Not just for the birds

Reading recently that billionaire Elon Musk had taken Amber Heard on a date to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary on Queensland’s Gold Coast reminded me of my childhood.

My family always holidayed at Currumbin Beach, from well before I was born. My grandparents camped on the beach near the long-gone mineral sands works in the 1940s and 50s, and when my sisters and brother came on the scene, my parents booked a flat overlooking the beach for three weeks every year during the Christmas school holidays.

Continue reading Not just for the birds

Have you heard about quarantine?

Many people will be aware of this video made by American actor Johnny Depp and his now-ex-wife Amber Heard about Australia’s strict quarantine laws.

The video was made as part of a deal when the couple faced charges for brining their dogs, Pistol and Boo, into Australia illegally. Their awakwardness is probably explained by the deteriorating relationship between the couple, but it also may indicate a lack of commitment to the words they are speaking.

Continue reading Have you heard about quarantine?

Time flies in Singapore

A time-lapse video doing the rounds of social media demonstrates three years of change in Singapore in just under five minutes.

Created by artist Keith Loutit and posted on Vimeo, it shows buildings going up, and coming down, cars winding through the streets, and changes in season and weather.

You can read more about the artist and his work here.

Dancing Diadema

For many travellers, cruising is about dancing. From the couples of a certain age who still like to cut a rug the old-fashioned way to the professionals who perform for the rest of us to watch on in awe, it’s all to be seen on the high seas.

Here’s some video I took on the Costa Diadema of the ship’s animation (entertainment) team and dancers, and some of the passengers, getting into the spirit.

Havana holiday

A few weeks ago, a colleague  went to Cuba. I was envious, because Cuba is on my bucket list and I know, as he knew, that since the American decision to drop sanctions on Havana, it’s only a matter of time before that destination will lose a lot of its unique identity.

Ideally, I’d like to get to Havana before the first McDonald’s or Starbucks, but since they are multinational corporations with more money than I can imagine, it’s not looking good.

I hope that the lot of the average Cuban will get better, although I am mindful that capitalism, like communism, doesn’t work for everybody.

It’s also a reminder of why we travel: to see destinations through the eyes of the people who live there. If they welcome the American dollar, then we should too on their behalf.

The video above is Los Paraguayos performing what is almost certainly the most famous Cuban song, Guantanamera.

Strange bedfellows

This arrived in an email today: a preview of the new “Travelodgicals” campaign for the British hotel chain, Travelodge.

I’m never quite sure what makes a marketing campaign a success. A memorable advert doesn’t always create brand awareness or translate into more business. They can win awards but not customers.

The ads from last year were certainly well executed. This one has a catchy tune, but the thought of sharing a bed or a bathroom with a lookalike puppet seems a little creepy to me. Especially if you wonder whose operating them and where they’re hiding.

He really likes me!


One of the great delights of social media is the (albeit slim) opportunity of directly engaging with somebody famous.

When I first signed up for Twitter, I followed Stephen Fry and was absolutely delighted that he followed me back — although I later found that, at the time, he followed everybody back and the process was probably automated.

A little while ago, I had a short Twitter conversation with Sally Thomsett, who was my schoolboy crush when she starred as Jo in the British sitcom Man About the House.

And last night, I got a retweet from Danny John-Jules, who plays the Cat in sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf and policeman Dwayne Myers in Death in Paradise.

Is my virtual life complete, or are there other celebs to stalk?

Lessons from Lehrer

I’ve had satire on my mind for the past few days, which led me to write this piece about why this particular type of humour can fall flat in the Arab world.

In the course of my discussion of the history of satire, I mentioned Tom Lehrer, a particular favourite of mine.

Space then didn’t permit me to discuss his contribution in more detail.

Lehrer came to prominence as an undergraduate in the mid 1940s with a parody song, Fight Fiercely Harvard. He went on to sell self-funded records on campus.

Within a decade, he’s become something of a sensation, and by the early 1960s, he was appearing on the cabaret stages of the world singing such songs as Poisoning Pigeons in the Park and The Masochism Tango.

It is widely believed that Lehrer came unstuck when he dared to send up Dr Werner von Braun, the German rocket scientist who might have faced war crimes charges had he — and many others — not been whisked away to America to work on what would become the space program that eventually took the good guys to the moon.

Lehrer’s statement that von Braun’s “allegiance was ruled by expedience” became the subject of a law suit. But Lehrer wasn’t sued out of satire, he just went back to being a mild-manned maths professor.

Thankfully, he left behind a wonderful legacy of satirical songs, including The Vatican Rag (about the Vatican 2 reforms of the Catholic Church), Be Prepared (about the Boy Scouts) and I Got it From Agnes (about venereal disease).

His songbook even inspired a musical, Tomfoolery.

Enjoy the videos above and below and, if please Google Tom Lehrer to seek out more about him and more of his material.

Shock of the old

It doesn’t feel like it was 40 years ago that The Rocky Horror Picture Show first burst upon cinema screens.

Admittedly, I didn’t see it in its first release, but it wasn’t too long afterwards, probably at one of the screenings at the Crystal cinema in inner-Brisbane, where it ran and ran and ran. As it did around the world, Rocky Horror became a fixture on the big screen with a big enough “cult” audience to keep it going for, well, forever.

The movie still attracts crowds who come dressed as their favourite characters to enjoy a singalong and sometimes a stage show presented by people who’ve devoted the best part of their lives to the sci-fi rock opera.

And then there’s the stage show, which pops up every decade or so, often with stunt casting in the Narrator role. The urbane Stuart Wagstaff played it in the first Australian production I saw (at the now-demolished Her Majesty’s Theatre in Brisbane). In New Zealand, the role once went to former prime minister Robert “Piggy” Muldoon, and one US production featured Jerry Springer.

But it’s the movie that helped launched some serious careers — including Susan Sarandon (Janet), Meat Loaf (Eddie) and Tim Curry (Frank-N-Furter). They

Reportedly there’s a made-for-TV version, with the working title of The Rocky Horror Picture Show Event, in the works at the US Fox network. Will it succeed, or is Rocky Horror one show that’s best left alone?

In plane sight

I don’t often get excited about advertisements, but I  really loved this Emirates commercial featuring Friends star Jennifer Aniston.

Aniston puts in a fine performance, but for me the whole point of it is made in the casting of the “other airline” crew near the beginning of the one-minute clip.

Anybody who has ever flown long haul on an US air carrier will recognise them. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they aren’t even actors, just actual staff from any American airline.

I know that American Airlines, Delta, United and others are in a “free skies” legal battle with Emirates and Etihad at the moment. Whatever the arguments are at the political and commercial level, this ad sums up the situation from a passenger’s viewpoint.

Not everybody gets access to the shower and the bar on an Emirates A380, but I am willing to bet that, even in cattle class, you’ll get treated better in the air by a Gulf-based airline that you will by an American one.