Saturday, March 31, 2007

Fred Eaglesmith

The Fred Eaglesmith show last Thursday was great fun. Fred was in fine form and he had his stellar band The Flying Squirrels providing wonderful accompaniment.

Fred Eaglesmith - a great name by the way - is a Canadian folk singer/songwriter. His songs, as described in his biography, are:

... populated with people he has been and has known: tried-but-true blue-collar guys, tired cowboys, young boys in love, bare-knuckled farmers, heartbreakingly good women, beautifully bad women, lonesome good guys, bravura bad guys Friday-night criminals and everyone in between. Says Eaglesmith, "I think the bottom of the barrel is where the answers are." In Eaglesmith's sure hands, a song about a dreamless small-town snowplow driver is a song of universal truth.

I am not a fan of trucking music, but Fred's songs about trucks and trains have another dimension. He does sing about other things as well as providing extremely funny between song monologues. They're risque and highly politically incorrect.

There was a young girl standing next to me who amazingly was a Fredhead. She was extremely enthusiastic and kept yelling out to Fred. He kept snapping back at her, telling her to shutup and at one stage told her she was too young to be at one of his shows as you had to have at least one divorce and have been arrested to appreciate his shows. He was only kidding of course.

His humour is dark and sardonic and he appreciates the oddities of life. He was very taken with the Aussie term "Smash Repairs" which is the local name for automotive care centres. It's a delightful oxymoron, when you come to think of it.

The band as previously mentioned were excellent, particularly Willy P Bennett who played remarkably fine mandolin and harmonica. He's a really interesting looking character and a master musician.

It was a most entertaining evening and Fred Eaglesmith didn't disappoint. He's outrageous, highly articulate and a superb showman.

Update on Autumn Racing Carnival

Further to my last entry on horse racing, it was a very fine day's racing this afternoon. I watched it all on television.

Haradasun actually won his first group one race today. He won it very eccentrically coming wide down the extreme outside from the rear of the field, veering towards the outer side of the track. Even though he wasted ground doing this, he still won. It was his first race in Sydney where the races are run in the opposite direction to Melbourne. Hence his tendency to veer to the outer. I did bet $5.00 each way on him and he paid quite handsomely as, for once, he wasn't the favourite.

Miss Finland won as well, thrashing Tuesday Joy, though Apache Cat only managed third to Haradasun.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Autumn Racing Carnival Heats Up

This coming Saturday has a sizzling program of five Group 1 races and a lot of my favourite horses will be competing. It will be televised on Free to Air television, so no doubt I’ll be spending Saturday in front of the TV.

Apache Cat is aiming for Group 1 glory in the Ryder Stakes. He’s been going very well this season having easily won three times in a row. He has a top jockey on board so should put on a great show. Competing against him is a top-notch bunch of three-year-old colts including my other favourite Haradasun. Haradasun had a setback with foot problems, but apparently all that is now fixed. It should be a great race.

Also on the cards is the premier two-year-old event, the Golden Slipper. It’s a damned hard race in which to pick the winner. Miss Finland won it last year, but this year there are no real standouts, though the bulk of the field has promise. If Murtajill, the current favourite, is not injured, as is speculated by the media, he appears to be the one to beat.

Miss Finland, Melbourne’s top filly, will be competing against Sydney’s top filly, Tuesday Joy, in the Arrowfield Stud Stakes – another race not to be missed.

And then there’s the BMW, a 2400 metre race with the grand Sydney horse Desert War contending against a field of good stayers.

All in all, it will be an exciting day of racing. I probably won’t place a bet, though then again, just out of sentiment, I might put a small wager on Haradasun, as his odds are sure to be good. He has a remarkable turn of foot at his best and could well take out the race.

Tonight I’m off to see Fred Eaglesmith. I’ll report back on that tomorrow with pictures.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Melbourne Street Sculpture - Part 1

On every corner in the Central Business District of Melbourne there seems to be some form of public art, mostly a sculpture.

The most famous and best loved sculpture is The Public Purse which lies outside the old GPO in Bourke Street. There are always tourists getting photographed sitting on top of it, though there weren't any when I took this photo.

Equally cherished is The Three Businessmen who lurk on the corner of Swanston and Bourke Streets. Someone had inserted a cigarette butt into the mouth of the leading businessman before I snapped this shot.

Down the road from where I work, is this sculpture outside the Telstra building. The couple are looking in the window at another sculpture representing, I presume, the telephone network.

This quaint sculpture has been on the corner of Collins and Elizabeth Streets for years. I've forgotten what it's called, but I've always liked it.

There are many more works of street art in Melbourne. I'll be posting more on this later when I get around to organising the photos.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Even More Blues @ Basement Discs

Yesterday, even though it was a Saturday, I made the effort to go and catch Chris Smither playing in-store at the Basement Discs.

Chris Smither is an American blues artist raised in New Orleans and his blues style owes a lot to old time blues masters like Mississippi John Hurt. He is a master guitarist and uses the old foot stomping on a board to create rhythm. He also is a very good songwriter. His songs have a sly humour and quirky lyrics. He also does great covers of well chosen songs like Dylan's "Desolation Row".

He has toured Australia many times and I have seen him on several previous occasions and look forward to seeing him play an extended set at the Clifton Hill Hotel on 10 April.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Pictures from an Exhibition

The opening of Maurice (Maurie to his friends) Bardon’ s retrospective exhibition last Saturday was a great occasion to meet old friends, some of whom I had not seen for decades. They all look older now, but in general are still recognisable. The exhibition was at the Fitzroy Gallery in Fitzroy, the site of many of Maurie’s exhibitions in the past. It was an occasion for nostalgia and remembrance of our old friend Maurie.

Maurie died in 2005 at the age of 62. The cause of his death was mesothelioma. It was sudden and unexpected. He had been exposed to asbestos in his younger days in his work as a house renovator. and as the disease can lie dormant for many years, nobody, least of all Maurie, suspected that it would be the death of him. He was a lovely man, good looking and sweet natured with a droll sense of humour. He was also a talented painter.

He was self-taught and used house paint as his medium, which he applied five or six times then buffed back for the required effect. Picasso and Australian artist Donald Friend influenced his work. Egyptian art and Asian culture are also prominent in his paintings. The paintings have a charming decadence. His muse was Julia, who organised the exhibition. Julia and Maurie were an item twenty years or so ago and Alexis (now a young woman) was born of this relationship. Julia and Maurie remained good friends over the years and were obviously very close. Julia is one of the most beautiful women I have ever set eyes on, and even after all these years, she is still very striking.

Maurie never sold very many of his paintings during his lifetime, but it appeared on Saturday that several were sold. B bought one called “The Le Duce Hotel” so I’ll get to see it every day soon. I'll post a photo of the painting when it's hanging on our wall, as the photo I took at the gallery isn't very good.

He really wanted to buy the one pictured below, “(Rachael) Mother of Mothers” but it is Julia’s favourite so is not for sale.

This one is called “Women on the Beach” another of Maurie’s Egyptian influenced paintings.

The Fitzroy Gallery has a wonderful garden out the back full of amazing sculptures. The sleeping stone girl below has always been my favourite…

… though this imposing woman comes a close second.

The exhibition continues into next week so I hope for Julia and Alexis’ sake that more paintings are sold to cover the costs.

It was like old times. The majority of those in attendance were present at Maurie’s previous exhibitions. Some from the past regrettably are no longer with us, the vicissitudes of life having taken them away.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Mammals

My friend and I arrived at the venue, East Brunswick Club, on Friday evening steeling ourselves for a long night either sitting on the floor or standing up. Much to our surprise there were a few tables and chairs set up in the front, so we commandeered one and settled in for a very good night’s entertainment.

The Mammals exceeded expectations – they were an excellent live act. A five-piece ensemble, all the band are wonderfully skilled musicians and they played with great verve and energy.

The musical genre is a mix of folk, rock and country (bluegrass). The Mammals play the standard bluegrass instruments of banjo and violin and mix that with an electric bass, drums, harmonica and guitar. At one stage there were three banjos playing simultaneously and for this banjo fan it was bliss on a stick. The songs, I was surprised to discover, were all quite familiar – old classic folk tunes or variations thereof. One of the highlights was a rendering of the Richard Thompson song, “1952 Vincent Black Lightning”, a touching song about a guy and a girl and a motorbike. The band also did a superb version of the Cuban song “Chan Chan”. You may know this song from the Buena Vista Social Club CD.

The band personnel are Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, Ruth Ungar Merenda, Mike Merenda, Chris Merenda and Jake Silver. Tao is the grandson of Pete Seeger, so in tune with the legacy of his forebear, a number of the songs were protest songs. They did a very clever variation on the old
“Mockingbird Song” (Hush little Baby), involving bribery and corruption at higher and higher levels as the verses progressed.

The above photo shows the three banjos in action. From left to right are Mike Merenda, Chris Merenda (on drums), Ruth Ungar Merenda and Tao Rodriguez-Seeger. Jake Silver is out of the picture. I had a chat to him before the show. He said that in order to see their favourite bands, they had to come to Australia. The band comes from New York and he said that there was a dearth of good music in that city. Melbourne has a solid reputation as far as overseas performers are concerned. We are friendly, laidback and really appreciate the music.

The support act was a local all girl group called Dev’lish Mary. They played a lively set of folk country tunes. At various times during their set, Emma Bee joined them to “clog”. I thought she looked very sweet dancing so snapped a few photos of her in action.

I have written a review of the show for the Nu Country website – you can read it here.

It is currently music festival season here in Melbourne, so we are spoiled for choice in deciding whom to see next. Actually it will be Fred Eaglesmith and the Flying Squirrels next week, again at the East Brunswick Club . I have seen Fred Eaglesmith several times, and he is a great, very humorous, showman as well as being a very fine songwriter, I first saw him in January 2002 when he was part of a singer/songwriter tour. There were five artists, Jim Lauderdale, Kim Richey, Jason McCoy and Audrey Auld as well as Fred, taking turns to sing their songs. My friends and I were transfixed by Fred Eaglesmith from his first song and became instant Fredheads (as his fans term themselves) and barely heeded the other artists, so deep an impact did Fred make on us. The guy has enormous presence, so I’m really looking forward to seeing him again.

Also in the offing, come April, are
Chris Smither and Kieran Kane & Kevin Welch.
More on these artists later...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Cat Pix

I seem to have been doing a frenzy of photography of late including, of course, several new cat photographs which turned out rather well. Above is Willy after rolling in what is left of the lawn. Because of the continuing drought - it's been going for months now - water restrictions are in force so everyone's lawns are all now brown and sere.

This is Pickle who I captured this evening being arboreal. She lives down the road and is Willy's friend. They've been pals since both of them were kittens. She once got lost on the other side of the creek, but was found again much to the relief of her owner.

Lizzie, Miss Boss, was none to pleased to see Pickle so close to her territory. She has in the past bashed her up and will not tolerate her presence.

Posts on The Mammals concert and the Art Exhibition coming soon...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

More Blues @ Basement Discs

I’ve just got back from seeing Eric Bibb perform live at Basement Discs. He was pretty cool.

Eric Bibb is a young American blues artist. He has a gorgeous warm and fuzzy voice and he is currently touring to promote his latest CD “Diamond Days”. He performed only a few songs, but the title track was one of them. It has engaging lyrics and a bouncy tune.

There was a large crowd in attendance, but I managed to squeeze myself in up the front to the side of the stage and snapped a few photos.

Tomorrow night I’m going out to see a young American Folk Rock band called
The Mammals. They are new to me but their name has been mentioned in several different circles in the space of a week. They apparently were a hit at the Port Fairy Folk Festival this past weekend. One of the band members is the grandson of the famous folk artist Pete Seeger. They have been described as “subversive acoustic traditionalists”. This oxymoronic description sounds curiously attractive to me, so I'm looking forward to seeing the show.

I’ll report after the fact with photos and let you know if they lived up to the hype.

Saturday sees us attending the opening of retrospective art exhibition for our departed friend Maurie Bardon. He died of mesothelioma a few years ago. More on Maurie and the exhibition later…


Part and parcel with my love of books, I also enjoy words, especially unusual words.

Last year I purchased a book directly from
Bloomsbury Publishing. In the process of doing this I signed up for two of their newsletters, one of which is “Word of the Day”. Below is a selection of unusual words recently coming to my inbox, courtesy of Bloomsbury:

Gugusse – a young effeminate man who trysts with priests
Lallation – baby talk
Titubation – a disorder in bodily equilibrium causing unsteady gait and trembling
Philology – love of and devotion to women
Eschatology – the study of the Last Four Things
Gongoozler – one who stares for hours at anything out of the ordinary
Nacket – a tennis ball boy
Nummamorous – money loving
Metagnostic – beyond human understanding

If you too would like a word of the day from Bloomsbury, you have to register on the site and select which newsletters you would like to receive.

Another great word site is
The Word Spy which is devoted to neologisms, eg:

Lexpionage - the sleuthing of new words and phrases.

Frankenfood - food derived from genetically modified (GM) plants and animals
Furkid - A pet treated as though it were one's child
Celebutard - A celebrity who is or is perceived to be unintelligent
Bonkbuster - A bestselling novel that features numerous sex scenes

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


The photo above shows a portion of my rather large personal library. It’s messy, I know, but I’ve run out of space and there is nowhere in the house to put another bookshelf.

It is the result of over 40 years book collecting, I love my library and would, like Sepulgrave Groan, go mad if it was taken from me.

Books are my security blanket, my drug of choice. They are the comfort I turn to when life seems cruel and when apprehension on the state of the world gets to me. I always have a book with me. When shopping for handbags, I always judge them on book capacity, so I lug, over my shoulder, heavy, capacious bags, but I bear it because I know I will never have to go bookless.

From early childhood I have loved books. I can remember a time when I couldn’t read, but desperately wanting to, then being able to read. I can’t remember the process by which I learnt to read, but once I did, I never looked back.

During my childhood I never had much opportunity to collect books. I got them for birthday and Christmas presents, but never had the cash to buy them or only very occasionally when my sole grandparent who, in lieu of presents, always sent money. I’d spend my 10 shillings -wealth in those days! – on a book.

My younger brother, also a reader, and I haunted libraries or borrowed from cousins. We read our way through all the popular children’s books of the day.

It wasn’t until I left home and went to university that I started collecting. I’d spend $2.00 on books every week. It was cheap to live in those days and you could get up to four books for $2.00.

By the time I left uni, I had a modest collection of books, mostly paperbacks. I then joined the book trade and with a staff discount as an incentive, started collecting books in earnest.

I discovered many authors, who these days are cult icons of literature, such as Angela Carter and Mervyn Peake, so in the course of my enthusiasm for their books, amassed what is now a very fine collection of modern first editions. I was also fortunate enough to have a friendship with the Penguin sales rep who augmented my collection with boxes of books from the Penguin reject bin. He also gave me proof copies of several books, one of which was The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster.

So my collection grew to the extent that, if I had to move, it would take a great many boxes. No doubt, in the process I would come across literary treasures left long forgotten on the shelves waiting to be rediscovered. I’ve lost count on the extent of my library but imagine it would number several thousand books these days.

Extravagantly time wasting perhaps, the mornings of weekends and holidays; I spend lounging in bed reading. The cats love this habit as much as I do, as there’s nothing quite so appealing to a cat than a mostly prone human to lie on. Cat politics plays a big part in deciding which cat will get the prime lap position. This settled, the successful cat a gets to sleep and I get to read, uninterrupted for several hours. Sheer bliss!

The rest of the time I read commuting to and from work. I don’t tend to read in the evenings as the lighting at home is not conducive to the pastime, and I do prefer reading in natural light.

So, after all these years lost in books, what are my favourite books?

My tastes have always leaned towards fantastic and imaginative novels, though truth to tell I’ll read practically anything as long as it is well written and succeeds in holding my interest. The writers in my profile represent my general favourites, though there are many others, or individual books, that I return to again and again.

Big novels are my preference. I like lingering with a favourite author for as long a time as possible and find myself occasionally briefly addicted to certain writing styles. I am irritated by people who criticise a book for being too long, or make remarks along the lines of “it needs a good editor”. It must have something to do with an attention deficit syndrome when applied to reading the written word. I’ve read all the great long novels, Proust and Powell included. I’ve read Dorothy Dunnet’s Lymond Chronicles and House of Niccolo Series, I’ve spent many enjoyable hours wrapt in Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon and Baroque Trilogy – the list goes on. I can’t imagine anyone criticising Remembrance of Things Past in terms of it being too long, or that it needed a good editor to cut it down to half its size. Certainly, it’s a difficult read, but worth the effort.

For the past few weeks I’ve been re-reading Michael Innes’ intelligent and witty detective stories, collected in two omnibuses and also I have started reading The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters a 700 page+ monster by D W Dahlquist, which I felt compelled to buy after reading a rave review of it on Bookmunch. So far, it has lived up to expectations. It reminds me of a cross between Ronald Firbank’s quaint urbane fantasies and Neal Stephenson’s “Diamond Age”.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Brian Burke Kerfuffle

Gee, the Howard Government must have thought the Garuda aircrash was a blessing in disguise to avert attention from their failed attack on the new Opposition leader, Kevin Rudd. They'd accused him of consorting with Brian Burke, the unsavoury former Premier of Western Australia - an absolute no no according to the morally righteous Howard. Why, Howard even had to demote a Minister of his own team for having a 20 minute meeting with Brian Burke. But the shockingly depraved Rudd had had breakfast, lunch and tea with the man! This was Howard's insinuation in raising the accusation, backed up by the sneering Treasurer, Peter Costello.

It appears Howard is running scared. Dare we hope for a change of Government later this year? Cross fingers, it may come true.

It turns out that several more of Howard's ministers had dealings with Burke, including the minister who replaced the sacked minister. Talk about slung mud sticking to the slinger...

It has been totally absurd, the whole slanging match, this week in OZ politics.

The whole point of this entry is, as pointed out by B, is that Brian Burke bears a striking resemblance to the white spy in Mad Magazine's Spy vs Spy. Hence the "separated at birth" picture above. It kind of puts everything into some sort of crazy perspective.

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Blues @ The Basement Discs

In a complete change of pace from recently attended live music acts, local blues artist Geoff Achison, put on an absorbing and masterful performance at the Basement Discs today.

He is an extraordinarily good guitarist and has a bluesy sort of voice, somewhat husky in tone.

Performing songs from his latest release Acho Solo, they were a mix of original compositions and covers. The self-penned “Apparatus” was a standout, with Geoff drawing forth from his guitar, strange mechanical blips and scrapes. The song was inspired by his stint of working in a factory in his younger days and is principally about factory workers being replaced by machines.

He played for about half an hour finishing with a sensational cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious”.

In a fortnight, US blues artist Eric Bibb is scheduled to do an In-Store. It should be a good show too.

Another piece of good news came my way yesterday with the announcement of a new studio album from Ryan Adams to be released in June. It’s called “Easy Tiger”. I can hardly wait…