Thursday, February 15, 2007

Autumn Racing Carnival, Feminist Science Fiction and New Music

Apologies for the long silence, I’ve been feeling uninspired of late – a period of the doldrums in terms of getting up the energy to blog. So here’s a triple whammy entry.

Horse Racing

Last Saturday the autumn racing carnival featured the Orr Stakes, with an awesome line-up of contestants. It was hard to pick the winner, as all the runners had the form and ability to take out the race. The mighty El Segundo won it in the end.

There is no Autumn Super Stable competition running, so I’ve entered into the next best comp, the Top 30 where one selects a stable of 30 horses to follow. There are no constraints on one’s choices, so I’ve selected what I consider to be a very good stable. Thirteen of them raced last Saturday resulting in four wins, which included my old favourite Apache Cat and my current horse-to-watch, Haradasun. The latter has had two runs since coming back from a spell and has easily thrashed his opponents both times. He certainly appears to be something special, and is a very good looking young horse (see photo above). He’s got his own website too. It will be interesting to see if he lives up to the hype when he tackles more difficult races later in the season. His owners and trainer are not motivated by greed it seems, and have given him an easy entrée back into racing, for which they are to be commended.

Feminist Science Fiction

For the past month I’ve been indulging in a reading binge of feminist science fiction. There’s quite a lot of it around and I have a fair collection of them in my personal library.

First off I read Elizabeth Vonarburg’s “The Silent City” and “In the Mother’s Land”. These books are related, the first being set in a post apocalyptic world where Scientists locked away in cities, manipulate human genetics to create a super being in the person of Elisa who is meant to be the redemption of mankind. Outside the cities the remnants of post apocalyptic humanity live in primitive societies where females outnumber men on a ratio of 50 to 1. Despite this women are still treated as cattle by the few males in power. It’s a tough world outside the cities and Elisa’s contact with it has far reaching effects on the people she meets, and she in turn is affected by her contact with the outside. It drives her to create a new species of human, like herself, persons who can heal themselves at will and metamorphose into anything they choose, including changing sex.

“In the Mother’s Land” is set 500 years after the events of “The Silent City” and a very different society has evolved. It is a civilised, matriarchal society where the sexes are kept apart except for reproductive purposes. Women still outnumber the men. It follows the life of a gifted young woman who delves into the past through following a career of archaeology.

Sheri S Tepper is known as an eco-feminist Science Fiction writer. Her novel, the “The Gate to Women’s Country” also depicts a matriarchal society where the women inhabit the towns and men live outside the walls in martial barracks. Tepper’s novels are always worth reading. Her style is quirky and her books are imaginative and original. She often takes ideas to unusual logical conclusions and generally inserts a surprise twist before the end. I’m currently reading her “Gibbon’s Decline and Fall” a surprisingly prescient novel considering that it was written in the mid 90s.

New Music

2007 started on a promising level with the release last week of two interesting new CDs from Patty Griffin and Lucinda Williams.

“Children Running Through” is Patty Griffin’s sixth general release. She is a remarkable songwriter and has a voice of amazing power. Her voice is the focus of this latest CD, and is demonstrated in many ways in all its glory. One track “Trapeze” is so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes. Emmylou Harris shares singing credits with Patty on this song and the sound of their voices intertwining is truly affecting. Patty Griffin croons, rocks, whispers and sings the blues, soul and rock n roll on this recording. She has never made a bad record and all her CDs are worth buying.

The new Lucinda Williams CD “West”, I must admit I have only listened to once. My first impression is that the songs have a sameness about them and lack the depth of her earlier stuff. It’s a very gloomy record, almost embarrassingly personal. Despite that, it makes for pleasant listening with mesmeric rock tunes interspersed with heavy rocking numbers. Reading reviews of the CD, opinions are divided between those who consider “West” Lucinda’s masterpiece and others who regard it as pretty much the same as her last two recordings “Essence” and “World Without Tears”, and not a patch on “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” which is widely believed to be her best record. She’s certainly a highly individual artist.

I’d love to see her perform on stage, as apparently she is a great live performer. She was supposed to tour Australia some years ago, but cancelled when her mother died. It was most disappointing at the time, but one can console oneself with watching her live on DVD.


Jan said...

Have you got into Corinne Bailey Rae's music??
I imagine from ones you mention here, you would certainly enjoy her wonderful voice
"Forgive me if I am teaching grandmas to suck eggs..)

Anne S said...

I haven't heard of Corrine Bailey Rae. I've checked her out on Google and she does sound as if she would be worth a closer look & listen.

Mostly, I follow American music and singer-songwriters. I like voices with an edge which is hard to describe. Sometimes they're not beautiful in the classic sense, but they have an emotional appeal nonetheless.

For instance, I consider Norah Jones to have a very good voice, but it is too bland for my taste.

chiefbiscuit said...

I love the mix of Patty Griffin and Emmylou Harris' voices - I must put Patty Griffin on my 'Wanted' list - altho' I believe she might already be there ... Thanks for the recommendation.

Anne S said...

CB - You would probably love Patty Griffin. On her new CD she almost sounds like Julie Miller on one song, though their voices are not in the least alike. Patty Griffin's voice is indescribable, though not by any means peculiar. One is mostly struck by the power of her voice.

She has several CDs out. Her earlier ones "Living With Ghosts" and "Flaming Red" are not as readily available as her later releases, though the aforementioned are very individual in style, "Ghosts" being stark and acoustic and "Flaming Red" being rock n roll. But the songs on both of them are truly extraordinary.

"1000 Kisses" is lush and very beautiful and one of my favorites. But I like them all.