Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sydney May 2011

Pat and I went to Sydney to visit Anna and Pedram, and for Pat to see their house for the first time.


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Pastel sky, approaching Sydney.


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“Impression” of Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House.


There was great activity in the house this weekend.  When we arrived, there were two external walls missing.  A section of the front wall had been removed to include the porch into the living room, and a section of the back wall, directly behind the missing front wall, to install a set of bifold doors. This allowed a very brisk breeze to blow straight through, undeterred by two sheets of thin blue plastic valiantly attempting to impede its progress.  


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Missing back wall, contrasting with new chandelier.


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A work in progress.

Pedram stands where the new front door is going to be.  To his right is the new extension to the lounge, created by demolishing the old front wall and including the former porch in the lounge.  The new front wall includes the window from the old front wall (which I painted in February).  The brickwork will be rendered, creating a new external colour for the house.

While we were there, Pat removed the dead wood from the tree in the front garden, and also pruned the hydrangea near the front door (but not too hard, as it disguises a large hole in the downpipe).



Now the new bifold doors are installed, and have to be stained.


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What a luxury, having a door to close against the cold night air, even if it is only partly stained.


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Dinner at a Persian restaurant.  The drink is doogh, a salty carbonated yoghurt drink - which tastes better than it sounds – and which I’m going to try to make at home.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Frog Blog

This is an example of the wonders of the internet.

I posted the following two pictures  of a frog on Flickr, with the attached comment (in green):

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Helen and I came across this pretty little tree frog, about 15mm long, while hunting for caterpillars. Helen, whose main area of expertise centres around butterflies and other invertebrates, identified its genus as litoria, but didn't know which one. When I looked it up, I could see why: there are about 150 different species, with new species being discovered each year.

Litoria, apparently, is a genus of Australasian tree frogs distinguishable from other tree frogs by the presence of horizontal irises, and no pigmentation of the eyelid. So far so good.

I was able to discount the Red-eyed Tree Frog, the Green-eyed Tree Frog, the Spotted-thighed Tree Frog, the Orange-thighed Tree Frog and the Sharp-snouted Tree Frog.

As we were at Woodford, near Brisbane, I was able to eliminate the Northern New Guinea Tree Frog, the Cape Melville Tree Frog and several others. In the absence of any sound while we were watching, I tentatively dismissed the Bleating Tree Frog, the Buzzing Tree Frog, the Whirring Tree Frog, the Growling Grass Frog and the Maniacal Cackle Frog. This only left over a hundred others.

After looking at pictures of tree frogs (something I've never really done much ) I've decided it might be a Pearson's Green Tree Frog (Litoria pearsoniana) for the following reasons:

Distribution: Rainforest creeks from north of Lismore, New South Wales to Kenilworth, Queensland.

Physical description:
Size: Small, up to about 40mm.
Colour: Green, with a head and shoulder stripe.
Groin Colouration: None present.
Tympanum: Distinct, brown in colour. (I have learnt a new word! This is the hearing organ of a frog, beside its eye. Just to put you off the scent, a tympanum can also be an architectural element located within an arch or pediment, or a circular, drum-like rack on which victims can be tortured.)
Head stripe: Light brown with a thicker brown underline, passes through the tympanum.
Belly: White or off-white.

I would be grateful to know if this is the correct identification.

After a few days, I received the following reply from ecologist Evan Pickett, currently based in Newcastle, NSW.  Evan has given his permission for me to quote his reply here.  I was surprised and a bit sad to learn that female frogs don’t get to make any of the bleating, buzzing, whirring, growling or maniacal cackling noises described above.  But at least I now know that what we saw was not a Pearson’s Tree Frog, but an EASTERN DWARF TREE FROG.  Thank you Evan!

You are close with your ID, but not quite. This is an eastern dwarf tree frog (Litoria fallax). The major difference is the colouring on the lateral section and it has a more triangular head. (Litoria pearsoniana is more box shaped). L. pearsoniana is also a stream dwelling frog, whilst L. fallax inhabits ponds (and occasionally slow flowing streams with pools).

I also noticed that you dismissed a few species because you didn't hear it making the call described in their common name. All Australian frogs call to attract mates; common names are often arbitrary and should generally be ignored. The call is a very good way of identifying frogs, but a lack of call just means it is either the wrong time or conditions to call or it is a female.




Monday, May 23, 2011

André Rieu and The Seekers 18.05.2011

André Rieu, born 1st October 1949 at Maastricht in the Netherlands is a violinist, conductor and composer, best known for creating and touring with the waltz-playing Johann Strauss Orchestra.  The Orchestra began in 1987 with 12 members but now performs with between 40 and 50 musicians.  As the Orchestra began touring, there emerged a renewed interest in waltz music.

Rieu's recorded music and live performances have been a cause of controversy in the music and popular press, owing to the “calculated emotionalism and theatrical flourishes of his performances, which, according to many, only cheapen the classical-music experience.”  (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andr%C3%A9_Rieu)

Few in Rieu's audiences are regular classical music attendees.  The sumptuous Viennese costuming of his performers, lavish backdrops and relaxed, humorous compering make his repertoire of standard classics more accessible and enjoyable to this audience.  Is this a bad thing?  Although I attended this concert to accompany a friend, I freely admit I enjoyed it enormously.

The Seekers were formed in Melbourne in 1962 and were the first Australian popular music group to achieve major success in the United Kingdom and the United States.  I remember buying their records (still have some) and saving up to go to their concerts when I was a student in Brisbane in the 60s.  The group consists of Athol Guy (double bass), Keith Potger and Bruce Woodley (guitarists) with singer Judith Durham.  The group split up in 1968, then re-united in 1992 for 12 years (I saw them during that time as well).  After not performing together for seven years, they united once more at the invitation of André Rieu, for this Australian tour.

This tour was originally scheduled for October 2010, but owing to Rieu's illness, was postponed until May 2011.

While my direct view of the stage was peppered by the heads of the people in front of me, there were two very large, clear and unforgiving screens either side of the stage.  Most of these pictures were taken from the screens.

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André Rieu 18.05.2011


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On stage


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Back-up singers


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Back-up singers again


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“Three tenors” – Australian, Hungarian and German.


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Accordionist.  He and his wife, also in the orchestra, have recently had a baby.


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Bass players (of course).


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Members of the audience being snowed on during a snow bracket.


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Only the people at the front were snowed on – we were too far back.


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Solo cellist for Saint-Saëns’ The Swan.

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Pianist Stephanie playing accompaniment for The Swan.

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Featured singers


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Italian backdrop


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In Tuscany perhaps.


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Now we’re in Vienna.


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Harpist and bass players in Vienna.


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Blue eyes


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When André Rieu was on tour in South Africa, he met soprano Kimmy Skota, and invited her to tour with him.  Her solo was Franz Lehar’s Vilja.


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Manoe Konings, from André Rieu’s hometown of Maastricht in the Netherlands, is an original member of the Johann Strauss Orchestra since its formation in 1987.  A cancer survivor, she also plays the bagpipes, on which she played Amazing Grace accompanied by a whistle player.  


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Mirusia Louwerse was born in the Brisbane suburb of Birkdale. She graduated in 2006 with a Bachelor of Music (Classical Voice) from the Queensland Conservatorium in Brisbane, and that year also became the youngest ever winner of the Dame Joan Sutherland Opera Award.

Her aunt, who still lives in the Netherlands, contacted André Rieu to tell him about the amazing talent of her niece in Australia.  One thing led to another, and Mirusia has been touring with André Rieu since 2007.

Mirusia’s song was Time to Say Goodbye.


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The Beautiful Blue Danube


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Over the shoulder


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Mosh pit


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Balloons for the audience.

This was a bit of a worry – we’d had several goodbye songs, several encores, balloons, the people who wanted to the carpark crush had left, and still no sign of The Seekers.


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At last The Seekers!

They sang Georgy Girl, I’ll Never Find  Another You, The Carnival is Over and We Are Australian.

Here is Judith Durham (now 67).


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Keith Potger (now 70) and Bruce Woodley (now 68).

You can see that Keith is playing a 12 string guitar.


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Athol Guy (now 71).

Is that a Turkish puzzle ring?


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Keith, Judith and André.


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Bruce Woodley singing the first verse of We Are Australian, which he co-wrote with Dobe Newton from The Bushwackers in 1987.


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Judith sings her verse of We Are Australian.


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Backdrop for We Are Australian.