a cultural day out – art and literature

6 05 2012

We’re avid readers and like books. While we enjoy reading digital versions on the Kindle of iPad, we’re also fond of the analogue version. So, when there’s an opportunity to rummage around looking for secondhand books, we’ll take it. So, on the weekend we paid a visit to the Central Goldfields town of Clunes for the annual Booktown Festival.

Clunes fountain
Fountain in Clune’s park.

I managed to find the third book in a trilogy I’ve just begun (had the first two) and also a few other books I’ll be keen to read. The prices vary and I guess might average $5 but there’s also some lovely collectors items that will cost a lot more. Some vendors have .50c and $1 books, one had all their books for $5 another all were $10 and then some have them marked at different prices. Lot’s of fun.

On the way to Clunes we stopped in at the Ballarat Art gallery and saw a couple of exhibitions. Firstly Marion Manifold: Through the Notebook – Marie Antoinette and some amazing linocuts. Then Kerrie Leishman: The New Beauty with some interesting painting inspired by wind turbines in the landscape. So, a bit of a cultural day out getting a fix of art, ideas and literature (well, not all literature in the strict sense). 



A wet end to October – makes for inside goodness (books & movies)

31 10 2010

I’ve realised that my grand intentions to post more frequently have not been realised. It doesn’t matter – there are no rules. Just to say that life’s been fantastically busy.

When I sat down to write this I couldn’t think of what I might write about, but note that there are two things I’d like to share. Books I’ve read recently and films I’ve watched. Cold rainy days means time inside and books (and films) are useful diversions.

The first book is Pompeii by Robert Harris. A great insight into life & times of the Romans over four days around the time of the eruption of Vesuvius in 79AD. I enjoyed this story as we’d visited Pompeii this year and it added some understanding to what things might have been like. The story is about the experience of a young man who has come from Rome to look after the aqueduct that brings water to eight cities on the Bay of Naples. The water stops and he needs to find out why…

The second book is My Father’s Glory & My Mother’s Castle by Marcel Pagnol. Set in Provence in Southern France these two autobiographical stories tell us about Marcel Pagnol’s childhood. We have also travelled in this part of the world and it was nice to read about summer holidays spent in the countryside. They have also been made into films which we’ll be watching shortly. We’ve also seen two other films set in Provence based on stories by Pagnol called Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources. These stories are set around the turn of the century and give a wonderful portrayal rural village life filled with interesting characters. We also found the Fanny Trilogy by Pagnol which are three films adapted from plays set on the Marseille waterfront. A great love story that made it onto film in the mid 1930s.

So, if you are trapped indoors by the rain – you’d do worse than spend some time experiencing Marcel Pagnol’s world.



too fit for my own good, I can’t keep up with myself

26 10 2009

If I start of the fitness thing – I try to get on an exercise bike a few days a week and I’m slowly making my way through The West Wing television drama serial. As well as keeping fit, I’m enjoying the story line, characters and learning a little more about how politics in America (well, anywhere really) works. But keeping up with myself is getting harder and harder.

Work last week was busy with the usual demands, and I also spent a couple of days up to my elbows in learning management systems, checking them out for functionality and suitability for replacing the one we currently use. Over the weekend amongst the chores, cleaning, newspapers etc., I read the short story True Names by Vernor Vinge, which was written over twenty years ago but captures our modern cyber society very accurately (a good read). We went to Melbourne to catch a play in the International Arts Festival called Le Salon, “a story of a family in decline”. Also sometime over the weekend, we managed to get to church a couple of times and watched Mary & Max on DVD and enjoyed this quirky tale (animation) the correspondence between a young girl and a man suffering from Arsperger syndrome.

It feels like I need to turn some things around – like, I need five days of weekend and can only do two days of work. There’s so much ‘static’ out there I keep getting presented with more things to digest and make sense of. My new synaptic nerve connections are not developing quick enough to deal with all the stimulus. The idea is that I go to work for two days and then spend five days working it all out. I can’t take it all in, and make sense of it – let alone spend time reflecting (hopefully writing this post will help ‘process’ some thoughts banging around in my head). I want to make it clear that I’m not complaining, I like having to think and learning new things, but all the input needs sorting and some sort of categorising, or filing, or whatever your brain does to deal with it…

Anyway, all this and other bits and pieces helped to make me more aware of the need for silence, the need to take some time out to be still. So, next weekend – here I come.

PS. The next book on the list is The Red Tent



no excuse required

12 06 2008

to post or, not to post (is that a question?) It’s been a while and seeing as I’m kicking back enjoy the end of the (birth)day, I thought I’d share a little with my readers. I thought celebrating another year (past and future) might be an excuse to jot a few words down, but it’s not really is it?

Anyway, don’t want to reflect too much on the significance of birthdays and the like, just wanted to say something about family (friends are great too and very important but I’ll talk about them another time). So, great to have flesh and blood close by to remind you of your place as son, brother, husband, father, uncle etc. etc. Wonderful to share together: food, gifts, stories, hugs and laughs. As we’ve grown older the relationship’s changed but that’s good. We’ve grown/evolved together and have been part of each other’s ‘circle of infulence’. In that circle you find love and support and plenty of grace that overlooks your weaker moments. How good is that! I’m blessed.

Gifts you ask? well,a couple of books, some product, and a nice new set of ‘old fashioned’ tumblers that I’ll be trying out with some single malt soon. :-) Do you have any spare USB ports? I did. My last one got filled by a gift from son#2 & friend – a USB missile launcher controlled directly from the desktop! Cool – (been trying to shoot my best friend in the other room) and even found some Mac software for it.

Had a nice evening last night – dropped into the city on the way home from the Burwood campus and met son#1 for a drink and then the family for some Shanghai dumplings before going to a gig at the State Library with sis in law and nephew#1.

“Shaun Tan in conversation
Hear award-winning illustrator Shaun Tan in conversation with Chris Wallace-Crabbe, discussing Shaun’s work, including his new book, Tales from Outer Suburbia. Shaun’s previous books include The Red Tree, The Lost Thing and the acclaimed The Arrival (2006). In 2007 he was named Best Artist at the World Fantasy Convention.”

It was great to look (thy showed some illustrations) and listen, and I really enjoyed the talk about creativity, language (text and images), story, silence, dreams, the suburbs, inspiration etc. etc. They were recording it so will look out for any publication of video or audio.

It has started raining, and as usual, it sounds great. Hope it lasts all night.

ps. Had some Belgian Waffles (with cream, maple syrup, and stewed berries) and a coffee for breakfast. Yum!



when did you arrive?

4 05 2008

Last Friday night we went and saw the play The Arrival by Spare Parts Puppet Theatre based on the book The Arrival by Shaun Tan. It’s quite an amazing book and I was wondering how it would be interpreted as a play. I thought it was well done, a fairly simple set, clever projection/animation and music, to create some amazing images/ landscapes and atmosphere. I came away uplifted and with a deeper understanding of what my parents, and many of their generation may have experienced when that came to this country.

A review of the book captures it better than I can:

Tan captures the displacement and awe with which immigrants respond to their new surroundings in this wordless graphic novel. It depicts the journey of one man, threatened by dark shapes that cast shadows on his family’s life, to a new country. The only writing is in an invented alphabet, which creates the sensation immigrants must feel when they encounter a strange new language and way of life. A wide variety of ethnicities is represented in Tan’s hyper-realistic style, and the sense of warmth and caring for others, regardless of race, age, or background, is present on nearly every page. Young readers will be fascinated by the strange new world the artist creates, complete with floating elevators and unusual creatures, but may not realize the depth of meaning or understand what the man’s journey symbolizes. More sophisticated readers, however, will grasp the sense of strangeness and find themselves participating in the man’s experiences. They will linger over the details in the beautiful sepia pictures and will likely pick up the book to pore over it again and again.—Alana Abbott, James Blackstone Memorial Library, Branford, CTCopyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

It’s at GPAC in Geelong on May 31 as part of a national tour. Catch it if you can…
Cover of The Arrival



sheet ‘appins

17 03 2008

every now and then there’s a run of things that are all wrong. not that you’re trying to muck it up, but it all goes wrong. accidents, karma/fate, bad luck – who knows? what gets me is that it’s not just one, but a few things in a row when it happens. bad luck comes in threes? a spill, a break, an error … and sometimes in quick succession (like all within 5 minutes as it happened tonight!)

I suppose by the time the third thing has happened you can laugh about it, and you’re usually much more aware of the potential of something else going wrong so taking care become the priority.

The risk of acting is that what you do may not end up being what you thought or hoped for… On the other hand, if you don’t do anything, you won’t make any mistakes. It’s nice being safe (and predictable) but life’s often about being brave and taking a risk – discovering (or pushing) a boundary. Take the mistakes and grow and learn from them – evolving even. As Benjamin Zander (check out his book The Art of Possibility) suggests that when we make a mistake we should say, “How fascinating!“ This allows us to think about how it happened and learn what to do for next time…



life and death

8 01 2008

on a more sombre note…

An aunty of ours passed away after a short illness and much discomfort, just before Christmas. Very sad indeed. We had stayed with her for a week and benefitted from her gracious hospitality in July when we were in Holland. Our eldest happens to still be in Europe/Holland celebrating Christmas and New Years with family and managed to get to the funeral to represent us. A bit difficult for him as his Dutch is very limited but some cousins were able to help out. We’re thankful that he was able to tell us about the day, what happened and who was there.

I’ve also picked up on recent bereavements through other sources, and was thinking about our reactions to the loss of a loved one. While the experience may seem to be a common one, we all deal with it differently. I think that’s a good thing. But coming from a small family myself, the experience is a rare one. It’s not that I’m ‘happy’ to have had the experience, I have grown from it, and can now empathise (in some way) with others who are going through the grieving process. It made me think again that any change brings with it some sort of grieving/taking leave, and this is healthy aspect of life. It’s part of how we work as human beings and we need it to become more complete individuals.

All this made me think about a book I’ve just taken back to the library without reading (just didn’t get round to it), but I am going back tomorrow to re-borrow it. I was on my way to drop some books in the slot and had a quick glance at the jacket text and then the first paragraph and thought this should be read. It was Another Day of Life (scroll down in the Amazon site to read the reviews) by Ryszard Kapuscinski which chronicles the first few months of the Angolan Civil War. (I thoroughly enjoyed another of his books, The Emperor, which is an analysis of the decline and fall of Haile Selassie’s regime in Ethiopia).

These stories are about life and death, about politics and war, about stupidity and waste and they remind us of the human spirit, about hope and resilience, about love and devotion. So, dear reader, while the facts of life include death, we would do well to live each day like it may be our last, and to love each other a little more…



the big smoke

1 12 2007

It was up the highway to Melbourne for the day and an opportunity to catch a film at the Nova in Carlton. We’d scored a couple of free tickets to see Tell No One, a French thriller that was quite a good watch. Plenty of twists and turns and some great action (instead of a car chase there was a chase through the streets and markets on foot) and the cinematography was nice. The acting was excellent too, lots of different characters and it was nice to hear French being spoken. Paris (Versailles?) looked good too from the inner city to suburbs and the countryside. Very worth the watch – would be good to catch on DVD.

Earlier on we’d gone to visit a book/coffee shop in Northcote ‘cause it had been recommended in the paper. Wasn’t as good as we’d been led to believe so wandered back to the car to find a real coffee shop. It was warming up and there were plenty of people about checking out the boutiques – there was also a transvestite who must have been 6’6“ with his stilettos on. He had a bit of a Frank-N-Furter outfit on and was walking slowly and deliberately so as to not fall over (or he wasn’t feeing all that well!). Did find a nice coffee at the far end of Lygon Street and joined the trendies who were eating their eggs benedict etc. for lunch…

Also got to visit a few bookshops (Borders and Readings) and sussed out a couple of McSweeny volumes and found a few books worth purchasing. Ended up at the Saturday book stalls at Fed Sq. and enjoyed the browsing before scoring again (a couple of Colm Toibin’s) and heading home.

…no apologies for linking to wikipedia – I just reckon that if you want to check out further you’ll find what you’re looking for. It’s just that sometime the ‘official’ site is just too commercial.