Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Listening to Charlie Parr

I've mentioned Charlie Parr before, with his album 1922.  I do like the way he plays the Blues in particular. Recently I've been listening to Roustabout a fair whack.  His arrangement and performance (with Emily Parr on vocals) of Walk Around My Bedside is haunting - track 3.  Couldn't find an embeddable version of it though, so here's the twelfth track from the album instead: a version of Blind Willie Johnson's God Moves On the Water.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Friday night at the movies

Every now and then, Gary Davison (Fat Tuesday, Streakers, A Tale of Two Halves) and myself write guest posts for one another's blogs.  Three weeks ago we both wrote about films.  Here's what I posted on Gary's site:

Right then, Gary’s challenge this week is for us to identify our favourite film for each decade from the 1970s on.  He’s done a little private baiting, I’ll have you know, reckoning that Jaws would be on my list for the 80s, but I’ve got news for him: I’ve never seen a single one of the Jaws series.  Nup.  I have to confess to the bloody-minded truth that I do everything I can to resist the sort of hype that surrounds films like Jaws and Titanic.  Sometimes I get sucked in and sometimes, when I do, I don’t regret it.  For instance, I was well on the way to boycotting Avatar because the film’s Publicity Department were in hyper-drive, but when I finally succumbed and travelled to Melbourne to see it in 3D, I loved it.  It’s got a classic storyline that works superbly – a new interpretation of a traditional line – and the special effects were just stunning.  Trippy indeed.
Had to do the 300k trip to Melbourne because we were without a cinema in these here parts for a year, on account of the place burning down somewhat.  Damn those critics!  It opened up a couple of weeks ago and I trundled along to watch Inception which, again, I thought was fantastic, but it was a pretty safe bet that I’d be a fan of a film that explored layers of reality because I’m a sucker for such renderings in Matrix, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Donny Darko, Vanilla Sky, The Truman Show, Run Lola Run, Memento and so forth.  Love those movies.

Anyway, I digress.  Well, let’s just call that an introduction, shall we?

I started doing some serious movie-watching in the 70s, because the cinema was a good place to take a girlfriend when you still lived at home and there weren’t any parties to crash (and you’d got tired of sipping warm beer in the local pubs).  I reckon it was a good decade too with some edgy pieces like Straw Dogs, Apocalypse Now, The Night Porter, etc.  However, while I’ve got fond memories of Woody Allen’s whimsical Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex But Daren’t Ask (mainly because it told me a fair bit about sex that I daren’t ask), my trophy for the film of the 70s has to go to Last Tango in Paris.  Not just because it told me everything I’d never imagined doing with butter (and never thought to ask) but because the images from the film stayed with me for years afterwards and because when I watched it again, about five years ago, I thought it was still a stunning film.

The 80s are a different matter entirely.  There were some decent films released, but they were swamped by so much Hollywood dross.  To keep the choice simple and the length of this piece shorter than it might otherwise be, I’ll plump for the movie I’ve seen the most from that period and which still works as a wonderful retelling of Stephen King’s story The Body: Stand By Me.

Things improved in the 90s with the likes of American Beauty, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Pulp Fiction and, on the lighter side, Pleasantville, Austin Powers and a film I have been known to watch on a continuous loop: Groundhog Day.  It’s certainly a harder choice, but Fight Club gets it – what a knockout movie.

As for the noughties, choosing gets harder and harder.  Having mentioned that whole raft of alternative reality movies above, I could go for any of them quite comfortably.  Or select from some of the films that have me creased up like Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead, Black Sheep.  Or something a little Art House like Amelie, Perfume or The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.  However, I’ll have to bypass all these and more for one of my all-time favourites: the two volumes of Kill Bill.  Quentin Tarentino is a wonderfully innovative storyteller and film-maker and not only does he unashamedly draw on a whole range of old (retro) tricks for this movie but he invents a few new tricks too.

So there you go, four decades in 700 words... and not a monster shark or piranha in sight.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The Wilderness Downtown

Here's a link to a fascinating piece of interactive media.  Type in your home address (or any address) and the program downloads a number of Google map images and turns them into a dynamic, multi-window film with a cool soundtrack (We Used to Wait).  Flocks of birds crossing from one screen to another, a wonderful wilderness at the end - very much a greening.

 The film has been made by Chris Milk with help from Google and states a preference for Google Chrome, but worked well for me without it.  It sent up a message or two suggesting it didn't have enough images to make the film, but I selected the TRY ANYWAY option and it ran superbly.  While it will create a number of pop-up windows for the different film displays, these all disappear at the end of the film.  Here's the link to www.thewildernessdowntown.com .

I enjoyed it.  I hope you do too.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Listening to Washington

At the same time as receiving Laura Marling's excellent I Speak Because I Can (see earlier post) I was lucky enough to be given Washington's I Believe You Liar.  Megan Washington is currently based in Melbourne, so has been claimed as a 'local gal', and I'd already enjoyed a couple of tracks I'd bumped into on Triple J radio before I unwrapped this wonderful gift.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Recent Reads: Franny and Zooey by J.D.Salinger

I've enjoyed The Catcher in the Rye so many times, I thought it was time to read some of Salinger's other work, which led me into Franny and Zooey.  Interestingly (for me), because it touches on several similar ideas, it provided fresh insight into Catcher.  A bit more introspective, perhaps.  What I particularly like is that Franny and Zooey makes you work as a reader, but in a way that is ultimately very worthwhile.

I also like J.D.Salinger's epigraph:
As nearly as possible in the spirit of Matthew Salinger, age one, urging a luncheon companion to accept a cool lima bean, I urge my editor, mentor, and (heaven help him) closest friend, William Shawn, genius domus of the New Yorker, lover of the long shot, protector of the unprolific, defender of the hopelessly flamboynat, most unreasonably modest of born great artist-editors, to accept this pretty skimpy-looking book.
Some lima bean!

Monday, 13 September 2010

Listening to Laura Marling

Time for music.

After enjoying Alas, I Cannot Swim, I finally got hold of Laura Marling's album I Speak Because I Can.  Wonderful.

Sort of fits in with The Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore, I guess.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Launch event

It's been a busy few weeks - so much so that I forgot to mention the launch event we had for the PaperBooks edition of The Grease Monkey's Tale a fortnight ago.  The idea was to compensate for not being able to attend its UK release by having a celebration at Blarney Books & Art in Port Fairy and to get people to start recommending it.

We did it in style: wine, a couple of tables of nibbles, a wonderful introduction by Dmetri Kakmi (author Mother Land, international essayist, occasional contributor to The Age, senior editor of YA and children's fiction), lots of guests, a great venue... and a short reading.  And that Word-of-Mouth thing does indeed seem to be working.

A very big thanks to Dmetri for travelling from Melbourne for the weekend and for his very kind words, and to Jo and Dean for the venue and setting up such a wonderful evening, and to everyone who was able to turn up or pass on their best wishes.

Friday, 10 September 2010

The end of the drought

I guess the drought is over.  We're enjoying floods at the moment.  And there was an ad on TV the other night telling farmers to prepare for plagues of locusts!  Is this biblical or what?

Here's a rather fine photo which SB took on her way to work the other day.  Once there were paddocks!

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Kathleen Maher reviews The Grease Monkey's Tale

Kathleen Maher, who blogs at Diary of a Heretic (with online fiction and flash fiction) has posted a tremendous review of The Grease Monkey's Tale at Goodreads and on her Reviews and Memes blog.  You can read Kathleen's work and the review by clicking the links.

Kathleen also writes for The View From Here, where much of her flash fiction has been published.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Exclusively Independent promotion

It's been a superb week for The Grease Monkey's Tale.  There's been a lot of interest in the book and it pleases me no-end to hear readers frequently describing it as a page-turner and a thriller.
Last Friday, I found out it had been included as one of six titles in the Exclusively Independent promotion.  That involves being distributed to a number of independent booksellers in the London area and promoted for six weeks.  Superb news indeed.

Have had a piece about the process of writing posted on the EI site here.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Friday Night at the Movies with Gary Davison

Yep, it's Friday Night at the Movies with me Geordie mate Gary Davison in the chair.  For the second time, Gary's making a guest appearance here, while I'm over at his site making a guest appearance there, and we're... well, perhaps I should just pass the keyboard over to Gary:

Drum roll, please. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Not quite the same as the lion letting rip, but no matter. The challenge this week that Paul and I have come up with is to name our favourite movies from the last four decades. With a couple of wild cards.

1970s – I was jammed between a few here, trapped you could say, but some things did not remain trapped for long in my first selection:
Blazing Saddles – The sheriff of Rockridge and Mongo and beans has never left my mind and every time I watch this I’m doubled over.

1980s – It was my teenage years, which included a small amount of truancy, so it figures that my next choice would be up there:
Ferris Buellers Day Off. 1986, the year I left school. Cool, cool film.

1990s – by now alcohol was playing a part in my life and I was fond of the odd kebab, a combination which the star of my next pick held close to his heart. And like everyone else, I was covering my eyes when anyone dared to go near his prison cell:
Silence of the Lambs – naughty.

00s – It’s modern day (last year, I think) and this film, Bollywood I think they call it, was winning Oscars like no tomorrow. I thought, Nah, not for me, but there were too many five star ratings to ignore, so we went. What a movie. Gritty, sexy, thrilling, edge of your seat and amazingly directed:
Slumdog Millionaire.

My couple of wildcards need no introduction, except to say I will watch these two films, at the right time of the year, for the rest of my life:
Tombstone and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

Cheers, Gary.  Now, put your jacket on, drop the latch and head off to the flicks for a night to remember. 

Check out Gary's novels Fat Tuesday and Streakers, and the novel writing competition opportunity A Tale of Two Halves, on Amazon.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Technology stuff

Before the inimitable Gary Davison and I mix things up again on our two blogs - we'll be rabbiting on about films this time - thought it was time to post the bit about technology that I wrote for Gary's site a few weeks back.

I'm sitting on the couch, looking at the trees in the back garden, laptop on my knee, dictating these words straight onto the screen using a headset and Dragon Naturally Speaking.  Both my PC and this here laptop have changed the way I write, and every now and then I try out a different approach in the way I use them, but it all adds up to the fact that they’ve made the writing process infinitely more enjoyable and innovative – given me greater scope to play with words.  Everything associated with this bundle of technology – the Internet, networking, blogging, researching – have opened opportunities for me as a writer that I otherwise wouldn't have had ... and cheers to that.  (Not completely sure about the voice recognition program yet; it's great for first drafts but can be a bit of a bastard at times and doesn't help the refining process.)
The second bundle of technology I’d be gutted to lose has to be my iPod Touch and the Sony Dream Machine I dock it with.  After watching Vanilla Sky a number of years back, I hankered after a more sophisticated alarm to wake me in the morning than the old digital thing that sounded like a truck reversing over my head – the exact scene it managed to ram into my dreams practically every day.  My Dream Machine wakes me with whatever music I'm in the mood for (and the iPod’s then ready to let me check emails and see what’s happening in blogdom before I crawl out of bed).  Although I usually leave the music on shuffle, it uncannily knows that I want mellow at 6:40 in the morning and I’ll drift awake to Nina Simone, Cat Power, Billie Holiday, Piers Faccini – something bluesy and soothing – although occasionally it’ll throw a wet flannel at me by thundering out Led Zeppelin or Daft Punk instead.  Now, if it could also make that first crucial cup of tea of the day it'd be even better.  I’m nothing without that first brew.
As for my third most-cherished piece of technology, you’ll probably think me a real hick, but after twenty years we finally traded in our old wood heater for a ritzy-titsy gas fire (glowing embers, realistic logs, the lot) the other week.  So good is it that a friend recently spent two hours sitting by it and then asked why we’d still got a wood heater.  It might sound like nothing to crow about, but it’s winter right now in this hemisphere and it’s been a cold one at that, and I was getting heartily sick of clambering up trees with a chainsaw, stacking several square metres of timber, of spending weekends slamming down a log splitter, to say nothing of getting a fire going after work each day, so it’s bliss to walk into the room, flick on a switch and be able to sit down next to it with a decent glass of shiraz five minutes later.  There’s technology for ya.