PV008: Sydney Opera House

Posted by Arlo on Apr 12, 2010 under Postcard Valet, PV-Podcast, Travel, Uncategorized, Videos

Wow, finally time to put this one to bed!  I’ve been thinking about and working on this episode for a long time.  Since 2008, if the time stamp on my Word doc can be believed!

Originally, when I was mulling over about how to tackle a podcast, I latched onto the idea of using a homemade teleprompter.  In theory, this would have had all sorts of benefits:

  • I could keep going with my blog-entry style of writing.
  • I wouldn’t have to practice speaking without notes.
  • At the end of the recording, I’d have a Google-ready transcript ready for posting.

In practice, however, the setup was clunky and the free teleprompter software really wasn’t very good.  I used our Sydney Opera House footage for a practice run and gave up well before the editing phase.  I did have the transcript written, however, and for fun, I’ve pasted it in, way down at the end of this post.  It’s interesting to see, after two years, what made the final cut and what was left on the cutting room floor.

The following is a transcript of the above video for Google’s benefit (ignore it, watch the video instead!)

Postcard Valet

So, in November of 2008, Oksana and I decided to go to Australia.

I’d already been there when I was 14, but the memories of a 14-year-old are not exactly the most accurate.

When I think of Australia, the first image that pops into my head is The Sydney Opera House.

It is located in Sydney, downtown, and it is right on the waterfront.

I remember it most from New Year’s, because Sydney’s always the first with the fireworks displayed over the Opera House in the montage leading up to our own New Year’s celebrations.

It looks incredible. There is no other building like that anywhere in the world. The person who designed the building is actually a Danish architect and it took them 14 years to build the structure. It is shaped in… something that kind of looks like palm tree-tops.

Personally, I think it looks like Conquistador helmets, but…

It is recognizable everywhere around the world and it is definitely eye candy.

When we got to Sydney, Oksana and I made a beeline for the Opera House and when we got there, it was the perfect introduction to it because there was this beautiful park, grassy, with trees, with shade.

(Government House, Northern Depot. Deliveries & staff entry authorized vehicles only. The Domain is for everyone to enjoy… Please walk on the grass. We also invite you to hug the trees, picnic on the grass and talk to the birds (but please don’t feed them!)

In Australia, they actually want you to enjoy the grass. They want you to walk out on the grass and just enjoy the park.

You had the Sydney Harbour Bridge on one side with tiny people crawling across the top. Down below, you had Circular Quay with the ferries going in and out, and on the right you had the Royal Botanic Gardens with their giant bats and the pretty flowers. It was a beautiful place to sit and it might have been better with fireworks, but…

New Year’s, at that point, was a whole month away.

While we were in Cairns, we decided to get online and see if we could book a show at the Opera House. There wasn’t anything that we were really interested in, but we noticed that on our last day, they were going to be airing the finale for Australian Idol.

(Australian Idol, Opera Theatre)

So when we got back to the Sydney, we walked to the Opera House and we immediately knew it was gonna be a big deal.

There were people everywhere; the crowd was huge.

Every 30 seconds, you would hear a massive scream…


Later on, we worked our way down to the side of the Opera House and tried to get a glimpse of the screens; however, we couldn’t really see anything.


While Oksana was in the bathroom, I ended up talking to one of the security guards.

He explained that there was no way that we could get in; however, he was very, very insistent that we should stick around until the dark.

So we crossed the harbor, and we just kind of relaxed with a bunch of other people, and as night fell, we started to see search lights, we started to see colored smoke, we saw helicopters moving in and out for their television shots from the air…

…and then, without any warning:

(fireworks and cheers)

Okay, sure. It was just Australian Idol, but damn if it didn’t feel like they set up a New Year’s, just for us!

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House, Australia

Postcard Valet
Episode 8
Sydney Opera House

Digital Color Photo by Arlo

Place Postage Here
Postmark: 13 April 2010

Postcard Valet is a Travel Podcast by Arlo Midgett & Oksana Midgett

All footage
© 2008 Arlo Midgett

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Original Transcript for teleprompter:

Last year, right around this time, Oksana and I spent three weeks in Australia.

Australia is HUGE, with all sorts of landmarks worth visiting.  We only had three weeks, and rather than run around like chickens with our heads cut off, we decided to limit ourselves to just two or three places.  Sydney was a must-see.

Can anyone outside Australia think of Sydney without mentally visualizing of the Opera House?  It’s in every travel show and tourist brochure.  In my mind’s eye, I always see it as the first video clip in worldwide New Year’s Celebration montage shown on TV just before the Times Square ball drops.  I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ve seen more imagery of the Sydney Opera House with fireworks exploding over it, than without.

As soon as we arrived in the city and got settled into our hotel, we packed a camera bag and walked the two-and-a-half kilometers down to Sydney Harbor.  Our first views of the Opera House were from above as we walked along the edge of the Royal Botanic Gardens.  The view was so good; I would have been content to just sit there the rest of the day.  Joggers ran laps around the Opera House below us, tourists climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge across the water, and ferries moved back and forth shuttling people in and out of Circular Quay.  It was a little disappointing not to see any fireworks exploding over everything… but only a little.

Seeing the Opera House up close made me realize that it’s more than just a pretty building, it anchors the whole waterfront.  There are plenty of shops, cafes, and restaurants along it, the Royal Botanic Gardens come right up to the entrance, and skyscrapers climb up behind Circular Quay.  You could easily spend a day or two exploring just the small waterfront area.

Oksana and I returned to the Opera House many times during our trip.  We’d buy lunch and eat in the park above it, look down on it from Sydney Tower, or pass it on the water side on our way to Taronga Zoo.  We sat on the steps and pondered how something that was designed to look like palm fronds instead looked so much like a Conquistador’s helmet.

At one point, we tried to get tickets for a play, opera, or ballet, but our diving trip on the Great Barrier Reef took up too much time.  However, we did manage to reserve an expensive back-stage tour on our very last day in Australia (it was almost $300, but still totally worth it.)  One thing I noticed while reading through the various playbills online:  The Opera House was going to host the Australian Idol finale a day or two before we flew back to the states.

Neither Oksana nor I cared enough to get tickets, but we both thought it’d be cool to stop by and see if there was anything going on outside the Opera House.  We noted the date and made a point to swing by once we got back from Cairns.

Once again we approached the Opera House through the Botanic Gardens, but this time there were people all around.  Something big was brewing.

You know how on American Idol all these teenage girls scream after every mention of every performer’s name?  I always thought that was either canned applause or, at the very least, triggered by some studio sign lighting up:  “Clap Now!”  We could hear the near continuous screams, rising and falling in response to unseen events, before we could even see the Opera House.

We managed to push our way through the crowds standing against the barricades.  We took pictures through the gates, and eventually worked our way to the edge of the waterfront  which was just close enough to catch a glimpse of the projection screen on the stage.  The party atmosphere attracted far too many people and everyone was jockeying for a view.  I learned from a talkative security guard that the final elimination round was still a couple hours off, but we shouldn’t leave before seeing the show they had planned.

There was no hope of finding a seat anywhere near the Opera House steps, so we decided to cross to the other side of the harbor and search for an unobstructed view.  I wanted to set up a camera or two, but didn’t have a tripod with me.  I needed a piling or a railing where I could prop them up.

We found a place, but there was a space in front of our lenses where people could inadvertently block our view.  Oksana was irritated whenever people stepped in front of our cameras and let them know it.  I didn’t think it was such a big deal, especially since it was getting dark and our cameras weren’t exactly conspicuous.  We’d been on our feet a long time, our tempers were short, we were getting cranky.  There was no telling how much longer the show would go on.  We wanted to leave, but didn’t want to miss out.

As darkness fell, searchlights lit up the sky.  The helicopters continued to move in and out of the airspace over the Opera House.  Periodically, colored lights and smoke rose up in synch with the rising cries of a thousand adolescent teenagers.  I snapped the occasional picture.  We waited.

Then, without any warning whatsoever:

The sore feet, the long wait, even being a little irritated with each other… it was all worth it.  For five minutes, fireworks exploded over the Sydney Opera House and we ooo’d and aaaah’d along with the crowd.

Yeah, sure, it was just Australian Idol.  But damn if it didn’t feel like they’d arranged a New Year’s just for us.