Thursday, August 17, 2017

Early Spring Fever – Winx, Bart, Hartnell & Catchy

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Black Heart Bart at Caulfield after winning the Futurity Stakes

Technically it’s still winter, but the  Spring racing season gets a fine taster of what is yet to come this Saturday at Caulfield and Randwick.

For a start, the wonderful Winx will be kicking off her spring campaign in the Group 2 Warwick Stakes at Randwick, a race she won last year on her way to her second Cox Plate. She faces seven rivals, whom she should easily account for, the most threatening being her stablemates Fox Play and Antonio Giuseppe and young gun Inference. Winx will be gunning for her 18th consecutive win. We all hope she succeeds.

Hartnell was runner up to Winx last year in the Warwick Stakes, and many other times besides, so his path this spring will not cross with hers. We get to see him in Melbourne this weekend in the feature race at Caulfield, the Group 2 P B Lawrence Stakes, where he will take on local hero Black Heart Bart.  The Lawrence Stakes has attracted a classy field that include Australian Cup winner Humidor, 2015 Mackinnon Stakes winner Gailo Chop,  former Japanese horse Tosen Stardom, He’s Our Rokkii and Group 1 winning mares Abbey Marie and Montoya’s SecretLankan Rupee was an acceptor for the Lawrence Stakes, but has been scratched to take an easier option at Morphettville. He ran a great second in the deferred Bletchingly Stakes, only narrowly beaten by Ability.

As well as the Lawrence Stakes there is also the Quezette Stakes and Vain Stakes, both Group 3 over 1100 metres for three year olds heading for the Thousand Guineas and Caulfield Guineas later in the season.

The Quezette Stakes for fillies has a super field, highlighted by the return of Blue Diamond Stakes winner Catchy. 

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Catchy returning scale after winning the Blue Diamond Stakes

Up until the Golden Slipper Stakes, where she ran last on an extremely heavy track, Catchy was unbeaten in her previous four starts.  She will no doubt start favourite in the Quezette Stakes and is the top pick.  Tulip who ran third in the Golden Slipper Stakes is a serious rival along with Crown Witness, unbeaten in two starts and Arctic Angel to a lesser degree. I Am A Star won this race last year and has since proved a talented filly with a Group 1 race (Myer Classic ) to her credit.

As for the Vain Stakes,  Jukebox and Kobayashi appear the best chances along with Lone Eagle and Wait For No One. Last year Russian Revolution was the Vain Stakes winner, and he went on to win the Group 1 Galaxy against the older horses in autumn.

The weather on Saturday in Melbourne is forecast to be cold and wet, but that doesn’t put me off attending this first interesting meeting of the new season. It can only get better from now on.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Old Man Mad About Drawing – The Hokusai Exhibition

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The Great Wave

Hokusai’s signature picture is of course The Great Wave off Kanagawa – every man and his dog recognises it as his work straight off. I admit that I class myself in the aforementioned category, so it was illuminating to discover that Hokusai was not a one trick pony, but a major Japanese artist who had many strings to his bow.

The exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria features 176 works from  Japan Ukiyo-e Museum, Matsumoto, plus those in the NGV collection and was surprisingly extensive. Just when you thought you had seen everything,  you’d find another room featuring a different aspect of Hokusai’s art.

You start off with a selection of prints from Hokusai’s early period, such as this image of Shishi – Mystic Lion Dogs.

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Mystic Lion Dogs (detail) 1820 ink on silk

Also included in this section were pictures of Kabuki actors in various roles.

The biggest section featured 36 Views of Mount Fuji, which were wonderful to see all displayed together, causing the viewer to marvel at the various perspectives – no two alike – of the iconic mountain. I was really struck by the perfect composition of Hokusai’s images – they were quirky but nothing jarred as being out of place

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Mt Fuji and the old pine

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South wind, clear sky Red Fuji

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Inume Pass in Kai Province

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Lake Suwa in Shinano Province

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Umezawa hamlet fields in Sagami Province

From the views of Mt Fuji one moved on to The Great Wave where two almost identical prints were displayed side by side, one owned by NGV the other by Ukiyo-e Museum.

Waterfalls were next…

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Falling mist waterfall at Mt Kurokami in Shimotsuke Province

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The Amida Falls in the far reaches of the Kisokaidō Road

…then bridges.

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But there was more to come – One Hundred Poems Explained by the Nurse, Hokusai interpreting visually the meaning of various poems, Eight Views of the Ryūkyū Islands, Ghosts, Birds and Flowers, Snow, Moon and Flowers, and finally a series of notebooks, known as Hokusai Manga, a voluminous collection of sketches covering a wide range of subjects.

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The mansion of the plates – Ghost

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Cuckoo and azaleas

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Hydrangeas and swallow

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Wisteria and wagtail

Photography was permitted, so I snapped a great many shots at the exhibition, most of them wood block prints. It is certainly a truly great exhibition well worth the cost of entry – a modest $13.00 with Senior’s Card discount on Wednesdays.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Just What the Doctor Ordered

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Hey Doc wins the Aurie’s Star Handicap

It’s not every day that you get to feed a piece of carrot and pat old champions of the turf, so I was delighted to find that Fish and Foo (Efficient and Fields of Omagh) were present at Flemington on Saturday as the special equine guests from Living Legends.

Effiicient is a particular favourite of mine -  a big grey horse who won the Melbourne Cup 10 years ago.

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Efficient parading in the mounting yard

Fields of Omagh has the distinction of winning the Cox Plate twice, in 2003 and 2006.

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Fields of Omagh – a hit with the kids

It wasn’t that bad weather wise for an afternoon at the races – chilly and overcast, but the rain held off.

Catching the last train for Flemington Racecourse (1.40pm) I got to the big track around 2.00pm, and thus witnessed four races.

The first of these was Race 4,  the VRC Member William O’Grady Handicap, run over 1700 metres. The horses were being loaded into the barriers as I reached my favoured position just past the winning post.

I was interested to test my new camera. Well may you ask, why I have yet another new one, but the Nikon D3300 developed a serious fault that would have cost more to fix than it was worth. As a replacement I upgraded to a Nikon D5300 which was compatible with my lenses and even used the same model battery.

Overall I’m pleased with the photos I snapped with it last Saturday, but I’m still tinkering with its settings.

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Jaminzah who won Race 4 returning to scale

As the inside rail was out 10 metres, and despite the wideness of the Flemington track, it is difficult getting clear shots without rails cutting off the view.

Race 5 was the VRC Member Mark Young Handicap over 1400 metres which was won by the amusingly named Swampland, who has now chalked up three wins in succession.

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Swampland returns to scale after winning Race 5

Chris Waller trained gallopers took out three of the races on Saturday, Jaminzah in race 4 was one, and Wayanka another, the victor in Race 6, the VRC Member Joan Watson Handicap, which had assembled a huge field of 15 starters.  The third Waller winner was Alward in Race 8.

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Wayanka on his way to winning race 6

The feature race was the Aurie’s Star Handicap and as it was up next I headed for the mounting yard to test the camera with shots of the pre race parade.

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Hey Doc

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I Am A Star

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Yesterday’s Songs

Hey Doc led the field from shortly after the start, racing along the outside rail. Despite his top weight, he had enough in the tank to keep his momemtum and win by a head from Cannyescent with Grande Rosso a half length third. I Am A Star did not disgrace herself running a solid fourth.

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Down the straight in the Aurie’s Star approaching the finish line

I did not stay for the final two races as the trains from Flemington to the city were running again so I headed home.

It was enjoyable being back at Flemington, despite the races not being of any great interest. And the D5300 passed with flying colours in general.

I look forward to giving it another whirl next week at Caulfield, which features the PB Lawrence Stakes with the Quezette Stakes and Vain Stakes also being of great interest.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Been Down So Long, It Looks Like Up To Me

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I Am A Star – March 11 2017

Whilst waiting for world war three to break out, you need to have some reason to be cheerful.

The heading of this post is the title of a novel by Richard Farina , popular in the late 1960s, the quintessential 60s novel. It doesn’t mean that I have been particularly depressed, though I’m still not happy about the impending move to another location.

Spring is on the way judging by the fairly mild weather we’ve experienced over the past few days, and the upcoming Spring Racing Season,  and  this weekend welcomes back two Group 1 winners.

The racing this weekend is at Flemington and features the Group 3, Aurie’s Star Handicap, a race over 1200 metres. The top weights are  Australian Guineas winner Hey Doc and Myer Classic winner
I Am A Star, both kicking off their Spring campaigns in this race.

Whether either will win is another matter. Both are best over 1600 metres, but have won shorter distanced races. Top chances in the race are Sydney mare Flippant, the in form Cannyescent, Snitzon and Grande Rosso

As we’re moving in four weeks, I’m taking the opportunity to use the readily accessible public transport in my current location to go places. So I’ll be heading out to Flemington tomorrow to catch the racing action.

Earlier this afternoon it was pleasing to see (on the screen) Black Caviar’s daughter Oscietra win her first race at a Geelong meeting. I saw her on New Year’s Day in her first race where she ran third to the smart Limestone.

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Oscietra at Flemington on New Year’s Day.

Oscietra won the Geelong race by a couple of lengths and looked good doing so. She’s still quite small, but appears to have some of her mother’s talent.

With the equine stars emerging from their winter breaks over the next few weeks, my interest in racing is piqued anew and cheered me up.

Winx has had a couple of trials and actually won her last  trial – something she has not accomplished before. She is due to have her first race for the spring in the Warwick Stakes Saturday week. Hopefully the world will stay in one piece long enough for me to witness Winx win her third Cox Plate on 28 October.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Boxed In

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Book Boxes

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been busy packing belongings into boxes. The most mammoth task for me was boxing my private library which ended up using 37 boxes. Books were shelved everywhere in the house and in the studio as well, so I made sure to number and keep note of the contents of each box.

The last time we moved – 31 years ago – one box of books went missing, and I still wonder what books were contained within it. Perhaps there were some books I could have sworn I owned but failed to locate, in that lost box.

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The obligatory cat photo – Bingo on top of a box.

Today, as a break from packing, I crawled out from the rubble and went to the current feature exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria in Federation Square titled Brave New World: Australia 1930s.

Poster by Percy Trompf

If you haven’t been to this exhibition I highly recommend that you take time to visit as it is simply splendid, covering as it does a very interesting (and stylish) period of Australian history.

Brave New World: Australia 1930s encompasses the multitude of artistic styles, both advanced and conservative, which were practised during the 1930s. Included are commercial art, architecture, fashion, industrial design, film and dance to present a complete picture of this dynamic time

I must admit many of the works on display were by artists I have never heard of, but images by  the famous photographer Max Dupain were prominent including the iconic image below...

The Sun Bather by Max Dupain

…and the provocative Brave New World, originally banned in the 1930s, which reminded me of Fritz Lang’s wonderful film Metropolis, released in 1927.

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Brave New World – Max Dupain

I regretted not taking my camera to the exhibition as there were several paintings and sculptures that I would like to have a photographed, one of which I found online. It’s a portrait by Sybil Craig of fellow artist Peggy Crombie.

Peggy by Sybil Craig

The exhibition was comprehensive and covered photography, painting, costume, furniture and ceramics, depicting a diverse range of topics – utopia & dystopia, indiginous art including piaintings by Albert Namatjira.

I could go on, but don’t want to spoil the surprise of seeing this wonderful exhibition for anyone else.

The other major exhibition at NGV is of Hokusai which I plan to visit next week.

Finally, my efforts to escape the humdrum last Saturday at the races at Caulfield were cut short, when they were  cancelled shortly after I arrived at the course, due to the severe winds. So the Bletchingly Stakes will  now be run at Sandown next Sunday.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Harbinger of Spring and Bingo update

Talya & Bingo curled up together on Talya’s bed

You might think from the above photo that the relationship between the resident cats has improved, but you would be wrong. It’s very rare to see the two of them in such close proximity and fortunately I managed to get photographic proof that such a state of harmony is possible. Note that neither cat is touching the other, a slight gap separates them,  otherwise it would be a different story.

Bingo is now eight months old and just as mischievous as ever, interested in everything we do. He’s been helping pack boxes for the move and would love to lend a paw with the cooking or anything else that’s forbidden to a greedy kitten. He’s my shadow, following me around like a dog inside and outside and my little mate when I’m reading in bed.

He loves food and will eat anything. As mentioned before he doesn’t mind eating zucchini and devours four large zucchinis a week. Unfortunately he has also decided  that dried cat food is edible, but we don’t feed him any and he only gets what he can steal from Talya who is fed a small amount of the stuff as a snack when she’s begging for a handout. She refuses to eat zucchini or any other vegetable, whereas Bingo is fond of broccoli as well as zucchini and eats it with relish.

As winter drags on I’m pleased that the new racing season is almost here.  The old season goes out with the Group 3 Bletchingly Stakes at Caulfield tomorrow, which I am looking forward to attending.  Lankan Rupee, one of my favourite racehorses, is one of the contestants. He has been out of action since last spring, his last races being on Caulfield Cup Day and at Flemington on Emirates Stakes Day where he finished third and fourth respectively.

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Lankan Rupee in his stall at Caulfield 2016

Lankan Rupee was named the top sprinter in the 2013/2014 racing year, but has been below his best at more recent outings, injury of one sort or another putting him out of action for lengthy periods. He’s now a rising eight year old and is not expected to win first up in the Bletchingly Stakes, though it wouldn’t be all that much of a surprise if he did win.

He faces 12 other rivals, four others, like him, resuming after a break. Supido, who recently won the John Monash Stakes, is obviously the one to beat. Others in the picture are Keen Array, Dayton Grey, Chocolate Holic, Ability, Duke of Brunswick and sole filly Savanna Amour.

As it’s forecast to be 19° C in Melbourne  tomorrow, it will pleasant to be trackside again, though I’ll take my time getting there as the feature race is scheduled as Race 8, later in the afternoon. 

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.