Kwan Yin, Canley Vale

Kwan Yin, Canley Vale on Twitpic

Anita Mui

Known as "The Chinese Madonna," Anita Mui was a sexy, sassy pop diva from 1980s Hong Kong who managed to keep herself new and fascinating and ever-so-slightly dangerous throughout her career. Unlike some of the other saccharine-sweet starlets that were pumped out by the Hong Kong entertainment factories, Anita was husky voiced and angular, her style ironic and slightly boyish. She was from the very start a very different type of singer, and her public loved her for it. Her outrageous performances were acclaimed, and no-one could equal her for showmanship.
Like most Hong Kong pop stars, Anita also made the move into film, and starred in a number of movies that were met with mixed acclaim. She was also a lifelong friend of Leslie Cheung, the beautiful gay Cantopop star and brilliant actor who tragically took his own life in 2003.
Anita smouldered on stage, with her deep voice and sexy, slightly aggressive demeanour. She also managed to become a star outside of Hong Kong, and was a huge success in Taiwan and Southeast Asia. She had the distinction of being banned in Mainland China, where her sexy performances were deemed pornographic.
I first became aware of Anita when I was in Taiwan in 1994, and she was a huge gay icon even then. Her massive pan-Asian hit 親密愛人 was a great favourite in the gay karaoke bars of Taipei, probably because of its slightly nostalgic feel reminiscent of old Shanghai jazz.
Sadly, Anita also died in 2003, 8 months after her beloved friend Leslie. She was diagnosed with cervical cancer and died quite quickly, at a tragically young age.
She left a fortune, and much of her money was used to establish charities.
She was a true Diva, and a simply marvellous woman.
So I'm sending out a little prayer in memory of Anita - we miss you, beautiful woman.

Quiet Communion

On Wednesdays I have a little ritual that I follow, and that I secretly delight in.
My wonderful partner drives me into the city early, and I have a wicked bacon and egg roll at a cafe on Macquarie Street.
Then I toddle over to the Mitchell Library and sit on the steps in the sun and wait for it to open, normally listening to a Unity FM podcast.
I spend all morning in the exquisite Mitchell wing, reading early twentieth century Australian self-help books, and delighting in the sunny, open reading room when I remember to look up.
At about ten to one I get up, stow my things in the locker and cross Macquarie Street to the wonderful art deco St. Stephen's Uniting Church. At 1 the delightful Reverend Doctor Matthew Jack conducts a Quiet Communion, and it is an exquisite service. A simple, meditative set of prayers, meditations and readings followed by the Holy Supper, it is normally sparsely attended, but I find it a great point of mid-week spiritual renewal. The wonderful art deco setting of St. Stephen's helps, of course, with its wonderful woodwork and sweeping staircases and cement halls.
Actually, I sometimes wonder if the church IS actually art deco. Everyone says so, but to me its fluid forms are more reminiscent of art nouveau, but I am no expert.
St. Stephen's has a fine history of progressive preaching, having once been the parish of Gordon Powell, one of the grandfathers of Australian self-help literature (and the subject of one of the chapters of my PhD thesis).

Sun, Sea and Bargain Spotting

Anyone who knows me knows that I am something of a collector.
My grandmother and my beloved Aunty Audrey were great collectors, so I inherited their hoarding instinct. Also, I grew up with a mother who was a great thrower-away of precious objects, so in reaction I developed a great desire to keep things, for pleasure, nostalgia, or "just in case."
Naturally, I am utterly in love with antiques programs on television. This was a passion I developed early, watching the wonderful Clive Hale (may he R.I.P) in that iconic 1980s ABC television show For Love or Money. Under Clive's tutelage I learned all about chinoiserie and murano crystal and Lladro figurines. These days I am loyal to the Antiques Roadshow, The Collectors on ABC, and what is quite possibly my favourite TV show ever - Sun, Sea and Bargain Spotting on ABC2.
A kind of low-rent reality show for the middle-aged, each week two contestants are given a set amount of money and let loose on a flea market in continental Europe. Then they bring their purchases back and have to try to sell them for a profit in a market in Britain. Isn't this brilliant? It's enthralling television, and leaves me on the edge of my seat each week wondering if Natalie, a customer-service supervisor from Sussex, will turn a profit on the shabby chic wardrobe mirror she bought at a car boot sale in Slovenia.
Angela Rippon is the host, and she camps it right up visiting out-of-the-way museums and reflecting in her glory days. She also gets in lots of comments about how fabulous the British are.
It runs for a full hour, leaving the viewer almost completely satiated, but still hanging out for next week's installment.
So forget glamorous evenings out. Stay in and watch some ABC2 - somebody's got to.
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