Posted in Sparks at work, Sydney sparks

Festival of Dangerous Ideas

I’m excited. I love a good Festival and am proud to say that in Sydney, we’ve become pretty reliable as awesome Festival-runners. I say ‘we’ using the royal plural, of course, as I do nothing more than buy some tickets from time to time and turn up to be entertained by super-talented people. So last weekend when I was at the Opera House with my mum seeing The Pearlfishers (one of my all-time favourites – sooo beautiful), I noticed a collection of newspaper-like ads for an upcoming festival. The Festival of Dangerous Ideas. It’s on at the Opera House from 28-30 September and the topics are thought-provoking, to say the least. “Have an opinion” is the request / demand of the curators, although if you don’t yet have one – am sure there will be plenty on offer for you to borrow.

Among the heavy hitting topics is The Devil is Real, featuring a Catholic priest (Fr Julian Porteous) talking about what it might mean if the Devil is real – “an active presence who moves among us every day”. Not sure if he is referring to the bus driver who sees you running down the street and drives off anyway, or the bank teller who ignores you in the queue and pretends to count a stack of envelopes and rearrange their pens, or noisy teenagers lounging around the shopping mall. But if he has suggestions on how to deal with those everyday devils, it could be worth checking out…

Then there’s the topic guaranteed to set HR professionals’ hearts a-flutter: My Workplace is a Cult. The speakers are a journalist and the Creative Director of Google’s Creative Lab in Sydney. Make of that what you will. They ask: “Are you expected to devote inordinate amounts of time and energy to your work? Do you spend more time with your work colleagues than anyone else? Has your work taken over your life?” I’m guessing that most people would nod along in agreement, so I’m intrigued to hear the proposed solutions to “set us free”.

I’ve interviewed with a few cult workplaces in my time – #1 was a firm that I’ll call Flandersen Consulting, which has since morphed into a different organisation (and perhaps that says a lot), back when I was a fresh uni graduate. They even took 50 of us from around the country (and a few from NZ) to a beachside ‘conference’ where they convinced us we were Leaders Of The Future, who should undoubtedly join their firm. To harness our combined super powers, I guess. It’s a memory that’s seared in my brain – after I asked some frank 20 year old kinda questions (I’m sure they weren’t actually that confronting) in one formal interview, the next meeting I had with them began with the very senior female interviewer picking a post-it from my file as if it were gum on her high heeled shoe and saying slowly, I understand that you have some concerns with the Andersen lifestyle. Uh huh. That was probably a sign that it wasn’t for me – well, that and two other things: every time I visited, the firm’s elevators were full of eerily similar looking Barbies and Kens in conservative navy or grey suits; and a selling point was that they often worked ’til midnight, but at 9.30pm, someone would say, “hey, let’s order pizzas”. And they would. Crazy kids.

Anyways, back to the Festival. Bono & Bob – Get Out of Africa features award-winning British comedy writer, journalist and author, Jane Bussmann. Jane claims that “mainstream media is burnt out by “Bono and Geldof’s Poverty Industry”, which deliberately painted Africa as depressing for two decades to line its own pockets.” And as far as I can see, this is the point of the Festival – to throw ideas out there for you to consider, poke you out of your comfort zone and challenge what you thought you knew to be true. All in an hour-long presentation. Sounds good to me!

There are also some delicately titled panel discussions: All Australians are Racists; Children are Not Inncoent; Abolish Private Schools; All Women Hate Each Other. And the closing event of the Festival sees the panel of experts solving all of the world’s problems in an hour. Technically, that particular show goes for 1 hour and 15 minutes, but I’m sure that doesn’t sound as cool in the title.

If you’d like to find out more about the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, you can check out the Sydney Opera House website here. They’re also on Twitter and Facebook, so you can join in the fun from wherever you are.

Posted in Musical sparks, Sydney sparks, Uncategorized

Tony Bennett. Legend.

Last night my mum and I went to see Tony Bennett at the Sydney Opera House. (Just to clarify – the pic on the left is a Billboard Grammys photo, we didn’t get that close. And he didn’t bring Lady Gaga. But I think that the photo is funny.)

I had bought the tickets for my mum’s birthday earlier this year as we love Tony Bennett and his cronies (something to do with my Grandad, our own Italian-New Yorker, I’m sure).

We last saw Tony Bennett at the Lyric Theatre at Sydney’s Casino (a truly beautiful theatre stuck in a hideously tacky venue – imagine the Kardashian wedding held in Paris’ Sacre Coeur and you’ll kinda get the feeling). So it was nice to see the now 85 year old crooner in the fabulous Concert Hall of the Opera House on a cool Sydney evening. (And if you’re not from ’round here, the tent looking things in my pic on the right aren’t market stalls but Opera Bar – best views in town.) The average age of the crowd was probably about 60 and I helped the nice couple next to us read their ticket numbers (they forgot their glasses) and the chap in front was sporting a fetching 1960s style red gingham jacket (and he wasn’t a hipster being ironic).

Tony’s daughter Antonia opened the show. Now, I don’t like to be cruel and Lord knows I can’t sing, but I do believe that if she was a gal born to a different daddy, Antonia would not be singing on the Opera House stage. Her voice is fine – sometimes sweet, but not very strong and often a little pitchy to my ears. I whispered to my mum, I hope that if Dad becomes a singer, he lets me open his show even though I can’t sing. And like a true stage mother, she replied, Well I hope you’ll wear something a lot more glamorous if that happens.

But Antonia knew we hadn’t come to see her, so she only stayed on stage for about 30 mins before the real star of the show came out. And what a star he is – performing hit after hit for over an hour and a half, without a break or a drink of water. HE IS 85. And his voice is strong – maybe just a little creaky by the end of the night, as anyone’s would be – as he hits the higher notes and brings home the powerful lyrics. HE IS 85. His band (at least from where we were sitting) all look like old timers too, but they were equally impressive.

From classics such as I Left My Heart In San Francisco to The Way You Look Tonight; from his stories about Bob Hope and Charlie Chaplin to bustin’ out some amazing dance moves that would put most men in their 20s to shame; from his genuine delight when people applaud or squeal to the incredible finale – Fly Me To The Moon. Without any microphone. HE IS 85. He said it was to test the acoustics of the Concert Hall, but I reckon it was to test the ol’ lungs and maybe show off a bit that he’s still got such talent. Whatevs, Tony Bennett – at 85 as at 25, you’re a true legend.



(This last pic has no relevance – I just took it last night and didn’t want our Bridge to feel left out of this post.)