Red Koi Reviews

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

‘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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Paris je t’aime

Posted by redkoireviews on 22/06/2007

Paris je t’aimeWe where on holidays, it was pouring rain and we where bored. So we went to see this film at the New Empire movie theater in Bowral. Like the review we’d seen on ”at the movies‘, we thought it was a mixed bag. The film is a series of 18 short films about love in Paris. Some of them a re brilliant, some of them are pretty average. However there are simply too many of them – I walked out struggling to remember which ones I liked most or hated most.

The theme was also too loose. There where no linkages between the shorts and no shared actors, even the direction and cinematography was really different. Some where funny, some sad, some wistful. My favourites where the one with the blind guy and his actor girlfriend, and the one involving Oscar Wilde.

My Rating: 3 Stars

For an alternative review, see rotten tomatoes

Posted in 3 Stars, Movies, Reviews | 1 Comment »

The Tao of Pooh

Posted by redkoireviews on 21/06/2007

I was searching for holiday reading material and discovered The “Tao of Pooh” on the shelves, owned by my partner. It’s a laymans introduction to Taoism, using Pooh bear from the Winnie the Pooh series of children’s books as the western example of what Taoism is all about.

It’s easy to read, and did give me a sense of what this philosophy is all about, but the tone is very anti-intellectual at times, which just annoyed me and put distance between me and the subject. On the upside, the idea that being too busy with detail, facts and figures can distract you from the bigger picture did resonate me. Perhaps that’s a contradictory reaction but that’s just what happened.

I won’t bother trying to explain Taoism itself – wikpedia does a better job than I would, or indeed the ‘Tao of Pooh’

My Rating: 2.5 Stars

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The Box Vale Track, Mittagong

Posted by redkoireviews on 21/06/2007

Box Vale TrackOn our holiday to the Southern Highlands, we also did this bushwalk. As we set out, it started to rain. However we pressed on and it was well worth it. The track is in Mount Alexandra Reserve near Mittagong. It follows an on rail line built to mine coal, and as a consequence there are very few stairs and almost no hills.

The rail lines where all pulled up and removed when the mine shut down in 1896, and in that time there has been plenty of regrowth so it feels lovely and bushy again. However the fact that it’s an old rail creates some novel features. There are several cuttings that have created corridors of ferns, and a tunnel. At the end of the route there’s a great view of the valley.

All in all this is a great walk that you might otherwise miss because it’s not in a national park.

My Rating: 3 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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The Gates of Egpyt

Posted by redkoireviews on 18/02/2007

The Gates of EgpytMy partner and I saw “The Gates of Egypt” performed by Company B last night. You realise just how deeply the wars in Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq have angered people when you take a look at the number of plays that draw on them. This one revolves around normal Aussie grandmother Clarice, who has been left feeling at odds with her world after the death of her husband. Against the better judgement of her daughters, she takes a trip alone to Egypt, where she confronts the hate brewed by various wars in the middle east, and faces up to years of apathy about it in her own life and in those around her.

The play has a lot to say about our ability to distance oursleves from what is done in our name on the battlefront. There’s a sense of powerlessness, of life unfolding in predictable ways that you might regret later. Rather than being 100% political commentary on war, it draws you into the life, loves and regrets of a woman and her family. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in 2 Stars, Theatre | 3 Comments »

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 »

Posted in 4 Stars, Festivals, Music | Leave a Comment »

“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 »

Posted in 4 Stars, Festivals, Other, Theatre | Leave a Comment »

 
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