Monday, May 23, 2016

Might and Power & The Hall of Fame

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Might and Power parading in the mounting yard at Flemington

Though I would not normally attend race meetings at this time of year, it being the off season, I made an exception when I learned that Living Legend, the great Might and Power, would be the special equine guest at the Saturday race meeting at Flemington.

I last saw Might and Power in 1998 winning the Cox Plate, and felt I couldn’t miss a rare opportunity to get close to him and give him a pat.

The race meeting at Flemington was part of the National Hall of Fame raceday, to honour the 2016 inductees into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame.

Might and Power was inducted in 2002, but this year’s inductees include horses, Leilani, Luskin Star, Merman and Sydeston, Jockeys Pat Hyland  and  Noel McGrowdie, Trainers Neville Begg and Cecil Godby, and race caller Joe Brown and journalist Les Carlyon.

Arriving at Flemington around 12.45pm, I was in time to watch race 3, the Might and Power Handicap a race over 2000 metres, as I figured the eponymous champion would be present at the course for it.

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Race 3 finish – Turnitaround (red cap) fights out the finish with Second Bullet

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Turnitround returns to scale

I had chanced to speak to Dr Andrew Clarke, CEO of Living Legends as I made my way to the fence to photograph the race, so knew Might and Power would be in his stall. So thence I went after the race.

A small crowd of admirers was outside Might and Power’s stall and slices of carrot were being distributed to those in attendance to offer to the big horse. He enthusiastically gobbled them up and looked for more, allowing plenty of pats in the meantime.

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Might and Power outside his stall looking for carroty treats.

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Might and Power in his stall posing nicely for a photo

I was mighty chuffed when Andrew Clarke handed me the following badge…

…and was delighted to add it to my racing memorablia.

Might and Power was a force to be reckoned with back in the late 1990s winning the 1997 Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup and winning the Cox Plate the following year, the first horse to accomplish the feat since Rising Fast in 1954.

The feature race of the afternoon was the Listed Andrew Ramsden Stakes, a race over 3200 metres (the same distance as the Melbourne Cup). The winner gains a ballot free entry into the famous race.

It was scheduled as race 7, so there were three other races to watch before it was run.

As it was a mild mostly sunny afternoon that was not an ordeal, and it gave me the opportunity to try out the Nikon D3300 again.

I must admit it takes really good action shots; for instance the finish of Race 4, the Carbine Club Handicap, which was won by Mihany from Santa Rocks and Aurum Spririt. I was really pleased the photo caught the winning post moment.

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Race 4 finish at the post.

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Mihany returns to scale

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Santa Rocks returns to scale

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Aurum Spirit returns to scale

Race 5 was the Les Carlyon AC Handicap, a race over 1600 metres for three year olds.

It was won by Loyalty Man narrowly defeating Sir Sagamore and Whoop Whoop was third, a length back.

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Loyalty Man (no 1) and Sir Sagamore head to head to the finish

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Loyalty Man returns to scale

And so the afternoon flitted by.

My photographer acquaintance George, who doesn’t bet, but occasionally mentions his fancies, liked Amarela in the 6th race, and proved spot on when she won by half a length from Time to Test and Ashkannd.

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Amarela a nose in front of Time to Test approaching the finish line.

Half the field in the feature race, the Andrew Ramsden Stakes, were imported stayers from Europe and Ireland and there was even one from Japan. They were all it for a chance to run in the Melbourne Cup.

French import Glorious Sinndar ended up the eventual winner, narrowly beating Japanese import The Bandit, with Australian bred De Little Engine a distant third.

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Glorious Sinndar (blue silks) defeats The Bandit in the Andrew Ramsden Stakes

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Glorious Sinndar in the mounting yard

By the time Race 7 had run, the first train back to the city was almost due to depart, so I headed to the station and home.

It was pleasant to be back at Flemington on a sunny afternoon in uncrowded conditions, and I was pleased to have accomplished my mission to meet and pat Might and Power.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Chemical Wedding–Book Collectors Delight

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Chemical Wedding cover image from Small Beer Press

I know, I know, I’m still waiting for the publication of John Crowley’s 25th Anniversary Edition (I wish she would wake up!) of his best loved work, Little, Big, but I couldn’t resist pledging to the Kickstarter for The Chemical Wedding, a four hundred year old romance by Christian Rosencruetz (Johann Valentin Andreae), re-imagined by  John Crowley, who dubs it the first Science Fiction novel ever written.

To mark the 400th Anniversary of the work, first published in 1616, Small Beer Press will be publishing this new version in November 2016 in diverse editions, paperback and eBook, and have launched a Kickstarter to fund the more exotic limited editions – an exclusive Hard Cover Edition, a Numbered Edition and a Lettered Edition.

Small Beer Press is an American independent publishing company founded and run by husband and wife team, Gavin J Grant and Kelly Link. They publish a range of fine speculative fiction and non fiction. They also established Weightless Books, a DRM free source of eBooks from independent publishers. 

Anyway, The Chemical Wedding looks as if it will a splendid edition and a real collectable, destined to become a rare book classic. It will be illustrated throughout with whimsical woodcuts by Theo Fadel, John Crowley’s artist of choice for the book.

The Kickstarter offers many reward levels, and there are some tempting goodies, such as (limited) signed and inscribed first editions of John Crowley novels, if you pledge for the Hard Cover. Every level from $10.00 upwards receives a DRM free eBook of The Chemical Wedding in the eBook format of your choice.

If you are a serious bibliophile and love fine editions, the Kickstarter for The Chemical Wedding gives you the opportunity to acquire an exceptionally beautiful first edition at a good price.

Fortunately we will not have to wait 11+ years for it to be published, as Small Beer Press expect the books to be available in October or November 2016.

It will be interesting for me to see which book will arrive first in my mailbox – Little, Big 25 or The Chemical Wedding. Let’s say, I’m not holding my breath for Little, Big as there has been no news on its publication since December last year.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Instead of a Love Poem by Adi Sappir

Instead of a love poem cover cdbaby

The cello is a melancholy  instrument that evokes a sense of yearning and nostalgia. It is the perfect musical vehicle for introspective and thoughtful songs.

Such is the case with cellist and singer, Adi Sappir’s recently released EP, Instead of a Love Poem, her tribute to Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai.

Adi is Israeli born but makes her home in Melbourne these days and is well known as one of the local trio, The Mercurials, whom I have reviewed previously.

I must admit I had never come across the poetry of Yehuda Amichai, but have since addressed my ignorance of his work, after Adi asked me to review her EP.  He is acclaimed in both Israel and Internationally as poet of remarkable intelligence and acuity, writing about the universal themes of love, death and old age in a fresh and interesting way.

Instead of a Love Poem contains six songs set to Yehuda Amichai poems.  It is a moving celebration of his work, masterfully expressed in music, Adi’s affecting voice blending with the rich tones of her cello to create a soundscape of mournful beauty.

The added accompaniment of piano, organ and vocals enrich the listening experience, interacting perfectly with the dark sad sound of the cello and Adi’s voice.

Track Listing

  1. Jerusalem
  2. Take Me To The Airport
  3. Air Hostess
  4. God Full Of Mercy
  5. Ecology of Jerusalem
  6. Such As Sorrow

You can purchase a digital copy of the EP from CD Baby or buy the physical article on Adi’s webite.  The buy option is hard to see, but look for the red text link above the EP cover image.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Ten Years On

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Talya on the outside table lying next to a pot of succulents

Today, May 4th, marks the 10th Birthday of Cat Politics Blogspot.

How the time has flown, though it doesn’t seem so. A lot has happened since I started. For instance I was still a member of the work force back in 2006, and one of the original cats, sweet Lizzie, is now four years dead, though Willy is still alive and kicking, albeit much older.

Cat Politics will continue into the forseeable future even if nobody reads my posts. I like constructing sentences and enjoy writing commentaries on whatever photos I snap or what captures my interest at a particular time.

Many Blogs that I used to follow have become frozen in time, which makes me nostaligic for the old blogger days of the early to mid 2000s, where the global community encouraged interesting and articulate commentary, rather than the triviality of such current popular platforms as Facebook and Twitter etc.

Of course there are still a multitude of bloggers who continue on doggedly offering their personal views to the world. Count me as one of them.

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Willy on the back door mat – expecting rain (paws curled in)

The above two photos of the cats are fairly recent, snapped in the sunshine of an unseasonably warm autumn.

As I write it has turned wintry with a cold front and blustery winds hinting at the changing of the seasons.

As far as the local cat situation goes, one has sadly departed. Pickle who was Willy’s comrade in mischief when they were kittens, was euthanised about a month ago, suffering from an untreatable thyroid condition.

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Pickle in the street

She was a lovely little cat who would run out to greet you if you were passing her house, and roll around at your feet while you gave her a pat.

Two new cats, both black and white, are agitating the cat republic. If there is a fight impending it is always one them invading another cat’s territory.

Before I publish this post I must mention the outstanding win by Chautauqua in Hong Kong last Sunday.  As usual he gave the rest of the field a start and lolloped along at the tail of the field until they turned into the straight, then unleashed his astonishing sprint to overtake the entire field on the outside and seize victory on the line.

He’s an exciting horse and a definite star of the turf, being regarded as the best sprinter in the world.  He has an excellent pedigree (Australian bred) being from Encosta De Lago and Lovely Jubly who were both talented racehorses in their day, whom I remember racing in the 1990s (Encosta De Lago) and early 2000s (Lovely Jubly).

Chautauqua will be back racing in the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival to give racing fans more thrills.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Apache Cat Two? Anzac Day Racing at Flemington

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St Leger finish – Cool Chap wins comfortably from Etymology and Bullish Stock

I’ve just bought another camera and it arrived last Friday, so I decided to give it whirl at the races to see how it performed.

It’s a Nikon D3300 with a 55 – 200 mm lens – the first Nikon camera I have owned or even used.  As far as Nikon DSLR cameras go, it is not a hugely expensive model nor too big and heavy to carry around. In fact it’s quite light and comfortable to use.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with my other cameras, the Canon G16 and the little Panasonic G3, but I’ve always thought that Nikon photos taken at the races by my racing acquaintance George were superior to those I achieved with the aforementioned cameras.

My first attempt to purchase a Nikon on eBay resulted in the camera failing to arrive. I’d been scammed!  Fortunately, after raising a Buyer’s Protection Case with eBay, my money was refunded in full, so I tried another online outlet called eGlobal, who were amazingly efficient and delivered the camera in three days at a very reasonable price.

I’m still getting to grips with the camera settings, so I’m glad I took it to the races on Monday to ascertain what settings are needed in the circumstances.

On the whole I’m quite pleased with the photos I took, though there were quite a few not worth saving – too dark for some reason- which is puzzling for a bright sunny afternoon. The camera seems to have a mind of its own where exposure is concerned.

I arrived at Flemington early, in time for Race 1, as I was interested in seeing the bizarre looking filly Miss Vista, who has been dubbed Apache Cat two, due to her predominately white face.

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Miss Vista in the mounting yard after winning the Euroa VC’s Handicap

She also appears to have ability and shows some potential to be a star of the turf. She recently won her first race at Ballarat by over five lengths and was having her second start in the city, at Flemington no less.  She cruised to victory after leading throughout, to hold out Fleur Fatale by half a length with first starter Saraswati running third.

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Miss Vista returns to scale

Miss Vista will now go for a spell and return in the spring, her connections, commendably, not wishing to overtax her so early in her career.

The feature race of the afternoon was the VRC St Leger, for three year old stayers run over 2800 metres and was programmed as Race 5.

As trains returning to the city from Flemington didn’t run until 4.25pm I was obliged to stay at the track for six races. It was a lovely autumn afternoon – warm and sunny –  pleasant to spend in the open air, so I didn’t mind the wait.

Race 2 was the Anzac Day Stakes, a race for two year olds over 1400 metres.

It was won by the appropriately named Throssell (after Hugo Throssell VC, who had Race 4 named in his honour) from Pyx Chamber and Smart As You Think.

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Throssell returns to scale

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Pyx Chamber returns to scale

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Smart As You Think

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Anzac Day Stakes finish – Throssell leads

The next race, the William Newton VC Handicap was run over 1610 metres. Hijack Hussy was the favourite, but the result, as it was all afternoon, didn’t favour favourites, and the race was won by 10/1 shot Every Faith from Written and Loveitt.

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Race 3 finish down the straight

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Every Faith

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As previously mentioned, Race 4 was the Hugo Throssell VC Handicap, a race for three year olds over 1400 metres.

It resulted in another long odds winner, Un De Sceaux, who defeated  Sir Sagamore and Shockaholic by a short margin.

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Un De Sceaux posing for photos with owners

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Sir Sagamore

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The afternoon flitted by quite swiftly and I got plenty of exercise walking back and forth from the mounting yard to just past the winning post.

The roses were still in bloom, though not in such great profusion as they were on Australian Cup Day.

Flemington Roses

Soon enough it was time for the feature race, the VRC St Leger.

Etymology started as favourite, but he was outstayed by Cool Chap, who as his name suggests is a son of High Chaparral, noted sire of stayers. Bullish Stock ran third.

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Cool Chap returns to scale after winning the VRC St Leger

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Bullish Stock

Every jockey riding a horse carrying the number one saddlecloth wore special Anzac Day silks (khaki as seen on Etymology’s jockey above). None of them were winners.

Due to the train timetable I had to stay until after Race 6, which was the Anzac Cup, another staying race, run over 2530 metres.

Big Memory who looked promising in his younger days, but hasn’t won a race for over two years, started as favourite, but was relegated to second by the humourously named Swacadelic, who came in at odds of 10/1. Don Doremo ran third.

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Swacadelic (purple & gold siks) beats Big Memory (khaki silks) in the Anzac Cup

The local racing scene is pretty uninteresting from now on and livens up at the end of July, when the build up to the Spring Racing Carnival starts.

However, Adelaide has a mini racing carnival over the next few weeks, then it’s the crazy Queensland winter racing carnival, which is always of some interest.

And this coming Sunday, Australian sprint stars,  Chautauqua and Buffering, will be gunning for Group 1 glory in Hong Kong in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize at Sha Tin. 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Dulcet Tones of Liz Stringer & Suzannah Espie at Caravan Music Club

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Liz Stringer at Caravan Music Club – 15 April 2016

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a concert at the outer suburban  music oasis of Caravan Music Club once again.

This time it was to see local female singer songwriters Liz Stringer and Suzannah Espie.

I have seen both artists before when I used to patronise the Basement Discs, but not for several years, so I was looking forward to seeing them performing their wonderful songs.

The show started with a short set by Liz Stringer who showcased several of her songs solo, accompanying herself on guitar. She’s acknowledged as one of the best songwriters in Australia and at the tender age of 25 she performs with a maturity beyond her years.  She released her first record at the age of 15.

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Liz Stringer at Caravan Music Club – 15 April 2016

There was brief interval after Liz’s set, then she returned to the stage with Suzannah Espie where it was explained that each would sing a few of their own songs turn about, whilst providing backing vocals and accompaniment to each other.

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Suzannah Espie at Caravan Music Club – 15 April 2016

They sounded lovely together, Suzannah’s sweeter timbred voice blending with Liz’s contralto in luscious harmonies.

I can’t remember all the songs sung, and didn’t take notes, but the ones that stuck in my mind included Suzannah’s great songs Rosedale and Bluebird Boots, and Liz’s High Open Hills and Angela.

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Suzannah Espie at Caravan Music Club  - 15 April 2016

Suzannah also performed the title track of her latest album Mother’s Not Feeling Herself Today, an album of songs relating to her recent status as a mother and the change it wrought on her life. The song itself is sung as a honky tonker.

They finished the night with one of my all time favourite songs, a cover of The Dark End Of The Street, originally written by Dan Penn, but performed by many other artists over the years – Gram Parsons and Ry Cooder for example.

It was a splendid evening of musical entertainment.  Liz Stringer and Suzannah Espie are fine representatives of the Melbourne music scene, and both are superb singers and songwriters.

Check them out, you’ll be pleasantly surprised if you haven’t heard of them before.

I have no other musical treats on the horizon, but I dare say there will be more before too long.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Whistler’s Mother – Art For Art’s Sake

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Whistler’s Mother – National Gallery of Victoria

Yesterday I took advantage of Senior’s Card discount day and went to the Whistler’s Mother Exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria.

I’ve always been a bit of a fan of Whistler’s art, not necessarily his most famous work which was the focus of this exhibition, but his wonderful minimalist water colours, like the one below scanned from American Watercolours, a large art book in my personal library.

Grey and Silver: Pier, Southend, early 1880s

The exhibition is fairly small, though educational, with the painting of Whistler’s Mother being the feature work. Several other works of art are displayed as well,  Australian artists who were influenced by the painting, and several Japanese art works.  Japanese art was a major influence on the art world of the mid to late 19th Century, and Whistler’s Mother is a prime example of how aspects of Japanese art are incorporated in the paintings of the period.

Several sets of Whistler’s etchings were also on display – his  English,French and Venice sets in particular.

When you first walk into the exhibition there were three striking caricatures of Whistler. He was apparently a flamboyant and colourful character and a proponent of the Aesthetic Movement, who believed in the idea of art for art’s sake..

Monocle right eye, portrait of J. M. Whistler (detail) c. 1899 by Mortimer Menpes

Whistler caricature by Aubrey Beardsley

You pass through several rooms before you finally arrive at the famous portrait, spotlit in a room by itself.

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Whistler’s Mother painting

There weren’t all that many people taking in this particular exhibition, so there was no difficulty in getting up close to the picture.

After leaving the Whistler exhibition I cruised through several rooms of art, trying to find an exit. Thus I ambled through European Art, Porcelain and Decorative Arts before finding the down escalator.

I photographed the claw foot of an elaborate table in the European Art section, as I have a fondness for claw footed furniture and this was a particularly attractive foot.

clawed foot

And I was amused by of the following cartoon for Mental Energy by James Gillray. The character looks the opposite of mentally energised!

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All in all, it was a pleasant exhibition well worth attending.