Red Koi Reviews

See what I've seen, hear what I've heard

Archive for the ‘4 Stars’ Category

New Years Eve mountain bike riding the Oaks firetrial

Posted by redkoireviews on 01/01/2011

The same friend who too me rock climbing in the blue mountains before Christmas mentioned she and some friends where planning on riding the Oaks fire trail and I put my hand up to come along. The ride starts at Woodford and ends at Glenbrook in the Blue Mountains of NSW, so I could get my bike on the train – no cars required :-). It’s a 30km ride and there is a lot of downhill – just of 1000m vertically. However there’s also around 500m in the other direction – up – so hills where not unfamiliar.

Most of the track is easy to ride fire trail, some of which is steep but not insanely so. At the end there is about 7km of single track -which is mountain bike lingo for narrow bush track you can ride on. This has a lot more in it for the adrenalin glands – you can see why so many riders prefer it. Most of it was ridable for a newbie like me, but some I took at look at and decided to just walk over. I was probably more cautious than usual, because starting a new year in hospital is not a good way to start. It took us about 3 hours to ride with some decent rest tops but most people could do it in 2.5 hour with no real worries.

You do need a mountain bike with nice knobby tires on and front suspension helps a lot, but all 6 of us where on hard tails, so no fancy rear suspension required. If you are some kind of fitness freak you can ride up and then come back down. Not my cup of tea!

My Rating: 4 stars

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Movie review: The Kings Speech

Posted by redkoireviews on 29/12/2010

The Kings Speech” conquers the difficult task of making History personal, emotional and compelling. The film follows King George VI (Colin Firth), who is thrust into throne after his elder brother King Edward VIII (Guy Pierce)  abdicates in order to marry his lover. A terrible childhood has caused ‘Bertie’ to develop a stutter, which makes being a king rather difficult to say the least. We follow his introduction to an unqualified but successful Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffry Rush) who after some persistence manages to get Bertie to the point of being able to survive his coronation and then (in the nick of time)  deliver his first war time speech as Britain declares war with Germany.

The film is well scripted and directed, giving you a real surge of empathy for a man struggling to find the courage to lead a country. Firth does brilliantly as a nobleman with a stutter and Rush carries his ice-breaking role as the egalitarian – honest broker – straight man with real ease. You leave having no problem believing that the movie is not simply based on a true story, but that Firth and Rush could indeed have been the King and King maker.

If you go, it’s not necessary to know anything about British modern history, but 10min spent getting at least faintly familiar with what has happening in the world at the time will add an extra layer of gravitas to an already moving film. (Bluekoi have me the 10min history to me and the people around us as the previews where rolling!).

Second opinion on ‘Reviews for the rest of us“.

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U2 360 Degree Concert at ANZ Stadium Sydney

Posted by redkoireviews on 15/12/2010

U2 play the ANZ stadium, Olympic Park U2 was the first band I became a true fan of – I bought their album “The Joshua Tree” on LP and listened to it repeatedly till I knew all the words. So when Bluekoi called and said she might be able to win a free double pass to their 360 degree concert at ANZ stadium in Olympic Park, Sydney I was excited.  But I kind of expected that the show would be all of there recent stuff, which I haven’t bought and am  not a big fan of. So when they played a healthy selection of songs from “Rattle & Hum”, “Joshua Tree” and “Achtung Baby” I was surprised and stoked. The ANZ stadium is not my first choice for music venues, it’s so bloody vast! Nonetheless you couldn’t help being excited by the sheers scale of the thing. I decide to hire some binoculars, and that turned out to be the best decision of the night – without them you have to rely on the screens and that just isn’t the same.  The light show / techno-gadgetry and stage in the round was designed to impress but was not what I enjoyed about the concert.

Bluekoi is not a huge U2 fan (unbelievable I know!) so I offered up the second ticket to my sister. She loved it as well and we had a happy night singing along. The support act was Jay-Z, some American rapper and ‘not to my taste’ which made me feel old. The age range of those attending was huge – ranging from those in their forties who probably still play “under a blood red sky” through to teens who where not even born before U2 produced a few chart topping albums. Amazing that they have held together so long.

Overall a top show for a old favorite band of mine.

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Cranston Cup Theatresports Grandfinal

Posted by redkoireviews on 12/12/2010

Cranston Cup Bluekoi and I have been meaning to see some good theatresports for a while and last year we missed the finals of the Cranston Cup. Last nights final at the Enmore Theatre was awesome! MC’d by Chris from the Chaser, and featuring plenty of seasoned theatresports players plus some new faces it was fast paced and fun. Tom Dunstan from the team ‘The independent swingers” won “man of the match” and deserved it – his spontaneous physical comedy was the best I’ve seen and he was a real sport, jumping in to help other teams in almost every round.

This final wasn’t as musical as some of the other improv we’ve seen – but the standout team for the musical challenges where the new entrant “Tri-state Ghost Hunters” who where so-so overall but who’s opera about teaching was fantastic, and gave the improv keyboardist Penny Biggins a chance to shine.

The Cranston cup is the NSW competition – team “Bavaria’s Wurst” now goes onto the national championships in 2011, also at the Enmore as part of the Sydney comedy festival. I’ll definitely be going to see that 🙂

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‘How to argue with an economist’ by Lindy Edwards

Posted by redkoireviews on 23/06/2007

I bought this is Bowral while on holidays, and read the whole thing through as the rain came down around our little cabin. I’d heard good things about this book, and it deserves it. A lot of people in Australia feel like the economy has too high a priority in politics and society, and that it’s hurting the social fabric of the country. This book explains how Australia has made a transition from egalitarian economic policy to free market economic rationalism.

That is useful in it’s own right, but the book goes further, outlining some ways in which to argue against economic rationalists at work or over the dinner table. Some of these arguments were more complete versions of what I already knew, other were completely new. It really grabbed my attention because a large chunk of my work is lobbying politicians and bureaucrats about climate change, many of whom come from an economic rationalist viewpoint.

Lindy Edwards has worked in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and in the book her arguments are about using the logic of economic rationalism to defeat it’s own arguments. She takes the view that economic rationalism can be modified and changed to make it ‘good’, rather than throwing the whole thing in the bin. This pragmatist attitude will probably rub the more socialist / lefty readers up the wrong way, but I think her work has a lot of value.

This is a great read about what lie behind the changes in contemporary Aussie culture.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

PS, I think the next book on economics will be Frank StilwellsPolitical Economy: The contest of Economic Ideas

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Wombeyan Caves

Posted by redkoireviews on 22/06/2007

Wombeyan CavesStill on our holidays in the Southern Highlands, we traveled from Moss Vale down to Wombeyan Caves. In hindsight, the middle of winter may not have been the best time of year to go – we where advised to fill our kettle before going to bed in case the pipes froze overnight! While it was cold, and wet, we managed to get some walking in and we saw three of the caves.

The first one we went through was the Wollondilly Cave. It was a guided tour and was pretty spectacular. It’s quite a large cave with quite good formations, but was overshadowed by the Junction Cave which we saw on the second day. The rain had found it’s way into Junction Cave by the time we went through it, really bringing the cave to life. Seeing tiny, delicate droplets of water at the end of stalactites really gave you a sense of these caves slowly developing over hundreds of thousands of years. the dripping and flowing of water created noises in the caves that turned them from dead, almost morbidly quiet vaults into singing, living spaces.

W e also took the self guided tour of the fig tree cave. Although not as beautiful as the other two, it’s nice too take your time, set up a tripod and take some photos (not that mine turned out very well).

The roads to the caves are a bit rough and are not paved, but we managed ok in a tiny two wheel drive hire car. Just go via Goulburn to avoid the really tight turns.

These caves are as good as or better than the more famous Jenolan Caves, but in a nicer setting and without the bus loads of tourists (at least in winter!).

My Rating: 4 Stars

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Carrington & Fitzroy Falls

Posted by redkoireviews on 16/06/2007

Fitzroy FallsMy partner and I recently took a short holiday in the southern highlands of NSW. The first few days we spent at Moss Vale, where we did some walks around some of the local waterfalls. Unfortunately the drive down was pretty hellish – bucketing rain as the central coast was battered and flooded. Luckily it wasn’t that bad for us, but it was still very wet.

Carrington FallsThe upside was that the waterfalls where absolutely spectacular. The two main falls we visited were Fitzroy and Carrington Falls. We’ve seen Fitzroy before, but not with this much water in it. Just amazing. To see and hear these falls in full flight reminds you just what an awesome force nature is.

Next stop was Carrington falls, where the walks are not as long or nice, but the waterfall is truly mystical. A fine fog gave everything a ghostly atmosphere and the falls themselves are in more of a canyon, so they feel closer and somehow more urgent. Make sure you go to the other side of the falls and take a look at Nellies Glen – It’s also a very nice spot.

My Rating: 4 Stars

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The Constant Gardener by John Le Carre

Posted by redkoireviews on 06/05/2007

Constant gardener book 2I saw the movie version of this book quite a while ago, and recently finished the book. Predictably, I think the book is better than the movie. Le Carre is a true master. I love the cynical, gritty atmosphere that his books create, and this one is no exception.

This one takes aim at big Pharma companies and their lack of ethics in Africa and abroad as they try and get new drugs to market in a mad haste. It’s a spy story, a mystery and a love story.

The scene is Nairobi, where British Diplomat Justin Quayle is the unlikely husband of activist Tessa Abbot. When Tessa discovers that a big Pharmaceutical company is putting lives at risk with it’s unethical activities in Africa, she devotes her life to stopping the company. Perhaps to protect him from harm, she tells her husband nothing. Unfortunately, Tessa is not protected from harm, and bulk of the story is about the transition from ‘status quo’ diplomat, to man on a mission to honor his wife and the cause she fought for.

This is what spy novels should be about – gritty, real world and fraught with all the grey areas between right and wrong. The characters are so well developed, you feel you know them by the time you put the book down. The plot could easily be non-fiction, making you think a little wider than the escape created by a good book. Le Carre says it all in his note at the end of the book ‘As my journey through the pharmaceutical jungle progressed, I came to realise that, by comparison, my book was as tame as a holiday postcard’.

My Rating: 4 Stars

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Esbjörn Svensson Trio (E.S.T.)

Posted by redkoireviews on 20/01/2007

ESTAnother great Sydney Festival find. I didn’t know a single thing about E.S.T. but booked on the strength of the write up in the Sydney Festival guide. I wasn’t sure what to expect – EST are one of those bands that writers find difficult to describe. But whatever expectations I might have had where well and truly blow away.

EST are a Swedish three piece – piano, double bass and percussion. Their music is closest to Jazz, but they borrow from a range of other styles to meld a quite unique sound. They use some technical wizardry to change the sound of their instruments, or to create the impression of another instrument accompanying them. I’ve seen that kind of thing done before, but EST keep the black boxes tucked away, and use them them as a extension of their instrument rather than a sound gimmick. The result is some highly atmospheric music. Read the rest of this entry »

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“The Space Between” by Circa

Posted by redkoireviews on 19/01/2007

The Space BetweenI saw this performance after a last minute offer of free tickets from a friend of mine. It’s a dance / circus / theatre performance piece by the Circa circus company. There have been a few performances as part of the ‘About an hour’ series in the Sydney Festival.

I’ve seen a fee modern dance performances before, and sometimes they can be so full of such physical stunts that you can become distracted by the sheer effort of the performers, forgetting the beautiful shape and form of their performance. Not so with Circa. Though their performance is physical, the performers do that wonderful thing of making a hard thing look graceful. Read the rest of this entry »

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