Saturday, 26 February 2011

Like A Version (vol. 6)

I enjoy listening to Triple J radio fairly often and the station has put together some nifty compilation albums in the past, such as the annual Hottest 100, where listeners vote for the best songs of the year.  No pop crap here, but an eclectic mix of almost everything else that's contemporary in flavour.  My favourite Triple J production, though, is the annual volume of Like A Version, where some pretty spectacular bands/singers knock out a cover of what might be a most unlikely original.  They do this live, in the studio, very often making do with the instruments they've got to hand.  It's up to volume six and one of the tracks that's got under my skin in a pleasant way is The Last Kinection performing a cover of Rhythm is a Dancer.  That chorus line has been bouncing around my head and dribbling out my mouth since the start of January... much to to the annoyance of everyone in listening range!  (One of the presenters of the show - Tom Ballard - is an ex-student, which makes this clip a bit more special for me.)

You can find product details here.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Recent reads: The Ballad of the Sad Cafe by Carson McCullers

I've always had a soft spot for the title of this novella.  It's a very evocative title, The Ballad of the Sad Café and makes me receptive to the story that Carson McCullers weaves even before I've started it.

I bought this edition in 1978, when I read it for the first time (along with the half dozen short stories that add a little thickness to what otherwise might be too slim a volume) and recently decided I had to read it again after being blown away by The Member of the Wedding, which I read for the first time a few weeks back and raved on about here.  Mind, I also went out and bought The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (another great title, although I believe the credit for this goes to McCuller's editor, who insisted she change it from The Mute to this line from a poem by Fiona McLeod), so I'm having a bit of a McCullers kick at the moment... sandwiched between a few other books.

Of the short stories that accompany Ballad, I particularly liked the last one: A Tree, A Rock, A Cloud - a wonderful streetcar café scene about an itinerant who corners a 12 year-old-boy with the message that he's discovered the science of love.  You can only imagine how the boy takes this.

I've also been re-reading some favourite Raymond Carver stories recently and spending some time with a few Charles Bukowski poems - so there's some wonderful flavours of American literature coursing through me at the moment.

Oh, and by the way, just in case you forgot, it would've been Carson McCullers' 94th birthday last Saturday if she was still alive.  I think she would have raised a glass to that!

Here's a link to the Carson McCullers Centre  in Columbus, Georgia.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

The Mahogany Ship

There's a local story that began in 1836, which has generated considerable interest across the last 175 years.

Two Port Fairy whalers, having lost their boat and a companion in rough seas, were walking homeward along the beach from the direction of Warrnambool (approx 30k distance) when they came across the timbers of an ancient ship sticking out from one of the dunes, near Kelly's Swamp in Armstrong Bay.  It's not uncommon for the dunes to be eaten into after heavy storms and a king tide or two, nor for them to grow again as the south-westerly winds dries out the sand and blows it back across the beach, so it wouldn't be unusual if this wreck, which had never been noticed before, was suddenly revealed.

According to research by Jack Loney (The Mahogany Ship, 6th edition, Neptune Press, 1985), the wreck - estimated at being approximately "100 tons burden" by another witness - was sighted on a number of occasions in the drifting dunes until the last sighting in 1880, but one person stood on its deck and discovered the timber was like iron, while another is reported as having taken a length to build a mantelpiece.

While the story is much bigger than there's room for here, more information can be found on the net and here's a link to Wikipedia, if you're interested.  The reason I've brought it up today is because I saw the mahogany ship down at the jetty the other day - no kidding.

Well, a replica.

Local man, Graeme Wylie, recently completed building a 70 tonne working model of a 15th century Portuguese  caravel based on the Mahogany Ship, and the boat was launched a couple of weeks ago.  We occasionally get tall ships arriving in port, but not often are they built locally to reflect a local legend.  It's quite a stunning sight and Graeme Wylie plans to undertake some significant ocean voyages before long.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

McSweeney's too

Gave a shout to 826 Valencia: The Writing Center in my post before last (scroll down or click here), a worthy venture founded by author/editor Dave Eggers and educator Nínive Calegari.  Well, it seems that Dave Eggers is a busy and enterprising bloke, because McSweeney's is also his brainchild.  Apparently it began as a literary journal that only published articles rejected by other journals (which is a great idea in itself), but, like one of those gloriously rambling Gothic edifices that has extensions built onto other extensions, and little bridges and staircases linking one extension to another, so that you're never quite sure where the original building begins and where the various extensions might lead to, McSweeney's too has grown in all directions.  And, like the 826 Valencia site, this is reflected in its website.  It's part of the fun of exploring what's there, getting lost amongst all the options, wandering from one part of the site to another, pressing button after button, enjoying every little quirk along the way, until you discover you're looking at fifty open windows on your monitor and have forgotten what you were looking for to begin with.  Phew!  As you can probably tell from my own website, I like magic buttons and trapdoors - surprise sounds and images - but there's something a bit Gormenghast about this one.  As you wander (and lose your way), you'll find the original journal, a publishing house, a monthly magazine called The Believer, a quarterly DVD magazine called Wholphin... a whole mansion of interesting literary rooms and passageways, too numerous to map out here.  Go on, take a look... get lost!  

Monday, 14 February 2011

Valentine's Day Music

If (thanks to Billy Shakespeare) music be the food of love 'n' all that,
and it being Valentine's Day today (no thanks to Hallmark),
I think it's timely to share some fine sounds here - to sing and dance a little.

Have turned on the radio a couple of times of late to hear songs I really like
only to discover they're both by the very versatile Joanna Newsom,
so figure it's time I bought an album.

The quirkiness of this video soon begins to match the quirkiness of the song:
The Sprout and the Bean.

Happy Valentine's Day.

And a quote for the day? Why not.
Make love, not war.

Friday, 11 February 2011

826 Valencia: The Writing Center

Ahoy there, here's a site (and venture) that I was introduced to recently, which I think is especially worth shouting about.  826 Valencia: The Writing Center is, up front, a Pirate Supply Store, but behind the scenes it's a dynamic organisation aimed at giving kids/young adults (6-18 year-olds) a boost with their writing skills as well as promoting excitement about the literary arts.  As someone who works in both those areas, I'm blown away (me hearties!) by the fantastic range of opportunities they've created, and the website is well worth spending quite some time browsing or supporting in any way you can.  I'd love to be able to visit the pirate store, which really does sell eye patches, glass eyes, pirate dice, Jolly Roger flags, lock-picking kits... a whole range of wonderful pirate bounty - and I may well have to set sail on a voyage to America and San Francisco one day to do just that.  If only I could find a boat to capture...

The shop's FAQ page is a blast!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Through my head

Heard that wonderful track Choose Life from Trainspotting not so long back and, as usual, it's kept spinning through my head over and over again ever since.  You know, how with those old record players you could leave the arm up and the needle would get to the end of an album and then go straight back to the beginning and play over and over again - driving the neighbours stark raving mad... especially if you'd left home for a few hours.

Anyway, it made me realise that I didn't mention Trainspotting (directed by Danny Boyle) as one of the clutch of superb films from the nineties when I blogged about favourite films here a few months back, and it certainly didn't fit into the piece I did for The View From Here about Visconti, Bo Widerberg, Peter Weir et al, which you can find over there.  So I thought I should mention it now and, not only that, but get Choose Life out of my head (and stop myself from going even more raving mad) by playing it right here, right now.

"I chose not to choose life. I chose something else."

Talking of films, here's a great site that I've linked to before and well worth bookmarking if it's your thing too: Cinema Autopsy.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Lawrence of Arabia

Thought I'd do a Lawrence of Arabia recently and so went for an hour-long camel ride along the beach.  It's a few years since I rode a camel, and the last time was only for about 10 minutes, but I must be a romantic at heart because I thought it'd be pretty cool padding along the surf, with the dunes on one side, the Southern Ocean on the other and a high, blue sky above.  Ho hum.

Within 5 seconds of clambering into the saddle, I realised I'm not designed to sit on a camel - not without pain.  Fortunately there weren't any troops to attack and so it didn't involve galloping, otherwise I'd probably be walking bow-legged to this day.  All the same, despite the beautiful dunes, ocean and sky, it felt like a very long hour and I would've been glad to climb off the thing again if I'd had any feeling left in my legs.  I have no idea how T.E.Lawrence & co. spent hour after hour in the saddle, so I take my hat off to him (or would if I was wearing one at this very moment).

Like T.E.Lawrence in this film clip, however, I too went without water for the whole trip... although I might have taken a few comforting slugs of whiskey if I'd thought to take a flask with me!

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Abby Dobson - two of 'em

Have been listening to a bit of the Australian singer Abby Dobson recently (ex-lead singer in Leonardo's Bride) and particularly enjoying this performance of an old favourite: Even When I'm Sleeping.

In searching for her on YouTube, though, came across the American, blues singer Abby Dobson, and glad I did.  Great stuff from both.