Tuesday, July 11, 2017


Bingo at 7 months now collared & tagged

It’s all topsy turvy at the Cat Politics domicile with big changes in the offing, not to mention the continuing distraction of raising a crazy Siamese kitten.

Since his misadventure a month ago, Bingo has stayed close to home and mostly prefers to be inside pestering his human slaves and causing chaos than roaming the streets, unlike his predecessor Willy who, at the same age, tore around the neighbourhood with his kitten friend Pickle.

Siamese cats are known for their devotion to their humans and take an interest in everything that the said humans are engaged in, particularly cooking. I’ve never known such a naughty recalcitrant cat as Bingo, who refuses to learn the meaning of NO.

He’s grown big enough to jump on the kitchen bench and has to be locked in the bedroom if you are cooking anything. I’ve had to wrestle with him over a block of cheese, which he stole while my back was turned for a second, and he has such a keen appetite that he also has to be locked away to eat, as he’ll try and steal Talya’s dinner after he’s finished his own.

He still likes to play fetch with whatever is to hand, in fact he’s addicted to it, and my hands have become a mass of scratches as he tries to snatch the toy back after dropping it at your feet.

As I write, he’s up on the antique dresser rummaging in a old teapot filled with five cent pieces, flipping the coins out with his paw.

Bingo atop the range hood

Speaking of Talya, she has taken to tearing her fur out again. The poor dear is stressed by Bingo’s antics, particularly when they involve her, even though he’s just playing.

She’ll be even more stressed in a couple of months when Cat Politics moves to a new location in another suburb.

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Talya on patio table – nice pic with bokeh

This all happened very fast, when B took a fancy to a house in Ivanhoe and practically purchased it on the spot. Then he sold the current house off market in no time flat, at least saving us the inconvenience of the real estate hoop lah of keeping the house spotless and enduring inspections, if he’d gone to auction.

I’m still rattled by this as I like where we live at present, public transport heaven for a person who doesn’t drive a car and likes to be independent.  There are two train lines, two tram lines and three buses all within easy walking distance, which will take you anywhere in Melbourne.

We’ve been here for almost 31 years, so it will be a big change for me as I’m not familiar with Ivanhoe at all and doubt the public transport situation will be as convenient.

However, the house itself is very nice and much bigger than the current residence,  with stacks of storage space, which has always been lacking where we now are. The house dates from the 1920s so is quite Art Deco inside, and it even has picture rails among its other charms.

All this has been very distracting, and along with the wintry weather, leaves me feeling quite saturnine – gloomy and unenthused by the usual things I find amusing.

I’m  looking forward to the Spring racing season, with fairly interesting  build up races scheduled fairly soon, though the first of the Group 1 races will not occur until early September.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Van Gogh’s Seasons

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A wheatfield, with cypresses (1889  Saint-Remy)

On Monday this week, I finally got around to visiting the National Gallery of Victoria Winter Masterpieces Exhibition, which this year featured Vincent van Gogh, the tragic Dutch artist.

The exhibition was divided into the four seasons.

After a brief introduction to Van Gogh’s early work you moved into a section reflecting Van Gogh’s early influences such as lithography. It included a feature room of Japanese art, claimed to be the major influence and inspiration for his work. Van Gogh collected numerous lithographs and had a large collection of Japanese prints.

Photography was permitted, so I snapped quite few photos – they ended up being of better quality than the postcards in the NGV store.

The first season you pass through is Autumn , where a series of dark and gloomy paintings were displayed.

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Autumn landscape at dusk - October–November 1885 Nuenen

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Pine trees at sunset - December 1889 Saint‑Rémy

This particular area covered Van Gogh’s incarceration in the Saint-Remy Asylum, where he painted several scenes of the garden.

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Asylum Garden

From Autumn we moved on to Winter

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Landscape with a church - December 1883 Nuenen

Then on to Spring and some lovely flower still lifes.

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Roses and peonies - June 1886 Paris

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Blossoming chestnut trees - 22–23 May 1890 Auvers‑sur‑Oise

Summer was the final section and the paintings were of sunny subjects, wheatfields and such.

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It was not an extensive exhibition and truth to tell I was disappointed with what was displayed. Very few iconic paintings were part of the exhibition and there appeared to be a lot of padding out of material that was relevant, but not all that eye catching.

The crowds were out in force and we were obliged to queue for at least twenty minutes before gaining admission to the exhibition.

The final painting was appropriately a self portrait…

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Self-portrait - autumn 1887 Paris

Despite being underwhelmed by the offerings, the exhibition was none the less enlightening and eye pleasing and I’m glad I took the effort to see it.

After all it was awe inspiring to see Van Gogh’s paintings up close.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Fret ‘n’ Fright ‘n’ Worried with a Happy Ending

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Look at that face! You’d think butter wouldn’t melt, but you would be deceived.

We’re just recovering from a terribly fretful day, when Bingo went missing for 26 hours – a night and a day.

On Sunday night around 7.30pm Bingo vanished and stayed vanished for the aforementioned length of time.

We searched and called for hours to no avail on Sunday night, and the next morning panicked and desolated with his non appearance, proceeded to take further steps in the effort to find him.

I created a Lost Cat flyer and printed out 40 copies to be letterboxed in the area. I registered Bingo at Lost Pet Finders and also joined a Facebook Group, Lost Cats Melbourne.

Oracles were consulted with mixed results, though I was pleased to get Preponderance of Great at my last I Ching reading which promised supreme good fortune.

Last night we extended the boundaries of our search and walked all the streets within the area where we reside which has  a creek on one corner and two main roads at the other end.

I must admit I had resigned myself to never seeing young Bingo again, my mind in turmoil at his loss, where every contingency had been covered without success.

We had both retired to bed to read when our perturbation turned to relief and joy at around 9.20pm, hearing Bingo chirping as he came up the hall from the back of the house.

None the worse for his adventure, other than very hungry, he was jumpy and nervous at first, though as pleased to see us as we were to see him.

This morning he was quite subdued, for him, but as the day progressed he was back to his rascally self and even enboldened by whatever he had undergone.

Whether it was the letterboxing, or the long walk and calling around the neighbourhood, that brought him home, we’ll never know. Nor do we have a clue as to his whereabouts during those trying 26 hours.

One forgets that there always comes a time in a young cat’s life where they go missing overnight and you think the worst has befallen them. It is always with immeasurable relief that they find their way home, and -more to the point - know where home is.

As we have not as yet put a collar and tag on him, we hope to address this shortly. I was pleased to discover that you can buy a tracking tag, which you can attach to the collar and trace through radio waves via a handheld device – a sort of  geiger counter for cats, so I’ve ordered one from Tab Cat. It should arrive in a week or so. I’ll report on its effectiveness when it is activated.

With the Bingo trauma now over, we had to go to a funeral today for our long time next door neighbour who died of lung cancer on 5 June. He was a gentle soul and a very good neighbour, who loved our cats. He’ll be missed by all who knew him.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Bingo Progress Report 6 –After the Snip

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Bingo on the antique dresser – fortunately free of ornaments  -  removed elsewhere for safety

Bingo is now six months old and  grown quite a bit since my last report, and has been desexed into the bargain.

He was back to his mischievous ways  the day after his op, and as he has grown so has his scope for wickedness.

The state of affairs between Bingo and Talya is pretty much the same – he teases her and she retaliates, though with claws sheathed.

Sometimes it seems that she is playing chasing games with him until he gets too close and sparks fly again. They both get tetchy when they’re hungry, so when I’m doling food into their separate bowls there’s growling on Talya’s part as Bingo takes advantage of her distraction and tries to goose her, by tapping her back leg and darting away.

As is the case with most kittens, when they see birds in a tree they think they are easy pickings, Bingo has been sighted up one or other of the trees in the backyard going after birds.  The birds are wise to this and mock his efforts to reach them, perching temptingly close on a twig, whilst he chatters at them and vainly tries to find an easy way to bridge the gap. We’ve seen a blackbird teasing him, and a bunch of lorikeets as well, shrieking their amusement at his predicament.

Bingo is terribly interested in everything that happens and follows us around in a dog like fashion. Recently I washed the floor and guess who trailed me from room to room, but Bingo, fascinated by the mop and of course running over the newly washed floors.

He’s irrepressible and bad as bad can be when he’s in a lively mood. No sooner do you open a cupboard, than he’s in, ditto with drawers. He climbs into the toilet and jumps on the seat when you’re about to sit down. His table manners are non existant and you often find a kitten sitting on your shoulder as you munch a piece of toast, a hopeful paw reaching for the plate. He disconnects electrical cords and claws screens, not to mention running across the keyboard and opening multiple browser windows.

Despite all this he is very endearing and exceptionally pretty.

Considering that we got him to fill the gap left by Willy’s  death, Bingo has filled it to bursting.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Ryan Adams Lights Up Margaret Court Arena

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Ryan Adams & The Unknown Band live 26 May 2017

Margaret Court Arena is the little sister stadium to Rod Laver Arena and named to honour Australian Tennis star Margaret Court. It will probably be renamed after the said famous tennis star recently expressed homophobic views in a letter to the West Australian newspaper, stating that she would no longer fly with Qantas Airlines owing to  the Qantas CEO ‘s support for same sex marriage.

Ryan Adams, the star of Friday night’s stellar show remarked on twitter that as a Pagan he strongly supports marriage equality and  has since dubbed the venue Marriage Equality Arena. Ryan Adams has never been one for political comment, but since the advent of Trump he, like many other artists, has become more vocal on current social and political issues.

A sign of the New World dystopia in which we live these days, and as a reaction to recent terrorist attacks, there was a long queue at the approach to the entry doors of the arena, where every concert goer was individually searched and scanned before they could enter. This led to a delay in the evening’s time table, not necessarily affecting the support act, The Middle Kids, but causing the Ryan Adams’ set to start later than scheduled. At least that’s what Ryan Adams said at the end of his two hour performance; due to a curfew, rushing through the last two songs in lieu of an encore. 

Anyway, on to the concert…

After enduring the security screening on entering the arena, my friend B and I, after a brief visit to the Merchandise Table,  found our seats and discovered that they weren’t too bad at all, a centre spot on the lower level that provided an excellent view of the stage, but a bit far away for decent non noisy photos. It was my first time at Margaret Court Arena, so I was not sure what to expect. As stadiums go, it was quite intimate in vibe and has a capacity for about 6,500 to 7000 people.

I did not take much heed to the support act other than to note that they were very loud. We basically caught the last half of their set by the time we took our seats.

After watching the roadies set up the stage for Ryan Adams, it was about an hour’s wait for the main act. I’m glad I opted for seated tickets, and didn’t envy the general admission standing crowd. At my age I don’t think I could stand for however many hours they were obliged to.

Favouring a low tech set, Ryan Adams decorates the stage with big amplifiers and banks of TV screens, and stuffed toy cats - three tigers, what appeared to be an ocelot, and a cardboard cut out of a cat perched on one the amplifiers.

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Stage being set up

So it was approaching 9.30pm before Ryan Adams and The Unknown Band took the stage and launched into the first song of the set, Do You Still Love Me?,  the opening track on Ryan Adams latest album Prisoner, then followed with the second  track on Heartbreaker – Ryan’s first solo recording of 2000 – To Be Young.

Prisoner is a really likeable album that grows on you the more you play it, so it was no trial to be treated to quite a few songs from the record – Outbound Train, Prisoner, Doomsday and To Be Without You (my favourite song on Prisoner) – interspersed with older tunes from Ryan Adams 15 album back catalogue.

The Unknown Band sounded great for most of the songs, though I found myself longing for Ryan’s former band The Cardinals when they played songs from that era (2005-2009), ie Magnolia Mountain, Let It Ride etc., still vividly recalling the concert at the Forum in January 2009 – one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen. The arrangements seemed strange and somewhat clunky to me who has heard better versions in the past.

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Ryan Adams rocking out (with tiger)

There was very little chit chat from Ryan during the concert, the songs being performed in fast sequence with hardly a pause, Ryan occasionally performing solo in the midst of what was a predominantly rock n roll set, his beautiful voice as always carrying clearly across the expanse of the arena.

The Melbourne audience was, as is generally the case, quietly appreciative and I did not witness any bad behaviour,  acknowleged by Ryan, referring to his recent show at Byron Bay which was spoiled by disinterested attendees who chatted loudly throughout his set.

This may be the last time that Ryan Adams will visit Australia, so I’m glad I got to see him perform live one more time.  Ryan Adams suffers from Meniere's disease, a chronic disorder of the inner ear that is exacerbated by long distance flights.

He’s a real trooper of a performer who gives his all in concerts despite his disability.

Ryan Adams Setlist

1. Do You Still Love Me?

2. To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)

3. Gimme Something Good

4. Two

5. Dirty Rain

6. Outbound Train

7. Stay With Me

8. Prisoner

9. Magnolia Mountain

10. Fix It

11. Wonderwall (Oasis cover)

12. Doomsday

13. When the Stars Go Blue

14. My Winding Wheel

15. Invisible Riverside

16. Let It Ride

17. Cold Roses

18. Kim

19. To Be Without You

20. Everybody Knows

21. Mockingbird

22. Peaceful Valley

23. New York, New York

24. Shakedown on 9th Street

Friday, May 26, 2017

Colson Whitehead–Black America Matters

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Colson Whitehead – Northcote Town Hall – 24/5/17

Colson Whitehead is the author of  six novels covering a variety of topics, and has recently attained fame and glory with his most recent novel, The Underground Railroad, which was championed by Oprah Winfrey and won the 2016 National Book Award and 2017 Pulitzer Prize.

A near full house was present at Northcote Town Hall on Wednesday night to see Colson Whitehead in conversation with Wheeler Centre Director Michael Williams.

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Michael Williams at Northcote Town Hall – 24/5/17

Colson Whitehead looks a cool guy and came across as unaffected and amiable, not making any big deal of being an American of black descent, though the conversation primarily  centred on that issue.

This focus was understandable in light of the subject matter of The Underground Railroad, it being about black slavery in America’s shameful past.

It was an interesting conversation as Colson Whitehead explained how he came to write the novel. He said that he had been thinking of it for many years before he finally wrote it, and that it took several years for it to be finished to his satisfaction.

He was astonished by the reception the novel received, particularly when he was obliged to appear on Oprah’s Book Club show.

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Colson Whitehead reads an excerpt from The Underground Railroad

I noticed that the event was filmed, but the podcast is now available to listen to here .

Tonight, I’m off to see Ryan Adams at Margaret Court Arena – can’t wait!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Strange Here: George Saunders consorting with ghosts

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George Saunders live at Northcote Town Hall 21/5/17

It has been a few years since I last attended a Literary event, the last being in 2015 when I had the pleasure of seeing David Mitchell and Jonathan Lethem.

Sunday night, as mentioned in my previous post, I attended the Wheeler Centre event at Northcote Town Hall that featured American author George Saunders, acclaimed short story writer, and now novelist.

I’ve never actually been inside Northcote Town Hall before, despite living in the neighbourhood for over 30 years. A grand classical edifice on the outside, the interior features genuine Art Deco motifs – very classy.

The evening took the form of a conversation between noted Australian writer and commentator, Don Watson and the special guest.

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Don Watson at Northcote Town Hall – 21/5/17

George Saunders came across as a genial chap, interesting and funny.

My ambivalence to his novel Lincoln in the Bardo was turned around after seeing him speak about it.

The novel  is not really suitably set up for reading on a Kindle as I found the layout confusing and at times illegible when the font abruptly changed to italics set at a smaller point. This in turn detracted from the experience of reading the book.

It is undoubtedly a clever novel and passing strange, set as it is in a dead zone – the Bardo - inhabited by an extraordinary collection of ghosts, all with unique voices.

The evening’s discussion naturally centred on Lincoln in the Bardo and also touched on the present state of America under the Trump presidency in contrast to the America of Abraham Lincoln who has been regarded as an American hero throughout the nation’s history.

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George Saunders reads an excerpt from Lincoln in the Bardo

George Saunders also was asked about his writing methods, to which he responded that rigorous revision was the key ingredient of his development of plot.

He read a short excerpt from Lincoln in the Bardo, including the source references.  Ninety percent of these references are drawn from actual historical snippets, the rest are fictional.  George Saunders would not say which were real or which made up.

It was an illuminating evening and a privilege to see George Saunders in person.

Podcast can be listened to here.