November 2010


Double entendre

It all depends on how to read it, but the headline in today’s UK Daily Telegraph was not the best example of the sub editor’s craft: Husband flies to South Africa to help murder police
Let’s hope they arrested him before he did any damage.

A dreary death

The second most over-hyped crime fiction novel of recent reading (no prizes for guessing the first) must surely be A Death in Calabria, which shows once again the futility of believing claims made on a book’s cover.
If author Michele Giuttari is truly Italy’s leading crime fiction writer (as The Times supposedly claims), then there’s little point in reading any of the others (and what about Michael Dibdin, Donna Leon et al?).
Billed as a gripping tale, it is far from being anything of the sort. It is limp, loose and lacking any depth or excitement. There is no main protagonist, good or bad, and all we get is a succession of bland stereotypes. The whole thing reads like a movie storyboard.
Two top cops, faced with the arrest of a major crime suspect, agree “we must find out all we can about him”. Doh!
And we are asked to believe that New York’s finest and the CIA have neither heard nor know nothing about the dreaded ‘Ndragheta, the Sicilian mafia offshoot that has plagued the Big Apple for decades.
Not even the possibility that this is a poor translation (by Howard Curtis) excuses such nonsense.
Save your money.

Cool chicks

Along with somewhat more dubious dealings within its ranks, Yarra Council seems also to be doing a bit of fringe retailing.
The mobile chicken stall at the weekly Gleadall Street market keeps its coolroom running thanks to a lead plugged in to a power point at the Richmond Recreation Centre.
The power point is unmetered. Hence ratepayers are paying to keep their chooks chilled.

Hanging with Hamer

The hanging modifier scourge continues in The Age.
Today, Robin Usher writes about Hamer Hall: “Previously only accessible from St Kilda Road, a second entrance by the Yarra River is also part of the redesign”.
It is the hall that was “previously only accessible from St Kilda Road”, not the unbuilt second entrance.
Where are the sub-editors when you need them?

Nobody’s songs

There’s nothing quite like the real thing. That is amply proved by Songs for Nobodies, the season closer from the MTC.
More a cabaret show than a play, this is a vehicle for hugely talented chanteuse Bernadette Robinson, although it is playwright Joanna Murray-Smith who is unjustly given top billing.
This 90-minute diversion presents five diverse and famous singers encapsulated in reminiscences by “nobodies” who crossed their paths.
Robinson morphs seamlessly into the voices of Judy Garland, Patsy Cline, Billie Holiday, Edith Piaf and Maria Callas while also taking on the role of those who encountered them: among them a backstage drssser, a pushy journalist and an Irish servant on the Onassis yacht.
There is little new revealed in Murray-Smith’s biographical script but it provides a tightly wiritten and occasional witty link between the characters.
The strength is in Robinson’s performance and Simon Phillips’ direction. Robinson is a huge talent and she steps effortlessly into the shoes and vocal chords of the luminaries she portrays. Close your eyes and you might just be able to imagine Piaf or Callas up there on the Fairfax stage.
But it’s not: and there’s the rub. The voice is there, but not the charisma that made them the legends no one else can match.
Songs for Nobodies is a pleasant and absorbing entertainment from a talented singer. But it fails to move or mesmerise.

Another hanging offence

From The Age today: “Despite handing over cash, the man stunned the IT consultant about five times ….”
No, the man who did the stunning did not hand over cash – but that’s how it reads.
Another hanging modifier uncorrected by the writer or the subs. Or maybe they just don’t understand.

A super ‘Spray

Why the two women sitting next to me at the Princess Theatre left at interval and never returned remains an unfathomable mystery. How could anyone not stay to the very end of Hairspray – one of the most entertaining, joyous and energetic shows to hit our stages for some time?
This is Grease on steroids, and set very much in the same era. It is loud (perhaps over-loud in places), raucous and frenetic. It also has a plot that builds well beyond the basic musical comedy storyline (misfit girl dreams of fame etc etc plus girl meets boy, loses boy, regains boy) and delves deeply into the apartheid that riddled the US for far too long.
Added fun and pleasure come from the show’s extraordinary use of animation with cartoon characters and scene settings springing into larger than life all around the main action. Who could forget the police divvy van which whisks everyone off to jail at the close of the first half? And what about that magical Astaire and Rogers dance scene that was such a show-stopper that the two actors (Trevor Ashley and Grant Piro) themselves were convulsed in laughter?
The energy of every cast member is amazing but none more so than Jaz Flowers as Tracy Turnblad, who was still jiving away well after the rest of the cast had left the stage. And as for Trevor Ashley, well, it’s still hard to believe that there is a man inside the skin of the oversize and outrageous Edna Turnblad.
Little wonder that this show has swept all awards before it. All credit to dance whizz and director David Atkins for maintaining the Broadway standard for this all-Australian production. Something not to be missed – or to be abandoned at interval.

Are you ready to write?

Are you about to put pen to paper or thump the keyboard?
Maybe pause to think and consider this piece by Michelle Griffin in The Age.
It contains some cautionary words that many would do well to heed.
http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/books/why-writers-should-celebrate-readers-20101105-17hji.html

Wrong shape

The Herald Sun‘s Sunday Life cookery writer, Karen Martini, is asking her understandably devout followers to fold slices of beef into coronets. Seems someone has inserted an extra letter, especially when one studies the picture of the desired result.
Those nibbles are cornet-shaped, which makes much more sense when being asked to fold the meat.
Coronets need rolling or hollowing, not folding.

Hanging horror

The dreaded hanging modifier is spreading. A frequent blot on TV news reports, it today appeared in the Age sport section.
According to writer Jesse Hogan (and the sub-editors who let it through) “After posting a paltry 8-133, Sri Lanka coasted past the target with seven wickets and 21 balls to spare thanks to masterful captain Kumar Sangakara ….”
What should have appeared is “After Australia posted a paltry 8-133, Sri Lanka coasted etc …”
Much better than the nonsense that was published.