Big Question Marks

Sunday, June 19, 2011

In Love With: Beach Concerts

Dayle has just started a job helping out run the Surfers Paradise Festival, a huge three-week-long arts & culture fest that's run by a city-council-funding marketing team, designed to inject a little fun into the city in wintertime, draw in some crowds, and really just to show off how much great talent there is in Gold Coast (something we've been feeling a real void of... but it is indeed out there!).

The festival kicked off this week with a huge free beach concert - such a lovely way to watch live music. We weren't too familiar with a lot of the acts prior to the event, but apparently the headliner, Pete Murray, is kind of a big thing here in Oz, and lots of the other Aussie indie bands are gaining in popularity fast-- like Clare Bowditch, Busby Marou, and the John Steel Singers. It ran all day in the sand, and though it got a bit chilly at night, everyone bundled together under blankets, sat under the coloured lights and finally the fireworks... which were shot into the sky under a very creepy red moon. A wonderful time! Here are a few photos from the beach concert....

Under the shadows in the afternoon (the white building in the centre is our apartment)

Clare Bowditch

Pete Murray

Creepy red moon

After-show fireworks

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Flexing Those Acting Muscles: Part III

There is more! Yes, one more little piece of filmmaking you won't want to miss...

This time, we are taken deep into a forest, a forest at the mythical Lotus Mountain (which may or may not be otherwise known as Daisy Hill Conservation Area, in Queensland), where two ninjas face off in an epic battle in the woods.

For Adrian's 'Intro to Visual Effects' class, he was assigned to make a short film with a variety of special effects in it. A fun project indeed! And while others in his class mostly made dramas involving teen car crash disasters and ghosts, Adrian took another route: the kung fu movie. Now, unfortunately, Jackie Chan and Chow Yun Fat ended up being busy on the weekend of filming, so it was up to Dayle and our pal Tim to play their roles.

Showdown at White Lotus Mountain from BigQuestionMarks on Vimeo.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Cold Snap

Since we're totally not going to believe this happened in a few months (and those of you enjoying sunny summer temperatures in North America won't either), we've decided to write about it: there is indeed WINTER on the Gold Coast. The dreaded W-word!

Yes, when researching our move here, we found climate charts that said the mercury would never fall below 20 degrees (yes!), we Googled street scenes of palm trees and read things about "300+ sunny days per year". Sold! But unfortunately we're not immune, even on the Gold Coast, to the weirdo weather that's been totally confusing everyone around the world this year.

Winter has come to Queensland — something we didn't really think was possible — and we are currently in the middle of quite a cold snap. Word is, Thursday was the coldest day Brisbane has had in a decade (9 degrees for a high!), and it's supposed to continue for another week. On Friday morning for work, I was to help out with the public launch of this community safety campaign, which was taking place outdoors in Cavill Mall, the big pedestrian area smack in the centre of Surfers. Well, I showed up to find my colleagues wearing scarves and with teeth chattering, and the guests and spectators who actually showed up making jokes about "Melbourne weather" and breathing on their hands to keep from freezing. It seemed to take ages for the sun to finally peek over the buildings around 9am, but it was very welcome when it did arrive. Winter has officially arrived — as of June 1st, actually — and while the evening news anchors are yammering on and on about the great ski conditions in New South Wales right now, we'd prefer to go back to our breezy summer weather right now, thank you very much.

And yes, as Canadians, we are indeed used to this kind of miserable grey and cold weather, that's true. And yes, we should stop whining! But when dealing with the cold, it's all about how prepared you are for it. Our apartment is actually colder inside than outside — fantastic in summer, for sure! — as there isn't a speck of insulation in the walls, which are made of concrete and floor-to-ceiling glass windows. Truthfully, we're spending a lot of evenings hiding out under the puffy quilt we splurged on a few weeks' back (a good purchase!) and waiting for it all to blow over (in August maybe?). And as our power bill is expensive enough already, we're not about to head out and get ourselves an electricity-chugging space heater...

On Friday night, our friend Tim came over — Tim lives in a house that is even colder than ours, with fans built into the attic of the house that work constantly to push the hot air out — and after trying to warm ourselves up with some beers while we sat under blankets, we decided to try something we normally wouldn't dare: hit the Surfers Paradise bar scene on a Friday night... to absorb a little body heat, that is. So we threw on about four layers each and made the three-block dash to Cavill Ave. And there we found out how to keep warm in the Australian winter: sheepishly dancing the night away to Top 40. Who would've thought?

Actually, there is one really great thing about winter in Queensland: nobody has a clue how to dress for it. The surf shops are still selling bikinis... but displaying them on mannequins with faux-fur vests over top. It's Ugg-boot city these days. And yesterday I saw a guy in the shopping mall, wearing a puffy sleeping-bag parka, paired with shorts and flip-flops. It's kind of hilarious.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Flexing Those Acting Muscles: Part II

And oh yes, there is more. We're not sure why our acting skills are in such high demand (although our asking price is pretty low...).

This time, the organization Dayle was working for in Surfers was filming a TV ad for an upcoming event, and the colleague organizing the PR was desperately in need of extras on short notice. All we had to do was show up at Benihana, the Japanese restaurant in the Marriott Hotel, for about 45 minutes on a Thursday morning and look amazed by a teppanyaki chef working his cooking magic. Sure, why not?

Since we were both free that day, we arrived at the very fancy lobby of the Marriott that rainy morning in our snazzy clothes (having been asked to dress as though we were "going 5-star dining"). We had pictured a full restaurant of people, but the setting was a little more intimate than that: it was actually just us and five others, seated around a wide table with a hot grill in the middle of it, huddled around a chef.

Our little nook was gorgeous, we must note, and looked out onto a Japanese garden quite reminiscent of that final dramatic scene from Kill Bill. We only hoped that some samurais would get out there and do a little battle in the rain for us. Or better yet, Uma Thurman and Lucy Liu! And yes, and the restaurant itself was pretty impressive, too.

Unlike us extras, the chef seemed quite comfortable in front of the camera, being used to putting on a show for restaurant patrons every evening with his big teppanyaki blades and forks. He made a steaming volcano out of onion rings, he flipped prawns into his hat, drummed complicated rhythms with his spice canisters, and lit things on fire as we oohed and aahhed and clapped (no acting skills needed there). Then he tossed food at us — and seeing as we hadn't thought to practice catching rice and prawns with our mouths, most of us ended up with foodstuffs all over our fancy clothing. *Le sigh.* In no time at all, the cameraman had tons of footage and told our chef it was cool to stop cooking — but he was intent on making us a full dinner at 10:30am! Finally, we convinced him that he'd done a great job and he could leave his grill behind, and what else could we do? We all pigged out on delicious Japanese grilled dinner and wine (a prop that definitely could not go to waste) not two hours after we'd eaten breakfast. Ah well, the life of an extra!

Even though Adrian was much more keen to be on camera (and got covered with a lot more flying food) Dayle ended up with a foreground spot in the commercial... which was a little hilarious to see on our television, playing in a commercial break during Law and Order. So apparently Dayle's stint on Romper Room wasn't the last of her TV career....

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Flexing Those Acting Muscles: Part I

One thing we didn't plan on doing upon our move to Australia... was getting ourselves in front of any camera lens but our own.

But somehow, in our four months in Oz, between us we've already managed to rack up roles in two TV commercials and one short film (OK, the short film was one of Adrian's projects for class, but still...).

We always like to keep ourselves open to strange and interesting opportunities as they present themselves, and thanks to this we just keep on collecting weird experiences... and bit parts as extras. Plus, it never hurts to have a little more material for the blog. So enjoy...

Our first video: Adrian's Australian acting debut.

The auditions weren't too tough — in fact, he turned down the part initially when he was approached by talent scouts in Griffith's library. Acting is a very time-consuming pursuit after all, and of course, a lot of energy has to go into playing a role properly. But thanks to Adrian's training in notable full-length Canadian B-grade cinema [title withheld], it wasn't long before Adrian had reconsidered and was prepping in the make-up chair. Catch Adrian acting in his Australian debut as a student at the library (it was a stretch!) about 30 seconds in on this ad for Griffith University....

Adrian's Griffith Commercial

Stay tuned for our next blog, where you can catch Dayle and Adrian dodging flying teppanyaki (on primetime TV no less)!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Hell on Wheels

There's nothing like the feeling of freedom a bicycle gives you (at least when you're a non-car-owner). When you're going from no wheels to two wheels, suddenly many more places are within reach, travel times are slashed dramatically, and all the while you're getting some exercise. It was certainly our mode of choice in Toronto, where biking often beat the subway to the destination!

My new wheels at my favourite stretch of beach
We've both been contemplating buying used bikes for a while now, but hadn't gotten around to yet. Last Thursday I'd finally had enough of being limited by my feet and the mysterious ways of the Gold Coast bus system, and hopped on Gumtree (the Aussie equivalent of Craigslist). Within minutes I found a whole bunch of used bikes for under $100. Sweet! There was one bike that looked particularly good (despite being pink and purple and having a "Miss Cool" sticker on it) for just $65.00. I called up the seller and it turned out they had a number of used bikes on offer, and they were only about a half hour's stroll from our apartment. So the next day, I moseyed on down to Broadbeach Waters, wondering what kind of bike theft ring these likely crackheads must have going for them (after all, who is available anytime during a Friday other than students and crackheads?), and soon found myself horribly cursing my own cynicism. Instead, I met a retired couple with a lovely house on one of the canals, who fix up bicycles as a hobby for a little pocket money. They were actually really sweet (though I'm still not entirely sure where they get all the bikes from) and after trying out a few choices, I ended up with a slightly shabby-looking 10-speed that felt great on the road and had these awesome higher handlebars (extra comfortable for those long beachside rides, said the lady). And it was $45. Nothing a little spray paint couldn't fix. Woohoo!

There were too many things to do over the weekend to take my new wheels for a spin, but as soon as Monday rolled around, it was definitely time to explore some (formerly) unreachable Gold Coast corners I'd been itching to check out: The Spit, for one.

The view south from the end of The Spit
The Spit is a long strip of land a little north of us that runs along the ocean and extends beyond the suburbs of Surfers and posh Main Beach (home of Palazzo Versace, Versace's own Gold Coast hotel) and Sea World, and looks pretty uninhabited on our maps. It separates the ocean from "The Broadwater", a wide but calm inlet where many people keep their boats. Word is there's great snorkeling somewhere along The Spit, too. So I hopped on the bike path that stretches along the beachfront and cruised along the shore — waves on my right, beautifully smooth pavement underneath. For those of you used to biking around Toronto, you'd probably understand that the Gold Coast's lack of potholes, curbside junk, and big cracks in the pavement are a real treat! What does suck about biking around the Gold Coast is that bike paths suddenly vanish for no apparent reason, there's a lot of roundabouts, and road bike lanes are a little random as well. Nonetheless, cycling is about taking things as they come. And there was plenty to see on the way — the beachside caravan park we stayed in back in 2008, Donatella's hotel, a fishermen's co-op, a posh marina, Sea World's roller coaster and resort, and tons of birds. Finally, the road ended at a parking lot that was surprisingly full of cars for a Monday afternoon.
People were fishing from boulders along the seaway, and surfers paddled in from the ocean. Two people were having a private surf lesson on the beautiful dune-lined beach, and lots of people bro
ught their dogs along to have a frolic (dogs aren't allowed on most of the beaches here). Looking south, you could see the skyscraper hotels of Surfers faintly off in the distance, but this place felt very natural and far from any of the built-up-ness of where we live. You could just feel that the people who visited this place really appreciated having a slice of nature so close to home. I certainly did.

Cute & chirpy little thing!
There was still a long ride ahead of me, though: next stop on my route was Southport (sort of the business centre of the area), to get the old bike kitted up. Though clearly visible directly across from The Spit, there is only one bridge to Southport that joins the two bits of land — and it's way south of both The Spit and Southport, in Main Beach. The scene along the way back was even prettier with the sun sinking: orange light along The Broadwater, the birds getting more chirpy as sundown approached. About 7.8 kilometres later (yes, I looked it up), I find myself in Bicycle World in Southport, checking out prices of bike baskets (eek! $39 at the cheapest!) and gel seats ($80- ouch!) and oogling the many gorgeous shiny hipster bikes for sale (but if I'm only going to use mine for a year, there's no way I'm shelling out $600!). Guess I'm not a bourgeois cyclist after all, though maybe I'll get a really cool bike the next time I'm sure I'm staying somewhere for a long time. After settling on a fitting — and more affordable — bell decorated with the words "I love my bike" and a water bottle holder, I scooted over to K-Mart's bike section instead at the shopping mall. No luck on the basket, but at least I scored a mediocre gel seat cover for my aching bottom. The last 6 km back to Surfers were definitely the toughest (note to self, next time bring a snack!), but in all, after my 22-kilometre maiden voyage, I can safely say I think my new bike and I going to make a great team!

You can check out my route on my biking Google Map — I made it partly because I was dying of curiosity about how far I'd pedaled. Turned out it was further than I thought! Guess maybe I should invest in one of those tripometers, too. -D.

View Dayle's Biking Adventures in a larger map