Thursday, June 25, 2009

Melbourne Icon – The Queen Victoria Market

The Queen Victoria Market is situated on the northern edge of the central business district covering the area between Elizabeth St and Peel St and has been in operation for over 130 years.

It ‘s within walking distance from where I work in the city, though I generally catch the free city circle tram part of the way to save time. I’ve been patronising the Queen Vic for over 40 years it being a market where you can buy practically anything. It’s huge and is the place to buy cheap fruit and vegetables. In the past we used to shop there every week for our weekly food needs. These days, I only venture down there if I want something specific like inexpensive seafood, but I always find it a fine place for wandering around. As a great part of the market is out of doors, it has a liveliness and vibrancy that is missing from food plazas or big supermarkets.

Primarily it is known for its huge range of fruit and vegetables, meat, poultry and seafood. There is also a large deli section with a glorious selection of cheeses, processed and cured meat, olives, pickles, mustard, dairy products like fresh butter (in huge slabs) and yoghurt, bread, cakes and pastries and more.

There are also stalls selling clothing and footwear. It used to be where you went to buy a leather jacket at a good price. I remember buying vintage 20s and 30s crepe dresses there in the early 1970s. In those days you could feed yourself for a week on very little if you shopped at the market.

I went down there today at lunchtime to buy some prawns, so I took my camera to capture a small portion of it.

The main entrance on Elizabeth Street.

Detail of entrance decoration

vic_market 005
One of the fruit and vegetable sheds

Cheap mandarins, pineapples and strawberries

This Andean pan pipe band has been busking outside the market for decades. There is always an admiring crowd standing round and listening to them and you can hear why – it’s enervating music.

You can buy cut flowers too…

…and coffee and tea (with window reflecting the shops opposite)

It’s even got an appropriate piece of public art.

vic_market 006 (Medium)

Friday, June 19, 2009

And now for something completely different…

Words fail me trying to describe the music of Dave Graney who was the in store feature performer at Basement Discs today.

Dave Graney has been around the Melbourne music scene since the early 1980s and at one stage gained the self styled sobriquet of King of Pop after winning an Aria award for best male vocalist in 1995.

Today was the first time I’d witnessed his live act. It was interesting to say the least – it initially startles with its dissonance and unconventionality, but soon has you on side, riveted by the crazy lyrics and funky beat.

He has a new CD, Knock Yourself Out, described as a “filthy R n B set, or an electric boogie album”. The audience at Basement Discs was given a taste to the tune of five songs, including the title track, Body Snatcher Blues, Sell Out and Throwin’ One Into The World.

Today Dave was accompanied by most of his The Lurid Yellow Mist band, with Clare Moore on drums and vocals, Stuart Thomas on bass and vocals, and Stuart Perera on guitar.

It was an unusual musical interlude for Friday lunchtime and something completely different, to quote Monty Python, from last week’s captivating show by Jordie Lane.

Check out
Dave Graney’s web site for lyrics and other information, and visit his My Space page to see/hear him in action.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Now is the winter of our discontent…sort of




Despite the chilly winds and dreary cold days of the Melbourne winter, it’s a great time to curl up with a good book. Not that I wait for such weather patterns, always having a book on the go through all the seasons.

Fittingly I suppose for the present season, I recently reread Joan Vinge’s Snow Queen Trilogy which comprises The Snow Queen, World’s End and The Summer Queen. There is apparently a fourth novel set in the same universe, Tangled Up In Blue, which I have not got around to reading or even acquired.

The Snow Queen, the first in the series, won the Hugo Best Novel Award in 1981 and the Nebula Award in 1980 and is a wondrous reinvention of the fairy tale on which it is based. Set in the far future on the undeveloped world of Tiamat it tells the story of Moon Dawntreader and her quest to win back her childhood sweetheart, Sparks. Unable to become a sibyl as Moon does, and feeling betrayed, Sparks leaves the Summer lands and travels to Carbuncle the capital city. As a sibyl, Moon attains a position of high status among the Summer people. Sibyls are keepers of knowledge that is freely available to anyone who asks. Sibyls enter a trance and by mysterious means, can answer questions.

There are plenty of twists in the plot and many other memorable characters that either help or hinder Moon in her search for Sparks, who ensnared by the wiles of Arienrhod the Snow Queen, has become her consort.

Tiamat has an interesting society. The geography of the mostly oceanic planet brings cycles of hot and cold weather as the planet tilts away from one of its two suns. The people are divided into two clans – Summers who are unsophisticated rural and sea side dwellers who worship a sea goddess called the Lady, and Winters who mostly reside in Carbuncle the capital city of Tiamat and are open to technological advancement. Both clans take turn about ruling the planet every 150 years.

Winter rules during the time when the planet is accessible to interstellar visitors who bring technology in exchange for the “water of life “, a longevity drug manufactured from the blood of “mers” an indigenous sea creature that only exists on Tiamat. The drug can halt aging indefinitely as long as the water of life is ingested and is the most valuable substance in the universe.

The action of this novel takes place during the closing years of Winter’s reign which will culminate in a festival where the new Summer Queen is elected, and the old queen is thrown into the sea as a sacrifice to the Lady. Arienrhod has other ideas however, and Moon is central to her bid to extend her reign, being her clone and mirror image.

World’s End concentrates on BZ Gundhalinu who was a major character in The Snow Queen, an off-world police officer doing a tour of duty on Tiamat who at the end of Snow Queen returns in disgrace to his home planet Karamough which is the ruling planet in the galactic empire. In this novel he achieves redemption through a surreal of Heart of Darkness journey to World’s End on the planet Four, ostensibly to search for his lost brothers. What he finds at World’s End will change his life forever.

The Summer Queen follows on directly from the end of The Snow Queen and again focuses on Tiamat. It is an even more engrossing read than The Snow Queen and introduces the fascinating new character Reede Kallervo, tortured genius and brilliant biochemist.

This is a big novel, in both pages (900+) and plot. It unravels in a leisurely fashion and slowly builds up to a stunning and totally satisfactory conclusion. There are three main narratives in the novel, the first of which focuses on Moon, ruling as Summer Queen and her push to advance her people in developing their own technological independence before the planet becomes accessible to off planet interference again, and her determination to save the mers, who she alone realises, are a vital key in the maintenance of the sibyl network. Little does she know when she begins her rule, that B Z Gundhalinu (another thread) has discovered a source of smart matter at World’s End, capable of driving star ships and therefore opening up the universe, including Tiamat, to interstellar exploitation.

The third, and possibly the most interesting narrative thread, follows the exploits of Reede Kullervo, tormented by memory loss, enslaved by an unscrupulous and evil crime boss, through his dependence on a drug he calls the water of death which is fact his own failed attempt to create an artificial water of life.

All these various threads intertwine and meet in an end game that keeps one guessing until the very last page.

4freedoms childrensbook

Since finishing these books I have read Four Freedoms, John Crowley’s wonderful new novel. It is set in an aircraft factory in Oklahoma during World War 2, and captures the period wonderfully. It is a novel of great warmth, charm and humour and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I really feel I should read it again before attempting to review it as I read it sporadically on the tram to and from work, and at night. A new John Crowley novel is something to be celebrated, and this latest work of his is possibly his most straightforward novel yet, but nonetheless beautifully written, with a cast of great characters, particularly the unusual hero, Prosper Olander and the women who cross his path.

I’m feeling spoilt after reading Four Freedoms, having the new A S Byatt novel The Children’s Book, to settle into. I started it on the weekend and am enjoying it immensely. It’s a rare treat these days to have two first class new novels by favourite authors to read successively.

I’m also reading a new Jacqueline Carey paperback, Kushiel’s Mercy, on my daily commute. Carey is one of my guilty pleasures. She writes marvellous ripping yarns in the heroic fantasy vein with apparent effortlessness. I’ve read all the previous Kushiel’s Legacy novels, so just had to read the latest novel in the series. She also wrote the unusual Sundering duo of novels, Godslayer and Banewreaker a kind of alternate Lord of the Rings, where the dark side are the goodies, or at least the side that most gains the reader’s sympathy.

Aussie Horses continue to blast rivals at Ascot

Scenic Blast winning the King's Stand Stakes
Scenic Blast stamped himself a world champion today by winning the Kings Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot last night. He showed he was a horse to be reckoned with during the Melbourne Autumn racing carnival, when he won the Newmarket Handicap and the Lightning Stakes, so it’s really no surprise that he continued his winning ways in England.

He came onto the local scene from Western Australia a couple of years ago but impressed Melbourne pundits with his exploits this autumn. His stable mate and relative, Scenic Shot has also been making a name for himself in Queensland winning a trio of races. Their shared parentage is through the now deceased stallion Scenic, also sire of Viewed, last year’s Melbourne Cup winner. Valerie, on her
Foolish Pleasure blog is delighted with the exploits of Scenic’s offspring as Scenic is a grandson of her favourite horse Foolish Pleasure after whom her blog is named. Valerie has a video of Scenic Blast’s Kings Stand victory.

It’s always good when an Aussie bred racehorse wins overseas. Last year Haradasun won the Queen Anne, and the year before Miss Andretti blitzed her rivals in the King’s Stand as did the grand old Takeover Target the year before. Takeover Target, the subject of an archetypal rags- to-riches story which is mooted to become a film, will be running at Ascot on Saturday. A rising ten year old, it could be his last tilt at overseas glory so I wish him the best of luck.

On the local racing scene, the Queensland winter carnival winds up on Saturday with the final Group One race of the autumn/winter season. The Winter Stakes for fillies and mares over 1400 metres has a classy field of contestants, including several group one winners. It all depends on track conditions whether Forensics runs as she will not start if it is wet, neither will smart filly Ortensia. However, that still leaves a good field with Absolut Glam last year’s winner, the Tasmanian filly Tempest Tost, Serious Speed, Chinchilla Rose, Marveen and the interesting Saint Minerva who recently beat a group of handy colts over a longer distance (2200 metres), so she may not be suited to this race, but has a chance if it is a really heavy track.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The very talented Jordie Lane – a warm break in a cold, cold day

It’s damned freezing here in Melbourne, has been all week. After a short hiatus from in store performances, Basement Discs hosted Jordie Lane at an in store today. His enchanting performance was certainly worth braving the icy winds to hear.

A young, Melbourne singer songwriter , Jordie Lane strikes me as having talent to spare. He has a simply gorgeous voice, with an emotional quality that tweaks the heart strings, involuntarily bringing tears to the eyes. He’s also an accomplished guitar picker, a fine songwriter and an engaging performer all round. I’ve seen him perform several times as part of the duo Fireside Bellows with Tracy McNeil and have been quite taken with their joint act. Jordie however, can stand on his own merits and is a remarkably poised and confident solo artist for one of such tender years.

Today’s in store performance was to mark the release of his debut full length CD, Sleeping Patterns and, judging by the taste he gave us today, it’s a sure winner. I was so impressed I got myself a copy of the CD and also bought his earlier EP, Lovers Ride.

Jordie Lane has been described as Australia’s own Ryan Adams, and he appears to have drunk from the same well as many of my favourite singers and songwriters like Townes Van Zandt, Gillian Welch to name a few.

Do yourself a favour, check him out on his
My Space page