Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday Movies - High Steel and Spudwrench: Kahnawake Man

High Steel, by Don Owen, 1965, 13 min 47 sec

High Steel is a short documentary offering a dizzying view of the Mohawk Indians of Kahnawake (pron: Gun-na-wa-ga) who work in Manhattan erecting the steel frames of skyscrapers. Famed for their skill in working with steel, the Mohawks demonstrate their nimble abilities in the sky. As a counterbalance, the viewer is also allowed a peek at their quieter community life on the Kahnawake Reserve, in Quebec.

One of the first construction projects the Kahnawake helped build was the Saint Lawrence Bridge (1886-87) linking Kahnawake to Montreal Island. As Kahnawake men employed as ironworkers and bridgemen worked hundreds of feet above the water and ground, a legend began that the Kahnawake men had no fear of heights.

Over the years, Kahnawake men have continued to be employed as ironworkers in Canada, with many also moving to New York City to work on the city’s skyscrapers. Kahnawake men participated in building the Empire State Building, the World Trade Centre, and other major skyscrapers in New York City, as well as many bridges. This short film examines some of the work and lifestyle of these workers. 

Spudwrench - Kahnawake Man

By Alanis Obomsawin, 1997, 58 min

This documentary by acclaimed filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin introduces us to Randy Horne, another high steel worker from the Mohawk community of Kahnawake, near Montreal. As a defender of his people's culture and traditions, he was known as "Spudwrench" during the 1990 Oka crisis (a land dispute between a group of Mohawk people and the town of Oka, Quebec, Canada).

The hour long film presents a unique look behind the barricades at one man's impassioned defence of sacred territory, and is both a portrait of Horne and the generations of daring Mohawk construction workers that have preceded him.

Both films are amongst the hundreds of films available via the National Film Board of Canada website. Another wonderful online resource for all to enjoy.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

It’s a Small World After All

How true that heading is. On my way back to Adelaide from Melbourne yesterday, I got talking to a man who was also travelling on his own. We chatted about travel – as one seems to do when one is travelling – and he mentioned visiting Philadelphia some time ago with his wife.

It seems that the bus they were travelling on was delayed on its way to Philly. When they got to the main bus station much later than anticipated, they found that the hotel they had booked to stay in was some “50 miles” out of town, and that the only way to get there was with an expensive taxi ride. Of course, they cancelled that booking, and asked the agent at the bus terminal in Philadelphia if he could recommend a local hotel.

The agent recommended the Comfort Inn. In fact, said he, “they have a courtesy bus which can come and pick you up”. So the bus was called for and away went this couple to the Hotel. The man and his wife were delighted to find they were placed in a room overlooking the Delaware River, with a great view of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.

What a coincidence.

This is the same Comfort Inn hotel I stayed in during my Philadelphia visit in 2010, during which I too had a room overlooking the river and the bridge. Of course, I mentioned this to my fellow passenger, and marvelled at the serendipitous nature of travel encounters.

At a subsequent stop (we were not sitting together), we started chatting again. This time we began talking about the bus ride up to that point, and agreed that next time either of us were making the same trip, we would look at catching the train instead of a bus. He mentioned that the train cost only a few dollars more anyway, and had the advantage of letting passengers walk through the carriages, giving them a chance to stretch their legs and move around more freely.

As we were chatting, the thought suddenly occurred to me that the train would pass through Mitcham station on its way into Mile End. Mitcham station is literally a couple of hundred metres from my current address, and I told him this, mentioning that I lived at Mitcham. Well, you could knock me down with a feather. Not only did this man and his wife also live in Mitcham many years ago, but he said, they “used to live in some flats opposite the Mitcham shops.”

“In Wemyss Avenue?” ask I.

“Yes,” says he.

Go ahead. Knock me down with a feather. Because my current address just happens to be one of those apartments in Wemyss Avenue.

I couldn’t believe it, and I’m not sure that he believed me, either. But there you have it. Two complete strangers swapping travel stories during a long bus trip between Melbourne and Adelaide, and we had both stayed in the same hotel in Philadelphia, and in the same apartment complex in Adelaide.

Of course, the dates and apartment/room numbers were different, but just the same – what are the odds of this happening?

It is indeed, a small world.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Monday Movies – Manhattan to Tokyo

A couple of movies combining motion and time lapse footage of Manhattan, and that other great metropolis, Tokyo. These are both from the Blue Eden page on Vimeo.

I haven’t been able to find out much about the people or person behind Blue Eden. The YouTube page was only set up at the beginning of December 2011, and the first Twitter post only went ‘live’ on January 4, 2012, so Blue Eden is definitely the new kid on the block . However, the quality of the three films produced so far, leave no doubt that the ‘kid’ may be new, but s/he certainly knows how to make a good first impression.

The information below is taken from that provided on Blue Eden’s Vimeo page.

A city that glows long after the light has faded. It seems people are always moving in and out of New York in pursuit of dreams. The city comes alive at night, as if unsatisfied to simply sleep. Many of us will leave one day, perhaps when we finally awaken, but those blurry lights continue to inspire long after.

I filmed this over one week in the winter. Scenes include Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, Times Square, Grand Central, Wall Street, Met Museum, American Museum of Natural History, and the 9/11 Memorial.

Music: "Circuits" by The American Dollar.

I first visited Tokyo nearly 10 years ago and was swept away by its futuristic society steeped in ancient culture. The beautiful mix of new and old still entrance me today. We hoped to capture that beauty and filmed for 2 weeks in Tokyo and its surrounding areas. As we visited during the New Year, we were lucky to attend the "dezuiri" sumo ring-entering ceremony, which you'll see in the opening shot. We also captured "yumi hajime" (first archery practice of the year) as well as "hatsumode" (first shrine visit of the year) at Asakusa.

Other shots include Shinjuku, Shibuya, Roppongi Hills, Meiji Shrine, Rainbow Bridge at Odaiba, Tokyo Tower, Tsukiji fish market, Yokohama, Mount Fuji, Lake Kawaguchi, and Nikko world-heritage shrines. Music by Stephen Anderson.

More Information
Blue Eden on Vimeo… 
Blue Eden on Facebook… 
Blue Eden on Twitter…

Also check out Blue Eden’s other Japan film, Kyoto HD "Rising Dawn" Technical information about the making of each video is available on Blue Eden’s Vimeo page. Finally, thanks to Blog Top Sites for bringing this to our attention.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday Fotos – Melbourne Images


Commit No Nuisance
Now where is the fun in that? I spotted this sign as I wandered through Melbourne’s Chinatown area, and couldn’t resist taking a photo. One has to wonder at just how much of a nuisance visitors have caused to force some authority to feel the need to paint this directly onto the wall. I have no idea if it is successful, or why it appears on this wall and on no another. I have yet to see similar signs elsewhere in Chinatown, or anywhere else around the Melbourne CBD for that matter.

Fireworks Underfoot

On January 29, I headed into the Chinatown section of Melbourne to catch some of the festivities taking place there as part of the Year of The Dragon celebrations. I watched two ceremonies take place at which long strings of fireworks were set off in front of Chinese restaurants, in an age old tradition meant to bring the owners good fortune and much luck throughout the coming year. The carpet of red that you see in this image has been created by the remains of hundreds of exploded fireworks.

Can This Be The Wall…?

Just down the road from the house I am staying in, locals have painted this sign on their house wall. While the sentiments may be admirable, it seems to me that the targets, the ‘coal barons’, are pretty much long gone, although there are probably some still around. Now a days, I suspect the coal barons have moved on to much richer pastures and are busy exploiting other natural resources like coal seam gas, uranium, iron ore and such like.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Reg Livermore – Take a Bow

Reg Livermore has been entertaining Australian audiences for over 50 years. Sadly, I have missed the majority of the many, many shows he has appeared in – either as part of an ensemble cast or in his one man shows – because Reg lives and performs mostly along the eastern seaboard of Australia, and rarely it seems, does he make it to Adelaide.

However, I count myself lucky to have at least seen him in his seminal one man shows Betty Blokk Buster Follies in 1976, and Sacred Cow II in 1981. I also saw his production of Ned Kelly when it toured to Adelaide in 1978, a show for which Reg was writer, director, and designer.

So I was absolutely delighted to see that the Arts Centre Melbourne, was staging an exhibition celebrating his extraordinary career, and that my visit to Melbourne coincided with the exhibition, which as of this writing I have already visited three times.

Reg Livermore – Take A Bow, showcases his groundbreaking solo shows that began with Betty Blokk Buster Follies, and features some of the many stage costumes worn during that, and other shows. Also on display is material from his personal archive, including show posters, manuscripts, interviews, and awards, all of which allow the visitor a rare glimpse into the creative talent of a true Australian theatre legend.

The centre piece of the exhibition features a giant screen replaying songs from Betty Blokk Buster Follies. And it is these songs and performances that have drawn me back to the exhibition several times already.

Betty Blokk Buster Follies DVD
Here is the promotional video for the Betty Blokk Buster Follies DVD:

Some of the costumes on display include those of the characters Tara The Incredible, Carmen Marahuana, Allison Diesel, Captain Jack, Joan of Arcadia, Vaseline Amalnitrate, and the immortal Betty Blokk Buster herself.

As an occasional performer myself, I have always been drawn to other singers and actors who are not afraid to completely inhabit the characters they play and give them full expression. Reg Livermore not only does that but he has never been afraid to tread where many other performers are afraid to tread. In recognition for his many years in theatre, Livermore was honoured as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 1996, and in a special ceremony at Melbourne’s Docklands in 2006, Livermore was named one of 100 Australian Entertainers of the Century.

His latest show and tour Turns (with another legend of the Australian theatre Nancye Hayes), took place in 2011. At 73. Reg Livermore doesn’t look like he is ready to stop performing anytime soon, and Turns was just the latest in a long career that began in 1957 with Around The Loop, and has gone on to included television (as an actor and presenter), and appearances in more than 100 theatre and television shows.

Apart from his one person shows, and the dozens of other theatre performances he has been in, Reg Livermore has appeared in some of Australia’s biggest theatre productions including Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Rocky Horror Show, Barnum, Iolanthe, The Producers, and My Fair Lady.

I was delighted to see that a collection of songs from the Betty Blokk Buster Follies show is now available on CD and DVD, and these can be bought via Possum Records. Reg has also written an autobiography, Chapters and Chances a coffee table style photographic history, published in 2003, and he is currently completing a second volume, There Are Things I Haven't Told You. Chapters and Chances can be bought directly from Reg Livermore via his website, and I note that he is more than happy to sign copies of the book if you request it.

Both the book and the DVD can also be purchased at the Arts Centre Melbourne during the exhibition.
"On of the most extraordinary events in Australian theatre history - A brilliant star"
~ The National Times on Betty Blokk Buster Follies

I have made my own humble tribute to Reg Livermore using footage from the Take a Bow exhibition, edited to his beautiful performance of the Charles Aznavour song, What Makes a Man?

More information:
Reg Livermore – Take A Bow at Arts Centre Melbourne, Gallery 1
November.5, 2011 – February 23, 2012.
Open Daily | Free entry

Reg Livermore on YouTube…

Reg Livermore on The Midday Show (1996)
In 1996, Reg Livermore appeared on The Midday Show, and was interviewed by the shows host Kerri-Anne about his career, his Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) award, and other topics. You can see that interview here:
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