Dork Geek Nerd

"Rational romantic mystic cynical idealist"

Monday, April 30, 2007

What the--?!

Hours after attending a media freebie of "Spider-Man 3", my surreality senses are still tingling. I can understand how the Venom symbiote that turns the Spidey suit black (c'mon, you've all seen the trailer) might make Peter Parker more of a playa. But whose idea was it to have him improvise some piano jazz, then burn up the dancefloor with Gwen Stacy? In an extended scene!

[Australian cinema release date: Thursday.]

Mending the Portland Vase (part two)

There are seven figures on the P/V and, as Michael Turner pointed out, only one of them is unmistakable: Eros. As to the identities of the other six, opinions vary...

Scholars have linked them to Alexander Severus, "The Illiad", the Three Muses (though one cameo is clearly male!), the three goddesses judged by Paris (ditto!), and Leda with the swan (it's a snake!). One Christian reading holds that "scene one" shows Adam, Eve, an angel and God. It fails to account for "scene two".

A theory still popular today is that the animal is a sea serpent, indicating the figures are the parents of Achilles, the maritime deities Peleus and Thetis.

Potty potter Josiah Wedgewood claimed the first scene depicted a deceased person entering Elysium, a symbol of immortal life, and Hades. His explanation of the second scene, which began with another dead soul, was equally dubious.

In 1950, a "propagandist" interpretation was put forward, reasoning that since the vase was created during the time of Augustus it must relate to him. Therefore, the six contentious figures are: Apollo (the supposed divine father of Augustus), Atea (his real mother), Kronos, Apollo again, Atea again and Aphrodite.

Yet another flawed analysis states that, from the left in scene one, the characters are Antony, Cleopatra (plus asp), Anton (an invented son of Heracles), Antony's brother-in-law Octavian, his mourning wife Octavia and her patron deity.

[It occurs to me that I might be misremembering and/or misrepresenting the above arguments, but trust me when I say they were unconvincing even in their entirety. You might also quibble with my nomenclature - I've tried to stick to Greek titles, where Mr Turner often gave both the Greek and Roman versions, eg. Eros/Cupid.]

"Imagery has a purpose!" insisted the learned speaker. "And the vase was almost certainly placed within the grave for a reason."

He proceeded to relate the story of Adonis, so handsome that he was fought over by goddess of love Aphrodite and queen of the underworld Persephone. In the end, Zeus decreed the women could each have the youth for four months of the year, while Adonis would get the remaining four to himself.

M/T explained how the fate of Adonis represents a myth of death and rebirth - he is a god who dies and is reborn annually.

So, in the first scene, we have him entering the underworld (his cloak [not visible in the Wikepedia pic] is caught on a column). Leading him on is Persephone (the snake is a "chthonic" marker), and on the right is her husband, Hades.

In the second, we have Adonis again. The edifice is now in ruins, symbolically pulled down by his cloak. Persephone remains the central figure, but her torch and therefore the darkness of the underworld have gone out. The character on the right is Aphrodite. Adonis is gazing directly at her and ignoring the death goddess. It is clear where his true affections lie.

"The importance of Adonis and Aphrodite has been misunderstood."

Friday, April 27, 2007

Musical interlude

Dearest reader, sorry the second part of my Portland Vase story is slow in coming. My friends BS and LS are presently visiting from the States, which has made dining, wining and company enjoying my free-time priority. I probably could have finished the tale on Anzac Day had I not found myself detained for several hours at Coogee Oval/Randwick Rugby Club cheering on then toasting the Galloping Greens. Another thing I've done this week is fall hopelessly in listen with a new CD: "The Crane Wife" by The Decemberists. Folk-pop-rock, lyrically gorgeous, the sweetest vocals, packed with instruments...and it's a concept album!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Mending the Portland Vase (part one)

Just got back from Sydney University's Nicholson Museum where CM and I attended an archaeology lecture in honour of Professor Alexander Cambitoglou. Senior curator Michael Turner spoke on the topic "The Portland Vase: Adonis In The Underworld?". He proposed a new interpretation of the scenes depicted on this artefact (hence the question mark in the title). Before doing so, he outlined the history and mystery that account for the vase's centuries-old notoriety, and reviewed a number of theories as to the meaning of its images.

The Portland Vase isn't pottery; it's blue glass with a layer of cameo figures in white glass. Works of this type were only produced in a 50-year period during the reign of the Emperor Augustus. The technique was then forgotten and, though many tried, wasn't successfully reproduced until 1876, to win a sizeable sum of money! The P/V would likely have started as an amphora, but its original base has been lost (or deliberately removed) and replaced with a simpler version featuring another cameo - making the object all the more enigmatic.

Discovered in a Roman tomb in 1582, the vessel is reputed to have contained the ashes of the Emperor Alexander Severus. However, the other features of the burial chamber, as they were recorded, make this doubtful. Whatever the case, it changed hands several times down the years until it came into the possession of the Duchess Of Portland, from whom it obviously gets its name. It was loaned to the British Musem in 1910, put up for auction in 1929 by the then Duke only to be passed in, and was sold to the B/M for significantly less in 1945.

Like many great artworks, the P/V has inspired strange behaviour and fanatical devotion. Pottery pioneer Josiah Wedgewood was obsessed with recreating it, which he eventually did - after several years - in black jasperware. (Ironically, his copies would now fetch more than their inspiration!) His friend, the philosopher Erasmus Darwin, wrote a 300-page poem about the vase! In 1845, a drunken Irishman - from a noble family of faded fortune - entered the British Museum, grabbed a lump of marble, threw it at the container and smashed it to pieces!

The Portland was painstakingly repaired, but 37 fragments were left over. These disappeared for a century, before being returned to the museum in a beautiful display box in 1948. Since then, the object has undergone two more restorations. At one point, it was suggested the P/V might be a Renaissance fake; that the difficulty academics encountered in deciphering its scenes resulted from the fact they were a hodge-podge borrowed from authentic 1st-century BC Roman works. Thanks to scientific testing, this assertion has proven false.

[Before reading my follow-up post, I recommend you examine photographs of this controversial artefact.'s "Portland Vase" entry shows both sides (the "second" is a replica). Pay little attention to their discussion of the iconography, however, as the interpretations listed were all effectively discounted by Mr Turner in the course of his hour-long oration.]

Monday, April 23, 2007

Thin ice-capade

I went to a preview screening of the new Will Ferrell/Jon Heder comedy "Blades Of Glory", about rival ice-skaters who get themselves banned from competing, then return via a loophole as the sport's first male pair.

The situation couldn't be much more absurd, the characters further over the top, or the dialogue any sillier and, admittedly, that mishmash was enough to keep me going "haha" and "hehe" most of the way.

But it's a story without substance - just a flashy routine designed to score as many cheap laughs as possible - and I honestly can't see why you'd sit through it twice. That said, the final seconds are film anarchy!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Come on feel the Illinois

[To steal a pun from Sufjan Stevens.]

It's not often you exit a strip club without having opened your wallet. I *almost* accomplished the deed last night...

The aforementioned type of venue has recently been set up within the Illinois Hotel on Parramatta Rd, Five Dock, by the operators of Sydney's Pure Platinum, Men's Gallery and Dancers Cabaret.

Our publication was lured to the launch by the promise of "free drinks all night". The press release also trumpeted appearances by 2005 "Big Brother" winner Greg Mathew, champion iron woman Candice Falzon, "Erotic Star" hosts Bessie Bardot and Geoff Barker, and beautiful girls in various states of undress.

But it was the "free drinks all night" bit that caught our collective attention.

In fact, the gratis grog dried up after a few hours, at which point CM and I hitched a lift back to the city with paparazzo DM.

Not that I'm ungrateful to the organisers. By that time, I'd accepted five bottles of Barons Lager, refused a mountain of hors d'oeuvres, and eyeballed performances by some of God's slinkiest and least bashful creations.

Given that the company paid for our taxis there, the sole cost to me was the $10 I slid beneath the garter of my No. 1 exotic dancer - a sassy brunette with madder pole skillz than Friar Tuck. It was the least I could do.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Now we've got a Yoshinoya and...

A branch of the Japanese food chain Pepper Lunch opened on George St today and, like a good Nipponophile, I took my business there. I ordered the Curry Beef Pepper Rice combo (large size - $11.90). It’s meant to come with a cup of Coke, but they let me swap that for a bottle of water. Which was nice.

I occupied a seat and watched everyone else’s meals get delivered. After 20 minutes, a waitress came over to check my order. She was followed by an apologetic manager who assured me chow time was imminent (not his actual expression). He blamed the chef: "I told him twice to get your order!" Another 10 minutes and my nosh arrived. Now you know why I didn’t write "FAST-food chain".

The dishes at Pepper Lunch are served sizzling on a hotplate atop a wooden board, like you get in oodles of Asian restaurants. The only difference – and I think it’s a neat touch – is there’s a cardboard ring around the plate so you can’t burn yourself. In the case of the CBPR combo, the meat is raw. You need to fry both sides using the chopsticks or spoon provided. Then ya mix it with the rice and vegies. Or in my case, vegie. I got the corn kernels but not the chopped spring onions (chef’s revenge!). There’s sauce on the rice, too, and yellow stuff I initially thought was egg – it’s butter, to aid the cooking/binding.

So how was it received by the ol’ tastebuds? Pretty well, thanks for asking. Admittedly, the curry flavour was faint, but combine a bunch of fresh ingredients and you can’t go very wrong. Had I felt the need, there were extra condiments on offer, including two Japanese steak sauces.

Ultimately, the portion was generous enough to lure this glutton back at some future date – despite the 30 minutes of thumb twiddling and the missing scallions.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Write a story in six words

Inspired by, we got creative. We being DL, CM, CS, myself. Neglected our work to miniaturise yarns.

Here are a dozen of mine.

* Monsters govern planet. Damn you, Pandora!
* To [beep], or not to [beep].
* "Do you spontaneously combust here often?"
* Felt everywhere. Massacre on Sesame Street.
* Through the microscope he saw...Atlantis.
* 12, 13, 14, 15, 17. "Thief!"
* ...And that’s how I reversed gravity.
* "The red wire. No, the green!"
* Last man on Earth dies smiling.
* David Lynch’s secret: marmoset piano legumes.
* "Aargh! Surrounded by Trekkies! Activate transporter!"
* Beneath the floorboards, a lost Shakespeare.

Feel free to submit your own.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

It sure does

I was surprised and stoked to see NoKTuRNL perform at the "NT Indigenous Music Awards", screened last night on ABC2. The melodic metalheads from Alice Springs were the highlight of the Homebake 2000 festival for me, with axe-work that put the rest of the acts to shame. I regularly take their "Neva Mend" CD single out for a spin, but I had no clue they were still rockin' hard. Even better, they've got a new album called "Time Flies". Soon, so will I.

No back-up is no crack-up

My cantankerous PC crashed while I was body-surfing the Net. When I reset and reopened Opera, the freakin' bookmarks were missing. After locating the relevant file (opera6.adr), I verified it had indeed been wiped. The automatic back-up was equally useless. I'm now undergoing the arduous process of cataloguing my fave sites from scratch. Lesson learnt, I'm also keeping a copy of the bookmarks in a separate directory.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

What a triff idea!

(Added incentive for this admirer of "Mystery Science Theater 3000" to replace his malfunctioning MP3 player!)


2nd, 3rd, 4th, 1st, 1st, 8th, 7th, 2nd, 6th, 5th - that's where my greyhounds placed (out of eight) in the 10 races at last night's meeting at Wentworth Park. Given that I was betting each-way, that's an unshabby 50% collect rate.

So I'm a millionaire now, right? Alas no, I was only wagering from a pocketful of gold coins. The point of the excursion wasn't to generate income but to catch up with AP (the Sydney one), soon to become a papa with nada free time.

As with every type of race meeting I've attended, the crowd spanned the fashion spectrum from grubby to glamorous, including the obligatory drunken bucks - the groom-to-be resplendent in pink tutu, Loch Ness Monster hat and Mr T bling.

The kebabs smelled enticing but looked hazardous. A stall sold kitsch ornaments to dish-licker tragics. And the utterly enormous, virtually deserted grandstand spoke of a time, before our many electronic entertainments, when parklife thrived.

There were 11 in AP's party, some of whom I knew really well and others not at all. CM and I stuck to Cascade Lights (he's got a flying exam today), which explains why we weren't among those who kicked on to the karaoke bar :-)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


The glossy invitation card read: "No mobile phones. No recording devices. Bag searches will be conducted." All of which proved true.

Inside Cinema 1 at Fox Studios, we were told by a bloke with a mic (let's call him Mike) that the 20-odd minutes of DigiBeta footage we were about to see had been "hand-carried" from the US due to its sensitivity.

What could be special enough that Mike and his colleagues would go to such lengths to safeguard it against unauthorised duplication?

Four scenes from the forthcoming, live-action "Transformers" movie, apparently.

Before I describe them, let the record show that I was never a fan of these rearrangable robots as a kid. I ignored the film, our aerial couldn't pick up the TV station that ran the cartoon* and the toys were prohibitively expensive.

So to the sequences.

In the first, a mysterious helicopter approached an American military base, refused to identify itself or alter its course, then landed. There appeared to be a pilot inside...until we spied a glitch suggesting he was merely a holographic projection. In a flurry of CGI and hydraulic noises, the vehicle changed into a massive, menacing mech. Uncle Sam's boys opened fire - to little effect. The Decepticon(?) proceeded to shoot seven shades outta them with a blue energy weapon.

The second scene was that teen-flick cliche in which the main man and his sidekick crash a party to meet a sexy babe, only to be confronted and humiliated by her jock beau. Said alpha male subsequently offends his girlfriend, prompting her to storm off - and into a contrived situation in which she reluctantly bonds with the lead. The only thing different here was that the nerdy guy's recently acquired ride was the disguised Autobot Bumblebee. In car mode, it could only communicate via the radio, selecting songs appropriate to the changing mood between the couple. This was moderately amusing.

My least favourite sequence was the third, a tedious farce in which the fast-talking protagonist attempted to simultaneously appease his angry parents, remonstrate with the hotty (now his unlikely sidekick a la Ally Sheedy/Matthew Broderick in "War Games"), hunt for a [plot device] and - tricksiest of all - hide three Autobots in his backyard. Cue: trampled flowerbeds, a plucky chihuahua piddling on a robot foot and Optimus Prime(?) remarking, "Sorry, my bad." I was almost glad when a posse of government agents arrived to arrest the hero.

The fourth part of the footage involved a village in Qatar being attacked by a silver, scorpion-shaped baddie (Scorponok?). The only resistance offered was by the Yank soldiers who'd clearly survived the first scene. There was bulk carnage, including a brutal-if-bloodless tail skewering, before the critter appeared to escape by burrowing beneath the sand.

Thus concluded our sneak preview.

While Mike (remember him?) had forewarned us that the visual effects weren't complete, I'd guess most of them were pretty close. Ultimately, though, the picture will triumph or tank on the strength of the Transformers. They were certainly physically imposing and well integrated into the various environments. And yet, when I studied each one in its humanoid form, all I saw was a jumble of shiny parts and not a character with any real appeal.

But that was ever the case.

*I grew up in a seaside hamlet where you needed a monster antenna on the roof of your home to receive "Sydney channels".

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

What I did tonight

I wanted to write something about my passion for "Australia's Next Top Model 3"...and the guilt I feel watching the young contestants suffering for their style.

As a Newcastle Knights supporter, I should really have paid tribute to retiring halfback Andrew "Joey" Johns - our greatest playmaker and rugby league's, too.

I did neither.

A tip on the Country Music Channel forums sent me to Catherine Britt's MySpace page to hear her new single, "What I Did Last Night" (currently charting in the US).

Since then, I've been like Odysseus tied to his ship's mast - unable to do anything but listen. Play the track three times and I guarantee you'll wanna make it 30.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Pretty words

I'm at my oldies' place for Easter and a suit fitting (for the wedding of JH and SB, not a court appearance).

Most of my literary hoard's here. One of the sentimental treasures is a signed, first-edition hardcover of Lucius Shephard's "The Scalehunter's Beautiful Daughter".

An award-winning novella, its closing lines are burnt into my brain:

"From that day forward she lived happily ever after. Except for the dying at the end. And the heartbreak in between."

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Pounder

My pal GH has been getting his local McDonald's to put the contents of four Quarter Pounders (minus the pickles) onto one bun. He calls it the Pounder.

After he told me about his Frankenburger creation and I had a good laugh, we began recollecting the eating comps in which our group of friends once engaged. Newcastle was the perfect place to do so as there were four or five affordable, all-you-can-eat restaurants. Even Pizza Hut and KFC had a crack at the format before realising hungry hippos like us were scoffing more than our money's worth.

Yesterday, in my lunch break, I decided to go a step further than the Pounder: I'd consume four separate Quarter Pounders (with the pickles).

The first three were easy. On the rare occasions I dine beneath the Golden Arches, my standard order's a trio of Filet-O-Fish plus a pineapple juice. This wasn't much more filling than that, although the grease increase was noticeable.

At the 3.5 burger mark, I experienced what professional gurgitators call the "meat sweats". In effect, my body was saying, "I've had enough of this gunk, you can stop now." I didn't, but the final half was slow going.

With four Quarter Pounder cardboard boxes stacked in front of me, I felt (a) a perverse sense of achievement, and (b) no desire to repeat the feat. Too bloated to punch the sky "Breakfast Club"-style, I waddled out of Macca's 9200kJ richer and badly in need of a breath mint.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

My best recursive acronym

AURA = AURA-Utilising Recursive Acronym.

(Feel free to think of this post as an April Fools' Day joke if that helps.)