Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Guest blog: Mixing it up with Gary Davison, author of Fat Tuesday and Streakers

Right we're at it again, Paul and I, amusing ourselves on our blogs. This time it's music. 70s, 80s, noughties - I wasn't a huge fan of music, but the 90s - that was a rave time for us, so plenty of memories (or not as the case was back then) for that decade.

70s. When this record came out, I was only nine years old and I was idolising the Sex Pistols and Sham 69. Since its release in 1979, I have listened to it and loved it many times and will in the future. Another Brick in the Wall - Pink Floyd.

80s - the time when I left school and generally had a good time of it. Like A Virgin by Madonna was a favourite, as was, You got to fight for Your right to Party - Beastie boys, Buffalo Stance - Nenah Cherry, but my favourite, in 1989, just before it all went crazy, was Pump up the Jam - technotronic.

90s - This was my biggest decade for music and when the rave scene swept the country. Adamski - killer, EMF - unbelievable, 2 Unlimited - Get Ready For This, Everybody's Free - Rozalla, Shades of Rhythm, the Prodigy - fire starter, where do I end? On the best, and the one that had us all cutting a rug and making shapes the most: What Time Is Love - KLF. Fantastic time was had by all, mostly in farmer's fields, but still.

00s - In the noughties, there are a few artists I particularly like, and a few songs that stand out. Eminem - Lose Yourself, was a cracker, Drop it like it's hot - Snoop Dog, but my star of this decade is Lady Gaga. Anyone that goes to graft with a telephone on their head wearing a dress made of meat is sound by me. And I like her music.

Hope you enjoyed that blast from the past as much as I did. Has fifteen years really passed?

Cheers, Gary. You can visit Gary's blog and website here and find his books on Amazon here.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Bill's Birthday

It's William Blake's 253rd birthday today, which I celebrate every year (here's a previous celebratory blog).  Thought I might do this today with a couple of his darker Songs of Experience... and the ghost image.  Great stuff!
O Rose, thou art sick!
The invisible worm
That flies in the night,
In the howling storm,

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I had never seen:
A Chapel was built in the midst,

Where I used to play on the green.

And the gates of this Chapel were shut,
And "Thou shalt not" writ over the door:
So I turn'd to the Garden of Love
That so many sweet flowers bore:

And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tomb-stones where flowers should be;
And Priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars my joys & desires.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Recent reads: Oedipus Rex by Sophocles

Re-read Oedipus Rex by Sophocles recently.  One of the good things about my "day job" is that I'm obliged to revisit a variety of texts and look at them afresh each time.  This time I was quite taken by the final speech of the play where, after everything poor old Oedipus has been through, the audience is told that none of us can ever really know whether we've been destined to enjoy a happy or a tragic life until the moment we're facing imminent death.  It's a bleak message to end the drama, but certainly carries a punch.

Also took the opportunity to revisit one of my favourite mash-ups of Oedipus Rex, where the story is acted out by fruit and veg.  (I've probably drawn attention to it before, but it's worth it.)  Watch out for that sexy tomato!  And as for those potato peelers...

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Attended launch of The Taste of Apple

I attended the Warrnambool launch of the fabulous The Taste of Apple today.  My daughter got to the Melbourne launch on Wednesday and raved about James Laidler's performance and, sure enough, his delivery of a selection of poems from this verse novel was stunning.  Quite wonderful.  Don Stewart, who collaborated with James on composing and producing the music for the work, also played at the launch with one of his bands - Aniar.  (That's Don on the right.)

I'm putting together an interview with James about his writing which will appear in the print and digital version of The View From Here  before long.  I'll let you know when.

By the by, if you're interested in horror writing, check out the following article by Amanda Atwell at The View From Here.  Amanda interviews the president of the Australian Horror Writers Association.

 James Laidler reciting from The Taste of Apple.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Bendigo Art Gallery, white rabbits and A Midsummer Night's Dream

Did the 4 hour journey up to Bendigo recently to catch up with friends and, while there, spent some time at the art gallery.  Bendigo has a wonderful gallery and we always try and spin round it if we can.  Apart from some of the old favourites, it had put together an exhibition called Looking For Faeries - The Victorian Tradition, featuring a wide range of work from Arthur Rackham to Frederick McCubbin and Artur Loreirou, and part of its focus was the darker side of that tradition, which I particularly enjoyed.

I never realised that the white rabbits in Edwin Landseer's Scene from a Midsummer Night's Dream, Titania and Bottom (1848-51) is said to have inspired Lewis Carroll's white rabbit in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

One I particularly enjoyed, for returning a darker note to the over-Disneyised story of Snow White, was John Dickson Batten's Snowdrop and the Seven Little Men (1897).  They look a tad more sinister in Batten's world.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Romance Isn't Dead

It's a good news day when a story like this makes the front page of The Age and also finds a spot in the Sydney Morning Herald, The Herald Sun, The Daily Telegraph, The Australian, The Brisbane Times...

Steve Tucker, a Canberra public servant, has risked being sacked in order to try and find Olivia, who he met briefly at a party.  She was introduced, it seems, by another public servant whose name he doesn't know, and though he was so smitten with Olivia, he lost sight of her before he could find out anymore about her.

Despite Government policy that its employees shouldn't misuse its email network or send inappropriate emails, Steve used the distribution list of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to send his plea to almost 7000 colleagues:

"There is a person who works here at DIAC, who has a housemate by the name of 'Olivia'.  This message is for you.  Briefly, I met Olivia on the Saturday night just passed.  She left a strong and positive impression on me.  Unfortunately, people got in the way after we met and I didn't get to finish our meeting how I wanted to.  This has been bugging me ever since.  If you can kindly let Olivia know that I would like to get in contact with her or alternatively get in touch with myself, I will be very appreciative.  Disclaimer: I understand this is not the most appropriate channel.  It is not my intent to misuse this email address.  I have struggled to write and send this message.  It has taken all of my willpower to do so."
(source: The Age and www.nzherald.co.nz)

What I like about this story are the amazing range of What Ifs that follow.  These are the key ingredients.  Of course, there's an element of Cinderella's Prince Charming here, except Mr Tucker's got an email distribution list instead of a glass slipper - and the story is being told from his perspective - but there's so many other directions it could go.

What if Olivia shouldn't have been at the party - should have been somewhere else - and he's just blown her cover/alibi/excuse?  What if they meet up and it's the beginning of a terrifying, insanely destructive relationship... or the best thing that ever happened to them both?  What if Steve gets sacked and can't afford to feed his goldfish any longer, but meets someone else at the pet shop that he's trying to sell it back to?  Maybe he prefers the pet shop girl to Olivia and realises that this is where Fate was directing him all along?  What if everyone at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship down their pens in support of sacked Steve and begin a Public Service Love-In?  What if his email begins a radical movement that destabilises governments around the world?

Okay, this is getting silly, so I'll stop.

Word on the web, unfortunately, is that Olivia has been found and can't remember Steve... but that might just be a malicious rumour.  Don't let it get in the way of a romance, let alone an interesting story.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Recent reads: In The Winter Dark by Tim Winton

I'm a sucker for Tim Winton's writing.  He has a prose style - a narrative voice - that I thoroughly enjoy.  Recently read one of his older titles that had otherwise passed me by (and I think I've read most of his books): In The Winter Dark.

It was first published in 1988 and he's written more sophisticated novels since, but it still worked very well for me.
People drift to the valley called the Sink out of loneliness, hardship or an affinity with the land. It is an isolated place, with a swamp and an old white bridge and the forest encroaching from all sides. The solitude is tangible. But when a mysterious creature is suddenly on the loose, killing livestock and preying on everyone’s deepest fears, four inhabitants find themselves unexpectedly in one another’s company – with chilling results.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Joan Armatrading: Love and Affection

Music is so bloody evocative.  A certain track or a certain album can take us back to a particular place and a moment in time, years upon years ago.  A song can evoke the light and shadows of the moment, the friends we were with at the time - even the mood of the moment.

I remember hearing Joan Armatrading's song Love and Affection drifting from an open window in Clayhill  - Kingston Poly's Hall of Residence - one sunny day in late 1976, and that moment has stayed with me ever since.  Her self-titled album was, it seemed, being played everywhere at the time, and I bought it some time later, but that's the moment which the music locked onto.

Can't hear her wonderful voice without thinking of that song.  Can't hear that song without revisiting that moment.

Ah.  Inhale the nostalgia!

Joan Armatrading's website.

Monday, 8 November 2010

The View From Here - November edition now out

The November print and digital edition of The View From Here is now on sale.  The digital download is available for a whopping US$1.00 or  £0.69 pence and the print copy will be posted to you for US$7.35 (USA and Canada) or £4.99 (UK).  Not bad, eh?

Plenty of goodies inside as always, including a review I wrote of James Laidler's soon-to-be-released verse novel The Taste of Apple.

To order your copy of The View From Here, click here.

Friday, 5 November 2010

European Masters at National Gallery of Victoria

Last time I was in Melbourne - just passing through really - I stopped off at the National Gallery of Victoria to have a squiz at the European Masters exhibition. This was showcasing the collection of 19th and 20th century paintings from the Städel Museum in Frankfurt, Germany.  Excellent.

Not sure why, but looking at paintings infects me with an urgency to write, so I almost always come away from exhibitions feeling enervated, inspired, raring to scribble the words down.  Almost as if I've snorted something I shouldn't have and just can't slow the brain down.

Would have loved to see the Kandinsky paintings that the Städel own, but they weren't on show.  However, there was enough to delight.  Wouldn't have minded bringing home Courbet's Village Road in Winter (the colours are lost in this photo), or several others, but I think it might have been missed.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010


It's a lame joke, but I enjoyed this when it was sent to me last week:
A man is stopped by the police at midnight and asked where he’s going.
“I’m on the way to listen to a lecture about the effects of alcohol and drug abuse on the human body.”
 The policeman asks, “Really? And who’s going to give a lecture at this time of night?”
“My wife,” comes the reply.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Snowing and Greening in Santa Marta (along with Grease Monkey's Tale)

Recently heard that a copy each of The Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore and The Grease Monkey's Tale have found their way to Santa Marta in Colombia.

Friends from Port Fairy are travelling around South America at the moment.  They took copies with them to read and to drop off en route.  Can imagine them lazing in a hammock, reading, with the soft crash of the Caribbean a short stretch away.  Very pleasant.

The books have probably been picked up by someone else now, ready to be left somewhere else - in Bolivia or Argentina or somewhere.  That's an interesting thought.

Found plenty of decent pictures of Santa Marta, but this one stood out -  a plane having a drink of water.  (No one was seriously injured.)