Sunday, May 28, 2006

Shane Nicholson Concert Review

My review of the Shane Nicholson CD Launch is now online here.

Also to report, an observation on cat behaviour...

Yesterday I was helping the next door neighbour set up his new computer. I'd left the Lizzie cat inside when I went next door. I'd been there about half an hour when a plaintive yowling started up at the neighbour's front door. It was Lizzie, very troubled by the fact that I was in the neighbour's house even if she has known him very well since kittenhood. She ran away when he tried to call her inside and reappeared at his back door howling again. She eventually came inside, still howling, and continued howling until I left. It's most unusual for her to yowl as her normal mode of communication is a gentle mew. She has a touch of oriental in her breeding and the siamese yowl only emerges when she's distressed.

God knows why she was so upset at my being next door, it's beyond my comprehension, though I'm touched that she cares.

There's also the question of how she knew I was in the next door neighbour's house as she didn't see where I went when I left her inside our place. Uncanny!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Shane Nicholson CD Launch

Shane Nicholson - 240506Here's a photo from last night's show.

It was a great show and the only complaint I have is that it was a bit short.

Still, in the interests of getting a good night's sleep before work today, it was probably a good thing it didn't go past midnight.

I am writing a review of the show and will post a link when it is online.

It was lucky I got the set list from the stage, because my note taking was non existent.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Angela Carter - In the Pursuit of Magnificence Nothing is Sacred

On Sunday 7 May it would have been Angela Carter’s 66th birthday. She was one of the great English fiction writers of the 20th century, but her death in 1992 also left the world bereft of “one of the funniest, most perceptive critics of her time”.

I recently started wondering what would have been her take on modern society. This is because I have just re-read her volume of selected non-fiction articles Nothing Sacred, wherein she casts her eye over society in the 1970s. The articles are predominantly from New Society magazine. Many of them I read first hand as theywere issued. The articles were so vividly written and so startling and witty in content, I always looked forward to any issue of New Society that contained an Angela Carter piece. Nothing Sacred contains memoirs of her childhood, commentry on Japanese culture, fashion, film, television, England and Englishness, books and book people. They all get the Carter treatment.

It struck me, reading this book again, that the world these days badly needs someone of Carter’s perception and brave criticial judgement. She was more than ready to tell it like it is and wouldn’t have given two hoots about political correctness. She was of course fortunate to have a fair-minded editor in Paul Barker, who was New Society’s editor during the mid to late 1970s and she does give him credit for allowing her “licence to look at things closely”. Would present day editors be so sympathetic to her idiosyncratic style?

So, what would Angela Carter have made of 21st century?

She died in 1992, just before computers became accessible to the masses and before the Internet really took off. What would she think of the craze for blogging, for instance, or the curse of spam and other online nasties? How would she have regarded television shows like “Big Brother” or “Survivor”? How would she have tackled the Harry Potter phenomenon or the ubiquity of mobile telephones? I can only imagine what she would say about modern fashions such as body piercing, semi-transparent clothing or the bared midriff.

I just wish that she were still alive to give us her views. I’m sure anything she wrote would have been worth reading and would have made us laugh and say “right on Angela!”

Nothing Sacred, dealing as it does with 70s culture, may appear as dated, however her style is irresistible and her perceptions on society at the time, still ring true today.

Here is an excerpt from Nothing Sacred titled “Poets in a Landscape” where she appraises the relationship between Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy. It is typical of her reviews, and reinforces the fact that she was incapable of writing a boring sentence.

“Ghosts of dead poets don’t walk the Lake District, no – they hike. Fell-walking ghosts as mad as hatters, high as kites…you feel you might surprise them at the rim of Rydal Water, or spot their phantom reflections in the magic mirrors, Grasmere, Windermere – I bet the glassy tarns looked terrific on opium! Although the story goes the Wordsworth sibs, ace pedestrians and compulsive water-viewers, only took laudenum for medicinal purposes, your honour. In Lakeland, among daffodils shuddering in April snow, how easy to imagine the Wordsworths, freaked out as all hell, trudge, trudge, trudging the miles from Dove Cottage to Windermere to check if their connection (probably Humphrey Davy) had delivered.

For surely they must have been smashed out of their skulls all the time. Wordsworth and his sportive sister with her crazy eyes (‘wild and startling eyes’, opined De Quincey, noting, no doubt, and who more knowledgeable, her expanded pupils). Why else should they have gone striding off in all weathers, whirling blizzard, serrating frost, braving the peculiarly wet Cumbrian rain, to take in yet another peak or mere in a different light? How else could they have stood it, had they not been smashed?”

Like her journalism, Angela Carter’s fiction is brilliant and well worth seeking out. She has been one of my all time favorite writers since I first discovered her work in 1972. I do not intend going into her fiction in this entry but would refer you instead to Jeff VanderMeer’s excellent essay on Angela Carter and her novels in the Scriptorium of the Modern Word website.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Hot Air Balloons & Rainbow Lorikeets

While drinking my morning cup of coffee prior to leaving for work, I heard the familiar whoosh of a hot air balloon overhead.

During autumn there are often hot air balloons floating over Northcote and they pass directly over our backyard. I rushed for the camera and got this shot. The balloon was pretty low, so it was ideal for capturing.

Observing cats when balloons hover overhead is quite comical. They express utter horror at the spectacle - oh my god, is that a bird? - and run inside and hide under the table.

And waiting on the station, camera on the ready for more balloons, I snapped rainbow lorikeets in a tree next to station. I also saw a galah, but wasn't fast enough to get a shot of it.

Actually, rainbow lorikeets are common around Merri Creek and I see them everyday, but galahs are rareish.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Review of Marcel Borrack's CD Launch

OK, as promised here is the link to my review of Marcel's CD Launch. I think it's a bit lack lustre, but there was not all that much to write about, truth to tell.

The hosting service has finally sorted out its problems - it took a week!- and all is well in the land of uploading.

I'm going to another CD Launch this coming Wednesday. It's for Sydney singer-songwriter, Shane Nicholson. I loved his debut CD "It's A Movie" so I am really looking forward to seeing him live for the first time. Er no, actually it will be for the second time as I first saw him as a support act at a Kasey Chambers concert and was taken with his performance then.

I may write a review of the show, but then again I may not. You tend to get distracted if a review is called for, which detracts from one's enjoyment of the show. And it's a bit hard, at a standup venue, juggling camera, notebook, drinks etc.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Marcel Borrack CD Launch

On Saturday night I took advantage of a free pass to go the CD launch of Marcel Borrack, a young, local singer-songwriter whose new CD, titled I Was Only Dreaming, has been on rotation on my player for the past week. I like taking photos of musicians, so I always get as close to the stage as I can. Not only for the photos, I enjoy being up the front for performances as well. It seems more involving than standing at the back. I’ve been spoiled by The Basement Discs in-stores. This marvellous independent CD store, in the centre of Melbourne CBD, has been my Mecca for music for many years. They host free in-store performances regularly, at lunchtime. It’s great to be able to go and listen to live music at that time of day in very intimate surrounds. The in-stores showcase a diverse range of music, from local Australian musicians to touring overseas performers. I’ve experienced some sensational acts there and discovered new artists. The Basement Discs webpage is of my design and I maintain it as well. The photos in the Gallery are mostly mine if you want to check them out. I’m getting better all the time at photographing musicians and have a huge collection of such-like photos dating back a couple of years.

Anyway, back to last Saturday, the CD launch was excellent. Despite it being a standing only venue, we at the front sat on the floor. It gets a tad wearing on the old legs if you have to stand for several hours.

The photo above shows Marcel Borrack (in the suit) with Barb Waters (another local singer-songwriter) and Robyn Chalklen (dark hair & specs) and Chris Parkinson who together form the duo The Yearlings. They opened the show with a very pleasant laid back set.

I am writing a review of the show for the Nu Country website, another of my web enterprises, and more photos will be used to illustrate it.

I will post the link to the review when it is online, which may be some time as Nu Country’s hosting client is experiencing problems and I am unable to upload anything at the moment.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Politics & Cats

Cats and politics? Amazingly there is a connection. In my neighbourhood, the local government body Darebin City Council is planning to impose a 24-hour ban on cats on the streets. The cat lovers of Darebin are up in arms about this. We wonder who proposed this agenda - cat haters? They hypocritically pretend that it’s for the benefit of cats, but we suspect that it is a council grab for revenue - let’s get the cat lovers. They propose to fine the owners of cats found on the streets, not on a lead, $152.00 for each offence. We already have to pay a registration fee each year for each cat, which I don’t mind, but a fine of $152.00 if the cat escapes the confines of one’s property is highway robbery.

I realise that many people keep their cats confined indoors due to no other choice than they themselves have no direct access to the outdoors, or live in neighbourhoods that are unsafe for cats. However, Australian suburban cats have always run free. Ideally one’s neighbours are cat friendly, but if they aren’t it’s a worry. We have been lucky so far with neighbours. Our next-door neighbour loves our cats as much as we do, and young Will, our male cat is also welcome in several other nearby dwellings. He is an inveterate wanderer and can’t abide being confined. He literally runs up the walls if we lock him inside, knocks objects off shelves and howls from the top of cupboards. He is aptly named, being extremely strong willed.

A similar ban in country town Bendigo resulted in cat-haters trapping cats and offloading them on the council. The cats on death row increased six fold.

What methods, I wonder, will they use to enforce this policy? Do they plan on setting up a crack corps of cat storm troopers? I can see them, cruising the streets, seeking out erring moggies. It’s a bit of a worry if there are vehicles involved. Our Will loves cars. Someone only has to leave the window down in a vehicle and Will jumps in. He demands to be let into the family car, curls up on the back seat and stays there for hours. We fear he will be transported away by a stranger one day. They’d certainly be surprised to discover a cat in their car. He’s tagged, however, with his name and telephone number, so he would hopefully be returned, unless whoever drove off with him took a fancy to him. He’s a very attractive cat and friendly to boot.

Sure, cats catch birds and small rodents. I personally don’t care if a few starlings, Indian mynahs or the odd dopey pigeon get slaughtered - they are in plague proportions - though I mourn the killing of the sweet little silvereyes and honeyeaters. The rats and mice of Darebin must be jumping up and down with joy at the proposed ban on cats. They are in plague proportions as well, and the dutiful cat, if left free, will keep them in check. Our cats should be awarded medals for the number of rats and mice they catch – they’re more useful to society than many two legged beings I can think of.

It strikes me that this proposal is another move to oppress the rights of the people. Governments are slowly and surely whittling away at our liberties. The cat is a free spirit; half wild no matter how domesticated, and that, of course, is why we like them. It’s no wonder that those in authority want to oppress them and their supporters.

I will finish with a quote from Kipling’s story “The Cat That Walked By Himself” that the above picture illustrates.

“… the Cat keeps his side of the bargain too. He will kill mice and he will be kind to Babies when he is in the house, just as long as they do not pull his tail too hard. But when he has done that, and between times, and when the moon gets up and night comes, he is the Cat that walks by himself, and all places are alike to him. Then he goes out to the Wet Wild Woods or up the Wet Wild Trees or on the Wet Wild Roofs, waving his wild tail and walking by his wild lone.”

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The View from the 25th Floor

Well, I’ve been in the new workplace for 4 days now and have pretty well settled in.

Above is a view from the window nearest to my workspace. It takes in the view North of the CBD. In the middle are the Exhibition Gardens with the ugly Melbourne Museum (those thrusting structures) behind the graceful old Exhibition Building. The Exhibition Building is no longer used for exhibitions. A new exhibition centre was built during the Kennett years and was instantly nicknamed “Jeff’s Shed”. It’s another one of those thrusting structures, which appeared to be the architectural style of Kennett’s time. The current government favours curves. A prime example is the new Southern Cross railway station. I watched it develop in my years at the other end of town. It is an amazing feat of engineering and has turned out to be quite a spectacular building. It’s Melbourne’s answer to Sydney’s Opera House.

As I have never worked in a newly built office before, it’s cool being in a new building. In March this year the building was blessed in a traditional Aboriginal smoking ceremony. This apparently pays respect to the spirits of the land and cleanses an area for a new beginning. Perhaps it worked, for the building has a pleasant ambience. It actually feels good to inhabit.

I cannot claim to have the view above, as my workspace is in the middle of the labyrinth. I stare at my computer or the wall of the partition. You had to have clout, or have a boss with vertigo, to get a window seat.

The security resembles Fort Knox , though. You can’t go anywhere without taking your security card. Doors swing open with a Star Wars whoosh at the wave of the card. It 's fun to pretend that one has super powers and wave one’s arms majestically as the doors part.

To have express lifts that don’t freak you out is a pleasure. The building we just vacated had the most appalling lifts. They were always breaking down, rattled and vibrated, made strange groaning noises and could certainly give you a nasty turn if they suddenly ground to a halt and dropped a foot or two in between floors.

About the only negative thing about inhabiting the 25th Floor is the idea of walking down 25 flights of stairs in emergency evacuation drills. I was on the 13th Floor in the old building and that was bad enough.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Moving Shop

It just so happens that today there is a big change in my workplace. We’re moving.
The picture shows the current state of my workspace where in a frenzy of packing, all around me are boxes, boxes and more boxes.

We are moving from the west end of town to the east end of town. The town, or more accurately the city, is Melbourne in the State of Victoria, Australia. I work for the Victorian government as a humble public servant. We've been in this building for nine years.

I am not really looking forward to the change in workplace. We are going to a newly built multi-storey construction where they are squashing in a whole Department. Up to now, the Department has been spread over several buildings, so space will be a problem and our work cubicles will be much smaller with no allowances for storage. After all, we’re supposed to be a paperless office. Ha Ha!

Speaking of the Victorian Government, yesterday brought news of the retirement of the current Opposition leader, the Hon Robert “Headmaster” Doyle. This is good news and bad news. The current ruling party are leftist (sort of) and would have shooed it in at the elections later this year had Doyle still been leader of the Conservatives as he was pretty ineffectual. Whoever they choose to replace him will not be much better unless, as is mooted, Jeff Kennett returns to the fold.

Jeff Kennett was Premier of Victoria for 7 years and eventually made himself very unpopular with the electorate. He basically sold off the State and introduced draconian workplace laws long before John Howard, who only recently has managed to ram through his own draconian industrial relations policy. Despite being unpopular with a vast majority of the electorate, Jeff Kennett had his supporters none the less and managed to win two elections.

Kennett has personality plus, in an abrasive way, so he will no doubt enliven the appallingly bland Liberal Party and, at the worst, make them noticeable.

I remember the Kennett years very well. Being a state public servant then as now, we were put through the hoops by his government. They were awful years. Despite that, we found humour in the situation by coining several expletives to express our dissatisfaction with the times.

“I’ve had a Kennett of a day” was one. “Get Jeffed” was another.

Kennett even had the temerity to plaster his face everywhere. Driving from the airport there above an overpass was Jeff’s ugly mug. However, he soon abandoned the idea when the hoardings were defaced every time they were put up. Jeff’s face was always given a Hitler moustache.

Colourful times perhaps, but we don’t’ want them back. Coupled with Howard in power in Canberra, a Kennett government would be a double whammy of conservative politics. Aargh!

While writing this Jeff Kennett has declined the honour of leading the party, so we can briefly breathe a sigh of relief.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Welcome to Cat Politics, my brand new blog.

Why the title?

My domicile boasts the company of two cats – one of each sex – a constant arrangement for well over 20 years, though several generations of cats have come and gone in that period. It has been a common observation within the household that the relationship between the two felines is subject to a delicate balance, to which we have have applied the term, “cat politics”. It could be a hissy fit or a show of claws, a box on the ears or a dignified retreat. Such is the nature of cat politics.

Cat politics obviously reflects on human relationships as well, where one may apply zoomorphic attributes to people, just as we anthropomorphize our animals.

Fear not, it is not my intention to base this blog entirely on cat or, indeed, human behaviour. My aim is more to air my views on books, music and life in the antipodes among other things

In the dim distant past I kept a diary and scribbled in it regularly over a period of 25+ years.
Since I gave up on it, I haven’t written anything other than the occasional concert review or memoranda at work. A blog, I thought, might be just the thing to get me going again. I might even drag out the old diary and share some of it with you as a sort of “blast from the past”. You may yet see my teenage self contributing a post or two.

Anyway we’ll see. I hope whoever joins me on the journey finds it an enjoyable ride.