Sunday, September 19, 2021

Good News At Last

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Little, Big – 25th Anniversary Edition Dust Jacket
Check out large version on the Little. Big  site

Way back in February 2005 I subscribed to acquire a numbered copy of the 25th Anniversary edition of Little, Big by John Crowley, from Incunabula, a boutique American publisher.

I wrote about it enthusiastically in September 2006 on this blog but to date have yet to receive the book.

Through all the years since I subscribed I have maintained my faith in the project, despite the set backs experienced by the publisher over the 16 years it has been in production.

The good news is that the book will finally be published by the end of this  year. I almost don’t believe it, but the recent revelation of the dust jacket, and latest update on the Little, Big site, convinced me.

It has certainly perked me up in this endless lockdown, while still missing Bingo the cat.

Judging by the dust jacket the final book will be an object of supreme beauty which I am longing to finally receive.

The illustrations throughout are by noted American artist Peter Milton and are astoundingly apposite to the book. Though John Crowley and Peter Milton did not know of each other whilst they were creating their works, it is almost as if unconsciously they were in collaboration all along.

So it has been a long wait, but I feel strangely privileged to have lived through this extensive period – sort of one of a chosen few who subscribed to Little, Big  25 way back when and have followed its progress ever since. And of course, when I finally  have  the book in my hands it will be a rare and precious edition like no other in my possession.

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Four Years On

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The Ivanhoe residence

Today, 7 September 2021,  is the fourth anniversary of our move to Ivanhoe from Northcote.

In  September 2017, Covid 19 was not around, and little did we know that three years after that move  our world would change to a new grim dystopian reality of lockdowns, curfews and mandatory mask wearing.

Like everyone else I am heartily sick of lockdowns. I have not been anywhere interesting for months and hardly dare book for any event that might relieve the tedium of life under restricting Covid 19 conditions in case it’s cancelled.

Added to the that, the mystery of Bingo’s disappearance just makes life more depressing and sad.

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It is now 20 days since Bingo went missing and even though I am coming to accept that we may never see him again, the memories of his droll presence still take one unawares quite often and cause the heart to catch.

In the photo above he is playing with his favourite toy, a ratty old catmint cushion that he loved to retrieve when you hurled it up the hall.

His absence has left a huge vacancy in our lives that can only be filled with a new cat of Bingo’s calibre.

Covid 19 restrictions of course stymie any idea of acquiring a new feline companion, if we could find one that is.

Despite being fully vaccinated I have yet to experience (other than not catching the virus) any benefits for being so.

It was with a slight lift to my spirits that I read that vaccinated people  may be able to go to  public events in the near future. Hopefully that includes getting back to the races for some of the Spring Racing Carnival.

God knows I need a distraction as I find myself unenthused by most of the things I used to enjoy spending time on, such as reading books and playing computer games.

The only books I really enjoyed recently were two rereads of Michael Chabon novels Telegraph Avenue and The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, and entirely due to the quality of Michael Chabon’s dazzling prose.

After Bingo’s disappearance the only computer games I felt like playing were the Monkey Island series, simply because of their humour,  light-heartedness and absurdity.

Even though I have got used to living in Ivanhoe, this fourth anniversary finds me sad and dissatisfied.

No doubt if Bingo was still around I would be feeling more cheerful and optimistic.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Desolate & Downhearted

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I’m glad that I snapped several good photos of Bingo recently, because it is very doubtful at present whether I will have another opportunity to capture his beauty again on camera.

Bingo has been missing since the early morning of Wednesday 18 August, and despite all our efforts to find him, he remains lost to us.

We are heartbroken and torn between hope and despair –hoping to see him walk through the door, and trying to accept that he’s gone for good.

Tuesday night all was normal, Bingo sleeping on the bed with us as was his wont. He got up at around 2.30 am and we knew something wasn't right when he failed to to turn up for his breakfast. He always started hassling B at 6.30 am to get up and feed him. We were not overly alarmed at this stage as he occasionally became obsessed with something that caught his fancy in his cat world and would be home soon after.

We searched everywhere on Wednesday, multiple times over the day and in the evening. Calling his name and rattling a container of dried cat food would normally catch his attention and cause him to emerge from where he was lurking or communicate vocally, which to a Siamese cat is second nature. However, not a peep did we hear in all our perambulations through the streets of Ivanhoe.

So we are left wondering what disaster befell Bingo between the hours of 2.30 am to 6.30 am on that Wednesday morning.

Was he stolen?

With Melbourne currently being in hard lock down, very few people would have been abroad  so early in the day with dawn currently occurring around 6.30 am, so it is unlikely that he was catnapped. Besides, Bingo was very shy of strangers, even if they were visitors to the house, so he would have been hard to catch and would not willingly have entered a cage.

That he was trapped in a garage or shed seemed the most likely explanation of his non appearance, but the Lost Cat posters placed in all the nearby streets have failed to register a response from neighbours.

He’s registered as missing in all the usual places – vets, council, cat protection society and several Lost Cat Facebook pages. We’ve done everything we can to locate him, but as the  days roll by we’re losing hope of ever finding him alive or ascertaining his whereabouts and state of health.

Bingo was (hopefully is) a remarkable cat, and it’s only now that he’s gone that I realise what a big part of our lives he was. Every room in the house brings some reminder or expectation of seeing him – the cat toy abandoned in the hallway, the paw prints on the kitchen bench, the habit of closing doors in the house to reduce the places where he can drag his prey to kill,  or get up to mischief.

He took an interest in everything we did and loved his home comforts of food and warmth and laps to sit on.

I am certain that if he could have got home, he would have come home. He knew where he lived, no matter how far he roamed.

He was our sunshine. Without him, the world is a sadder place.

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Hibernation

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Bingo – photographed today

I’ve been awfully slack on the blogging front, but truth to tell, there has not been much to write about.

With Covid 19 still being a big factor in our lives, there is limited opportunity to do something different or go on outings that do not involve shopping for provisions.

It being winter, a surprisingly mild one at that, the horse racing is not that interesting, but there’s not long to wait for the Spring racing season to start. Of  course Covid restrictions may stymie actual attendance, but hopefully I will get to witness the big races of the Spring Carnival.

I’m looking forward to finally being fully vaccinated in 10 days, which will ease some of the anxiety attendant on any kind of outing, as has been the case over the last year and a half.

The photo above is of Bingo who is thankfully in good health this year, after giving us a scare the last two winters by losing his appetite in early July of both years.

There’s nothing wrong with his appetite this year – he is ravenous – so we worry about him becoming overweight instead.

On the time killing front, I’ve not been doing much mostly replaying the Monkey Island games and reading the odd book. I’m mostly uninspired by the new literature available at present, but have recently enjoyed Ronan Hession’s (of Leonard and Hungry Paul fame) new novel Panenka, which I thought quite as good and as heart warming as the earlier novel. Ronan Hession is a brilliant writer that I’m delighted to have discovered.

Once fully vaccinated I intend to go and soak up some culture, by attending the French Impressionists Exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria and the Treasures of the Natural World at Melbourne Museum.

In the meantime I will continue my winter hibernation.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Insult Sword Fighting and other fun stuff

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Secret of Monkey Island promo image

The title of this post refers to the computer games I have been playing over the past few months, a hallowed series of point and click adventure games titled Monkey Island.

The first game, The Secret of Monkey Island was released way back in 1990, and its sequels came out through the 1990s, the golden age of Adventure Games.

For some reason I never played these games back then, and if I had attempted them I probably wouldn’t have finished them as they are quite hard to fathom and complicated, requiring a great deal of lateral thinking to make progress.

However, after recently  playing and enjoying A Vampyre Story, I looked around for other games produced by Lucas Arts or its personnel, and found that the Monkey Island series was highly recommended by its fans, and had a cult following.

As GOG (Good Old Games) had the games at a reasonable price I downloaded the first two games – The Secret of Monkey Island and Le Chuck’s Revenge.

They  follow the mis/adventures of the humorously named Guybrush Threepwood and are great fun to play. Production standards are high, replete with witty dialogue and likeable characters. They’re kind of irreverent and absurdist, the hero being an inept pirate roving the seas of a fictional Caribbean, generally trying to save his love Elaine from the clutches of the evil (and dead) pirate Le Chuck. Though Elaine is no faint hearted heroine, oft times saving herself before Guybrush can stuff it up.

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Insult sword fighting

Perhaps Monkey Island’s most absurd in game action is insult sword fighting. Whenever Guybrush has to draw his cutlass against an opponent, victory is decided not by sword thrusts but by who can deliver the most stinging insult.. Guybrush collects an arsenal of barbs that he can use to trash-talk his enemies into surrender. (“You fight like a dairy farmer”; “How appropriate – you fight like a cow!”) There’s also insult arm wrestling and other crazy contests such as a spitting competition and a face off where the combatants must contort their faces in original ways to win.

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I’m currently playing the last game in the series, Tales of Monkey Island after completing the four previous games – which along with the aforementioned, include The Curse of Monkey Island and Escape From Monkey Island. I’ve grown addicted to the world of Monkey Island and will be sorry to finish the series having thoroughly enjoyed spending my idle time in Guybrush Threepwood’s absurd version of the Caribbean Islands.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Mud & Mugatoo – All Star Mile Review

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Mugatoo and Russian Camelot fight out the finish in the All Star Mile

It was wet, it was bucketing down, it was an unremitting deluge on Saturday at Moonee Valley, though when I set out at around 12.00pm it was warm and humid and I wondered if putting on shoes and socks would make me too hot.

When I reached Moonee Valley the rain had not yet started so I was able to get a good photo of the new Winx statue, in pride of place in the new Tote Park which leads to the main entrance to the track on McPherson Street.

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Winx statue in Tote Park on McPherson Street

It’s a wonderful statue, miles better than the Black Caviar statue at Caulfield, and I was pleased that I came across it as I headed for the entrance gate.

Once inside Moonee Valley, my Zone 2 ticket permitted me to hang out on the Burston Lawn, so there I headed and found my photographer friend George already ensconced in the prime fence position closest to the finishing post.

There we stayed for the rest of the soggy afternoon, perhaps foolishly, considering how wet it got.

Getting a race book involved standing in a bar queue for at least 15 minutes, but I got two (one for George) at a discount price as the barman was confused.

Other freebies were paper flags for every runner in the All Star Mile, a red Ladbrokes Cap, and if you were lucky, a rain poncho.

Unfortunately, even though I grabbed two sets of the flags, they got damp, being impossible to protect in the circumstances. I should have forethought to take a plastic bag, but how was one to know such freebies were up for grabs.

So Bec, if you’re reading this, you are welcome to a set of water damaged flags if you want them. At least you can prove they are the genuine article.

My arrival at the Valley was in time for Race 3, the Xtreme Freight Handicap. run over the Cox Plate distance of 2040 metres.

As the rain hadn’t arrived at that time, my photos of the race are OK , but photographic conditions for the rest of the day were challenging in the extreme.

Race 3 was won by Persan, one of the few on the day to zoom from back of the field, and seized the lead close to the line to beat Irish Flame by a narrow margin.

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Persan about to overtake Irish Flame as they charge to the finish line

The next race was sprint over 1200 metres, and Ancestry was the warm favourite. He led from the start and won by over two lengths in the end, from Riddle Me That and Dollar For Dollar.

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Ancestry flashes up the straight in the Ranvet Abell Stakes

Of more interest than the previous races, Race 5 the Group 2 Alister Clark Stakes was up next. Also run over 2040 metres. it was pleasing to see Jameka’s little brother Grandslam blitz the field and win by over six lengths, leading from the start. Jameka was a grand race mare in her time, winning the Victorian Oaks in 2015, and the Caulfield Cup and BMW in 2016.  Grandslam obviously has some of her talent and seems to appreciate soft tracks as she did.

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Grandslam burns up the straight in the Alister Clark Stakes

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Jamie Kah brings Grandslam back to scale

The rain had settled in by this time, and it was in vain that we hoped for a break. George had not come prepared for the weather, wearing only a T-shirt, so got considerably more drenched than myself, who had a raincoat and an umbrella. A kind person took pity on him and gave him a poncho in the end.

There were two more races to run before the All Star Mile, the first of these being the Australia Country Mile, won by Fontein Diamond, and Race 7 was the Gold Reef and won by Air Defence.

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Air Defence on his way to the barriers

Before the All Star Mile was run there was a bit of razzamatazz in the form of flag bearers, drummers and dancers up in the grandstand. Obviously this part of the pre- race entertainment was meant to happen on the track, but the rain stymied that option. The track stage technicians looked disgruntled as the rain continued unabated, so their equipment remained unpacked and they drove their vehicles off the track.

By this time the track had been downgraded to a soft 6, which favoured the All Star contenders who appreciated a soft track, such as Russian Camelot, Sir Dragonet and Mugatoo among others, but not my particular favourite Probabeel.

Here are some of the field (or those whose photos turned out OK) on their way to the starting gates.

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Mugatoo

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Probabeel

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Regalo di Gaetano

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The Harrovian

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Lunar Fox

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Russian Camelot

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Shout the Bar

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Still A Star

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Sir Dragonet

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Streets of Avalon

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Mr Quickie

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Fifty Stars

The All Star Mile, as a race, lived up to the hype. It was an exciting competition, fiercely fought by the contenders. Hugh Bowman, no stranger to the peculiarities of the Moonee Valley track skilfully guided Mugatoo to a memorable victory, outfoxing Damian Oliver on Russian Camelot to win on the line. Behemoth finished third.

Hugh, as was his wont when Winx won her Cox Plates, paraded Mugatoo  up the straight and back along the fence for the benefit of the crowd . An explosion of blue and white streamers billowed from the Grandstand.

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Hugh Bowman parades Mugatoo along the fence

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Mud bespattered Hugh Bowman & Mugatoo closeup

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Mugatoo in the winners rug

It was a pity that the weather was so awful. A sunny day would certainly have been preferable, but George and I soldiered on at the fence when everyone else had fled to drier places. By the time the All Star Mile had been run and won, we had been standing (or sitting in my case, after I liberated a stool) for over two hours and I was wet through despite my raincoat and umbrella.

I squelched up to Moonee Ponds Junction and caught a tram back up Pascoe Vale Road to the 510 (Essendon to Ivanhoe) Bus Stop.

When I got home a full change of clothing was in order.  My camera was wet, as well as my bag and step. Luckily, so far I don’t seem to have come down with an ague.

I’m not sure if I’d undergo another extremely wet afternoon at the races again.

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

Super Saturday–The Home Stretch

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Australian Cup finish – Homesman & Best of Days head to head

A bright sunny day and no transport disruptions made it a perfect afternoon trackside at Flemington last Saturday.

It’s pity the races were not all that riveting, fields wise, but there were enough interesting outcomes to make the the time pass pleasantly.

Arriving at the track on the second last train, I had plenty of time on hand before Race 3, to wander up the lawn to the stalls area.  They were accessible, but I didn’t tarry there long, heading back to the west lawn to photograph Race 3, the March Stakes, run over 1400 metres.

Former rogue, So Si Bon won the race by a narrow margin from Holbein and Pretty Brazen.

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So Si Bon overtaking Holbein on the line

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So Si Bon on his way to the barriers

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Holbein on his way to the barriers

The Group 2 Sires Produce Stakes  for two year old's was next to jump, and it was pleasing to see the Peter Moody/Luke Nolen combination back in action with Lightsaber, an unusually coloured colt, winning the bickies easily after leading throughout. Saif and Micro filled the minor placings.

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Lightsaber wins the Sires Produce Stakes

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Lightsaber on his way to the barriers – pretty boy

The Listed  Incognitus Stakes, a sprint over 1100 metres for three year old’s, was next on the schedule and the starting favourite was Oxely Road, another Peter Moody trained runner, but he finished fourth in the end. The race was won by Marboosha, who broke through a wall of horses to win by over length from Supreme Idea with Bella Nipotina running third.

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Marboosha wins the Incognitus Stakes

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Marboosha returns to scale

As usual the official photographers were hard to avoid when the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap was run, so my photos of the finish are less than perfect. The field split into two, a small group racing down the inside of the straight, with the bulk of the field running down the grandstand side.  The winner, Zoutori, was with the inside rail group and flashed through at the last minute to overtake leader, Indian Pacific, to score by a whisker. He paid generous odds, as did the placegetters Indian Pacific and Amish Boy.

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Newmarket Handicap down the straight

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Newmarket finish left to right – Zoutori, Indian Pacific & Amish Boy

With the Australian Cup scheduled as Race 8, there was one more race to witness before it was run.

This was the Group 3 Matron Stakes, a 1600 metres race for fillies and mares.

Sovereign Award led from the start and still had plenty of energy at the finish to win by over a length from Quantum Mechanic and Scarlet Dream.

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Sovereign Award wins the Matron Stakes

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Sovereign Award returns to scale

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Quantum Mechanic on her way to the barriers

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Scarlet Dream on her way to the barriers

With the death of music promoter Michael Gudinski last week, much has been made about Homesman winning the Australia Cup last Saturday. Gudinski was a part owner of the horse, so in a way it was sentimentally apt that Homesman won the race.

It was a close finish, almost a dead heat between Homesman and Best of Days, the former winning by a nose. Chapada ran third.

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Australian Cup finishing post

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Homesman on his way to the barriers

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Best of Days on his way to the barriers

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Chapada on his way to the barriers

With the Cup being run and won I headed home, which took less time than last week, with trains running as normal.

Flemington was in festival mode, bands and children’s entertainments happening all along the public lawn.

I’ve rather liked the Covid Safe race meetings – less crowded than usual and better behaved.

Next Saturday I’m off to Moonee Valley for the All Star Mile. It’s been well over a year since I last ventured there, so I’m looking forward to it. 

The All Star Mile looks to be a fantastic race, a sort of Cox Plate with many equine stars engaged  - possibly the best race of Melbourne’s Autumn Racing Carnival.