Friday, September 11, 2020

The Longing– A perfect game for Extended Lockdown

The Longing – promo image

With Victoria’s Covid 19 stage 4 restrictions extending for the foreseeable future, it struck me as appropriate to start playing the recently released computer game The Longing.

Classified as slow gaming, it takes 400 days to finish. In fact once you start the game you are not obliged to play, but can wait for the 400 real time days to pass to see the ending.

The time ticks down as you play the lonely Shade, servant to a sleeping king, who must wait out the 400 days so he can wake his master at the preordained time.

Passing time as the The Shade, you can explore the extensive cave structure and keep busy in one way or another by creating a cosy abode in which to pass the time. There are (real)  books to read, music to make and art to create.

I’ve only played briefly over two days so far and have yet to explore the caves in depth. It’s no use being impatient as it’s a slow process and The Shade moves at snail’s pace. In some cases he must wait for a door to open or a stalactite to grow before proceeding further.

It’s an intriguing and very original concept of gaming which I shall enjoy dipping into every so often. I sincerely hope that Covid 19 will be a distant memory by  the time The Longing comes to an end next year.

On the subject of computer games, I’ve played a few engaging escape the room type games recently.

The latest was Agent A: A Puzzle in Disguise, where you play the eponymous hero tracking down the wicked Ruby La Rouge, evil agent of MIA’s arch enemy HAVOK.  This clever game was created in Australia by Yak & Co.

Agent A – promo image

There are five chapters in the game, so it’s gratifyingly  long  with a plethora of intriguing puzzles to solve.

Another, very beautiful, escape the room game is the exquisite Luna: The Shadow Dust. 

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Luna – promo image

In this game a boy falls from the sky in a bubble of light. It is your task to guide him up a tall tower to solve the mystery of his fall and recover his lost memories, solving puzzles as you move higher, often with the assistance of the  pet.

It’s a charming, albeit short game, and the puzzles are unusual, beautiful and a pleasure to solve.

On the reading front, after finishing David Mitchell’s new novel Utopia Avenue which I loved to bits, I’ve been reading my way through the Dublin Trilogy, a series of four detective novels by Caimh McDonnell featuring the extraordinary Bunny McGarry . They are page turners,  very funny, but also quite violent.  They were an eBook  gift for my birthday from a friend. At first I was in two minds as to whether I was going to like the books, but I have become quite addicted as I progress through the trilogy. You can get a free eBook of short stories  if you sign up for Caimh McDonnell’s monthly email list.

At this time of the year I would normally be heading off to the racetrack for the Spring Racing Carnival, but alas it doesn’t appear as if the public will be admitted at all this season.

This weekend at Flemington features the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes. I wish I could be there to watch it live, as I would have liked to get a look at the highly regarded Russian Camelot who won the South Australian Derby in spectacular fashion and is an early favourite for the Melbourne Cup. But then again, with heavy rain forecast for tomorrow, I won’t regret not being there so much and will be content to watch the action on my computer.

And with such things, like the Shade in The Longing, I pass the time during lockdown.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Give me somewhere to go…Lockdown Blues

The first part of the Post title comes from the James Reyne song Motor Too Fast, contained in the chorus that goes:

Give me somewhere to go
Don't give me train rides
When the shops are all closed
Don't give me train rides

I must admit that stage 4 restrictions here in Melbourne are getting a tad tedious, so I find the above lyrics running through my head every so often, as I certainly can’t go anywhere beyond 5 kilometres from home, and have not caught a bus, train or tram since the restrictions came in, coincidently on my birthday.

However time flits past and I fill the it with trivial pursuits such as playing computer games and reading.

The current game is a moderately amusing point and click adventure titled Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town, and the current book is the new David Mitchell novel Utopia Avenue, which, set as it is in 1967, I am finding quite enjoyable. I’ve also downloaded a heap of books onto my Kindle, redeeming Amazon gift vouchers I received for my birthday. So for a change I have eight new novels in my TBR pile (albeit electronic).

But what I’m pining for is an afternoon at the races, which of course is out of the question at the moment and probably for the rest of spring.

The Memsie Stakes, the first Group 1 race of Melbourne’s Spring Racing Season is at Caulfield next Saturday and I’m sorry to miss it having attended the meeting since 2013.

Of the several notable deaths this week, Justin Townes Earle for instance, the announcement of Atlantic Jewel’s death giving birth to a foal by Justify, was particularly sad for the racing fraternity.

A coodabeen champion of the likes of Black Caviar and Winx, Atlantic Jewel  won 10 races out of 11 starts, her only loss being the 2013 Underwood Stakes where she was beaten by a whisker by It’s A Dundeel , her second last start before retirement. It’s pity she was so injury prone, otherwise she could have won many more races, including the 2013 Cox Plate.

I saw her in action several times in 2013, including the Memsie Stakes. Unfortunately my camera at the time was not as good as the current Nikon, so the photos are less than perfect.

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Atlantic Jewel on her way to winning the 2013 Memsie Stakes

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Atlantic Jewel returning to scale

This year’s edition of the Memsie Stakes has attracted a field of 15 contenders that include star mares Mystic Journey and Arcadia Queen, as well as All Star Mile winner Regal Power, dual Australian Cup winner Harlem, and other familiar gallopers such as Mr Quickie, Begood Toya Mother, So Si Bon and Gatting.

Many in the Memsie Stakes field contested the cursed P B Lawrence Stakes a fortnight ago, which was won by Godolphin mare Savatiano, who is also part of this year’s Memsie field . It will be interesting to see if she wins again this spring or is cursed like recent P B Lawrence Stakes winners who have failed to win again in the season, for example Mystic Journey last year.

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Mystic Journey

Who knows what the race outcome will be this year. I’m hoping that either Mystic Journey or Arcadia Queen are in the finish somewhere. They disappointed in the P B Lawrence, but second up on a firmer track might show their true colours.

Last week the first Group 1 of the spring, the Winx Stakes, was run at Randwick. Verry Elleegant demonstrated that she was well and truly  heading for a good spring by winning the race impressively.

On the home front Bingo has continued to eat well, in fact his appetite is voracious. We now worry that he’ll become overweight. Fortunately he still eats zucchini and other vegetables which we give him to fill him up between meal times and go easy on the dried food. He loves his home comforts of warmth and affection and even still remembers how to fetch.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Japanese Modernism–A Short Break Before Lockdown

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Toraji Ishikawa– Resting (Woodblock print)

Here we are in Melbourne forced again to stay home for the next six weeks in a second lockdown.

But, just before this second constraint on liberty occurred, I visited the National Gallery of Victoria ostensibly to see the current exhibition featuring Japanese art from the 1930s – Japanese Modernism.

You had to pre- book your visit online, nominating a date and time, as visitors to the gallery were limited to around 450 persons at a time.

I opted for July 8th and it’s lucky I selected that day as the lockdown came into effect from 9 July and the Gallery is closed again for visitors.

It was like having the gallery all to yourself; so few people being in attendance at the same time made the outing pleasant with not having to cope with other attendees hogging the exhibits.

One of my favourite old calendars is that for 1989, Prints of the Dark Valley which features the woodblock art of Japan in the 1930s. I was smitten back then with Toraji Ishikawa’s  series of prints titled The Ten Beauties (AKA Ten Types of Female Nudes).  They were so stylish -  sort of oriental Art Deco with an unusual composition aesthetic.

So I’m delighted to discover that NGV acquired the series for their permanent collection in 2014 and are currently featuring them in their Japanese Modernism exhibition. I can go back and see them anytime when I am not as distracted as I was last Wednesday due to Bingo being unwell. (More about that later)

The Japanese Modernism period is described in the exhibition notes as follows:

During a brief window between the destruction caused by the Great Kantō earthquake of 1923 and the calamities of the Pacific War (1942–45), the Japanese cities of Tokyo and Osaka developed into some of the world’s most vibrant and modern metropolises. Bustling streets filled with glamorous department stores, fashionable cafes, popular movie theatres, swinging dance halls and high-tech transportation catered to a new generation of confident and financially liberated youth, who challenged conservative views and delighted in disrupting the establishment by making their own lifestyle choices.

Playfully known as moga and mobo – modern girls and modern boys – this new generation represented the arrival of modernity in Asia and in turn spurred the inspiration, iconography and dynamism behind a creative movement that energised Japanese creativity and innovation during the early twentieth century. This exhibition investigates the increasingly socially liberated status of women in Japan at the time. Japanese Modernism also features fashion of the 1920s and 1930s, including women’s and men’s kimonos, and related accessories. Decorative arts objects include beautifully crafted glassware, lacquerware and bronzeware, and popular culture is represented by street posters,
magazines and graphic design.

Not being entirely sure as to where the exhibition was situated in the gallery, other than knowing it was on the first floor somewhere, I headed that way and came upon the NGV’s collection of Asian Art.

The first object that caught my eye was this amazing metal motor scooter, the creation of Indian artist Subodh Gupta.

Cow by Subodh Gupta

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Cow (back view)

Also in this area were various Buddhas…

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Dainichi Buddha – Japan Kamakura Period 1185 to 1333

…and Guanyin – Chinese Goddess of Compassion

Guanyin – China Jin Dynasty 1115 to 1234

I was also taken by these contemporary Japanese artworks in the Japanese Design – Neolithic to Now exhibition

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Bag by Issey Miyake 2016

Fan by Taro Yamamoto -Green maple and boat on flow (2012)

Up In the Clouds  by Wei Guan – bronze sculpture 2012

Also exhibited in the Japanese Design section were Noh Theatre Robes of elaborate design…

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Noh Theatre robe

…and the following exquisite lacquer bust

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Lacquer Bust by Ah Xian

Eventually, after wandering around the Asian Art collection and failing to find the up ramp which led to the Japanese Modernism Exhibition I asked one of the Galley staff for directions. The gallery is a maze – a Chinese Mystery Box of rooms within rooms within rooms.

The Japanese Modernism exhibition encompassed not only woodblock prints but clothing and other objects such as this lacquer box…

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Lacquer Box with horses and hand printed gift envelopes to the left

…and small animal sculptures in bronze.

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  Polar Bear by Junmin Yamamoto

There was a wall of woodblock prints of  young Japanese modern women enjoying various activities.

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and another wall of popular music scores.

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Music scores

The Toraji Ishikawa series of nudes also occupied its own wall.

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Toraji Ishikawa display

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Toraji Ishikawa – The Sound of the  Bell

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Toraji Ishikawa – Reading

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Toraji Ishikawa – The Blue Parrot

As opposed to traditional kimono design, those of 1930’s Japan have a thoroughly contemporary look that would be attractive and unusual even today.

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Kimono design detail

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Kimono design detail

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Kimono design detail

Even the modern (1930s) Japanese male had interesting modern undergarments decorated with such things as planes, cars, record albums etc.

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Man’s undergarment with records

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Men’s undergarment with planes and cars detail

As you will have ascertained that there was a lot to see in the Japanese Modernism Exhibition, and truth to tell I did not view the whole in as much detail as I could.

However one cannot move on from the exhibition without posting two quite famous pictures.

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Shunko Saeki – Tea and coffee Salon

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Hisui Sugiura – The First Subway in Asia – Ueno to Asakusa

The Japanese Modernism Exhibition  is on until 2 October 2020. It’s a refreshing, colourful and unusual look at Japanese society before World War II changed everything.

Before leaving the Gallery I decided to go and have a look at Liquid Light- 500 Years of Venetian Glass. It ranged from exquisite creations to over the top excess.

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Venetian Glassware

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Candelabrum C 1880– not really to my taste

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Wine Glass -  more my thing

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Wine Glass

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Of course I couldn’t leave the Gallery without visiting the NGV Shop. It being a Wednesday, my Seniors Card permitted me to claim a 10% discount on purchases. The NGV Shop has quality items at various prices. I generally buy a few postcards for my collection and greeting cards to send to friends on their birthdays.

Back to the cause of my distraction, Bingo the cat was very unwell last week, refusing food from Monday and looking quite poorly – listless and quite unlike his usual self.  We took him to the vet on Tuesday. who had no idea what was ailing the cat, other than that he had a fever, but gave him an antibiotic injection as a precaution. Bingo was slightly brighter on Wednesday but refused food again, which meant that he had not had any solid food since Sunday evening, though had been drinking water. Back to the Vet he went and spent the day there on a drip.  He was extremely distressed when we got him home that night, but he eventually settled and even nibbled on some leftover sausage. I left a small  portion of said sausage in a bowl over night and he ate it. On Thursday he had improved and even managed some breakfast of sausage. Today he is back to normal, thank goodness, but he certainly caused a great deal of fret and worry to his human companions last week.

The Vet gave us some pills to boost his appetite and a liquid painkiller that seemed to zonk him out. Described by the Vet as cat heroin, we’ve discontinued administering it over the last few days.

Curiously, at pretty much the same time last year he had a similar episode of not eating for a week. Coincidence?

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Stripes & Spots–Photo Practice at Melbourne Zoo

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Booking in advance one takes a chance on the weather at this time of year, in that it could turn out to be an awful cold and miserable day.

But we struck it lucky last Wednesday, it being a particularly mild winter’s day with ample sunshine. Perfect for a visit to Melbourne Zoo, where I have not been for over 20 years or so.

Though public admittance was restricted due to the covid19 pandemic to 2500 people, there were quite a few persons in attendance mostly parents with children.  I hate to think how many bodies would have been there on a normal day, so am thankful that numbers were limited as it was easy to snap unencumbered photos of the exhibits.

Upon arrival we headed off to the right, hoping it would lead us to the big cats who according to map were over there somewhere.

On the way we came across the comical meerkats, wonderfully photogenic beasts.

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Meerkat on guard duty

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Another meerkat on watch

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From there it was onward to the giant tortoise, a peculiar sculpture indicating it was nearby.

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Tortoise sculpture

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Giant tortoise photographed through glass

We passed the Japanese garden…

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Japanese Garden

…then headed back towards the centre pathway and came across the beautiful  old 19th century carousel, which was not operating, due to covid restrictions no doubt…

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Old carousel

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Carousel detail

…and the Peter Pan statue, an Australian version commissioned in 1926, created by Paul Montford.

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Peter Pan statue

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Peter Pan statue (detail)

On the way to the snow leopards we passed the pelicans and penguins…

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…and eventually came to the Snow Leopard enclosure.

Mother leopard was sunning herself high up on the other side of the enclosure and the cubs were hidden, though when we returned a bit later one cub was visible, unfortunately slightly obscured by mother leopard’s  leg.

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Snow Leopard cub

The Coatis and Tasmanian Devils were not visible, so we moved on to the lions, of which there were two males, gnawing on a snack of bones.

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Lion close up

Close to the lions were the African wild dogs.

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African wild dogs

Moving on, the peccaries and tapir were nowhere in sight, but we soon came to the giraffes and zebras and baboons.

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Two zebras side by side – stripes in tandem

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Giraffes – mother and foal

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Long neck

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Giraffe and zebra

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Giraffe head shot

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Baboons enjoying the sunshine

Walking back down the left side of the zoo, we ambled through the great flight aviary where a variety of water birds were on display.

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Some kind of ibis?

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Some kind of curlew?

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more birds

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Black cockatoo

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Black Swan

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The cassowary was in an enclosure by itself. Strange to see one up close and note how like a dinosaur it is.

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Next up was the elephants and the tiger.

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Elephant herd

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More elephants

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Another elephant

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Tiger again

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and again (after all it’s not every day you can photograph tigers)

We’d been at the zoo for over three hours by this time so there were only  a few more sections to visit – the monkeys and primates.

Unfortunately the gorillas were too far away to get good shots and my monkey photos were not a success except for this spider monkey.

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Spider monkey

The zoo charmers turned out to be the Lemurs who seemed almost tame, unenclosed, and sitting on perches close to the public walkway.

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Lounging lemur

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Lemur – such a long handsome tail

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Lemur in an aura of afternoon sunlight

We were somewhat footsore by the end, but it had been an interesting outing and we even ran into an old acquaintance in Arch, who has been a zookeeper at Melbourne Zoo since 1988. Keeping to the regulatory social distancing we reminisced about old times when we were part of a social group that gathered at the Dan O’Connell Hotel in Carlton back in the 1970s and ‘80s.

And it was a pleasant change to take photos of beasts other than race horses.