Thursday, April 28, 2011

Scrabbled Boards.

A Christmas Edition.

Earth Hour - by candlelight

Same game, using flash.
(Can I just point point out that Quinoa was my word, although I had help...)
We play scrabble quite often, not often enough and I have taken to photographing the boards because it is interesting and whilst you always have the scores after people forget the words, you see!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Finished Female Eunuch? Check!

I have done it! Yay, rejoice! It was interesting, worthwhile and a for the most part a great read. I don't think I agree with everything that Germaine says, but a lot of it rings true. Especially all the stuff about equal pay. It is hard to believe that we still live in a society where two different people with the same qualifications get paid differently. I thought the anger, and the vitality of the text faded a little towards the end but I thought it was great that it finished with a challenge to the reader. Bringing her/him up short with a direct question "What will you do?"

Hmmmm.... what indeed?

An aside would be to mention the annoying asides in the work, boxed quotes that often did not fit and jarred with the main body of the text. Poor writing/structuring/editing there, it should have been incorporatd properly or else used in a different way.

The edition I was reading was a PS. copy and included a couple of short essays on the importance of the work and its postion in feminism. Interesting but I think I would have preferred an interview with the author. Never short of opinion, I think a chance to read some more of her in a decidedly less academic voice would have rounded off the reading experience nicely. Incidently, I wonder if Ms. Greer has an opinion on all the hoo-ha about women on the frontline in the armed forces? We shall wait and see.

It's interesting though, is this a life changing book? For me, I am not sure. What I read next I think might have more impact: The Bride Stripped Bare.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Muddy Leaks?

There is a new blog on the scene highly relevant to Melbourne University Students and those with an interest in MUDfest. Check out the site and follow the festival as it progresses towards August. Anyway, one to keep an eye on and to add to the blog roll too.

A reciprocal add, it seems this case as Lilly Pad person has excellent taste.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

An Edited Opinion on the Australian Book Industry

Ok, I've decided to re-blog this edited version in full as it appeared on the lovely because the un-edited article on here has been getting traffic from google and all in all I think this is a better piece of writing. Kudos to the eds!

Reading between the shelves: A voice from the independent book industry. Debate about the Australian book industry continues following the failure of Angus & Robertson and Borders, but the voices of independent book sellers are not being heard.

Tensions have been brewing in the Australian book industry over recent years, as the impacts of a shifting marketplace begin to be felt. This friction has spilled out into the media since the owner of both Borders and Angus & Robertson, REDgroup, went into voluntary administration in February.

However in the resulting commentary there has been very little space for Australia’s independent booksellers. These voices are necessary for an accurate and informed discussion to take place.

In the current debate there has been substantial consumer complaint about prices and misinformed discussion about the rise of online shopping and e-readers. This has been reinforced by REDgroup’s attempt to deflect attention from poor business practice by inflaming consumer sentiment against the Australian book trade instead.

Debate is a good thing, but in order for an accurate and informed discussion to be taking place there needs to be two sides. Consumers might have a right to source books from wherever they desire but this right should be informed. The current one-way commentary is misleading for online experiences and e-readers are not as fabulous or choice-enhancing as we are being led to believe.

In the media there has been a consistent campaign to discredit the trade and in the face of this so-called popular discourse there has been little or no public support for independent booksellers. Australia has a unique industry where, unlike anywhere else in the world, over 20 per cent of the bookshops are independent retailers. The Australian Booksellers Association has not yet risen to the challenge of representing these members of the book trade.

REDgroup argues that its failure is all to do with e-readers and people sourcing cheaper books online, but this is clearly spin that distracts from their stores not catering to customer needs. Stock in these stores had become so diversified that it has diversified into nothing. Do we as customers really want a bookstore that sells kitchen appliances? Do we really want the recommended retail prices raised on most stock to subsidise unrealistic specials? In times when the retail market gets tough it is most often the poorly run businesses that fall. A large part of surviving in the book industry is about reading and sharing your reading with others. It is not about grabbing market-share and launching failed attempts at monopolies.

Buying online is not necessarily cheaper; it fluctuates. It is not always possible to preview a book before paying for it, and good luck if you need to return it for any reason. It is a complete fallacy that people always have an improved shopping experience online.

Borders also has an extensive online presence and its own e-book business. Maintaining that increased online sales have busted its business is untenable. It may be a contributing factor to a changing industry but it is not the root cause of its voluntary administration.

In regards to industry publishing protections, REDgroup supported the 30 day overseas embargo even under its proposal to ease import restrictions. The Rudd Government was right to reject the Productivity Commission recommendations to allow parallel imports of books. It would not have reduced prices for consumers and it would not have prevented the business failings of Angus & Robertson and Borders.
E-readers are the other ‘life-changing’ and exciting technology that is challenging our book industry — or becoming an integral part of the industry, depending on whose spin you are buying into. Clearly they do have a role, but the extent and popularity of e-readers is generally overplayed. In many situations they are completely impractical and the quality of the print, backlighting and ‘ink’ has yet to match the quality of the printed text.

There is no replacement for the tactile feel of turning a page, of breathing in the simultaneously fresh and musty smell of a new book; as you flick through, inhale and savour those pages that hold the story. Remember that iconic image ingrained into our collective consciousness of a lady on a beach, with a big floppy sunhat, lying back on a towel with a paperback bent open. Everyone dreams of the time to indulge in such practice. This might sound a trifle nostalgic, but it is also practical. Sand does not agree with technology; neither does water, nor young children. The e-book you bought might have been cheaper but the e-reader you have to replace is a whole lot more expensive.

Where is the Australian Booksellers Association’s voice here? It is time that our industry body advocated for the book industry in all its forms. The amount of discussion with customers in our shop about Angus & Robertson and Borders going into administration has been enormous. Contrary to the persistent mutterings in the media about prices, internet and e-readers the majority of consumers are genuinely concerned about the book industry. You do not have the opportunity for face-to-face gossip on the internet. Nor will you receive cheerful advice on what to buy for an eight-year-old or your mother-in-law before having your chosen gift wrapped in pretty paper.

We need to move beyond the spin of REDgroup and its so-called justifications for its collapse in order to preserve the integrity of the remaining businesses in the book trade. A bit of love and a positive attitude for books would go a long way in reminding people of how lucky we are in Australia to have many alternatives to Angus & Robertson and Borders. Let us creatively respond to the shifting dynamics in the book trade rather than blaming the internet, technology and the government.

Whatever happens we will not stop reading; instead people will read in a number of different ways all at the same time. People love books and there is something inherently human about escaping into the pages of another world. Some consumers may choose to access this from a screen; others might ship it in from overseas. But a substantial number of people still really love the opportunity to pop back into the store where they purchased the book and share how much they loved it. Booksellers love that interaction too. It informs our hand-selling, our buying, our knowledge of books and, ultimately, our service.

Currently our industry representatives are underestimating the wonder and uniqueness of what lies within our Australian book trade. Fortunately, like books, you cannot judge an industry by its cover.

The Author has just completed her Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Creative Writing and is an employee at Thesaurus Booksellers and ABC Centre. She is currently trying to finish Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch. This piece originally appeared on her blog, Onomatopoeia.

Seasonal Magnet Cuteness (1)

Do you have a problem with cuteness. I clearly don't. Aren't they sweet? Stay tuned for more designs, I think on days when writing aint coming these babies will be uploaded. Incidentally they are functioning magnets.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Art Notes Bus Project at Donkey Wheel House

Sonja Hornung - 'Thick Space'
Look through a camera and what do you see
I see a reflection looking at me.

A maze of mirrors dance with flowers and light in this installation. Around a double corner a very simple geranium lit by a fluro bar sits next to a mirror. This is witnessed by another mirror; another reflection and so on until the entrance of the space where there is a camera. Here you can glimpse the light through the camera viewfinder and as you move into the space and look in each mirror, you begin to see the red and green of the flower, becoming part of the installation yourself. The use of space in this exhibition is remarkable, and the artist has taken great care to mazimise the intricate turns and shifting corners. There is a special sense of discovery to this piece, and to me it does not really matter how you catergorise the geranium at the end as long as you find it.

Dylan Hammond - 'How I wish to be Remembered' 
On the surface this work appears as a funeral of a person but really for me it was an acknowledgment that moments exist and then they die. We are all passing through time. There was no sense of loss to this transaction, we exist in conversation from printed emails and on screen and then we don't. It was quite matter of fact. For the opening there was much lively movement through this gallery, the candles were lit and unlit and it had a vibrancy that seemed at odds with the subject. Subsequent viewing in a more quiet viewing proved more reflective and it was nice to take the time to look under the tracing paper and into the carved wax.

Jessica Honey & Harry Metcalf – ‘One Armed Man Applauds the Kindness of Others’
This was especially interesting from a curator perspective. Separately these works would exist in their own right and together they too exist on individual merits but one fines oneself trying to tie together the works - not necessarily successfully. My first viewing tried to read too much into the significance of a fractured and displaced Tony Abbott and Charlie Sheen amongst the grotesque sheen of glossy poses of children. The second time the techniques spoke for the art and not forcing meaning from the connection ensured a much more pleasurable viewing experience. Celebrity haunted the space - that was enough.

Reviewing art is terribly subjective and in the case of these four very talented artists they were all very deserving of being accepted by Bus Projects. Also, WOW! Donkey Wheel is incredible.

Forest Collective 2011 Concert Series: Meletes Concert Gala Review

Forest Collective Meletes Concert

There are pale faces calling through barred windows to the cold of Little Smith St. They cradle lights in jars and laugh with the mania of the enclosed. Above the entrance to the door of their performance space is a sprig of green. This being in delightful juxtaposition to both the malady in the windows and the white graffiti of the lane and proved an apt introduction to the first of the Forest Collective concert series for 2011. The variety and layers of the performances delivered overall an intriguing evening.

The opening number was A Winter’s Tale conducted and composed by Artistic Director Evan Lawson. Resplendent in black, red and gold the company performed short interpretations of scenes from Shakespeare’s play. Bach Collage performed by the same company was an interesting idea, taking classical music and reinterpreting phrases in a dynamic way. Rather than becoming an elaborate mess, the result was quite beautiful and delicate at times. It was especially fun to watch the responses of the musicians to the conductor as he directed them. It is testament to the music however that closing ones eyes did not diminish the beauty of the work.

The Occasional String Quartet was an absolute pleasure. As someone who is a little suspicious of violins it was a revelation. The harmonies of the smaller strings with the cello were beautiful and there was a layered complexity to the arrangements. On swivel office chairs the musicians danced; they swept; they popped and they caressed Ravel.

Working with the music in this section were two performers. Dressed in grey, they were often mesmerising in their accompanying movements – I will defy anyone who disagrees that shoulders are not the most expressive body parts. At first the dancers manipulated the musicians, leading them around the space on the chairs but as the music progressed to the next piece it became clear that it was the music controlling their movements all along. The movements however remained integral and part of the performance rather then just a response.

The exhilaration and clear enjoyment of the performance of the Occasional String Quartet was a highlight of the evening. They demonstrated considerable creativity and flare and a willingness to challenge themselves as musicians/dancers. Here’s to hoping they perform less occasionally and more often!

For interval the audience was hoarded into an incongruously spacious bar. Upon returning, the music formalities of the stage had been cleared and we were drawn into a chaotic world of Mask of Red Death. This was an ensemble experimental theatre work playing with improvisation within the grotesque. Based on the Edgar Allan Poe story it was directed by Danielle Asciak and performed by actors who seemed to be having a wonderful time exploring the playful side of madness.

There was chaos and a spinning world of wine and candle light. Amid this frenzy there was no space left for subtlety and pause. The intensity of the performance was always at a high level. This was compounded by the remnants of the band music coming through from the bar. Whilst, it did not impede too much it certainly kept up the tumultuous pace. Silence is important though in creating both pacing and narrative and perhaps a certain subtly and shift in gears would have allowed more poignancy. It was also a shame that the harp and other accompanying instruments were not easily heard during this part of the peformance performance. In a shadowed gloom where candlelight was so important, light and shade for the ears would have been a welcome addition.

We were introduced to the space at the start of the evening as a converting performance space. This was positive as it allowed Forest Collective to play with some very effective writing on the walls, but the noise interference was not ideal. The Meletes evening was packed in both content and audience. For future performances it might be worth tailoring the size of the space to the expected turnout, although perhaps it was unprecedented. If so it was well deserved rewarding surprise for the organisers and production crew as well as all the performers. Having said that, it was also quite nice to bundle up tight together in our coats and share the bond that comes with falling into a world of chaos through a graffitied door framed with forest.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Something beautiful. Something incredible.

This is an amazing video - "art can change the way we see the world" - it is really worth watching the whole thing. Absolutely incredible and you will be lulled into both laughter and tears by the gorgeous French accent:

This JR chap's work and details are here

It's really worth taking the time to listen.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Comments, Yes?

Well, for a little while now I have been receiving feedback that people would like to comment on things posted here on this little site. So here is the deal: comment away! They are now enabled - for a trial period they will all be moderated through me, so don't expect them to pop right on screen - they will be along shortly. It also means that you - yes you - need to comment because whilst I was happy enough blogging to the world without feedback you were not happy enough. So get to it! Play nicely and make this little experiment worth it.


A is for ant. Clearly.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Three Men in a Boat Review

I have finished Three Men in a Boat and nearly finished Three Men on a Bummel. Both are excellent and very amusing. And English. Terribly English. Swoon. Jerome K. Jerome is a master of obscure hilarity.

Now, Do you know what a bummel is? It is a holiday of sorts that involves a set finished date but no concrete plans for what will be happening or where it might be occurring. Sounds like a lot of fun, not really my type of holiday although these three men have learnt well. However hard Harris, George and J plan there holidays they always end up on a bummel sorts!

I love the narrator of these books, at the same time he manages to be self-deprecating he is completely unaware of his own hypocrisy. That is hard to do and the fact that we remain affectionate towards the author/character is testament to fine writing. The detail is wonderful and so is the dialogue. The food description is hilarious (see cheese!) and these characters have no hesitantion in turning on each other in what they might think is witty banter. I imagine they would fit into a fabulous play (if they havn't already) and I am much looking forward to the movie.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Cut Piece/Cut Peace

Well, the formatting of this post is horrible yes, because it won't keep the formatting of the scissors unless it is in paint/an image. Anyway, I think even so you get the idea. Imagine it centred, in verdana and on an impressive scale. Yoko would!

Omelette Love

As you can see I make a mean omelette, I make a messy omelette and a scrumptious and very photogenic omelette. The key is to using eggs is to use those produced by the happiest chickens available, you will eat a bit less as they are expensive but you will treasure the taste/texture/yum factor all the more.

So, what you need:
2 eggs (free range certainly, biodynamic/organic desirable) - whisked together in a glass.
A clove of garlic (optional - give as much as you like)
A generous handful of frozen peas.
Great olive oil
A nice frying pan.

* Heat pan on the hob, then add oil - just a splash and enough to coat the base.
* Add your peas and garlic into your glass of whisked eggs
* Turf the whole shebang into the pan. Now, here some peas will stick together so use a fork and break them up, one pea thick this omelette needs to be.
* Cook on a medium heat and flip - Well don't if you like it runny (ew!) - if you are lucky it will do this in one piece, if not divide it.

Serve on wholemeal Sourdough toast or a crusty baguette or eat and top with top quality grated parmezan and black pepper. Mmmmmmm. Want some?

More Sculpture from that Park

Meet Icarus. Is he not beautiful? For a moment.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Slaughterhouse-Five Review

Image designed by Tom Littleson.

Cohesive is an interesting word to apply to a disconnected narrative, displaced into time but that is exactly what this adaptation by Dylan Morgan achieved. This production was a triumph in that even with the “somewhat schizophrenic” material and “scattered” structure and designs it never lost itself. True to the philosophy of Billy Pilgrim and the Tralfamadorians it moved with a sense of inevitability through the thirty-eight scenes at a steady pace, unfolding a pattern for the audience to interpret.

Dylan Morgan writes in his Director’s Notes: “When no event is inherently wrong or right – simply is, existing in a completely pre-determined universe – the unspeakable horror of Dresden becomes understandable in a way, as an inevitability that no-one can be blamed for and no-one could prevent.” So it goes. This becomes Billy’s philosophy. I would hesitate to agree with this, I feel Winston Churchill has a lot to answer for, but what Slaughterhouse-Five does do is take us on a journey into trauma and the lengths Billy Pilgrim travels to distance himself from the reality of the past, present and future.

Throughout this play I never felt lost; the action was grounded despite the non-naturalism. It takes strong writing, direction, production as well as excellent acting to have this effect. Central to anchoring the play was Dan Wood as the narrator. Narrators are complicated characters as they often feel stale and device-like but he was incorporated very well. Even as Billy time-travelled, was abducted by aliens, admitted himself into a psych ward we are carried along with the action. So it goes.

Theatre Incubator is developing a great reputation for producing great student theatre. It is well deserved and this production team were worthy additions to the company. Ruby Mathers provided a great set design that was ideal for the play and also the space and the lighting, sound, costume etc. created a world that was inside Billy Pilgrims tortured memory. The AV was exemplary, with two screens projected onto white ruins. Particularly impressive was the footage that accompanied the Billy’s words as he described the fire bombing of Dresden in reverse. How the flames retracted and the bombs rose up into the planes and they flew backwards and landed and how the war-heads where dismantled and the elements disbanded into minerals to be sucked back into the earth. Kang-Wei Tan’s accompanying footage was beautiful and not only complemented the performance but became part of it. Sophie McInerney’s animations were also welcome additions to the play.

The ensemble cast was great, special mention and ovation were fittingly awarded to Joshua Lynzaat, Josiah Lulham and Dan Wood for portraying Billy in all his forms but all deserve a mention for maintaining such a high standard. Particular mention should go here to the shower scene - very evocative. Also the pain of every character and the disbelief in the world was palpable. It is little wonder that Billy retreats into Science Fiction.

I’ve seen a fair bit of theatre in my time and this production is amongst the best. Do yourself a favour and see this show. It is on tonight and tomorrow at the Guild Theatre, Union House, University of Melbourne. Be prepared to be displaced; be prepared for fire, be prepared for air-raid sirens; watch; wait; listen to the silence for a time and then be prepared for the birds. So it goes.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Flinders St.

I’m perched on the bench, waiting for you when he reaches into the bin for a coffee HQ bag. He empties out the muffin casing and the crumbs into rubbish. Then with slow and very deliberate movements he begins to smooth out the crinkled and disposed paper. He folds the gusset; he turns in the base and then very neatly folds it into quarters. The precise method is exquisitely beautiful and also sad. Now he chances a quick glance around at his audience before he slips the reclaimed paper bag into his back pocket. There is a little more urgency and a little less ritual as he reaches back into the bin. Out tumble the coffee cups and lids, the leftover pastry and the remnants of a salad baguette. These next bags are folded without consideration but make it – one, two, three, four – into his pockets before he returns to the refuse of the bin. This last dive through its contents is a vigorous rescue and there is no time for delicate origami. He has a fistful of paper as he leaves behind the rubbish for the yellow security of the recycle bin sitting a few meters away. As he approaches it seems perhaps that after all this is a well meaning pensioner merely transferring paper into a disposal unit more suited to its continuing value to society. He has thick trousers, little hair, brown shoes and his shirt has a collar, crisp and blue. However this reassuring image of respectability snaps as he leans his handful of paper bags on the edge in order to reach in with the other hand. It is clear that he is not after a disposable solution for his paper bags. Here sitting in the less infested haven of the co-mingled recyclables is yet another addition for his collection. It is a fine specimen that will perhaps temporarily satisfy his need, his craving, and his desperation for paper bags. This little man, so absorbed with his folded paper reaches into the imagination and shakes words, ideas from my mind. You arrive but I don’t want to notice as I am watching him, stretching to see him fading into the sky as he slowly wanders away.

ANFSCD: Tragical - A Rant

Tragical? It was the bastardisation of a word that caught my attention. ‘Tragical?’ Really? It was naturally an ABC news story about some parish in the United States who saw fit to burn a copy of the Qu’ran. After choosing to share this act with the world via the internet the Pastor is facing outcry across the world and the realisation that he might be the direct cause of increasing civil unrest in Afghanistan.

Not that he would ever acknowledge that. He is proclaiming that we need to “call these people to accountability” but he is the one who needs to be held accountable. This Pastor is an insult to his faith. His actions are an insult to humanity and he must face the truth that his actions have far reaching consequences beyond endearing him to his out-of-touch-parish.

It makes me boil with righteous fury to hear this man attempt to defend his actions. Why do people feel the need to not only practice their own religion but fight others of a different religion? ARGH! I think that it is ‘tragical’ that he would descend to such a measure to gain local popular support for his church.

Perhaps it is doubly troubling that the Pastor cannot even use proper words to describe the loss of life that his actions have precipitated. Words are very useful at distancing and removing oneself from the truth and in this case it is especially poignant that this Pastor cannot be bothered with real words. His self-proclaimed distress is a farce of language and he’d do better for the world if he worked for understanding rather than bigoted grandstanding.

A further note, this bloke was the idiot planning on having a day of burning the Qu’ran a while back. This was intended to be a more reserved opinion note but really, he has been nurturing and inflaming racial hatred and deserves to be excommunicated from his church and arrested.

More Magic!

This time in paint!

A Modern Deception Review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

A Modern Deception is an interesting name for a magic show as it is playing with the idea that a magician achieves his magic by deceiving this audience with flare and trickery. The performances by Alex de la Rambelje, Vyom Sharma and Luke Hocking also reflected this playful title. These boys are very serious about their quality of magic but don’t take the whole surrounding sparkle and jazz hands very seriously. What results is a performance that is refreshing in its approach towards magic whilst also delivering the “sense of wonder you fell when you see something unfathomable” as promised in the advertising.

As part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival this is a smaller show, but a gem that glows in the basement of the Bull and Bear Tavern on Flinders Lane. The show opens with a cute montage of how magic has developed from the 70s to the Modern Deception of today. From here there is magic involving money, goldfish, cups, fire, cards and a very suspicious box hanging above the stage in full view of the audience for the entire show.

The magicians worked together extremely well, their onstage chemistry really added to the show as did the dramatic technique of two of them narrating the actions of the third. In a show such as this it is difficult to distinguish between who is responsible for such ideas so the magicians and their Director Celeste Cody deserve equal commendations. The use of AV was good, not interfering with the action on the stage; indeed it complemented the story telling well.

As a side note, diabolical is an interesting word to describe the finale. I would perhaps offer intriguing or baffling or unfathomable or puzzling but diabolical? It is a fine and fitting ending to the show but hardly dangerous/awful or whatever definition used for diabolical in your dictionary. So marvel and enjoy and leave your inner cynic at the bar and let these three talented magicians subvert your expectations; make you laugh and allow you for an hour to believe in magic.