Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Down and Out in Melbourne... at the NGV: Radiance - Neo-Impressionists

By chance, I happened to be in Melbourne ten days ago, just in time for the opening of one of the NGV's summer exhibitions: Radiance - The Neo-Impressionists.  Although I've never been a big fan of the paintings from this particular movement - they always seemed too studied, illustrative, lacking in vitality (although wonderfully vibrant in the depiction of light) - it was tremendous to be able to see a hundred works gathered together and to be able to examine the different approaches of the various artists (Signac, Seurat, Cross, Pissaro, Morren, Luce, etc) and to observe the way each individual developed their approach.

The port of Saint-Tropez (1893) Maximilien Luce

While I've always known this movement as Pointillism (from the use of the dot), I learnt that Signac regarded this as a derogatory term and preferred Divisionism to describe the scientific technique he applied.  I was also intrigued to learn about the connection between these artists and the anarchists of the period (Kropotkin's ilk): communal living, harmonious relationship with nature and the like.

I also caught a couple of small exhibitions while at the NGV: Confounding - Contemporary Photography and Ballet & Fashion.  Both worth a visit too.

During my trip I finished reading George Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London.  I'd never read this before, but was glad I did.  I found it particularly interesting to read Orwell writing with a less polished, less confident voice than appears in his later work, and yet to see that confidence begin to develop in the second (London) half of the book, and in some ways I preferred the rawness of it.  I think it might be my favourite Orwell book.

While I'm scribbling, and it being 28th November, let me wish poet, artist, printer, visionary, William Blake, a happy birthday.  If he'd survived his death, he'd be 255 today!  Happy birthday, Bill.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Returning to the 21st century

The telecommunications hub in nearby Warrnambool, which services all the internet, mobile and landline technology in this area of Victoria, was destroyed in a massive fire last Thursday morning.  Consequently, we've been without internet, phones, access to banking and electronic payment facilities in shops for the last few days, and the population at large has gone into cold turkey over the loss of emails, SMS and Facebook.  This may not only explain why I've been quieter than normal on the blog, but why I've been living off road-kill and shoe-leather stew.  It's all back on now... obviously, which means I've got no excuse not to pay bills or communicate any longer.  I'm not sure whether this is for better or worse, a return to enlightenment or a return to mass ignorance, but I'll embrace it whatever.  Hello again, I bet you didn't know you missed me!

You can read the story here.

PS.  Let me amend that: mobile and internet services are now running, landlines are still down.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Recent reads, Kindle and otherwise

Of late, I've been alternating my reading between real, tactile books and ebooks on a Kindle.  Thought this would be the best way to get a clear sense of what I like or prefer about each.

What I like about having books on a Kindle:
  • the digital wizardry of the process and the product - it's a toy I enjoy;
  • I can search for a book, find it and download the thing in the space of 30 seconds - especially good if I've started reading a book that doesn't belong to me and I want to carry on with it, or if I'm after a book in a hurry;
  • I'm no longer cluttering my shelves with books I'm not particularly attached to (but can still buy hard copies of those I really want);
  • they're cheaper than the hard copy, and environmentally sound;
  • so many books can be downloaded for free;
  • I can take as many books as I'll ever manage to read or need to reference when I'm travelling;
  • they're making books fashionable and appealing for a new generation of reader;
  • more people are writing, more authors are getting published, the conservative stranglehold of (many) publishing houses is being challenged;
  • I can attempt(!) to read books in a foreign language and simply press a word for its definition when I don't understand it.

What I don't like about Kindle books:
  • I miss the colour, the texture and the smell of the hard copy, and the tactile experience of holding it and thumbing through the pages, and hearing them snip-snap when I flick at them, and I miss the personal feel of an old favourite that's become dog-eared and faded - that's a big set of things;
  • digital books don't give me the same sense of where I'm up to in a story - I like to be able to gauge the progress of a story by where I'm up to in the thickness of the thing, and having this listed as a percentage doesn't cut the mustard;
  • I also like to know where I'm up to in terms of a page number (surely that could be managed?) instead of what appears to be a randomly spaced Location number;
  • it's irritating when the Kindle jumps a couple of digital pages, or a hundred, and every page has to be digitally turned to get back to the right position;
  • only one person can access the library of books on a particular Kindle at a time;
  • insufficient quality control of editing - the lack of investment in printing a book might mean that it's too easy and temptingly quick for some publishers and self-publishers to publish digitally;
  • I'm less confident about reading in the bath.
What I've read on Kindle recently:
  • Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes - I've wanted to read this for years, so I was pleased I could download it for free on Kindle, but it bored me silly and I had to stop after 24%;
  • The Obituarist by Patrick O'Duffy;
  • The Brush-Off by Shane Maloney;
  • Underground Nest by Kathleen Maher;
  • Street by Tyler Stevens;
  • Medea by Euripedes - just started;
  • Blue Friday by Mike French - just finishing.

What I've read in hard copy recently:
  • The Boat by Nam Le;
  • The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh;
  • The Wisdom of No Escape by Pema Chödrön;
  • When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön;
  • The Places That Scare You by Pema Chödrön (- my fourth novel may well have a Zen Bhuddist thread woven through it!);
  • The Lady With the Little Dog and other stories by Anton Chekov - for the 3rd or 4th time;
  • Black Cow by Magdalena Ball;
  • Beginners by Raymond Carver.
While I'll continue to read books in both hard copy and digital format, via a Kindle or similar, my preference for the time-being is firmly with the former.  However, that said, I'll give a resounding three cheers for Kindle, if only because Snowing and Greening seems to be selling superbly in that format.  Cheers to that!