How I Came to Dance With Fonteyn

27 April, 2008

<i>I Peed on Fellini</i> by David Stratton

The venerable David Stratton was addressing a lunch crowd at a launch of his autobiography, I Peed On Fellini. As he autographed my copy, I reminded him that I had sometimes been mistaken for him at film festivals from Cannes to Honolulu. Similar age, height, Panama hat, beard; easy mistake to make. To some people Australians all look alike. Even imported ones like Stratton.

The title of his book got me thinking.  If I found the energy,  the memory and the courage to one of my own, I might well title it I Danced With Fonteyn — with perhaps a sequel called I Dueled With Nureyev.

At about the same time as this launch lunch, my son discovered and sent to me an old scrapbook of mine in which was a cringeworthy poem I had written in my 20s about the then binary stars of the ballet universe, Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev.

Read my new page, Invitation to the Dance, for the full story of how the book got to be so named and how I got to dance with Margot Fonteyn.


A Traveller’s Tale

6 October, 2007

I recall a resolution I once made never to fly with a pilot who was not the same religion as myself, namely atheist. I figured that the less the captain believed in an afterlife the more likely he was to do his best to stay in this one.

I’m not a nervous flyer. More fatalistic than anything. I have had my share of interesting experiences including the kind of landings the produce an hysterical round of applause from relieved and grateful passengers.

This is a plug for a new page on this blog, A Traveller’s Tale. It is the story of my worst ever flight — and damn near my last.


La facture, s’il vous plaît

17 August, 2007

Doubtless the accommodations for the man in the iron mask on the Île Sainte Marguerite were not in the style of the Hôtel du Cap so near and yet so far just a few kilometres across the azure water to Cap Ferrat.

However his dungeon was free of charge.

Hôtel du Cap FerratEleven years in just a standard room at the Hôtel du Cap would have set him back €3,412,750 (A$5,808,748, US$4,567,965), not including food, beverages, laundry or tips.

And believe me, food, beverages, laundry and tips can well bring that close to double.

If he had chosen a suite or villa his bill would have cleared the national debt of many former French colonies.

It is worth noting that only fairly recently did this and many other luxury hotels in Cannes accept credit cards, previously requiring cash in settlement. They also imposed minimum stays (ten days during the film festival), charged a full booking for early departure, and demanded 50% of the reservation in advance — non-refundable. Naturellement!


You want brains with that?

17 August, 2007

TV commercial:

A guy is driving his date to a romantic mystery dinner.

She, in a knicker-twisting agony of romantic curiosity and atrocious over-acting: “Oh come on … where are we going?”

Turns out she gets a cardboard box of mangy chicken and cholesterol sides at the local Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise.

Hey guy, if she is tasteless enough and dumb enough not to empty that crap into your pants and get a cab home then you deserve each other. Have nice fat, greasy chickens together.


What’s in a name?

26 January, 2007

Perhaps the greatest danger of modern media is that it perpetuates errors by continually referencing itself rather than any original source — to the degree that the error eventually totally occludes the truth.

Eventually, the error becomes the truth.

The reasons are many: laziness, time pressure, lack of professional training or basic education, ignorance, stupidity, herd instinct. None of them noble and all have the same result.

Maria SharapovaA trivial but really annoying example: these days, a very large proportion of female tennis players have Russian names which sports commentators appear to have great difficulty pronouncing (along with many English words encountered above a grade three primer).

For their benefit the World Tennis Association has published a guide for broadcasters. Sadly, this has eight out of ten seriously wrong.

The WTA’s response to criticism has been that along the lines that “this is how most Americans would pronounce them and the players would go along with that”.

The prime example would be one of the world’s highest earning and most successful women players, Maria Sharapova. Russian speakers assure me that this is pronounced “sha-RAH-pa-vuh”, as do authorities overwhelmingly and, most significantly of all, the lady herself.

Now here is the kicker. I have read reports of prominent sport and news broadcasters knowingly using the popular but incorrect pronunciation for fear of being thought ignorant!

Truly, the inmates now run the asylum.

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The Buzz

17 July, 2006

In huge letters on the window of a Bourke street, Melbourne, lingerie retailer: “MASSIVE BRA AND PANTY SALE!”

Just the thing for women with massive tits and arses.

Massive is the buzzword of the month for the linguistically and educationally challenged. Actually, it has been the word of every month since the last massive New Year sales. If there is any good in it at all it is that it edged impact off the top spot in the deluge of clichés, malapropisms and grammatical howlers that dribble constantly from the mouths of politicians, bureaucrats and reporters and copywriters.

According to an admiring colleague at a 90th birthday celebration for the former Prime Minister-cum-elder statesman, Gough Whitlam “impregnated Australia …” Is that what is meant by “being the father of the nation” — or a wry comment on what he did to the budget when in power?

A report on the national broadcaster, ABC-TV, on the recent bombing atrocities in what I used to call Bombay rather lost the sombre mood of the moment when telling us that “Yesterday (this man) lost his son in the bombings and today he will be cremated.”

I thought they only did that to widows in India.


It really is “Massage”.

14 July, 2006

The Medium (really is) the Massage

In case it appears that I made a monster typo or my sense of humour is even more askew than usual, here is the book in question. I did my best to wipe off the coffee mug rings but the photograph is as is and un-retouched. The title is more often misquoted than any I can think of. Could McLuhan have been making some point here?