Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

Vitamin Me

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

Thanks to Tourism Queensland for the image

Hi all

Not a regular post (or semi-regular as it has been a while since I blogged).

For those who follow me on the Twitters, Facebook and Path know, I won Tourism Queensland’s Vitamin Me competition.

I have had a lot of questions on how it all works, how I got it and what I plan to do with it.

So, since I am, at my heart, incredibly lazy – read on.

Tourism Queensland ran the Vitamin Me competition, promoting having a break in Queensland to recharge yourself – getting your dose of Vitamin Me. This competition was part of a larger marketing strategy – which is still going on. By visiting their webpage, you could test your own levels (feel free to post your score in the comments). Since I am often away , am always thinking about what I might do for my next adventure, and 90% of the time love my work, I scored very high. This high score did nothing to help me win, but made me feel better about taking some many weekends away.

There were 175,000 entries, of which some 44,500 were unique. I only entered once.

From these 175,000 entries, my entry was randomly drawn and I won the prize – $10,000 of Vitamin Me time in Queensland.

The prize works similarly to a gift voucher. I don’t have to use it all at once, however it expires in 12 months.

I can use the voucher on anything that can be booked through SunLover Holidays – the travel agency associated with Tourism Queensland (these are the same peeps who did “Best Job in the World). This means flights, transfer, activities, tours, hire cars etc can be attributed to the voucher. The only time food/drinks would go on, would be if they were part of a resort package or cruise etc. Unfortunately I find the SunLover Holiday webpage terrible to navigate but if I search on google, then search for the provider there I can generally get around it.

So what am I planning to do?

Well, firstly I am using a small amount to do a day trip diving out of Port Douglas on the SuperSonic. I will be in Cairns over the break anyway, so this will be my first chance to put the prize into use. I was going to do a day trip anyway, this just means I do it on Tourism Queensland vs my Visa card.

Other things I am planning are (in no particular order):

  • The Dinosaur Stampede at Winton
  • Diving the Yongala
  • 4 day Coral See Mike Ball Dive expedition (was thinking of doing it at Easter but some friends are thinking of going in May, so will probably go then).
  • Mt Isa Rodeo
  • Mountain retreat with some friends and some wine (and spa treatments if I can find somewhere)
  • Mackay – so I can eat at Sorbellos again!

I will be flying Qantas as much as I can as I am hoping to reach Platinum status (geek moment).

All in all this is an epic prize. Crisscrossing the state is going to rock. I love Queensland – such an amazing state! I can’t wait to experience more of it.

 

Review – Wang Wang and Funi (Adelaide Zoo)

Monday, March 28th, 2011

 

Wang Wang: I am so fluffy because I spend time daily in the Panda Spa.

Wang Wang and Funi are the “loaner” pandas currently residing in the Adelaide Zoo. Wang Wang is a bit of a boofhead and Funi is a bit like a puppy – naps like a champion then plays like the world is ending.

Funi made the cutest noise when she found a carrot. She sat down, holding it, threw back her head and gave herself a little cheer.

Housed in a custom built duel exhibit, Wang Wang and Funi have access to a pond, which I labeled a Panda Spa, and a special chilled rock for when it gets too hot. Each have a protective glassed in area for when the public get a bit much and a large open air area with lots of area for exercise (NB. Panda exercise is walking to the next treat hidden by the keepers). In the glassed in area, the pandas are given “toys” (like a box of sawdust) and bamboo for nibbling – so even if they are behind the glass, they are still putting on a bit of a show for the fans.

Funi looking very pleased with herself while hunting for treats.

Guarantee your spot with Wang Wang and Funi

You should to book to see the pandas. You buy your tickets to the zoo on line, then book your chosen time for the panda enclosure. You may get in without booking (as I got to see them twice), but since it doesn’t cost anything extra to do so, why not? On the day I went, the Clipsal 500 was on and the weather was pouring with rain, then hot and humid, then pouring with rain etc. As such the zoo wasn’t very busy – as such it was lots of pandas (and other great animals) with no waiting. What was even better was that after about 25-30 mins into the last session of the day, everyone left because they were both behind the glass. I was left alone in a giant enclosure with two pandas. Once it was silent, they pandas went out and played. I got so close to Funi as she played, making the funniest noise, before romping around her enclosure. Wang Wang then went exploring in his enclosure looking for more treats.

 

Wang Wang on the prowl for those sweet, sweet rice cakes.

There is limited Panda merch available at the dedicated Panda Shop – I bought a Wang Wang mug, Wang Wang boxers and a Panda Stamp (that prints a panda and a set of panda paws walking across the page). Unfortunately, Funi is drawn way too silly and girly, whereas Wang Wang is just a little anthropomorphised.

Wang Wang taking on his nemesis "Box of Sawdust!"

Pluses:
OMG PANDAS!
Insanely cheap – $28 for a full day’s fun.
Free to book panda time (Other paid events are $130 and $495 for a much closer and personal experience).
Zoo staff (keepers and volunteers) were incredibly helpful and chatty – I got “adopted” by a senior volunteer who was telling me best spots and what to look for.
You can get within inches of the pandas.
You get to see Panda junk.
They are even cuter and fluffier than you can imagine.
Free bus and close to the city.

Minuses:
If they are asleep, they aren’t that exciting and yet still cute.
Some visitors totally ignored the signs and the ropes – so no wonder the pandas stay in the glass when there are lots of people about.
Not a lot of options for food and drink at the zoo.

Wang Wang in the classic Panda Pic

I had a brilliant time and can only say…

#fivepandaseventhoughtherewereonlytwo

Review – Arctic Blast (2010)

Monday, March 28th, 2011

 

This is my "I am a serious meteorologist face" that I use when I tell people the world is going to end.

Synopsis:
A world leading meteorologist is working in Hobart (yes HOBART) as a tear in the ozone layer causes icy air from the mesophere to rush down to the Southern Ocean and an Ice Fog (yes an Ice Fog) is heading towards Tasmania. Can our hero scientist save Tasmania, the world, his daughter AND his marriage?

Pluses:
I laughed within 20 seconds.
Nice to see a disaster movie with Australian accents.
Hobart is very pretty.
Michael Shanks is the lead for all the Stargate tragics.

Minuses:
The acting.
The dialogue.
The mix match in deaths – the first few all died one way, then they died a different way from the same event.
Did I mention the acting and dialogue?
The plot.
After Hobart, every other event happens over the landmark of an international capital city.
The special effects weren’t very special.

What Arctic Blast proves is that Australia can’t make an Eco-Disaster movie. Let’s be honest though, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

#halfanembarrassedpanda

Review – Corner Cafe (International Hotel) – Port Pirie (South Australia)

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

Bright yellow on the main drag - you can't miss it!

Based in the bright yellow International Hotel on Port Pirie’s main drag it wasn’t my first choice to have dinner, but trying to eat after 8pm on a Monday night my choices were the Corner Cafe or McDonalds. However, there seemed to be a lot of people inside and well, as I said, there wasn’t really an alternative.

It turned out that a 50th Wedding Anniversary party was underway and as such the kitchen was still open (not to mention that the guests had brought in their own instruments and sound system and played golden oldies for us!). The menu was basic pub fare, schnitzels, steaks etc and all meals came with unlimited access to their salad and vegetable bar. I ended up going for a Beef Schnitzel – I liked that they didn’t pretend it was Veal. I got a huge (ie they had to fold it to fit it on the plate) with mushroom sauce for a massive price of $12,90. My dinner companion (who is a vegetarian) didn’t have much variety, and settled on Vegetable Noodle StirFry. No bowl of noodles, it was a normal dinner plate covered (and I do mean covered and heaped high) of Udon noodles, some sort of brown but yummy sauce and miles of fresh veges (including peas still in their pods which I guess was their equivalent to Snow Peas.

The bain marie was a whole other thing. You could have eaten a meal just from that. Lots of fresh lettuce (not just iceberg but a solid cafe mix), tomato, tinned beetroot, tinned pineapple, cucumber, carrot, sliced bread (just a white supermarket loaf), potato salad, apple salad, pasta salad, two different kinds of coleslaw and then we had the veges! Potato bake, roast carrot and pumpkin, greens (peas and beans), and good lord I can’t remember the rest. There were 8(!!!) trays on each side each brimming with good old fashioned food.

My schnitchzel was the same as a $20 one I would buy at a pub back home proporting to be veal, however the crumbs weren’t fine, suggesting they probably made their own bread crumbs but oh so yummy – cooked to a perfect golden brown. The mushroom sauce was just gravy with some mushrooms in it but it was great! My companion’s stirfry was way too much to eat and she couldn’t even finish it with picking out the veges, though she did say it was just an average one – nothing like you get in China Town or a real restaurant, but it was like making it at home. From memory I think her meal was about $14. With two drinks (softdrinks) our bill was in the low $30’s.

Pluses:
Huge servings and everything (excepted the tinned items) was incredibly fresh.
Very friendly staff.
Ridiculously cheap.
Incredibly yummy in a home-cooked kind of way.
Super central – being bright yellow it is hard to miss.
Order at the bar but food came out fast.
Clean – very, very clean.

Minuses:
Not a lot of variety.
The decor was a bit bland.

This place isn’t a restaurant, it is a pub that sells food and calls itself a cafe (I did see a cappachino machine but as I don’t drink coffee I can’t comment on its quality). For the price and quality the Corner Cafe is great value for money. We both ate much more than we had intended, trying to fit everything in. If you find yourself in historic Port Pirie there are a few things to remember. Don’t drink the water (seriously as it is a health risk, especially for young children) and stop off at Corner Cafe.
(I stayed at the John Pirie Motor Inn just on the edge of the CBD (chortle) and it was clean, safe and they do a fine cooked breakfast.

#threesatisfiedpandas

Corner Cafe (International Hotel) on Urbanspoon

Review – Animal Kingdom (2010)

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

How could anyone come after you my darling! Nana loves you.

Synopsis:
Following the death of his mother, Josh turns to the only family he has, a family his mother walked away from. Falling into a world of crime and drugs, Josh tries to be a normal teenager, yet his uncles’ and his grandmother’s conflicting priorities, ultimately take over his life.

Pluses:
Stellar Australian cast.
Pope (Ben Mendelsohn) scared the beejeebees out of me.
Janine/Smurf (Jackie Weaver) really scared the heck out of me.
Interesting take on the family relationship taken from a fringe perspective.
Corruption.
Representation of family life in Australia in the 70s without it being all disco.
The second Art Gallery scene.
The unusual expression of affection by Smurf to her sons.
The character of Craig was very interesting and had such split dimensions.

Minuses:
Josh’s recalcitrance really frustrated me. Even a sentence here or there would have pushed the story forward or made it much stronger.
Josh’s inability to make a decision and stick to it.
Accessories not in key with the time period – distracted me.

This is a great Australian movie. It managed to portray crime without tits and arse, as TV is want to do. It didn’t glamourise it, and it didn’t shy away. Jackie Weaver was well ID’ed by the academy for her nom.

When I first saw this movie I wasn’t doing Pandas yet. I have rewatched it over the week (post-Oscars) to refresh my memory.

#fourguntotingpandas
PS. I have meant to write this up for ages – sorry Panda Lovers.

Brisbane Flood Update

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

This water rose so fast. I was there earlier in the day and it was just puddling. 6 hours later the roundabout was nothing but some bushes poking out of the water. Less than 1km down the street from my home.

Hi Panda Lovers.

As many of you know, I live in an inner city suburb of Brisbane. As you also know we have been flooding for the last few days, with the river peaking at dawn this morning.

Any time I have been home I have been following what has been happening vs watching any tv fiction or blogging.

Less than 1km from my home the water rose quickly. Less than 1km down the street from my home.Less than 1km down the street from my home.

Thankfully, I live high on a hill so no threat of flooding for me, but yesterday we on the patio of a house less than 1km from me while watching the river rise in their back yard, before having to wade through water to get out. Everything was moved, lived higher if not upstairs, but thankfully, given the water peaked 1m less than expected, many ppl’s homes were spared. Others though were so lucky.

As things begin to return to normal, so will my blog. I have The Cape to view, Episodes, new episodes for my regular shows as well as some movies I intend to see once power is back.

XOXO

Review – The King’s Speech

Friday, December 17th, 2010

My castle, my rules. Oh and do you have that bob I spotted you?

I must admit that with all the hype and Oscar buzz attributed to a film, I can often walk out of a movie disappointed. This certainly not the case for The King’s Speech (opening in Australia on Boxing Day, 2010).

When I first heard of this movie a month or two back, I was instantly intrigued. I had grown up on stories of King and Empire. One that my mother’s side of the family would often tell was that of how an Australian doctor helped the King overcome his stammer and kept the Empire strong in World War II. My grandfather was a Kangaroo (and travelled throughout the Empire and France for Rugby), so was one of the few men of his generation to see the Empire/Commonwealth during good times and bad. Staunch monarchists, my family would tell me story after story of Australians who helped build and save the Empire (often while telling the British to get nicked).

To see a story I had grown up with portrayed on the big screen was such a delight and the way it was told was breathtaking.

Some of the shots stopped me dead in my tracks, and the acting of Firth and Rush was brilliant. Rush plays the larrikin Australian so well – his accent just strong enough and with the right smattering of colloquialisms to be outstanding and not cringeworthy. Firth’s George VI was incredible. The emotion he could portray without speaking, or trying to speak, was beyond any adjective and your heart filled with his pain, sorrow, fear and bravery.

Pluses:
The script was incredibly well written.
The personal backstories of each character was so brilliantly developed.
Set the scene of pre-war time Britain incredibly well.
Costumes.
The simplicity of the movie.
Dramadey at its best.
Highly engaging.
Art direction.
Crisp editing.
Support cast.
Beautiful directing.

Minuses:
I wasn’t that sold on how Edward VIII (Guy Pearch) was portrayed as such a vapid and vacuous individual ruled by Wallace Simpson.

There are a couple of moments in the movie that are still very clear in my mind.

One, in Logue’s treatment room with “Bertie” looking left and the torn wallpaper behind him. The second is after he becomes George IV and his two daughters curtsey and call him Your Majesty all formal and restrained – heart breaking.

There are preview screenings this weekend at Palace Cinemas so do check it out – alternatively you can wait a week and a bit and see it on Boxing Day. This movie is a must see, and I will be going again on Boxing Day.

#fourandahalfpandas

Review – Red Hill – #BIFF

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

Not having a good first day on the job?

Red Hill is Patrick Hughes first movie – he wrote, produced and directed it and it had its Queensland release at the Brisbane International Film Festival. After my disastrous experience with Simone North’s first movie “I Am You” (which she also wrote, produced and directed) I was ready to experience Red Hill with zero expectations of it being a passable movie.

Red Hill tells the story of a just under 24 hours in a small country town in the Victorian Highlands. It is Kwanten’s character, Shane Cooper’s first day on the job as a country beat cop. Unbeknownst to Cooper, this town has a dark past, one that comes crashing in just hours after he starts. The villain of this piece was the indigenous actor Tom E Lewis’ Jimmy Conway. His ability to portray Jimmy Conway’s emotions and thoughts without saying a word, and with wearing a large prosthetic was very impressive. The town, lead by the always enjoyable Steve Bisley, prepare to defend their town from Conway – who is back with vengeance on his mind.

The plot was a bit predictable, and some plot devices were obvious, and had you questioning the motivation of the characters by their actions, which were required to keep the story moving. The twist was also expected but well delivered. I was’t too sure about the necessity of the kitty cat, and it was a tad too CGI for me – but each to their own.
All this being said this film is a very strong first effort. Some of dialogue was great. There was really solid character development and the film was moving along really well – the suspense building and you had real emotional buy in. Then the movie changed into something akin to a Tarinto gun fest bordering on the comical – then back again to the suspense and character driven piece. Some of the shots were wonderful and there were lots of hat tips to other films from the genres.
For a first movie that was made without any support (Hughes mortgaged his house to make it – and it is a “Hughes House Film” (that did make me laugh but I was pretty drunk)) it was damned fine.

Pluses:
Bisley’s Old Bill was a great character!
The town itself.
The art direction.
Lewis’ acting.
Kwanten’s forceful acting.
The characters of the town.
Some of the gun fights.
The overall arc of the story.

Minuses:
Unnecessary characters – we had no need to meet his wife.
Predictable plot points.
Kitty Cat.
Kitty Cat nibblies.
Overly hokey country music twangs.
Frustrating character actions/inactions to solely drive the plot.

I initially gave this a #threepanda rating, but on reflection given the shoot time (24 days), first movie bonus, and the self funded multipler I have changed my rating to

#threeandahalfpandas
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Review – I Am You – World Premier #BIFF

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

Terrible. Terrible. Terrible.

I Am You attempts, poorly, to tell the story of the disappearance and death of Rachel Barber.

You would think that with such an outstanding cast, you have a fair chance of a great movie. Unfortunately, Simone North’s inexperience as a writer and director, in conjunction with her being overly involved in the subject matter leads to a very poor piece of work. I actually felt for the actors.

It needs a damn good edit as much was irrelevant and over done. The amount of unnecessary shots was staggering and the way that the main character of Caroline Reid  was portrayed as lacking the complexity and sympathy of an individual with mental health issues was shocking. The young Irish actor though did very well considering what she had to work with. During the Q&A, Simone North’s abject contempt of the real Caroline was obvious – and it shone throughout her film.

It could have been SO much more, but it lacked on every level.

Positives:
Acting of Ruth Bradley (even through the terrible direction and script you could see she had talent).
It does actually end.

Negatives:
The immaturity of the script.
The lack of tidiness to the cut.
The direction.
Just how one dimensional it was.
Vignettes.
Overdone camera work.
One dimensional demonisation of characters.
Lack of depth of any “white hat” character.
Lack of examination of mental health.
It had more endings than Lord of the Rings and felt longer than all three combined.

Don’t bother.

#halfapanda
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EDIT: I should say that I wasn’t aware it was a “world premier” but the host announced it as such.

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Review – Cane Toads: The Conquest #BIFF

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Send 'em back to Hawaii, to Barack Obama!

Tonight I was invited to attend the opening night of the St.George Brisbane International Film Festival. The film was a 3D doco about Cane Toads with a relaxed after party at a very cool inner-city space.

It is hard to think that I would be saying that a documentary about CaneToads was “delightful.” However it was a delightful little flick.

One thing I like about documentaries is that often the participants say and do things you could never script.  Cane Toads (or Avatoad as it has been called as it is in 3D) is exactly that. The talent is a hoot. Real Aussie characters – often with no self consciousness, and usually passionate about what they are discussing. This doco does track the migration of the Cane Toad from a sleepy Northern Queensland town to being the dominant force that it is now, but does it in a non-preachy and entertaining way.

Pluses:
Seeing Dobby (cross breed dog) having what can only be described as a good trip from licking the toads.
The editing takes the mundane and makes it magical – Marshall(?) the white dog’s story.
Tip Byrne.
Quirky arcs.
Nice tie backs.
Excellent score.
NT’ers make Qld’ers look anything but parochial.

Negatives:
Not enough science for me to really love it.
Dragged in parts.
Didn’t discuss the negative impact of the toad much.
Didn’t cover how “well meaning” toad hunters often kill our native amphibian friends .

A highly enjoyable flick – that was in 3D. Funniest thing about it being in 3D were the ppl who had never seen a 3D movie before. Otherwise, it was just a well executed gimmick. To be honest I wouldn’t have gone if it wasn’t free, and as I am not a 3D devotee I wouldn’t have gone at regular release. But to those who love 3D, it is well done, and not too many 3D for 3D’s sake and worth catching when it has a limited national release early next year (2011).

PS. Gotta love the guy who brought his pet cane toad with him,

#threepandas
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