBC Studio Tour

Speaking of Rockerfeller Place, 30 Rock may not be the show it once was but it is still a firm favourite for moi and Tina Fey floats my boat in so many ways. The first thing you realise though is that 30 Rock is shot in LA not NYC! The tour was tres interesting with set visits like Saturday Night Live but the highlight for us was some photoshop magic right at the end of the tour

4. Grand Central Station

For a movie buff this is a must visit and is indeed a stunning building inside . Once again rather nondescript building on the outside but the magic is there once you walk through the doors

5. The Naked Cowboy

An iconic character in the iconic area of Times Square. He displays both the quirkiness of NYC and also the surprisingly friendly nature of the locals. You can spend an easy day wandering around Times square and still not see all the highlights it has to offer but you are strangely drawn back to this one man show.

6. An Offer he could refuse

Walking through The Bronx may not be the best idea in the world but it was daytime and we felt rather safe. The search was on for Mario’s restuarant as mentioned in The Godfather book. Coppola wanted to shoot the Sollozzo shooting there but the owner actually refused although he did allow a Soprano’s scene in later years because they were eating and not shooting people. The image is a bit blurry sadly and can only assume that CLP was a tad nervous given the number of headless horses on the streets nearby