About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

30 September 2015

Movie: Roger Walters The Wall

M absolutely loves "The Wall", so the one off movie screening of Roger Walters The Wall, was off course a must see event! It is primarily a concert movie - showcasing the concert performance of The Wall, toured by Roger Walters in the recent past. In between, there is a more personal travelogue of Roger Walters (sometimes with family and bandmates) visiting the graves of his grand-father (killed in WW1) and father (killed in WW2).

The concert itself is amazing - even if it was only for the absolutely amazing effects. A massive wall gets built over the course of the concert - until the entire performance ends up being behind the wall. Together with amazing video displays - this must have been an amazing spectacle live.

As an anti-war protest - I am not sure it really works. While the video displays showed various victims of war - from soldiers to freedom fighters to civilians (and all these without recent police killing victims or Syrian  refugees) - this is still a concert; so what you end up with is cheering and applause in the background. 

So, it feels like a massive disconnect. The travelogue is indulgent - but does not always make sense. And most of all, I don't know why it had to be a special screening event.

20 September 2015

Fighting Crime with Cognitive Behaviour Therapy

The Freakonomics podcast has a very interesting, two part episode on the use of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) in fighting crime. Based on three, widely different case studies - fighting crime in in the inner city gangs of Chicago, rehabilitation of child soldiers in Liberia and lower risk domestic abuse cases in the UK; the podcasts certainly make a compelling case. In all three cases, participants are put through a CBT course with support and mentoring; and the results are quite impressive - an average of about 40% reduction across the use cases in the best cases.

Given South Africa's similarities to some of the case studies, I wonder if anyone has thought about using the same approach? The stories are certainly compelling.

13 September 2015

Movie: Mr Holmes

There has been a rash of Sherlock Holmes adaptations in the recent past - from the action hero, to the modern adaptation to the faithful reproductions. In this crowded space, Mr Holmes is different - an aged, retired Sherlock Holmes tries to reconstruct his final case that led him to retirement - but his failing memory and body doesn't help his cause. In between the case recollection, there is a small side story about a Japanese man helping him with "medicinal" assistance to improving his memory and a great story about his widowed housekeeper and her young son; and more importantly the relationship between Sherlock Holmes and the son.

The highlight is undoubtedly the acting - of both Sir Ian McKellen as Sherlock Holmes and of Milo Parker as the inquisitive young boy. The performance of Ian McKellen as a 90 odd year man, losing his memory and for that matter other physical abilities was just astounding - especially given his rather superhero performances in the X-Men series and Lord of the Rings. The plot is rather mundane, there is not much in the mystery to be honest (and it somewhat goes against Conan Doyle's characterisation) - but the acting is a joy to watch.

Animal Farm - The Stage Production

I first read Animal Farm in high school, before really knowing its reputation (it was not school work, although I read it after 1984, which was). The story of struggle, achieving a free and equitable society, which then collapses is perhaps more pertinent than ever - in South Africa and elsewhere.

Market Theatre recently concluded an incredible stage adaptation of Animal Farm, with some South African references (e.g. the installation of a firepool) and wider African references (e.g. Napoleon dressing up as Mobuto Sese Seko). 

The highlight was certainly the incredible acting performances from the entire cast. Each of the actors took on multiple roles, but each role was perfectly cast and executed. M called the performance the best we had seen; and it was not just the plot line. There was something in the performance that is difficult to explain; but it was impressive and just kept the audience spellbound. 

It's a performance that deserves to be seen, again and again.

05 September 2015

JPO in concert with Joshua Bell

At the last Joshua Bell concert, the hall was overflowing. This time around, it was a near capacity crowd - but not full. The ticket prices were very high - so it was not that surprising. The JPO is finally out of business rescue (resulting mostly from creditors writing off their debts), and the concert also launched a new era, with a close partnership with the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra, resulting in a joint CEO of Bongani Tembe. Hopefully, this concert was a good start toward a successful future.

Like the last Joshua Bell concert, this one also started with Weber's Der Freischütz Overture. It starts slowly, but slowly builds up tempo and instruments before a big flourish at the end. It's a fun piece to start off a concert. The symphony concert for the evening was Tchaikovsky's Symphony No 2. I love the final movement of this piece; and find it quite different to the previous 3 movements - almost as if it is not even part of the same work. While the middle two movements are slow (and quite boring in my opinion), the final movement is energetic, frantic and lots of fun.

Joshua Bell's performance was Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto; a virtuoso piece that brought the audience to a standing ovation. It was a mesmerising performance, and was definitely worth the ticket price.

16 August 2015

Buskaid 2015

This year's annual Buskaid concert was a couple of weeks earlier than usual, but there was still an almost capacity audience at the Linder Auditorium. 

The program started with Rameau (sort of a Buskaid tradition) - Overture to Pigmailion and Dances from Zaïs. At least in South Africa, Buskaid seems to be the only ensemble that plays a selection of composers outside the greats (Beethoven, Mozart etc.) - and the Rameau is an example of that. I can't say I love the style - but it is nevertheless enjoyable and different.

My personal favorite was Sibelius' Impromptu for String Orchetra. It is an amazing piece - slow and moody at the start and end, sandwiching a very energetic middle. It was an amazing contrast to the Rameau; and the performance was mesmerising. In fact, I went and found a performance on Apple Music to listen to while completing this post!

Camille Saint-Sans' Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso is played quite often on Classic FM, but this was the first time I have heard it live. It is a virtuoso piece, and Simiso Radebe's solo performance brought the audience to its feet. A perfect follow up to the amazing Sibelius.

The last performance before the interval highlighted another great difference between Buskaid and other classical ensembles. I had not heard Luigi Boccherini's Night Music of the Streets of Madrid before - but the ensemble took it further; by having a coordinated dance performance while playing the music. It was fun to watch, it was fun to see and gave a real feel for what the music was trying to achieve - something Boccherini himself was unsure could be achieved.

The second half started off with Khachaturian's Waltz from Masquerade, before going through to three movie themes - Theme from Age of Innocence, Theme from Cinema Paradiso (soloist Kabelo Monnathebe) and Tango Por Una Cabenza (probably best known for as the tango in Scent of a woman, soloist Simiso Radebe). 

As with all Buskaid performances, the movie themes indicated a transition to the kwela, gospel and Afropop - to bring the evening to a close. Once again, Buskaid delivered a standout performance. 

12 August 2015

The Test Kitchen

The Test Kitchen has been the No 1 ranked restaurant in South Africa for a few years now (and also has significant global attention). Located at The Old Biscuit Mill in Cape Town, the restaurant itself is rather relaxed; with an open kitchen where the patrons can see the chefs working their magic. The restaurant has a long waiting list - I booked in March for an August date - and it was definitely worth the wait.

We had the tasting menu, lasting approximately 3 hours. The food was perhaps a bit too slow paced - but otherwise the service was excellent. However, I would not say that it was my best fine dining experience. A corporate dinner at the 2-Michellin starred Dolder Grand in Zurich was amazing in its oppulence, setting and off course its food and I would rate Hartford House as the best fine dining experience (despite its colonial setting). That said, the Springbok Rose (main course at Test Kitchen on Saturday) is probably the best dish I have had.

Overall, the Test Kitchen is definitely worth getting a reservation for. The prices are fairly reasonable (although the waiting time should definitely be used to save up). However, I don't know if I would specifically plan another trip around going to the Test Kitchen (although the past weekend was a long weekend, hence I targeted this specific date). It's a great experience - but not necessarily a repeat one.

The bread was fresh out of the oven - with an interesting variety. The pie like one was definitely the most praised.

The first appetiser

The second appetiser - Tuna and Cabbage 3 ways - maybe the best cabbage dish I have ever had?

The pickled fish starter was amazing - my second favourite of the day. Layered with a variety of fish, it was somewhat like a sashimi course.

My second course was guinea fowl and foie gras. I wasn't as enthusiastic as the rest of the table; who raved about the scallop and mirin tea (below).

The third course was the choice between the line fish and the pork belly. The pork belly was amazing.

There was a variety in the main courses. The Springbok Rose (above), was by far my best dish of the day - in terms of both food and presentation. M raved about the parsnips in the vegetarian mains although the lamb (below) didn't get too many wild adulations.

The meal concluded with two deserts - Tropical (above) had a fruity theme, while the Milk Stout Sponge was more cake and pastry. They were both great tasting deserts - but I found both to be quite disjointed, especially the Milk Stout Sponge. 

03 August 2015

Marikana - The Musical

M and I had completely opposite reactions to the multi-award winning Marikana - The Musical, now on at the State Theatre until mid-August. I saw the miner's song and dance akin to a war dance, while M saw it as positioning the miners as an arrogant bunch of thugs. I found the lyrics and positioning to confront the socio-economic dynamics, while M saw it as a reflection of the miners committing to their own demise. Both of us contrasted the performance to Rezad Desai's Miners Shot Down, which focused quite a bit on the political machinations around the tragedy - something the musical doesn't really focus on; and I think the documentary will remain the definitive voice on the tragedy. Neither of us read any reviews before going to the performance, and there a few criticims (esp with regards to attribution of cause) - but we did both agree that the performance itself was amazing. 

The set design was genius - the hill serving as both the musician cage and the prop. The music traversed various styles; and the vocalists were great. The translations of various vernacular phrases was patchy (some of it was projected) but there was enough English around to keep the story in line. And the acting was equally impressive - regardless of the viewpoint of the interpretation.

I think I convinced M on my interpretation -  but I suppose it is to be expected that different people will interpret art differently. As long as it is accepted that the musical itself is not a full portrayal of the events; I think it will be fine. Like the last two scenes - first by the widows followed by a father - the musical is also an eulogy that reminds all of the socio-economic factors that hold down our fraught labour relations. 

This is an amazing performance that needs to be seen by all, and at R100 a ticket, the musical is very accessible.