Friday, July 31, 2009

Spring Racing Season Kicks Off Tomorrow

Bel Mer
August 1st is the traditional birthday for all Southern Hemisphere racehorses. It’s January 1st in the Northern Hemisphere. What this means is that all racehorses will be classed as one year older, despite the fact that in many cases they will not attain that age until later in the season.

There are two races of interest on the cards tomorrow. In Melbourne, the Group Three Bletchingly Stakes a sprint over 1200 metres is the first group race of the new season. It has a pretty classy field containing no less than three group one winners – Bel Mer, Orange County and Mr Baritone and the current up and coming sprinting star I Am Invincible.

In Sydney, the Group 3 Missile Stakes sees the return of last year’s Manikato Stakes winner, Typhoon Zed. He will be up against some smart up and comers in the Gai Waterhouse trained Dreamscape and the three year old Rarefied, trained by Peter Snowdon, as well classy mare Fritz’s Princess.

It will be a few weeks before we see the return of the real star race horses. Apache Cat will be starting his spring campaign in the Memsie Stakes later in the month.

However, the season will be missing Weekend Hussler, who is undergoing treatment for an injury and Samantha Miss who has been retired. Former star filly Amelia’s Dream, who sustained an injury that kept her out of racing for several years, may be back shortly. It will be interesting to see if she still shows her early brilliance.

Augusta Proud won last week in Adelaide, and New Zealand mare Daffodil (who won the AJC Australian Oaks in autumn) scored a close second in her first race for the season yesterday.

Looking forward – on Monday, The Shu’s great Spring Super Stable Competition on the Racing & Sports website will be open for entries.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Waiting for Spring

It’s been a bitterly cold week here in Melbourne, so it’s that time of year when Winter tends to wear on a body and the odd sunny warmish day awakes a yearning for Spring.

And of course reminds me that the Spring Racing Carnival is just on the horizon.

To psych myself up for the season, I’ve been browsing through the old scrap book I compiled back in the early 1960s, which was when I first developed an interest in the sport.

Unfortunately most of the photographs in the book, being old newspaper clippings, do not scan well, nor translate well on photos. But the book has a couple of colour photos from magazines which scanned OK, though the resolution leaves a lot to be desired.


The picture above, probably quite a rarity these days, is of my favourite horse of the time, Dhaulagiri, a magnificent bay stallion who acquitted himself very well during his racing career. He won the 1961 Cox Plate and consistently competed against the top horses of the period, such as Tulloch, Lord, Sky High, Aquanita and Lord Fury. He was named for Mount Dhaulagiri in the Himalayas no doubt inspired by his Sire’s name High Peak.

His wins, according to the Australian Thoroughbred Studbook were:

1960-VATC Caulfield Stakes

1961-MVRC Alister Clark Stakes

1961-MVRC WS Cox Plate

1961-VATC St George Stakes

1961-VRC Blamey Stakes

1961-VRC C.B. Fisher Plate

1961-VRC Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Autumn)

1962-QTC JHS Barnes Stakes

1962-Tatt's QLD Tattersall's Cup

1962-VATC St George Stakes

1962-VRC Blamey Stakes

As well as winning the above races he did place many times in top quality company in other Group races including the Melbourne Cup. He ended up being imported to France and sired one stakes winner Dhaudevi who won the Group 1 French Grand Prix de Paris in 1968.


This next photo is of Tulloch, generally regarded as one of best racehorses in Australian racing history. I remember listening to the races back then when Tulloch and Dhaulagiri were racing, often against each other, with the other great racehorse of the time, Lord being in the mix. They were three horse races and all three horses won or were defeated by each other in consecutive races.

Below are photos from other pages in my scrap book. I find it amusing to contemplate how I meticulously cut out each horse in a decoupage fashion. I certainly wouldn’t bother these days, simply saving newspaper pages over the years marking historic racing events, particularly the Melbourne Cup. These pages are stuffed in the back of the scrapbook in no particular order.

A double page spread of Dhaulagiri

Aquanita and other well known racehorses of the early 60s

A double page spread of Tulloch

Even Stevens

The first race of the spring carnival is the Group 3 Bletchingly Stakes on August 1st a mere week away. To brighten the chill, Augusta Proud, a filly I have been following for several years is racing in Adelaide today, so I’ll be listening to that race in the hope she wins.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Spectrum Again!

Spectrum - 16 July 2009
For the third time in as many years, the classic Aussie rock band, Spectrum performed at an in store at Basement Discs today. They were celebrating the release of their latest EP Breathing Space Too.

They gave us a sampling of it today, which included a song about Xavier Rudd, Xavier Rudd Is Not My Son, Mike Rudd’s response to the frequently asked question about his relationship to Xavier. Also among the new songs played was one called Silicon Valley, written in the 1980s which has claims to being prophetic.

There were five in the band today, not all of them being able to fit on the Basement Discs tiny stage, so the guest saxophonist Jimmy Sloggert and keyboard player Daryl Roberts were off stage. The rest, Peter “Robbo” Robertson (drums) Bill Putt (bass) and Mike Rudd (lead guitar and vocals) took centre stage.

Always enjoyable to watch and hear, Spectrum is still a great band. Mike Rudd is a highly individual guitarist and has an extraordinary high voice.

They finished the mini show with two classic Spectrum numbers, I’ll Be Gone and Sensible Shoes.

Spectrum have
an amusing and informative website - well worth checking out.

In other music news, I received word last night that Justin Townes Earle will again be touring Australia in September/October. More details at the Love Police web site.

Tour Dates:

Sunday, September 27 - Waverock, Waverock, WA
Monday, September 28 - Mojos, Fremantle
Thursday, October 1 - The Grace Emily Hotel, Adelaide
Friday, October 2 - Thornbury Theatre, Melbourne
Sunday, October 4 - Meeniyan Town Hall, Meeniyan
Wednesday, October 7 - Clarendon Guest House, Katoomba
Thursday, October 8 - Annandale Hotel, Sydney
Friday, October 9 - The Zoo, Brisbane

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Codex Sinaiticus

The Codex Sinaiticus click for larger image

Of interest to fans of Edward Whittemore’s Jerusalem Quartet, or indeed anyone who has an interest in old books, the good news is that the Sinai Bible, the oldest known Christian bible in the world has been digitalized and all its *separate pieces brought together in one the place. The news came to me via an email from a Whittemore fan with a link to the press announcement by Associated Press.

I have been aware of this project for over a year, but only now (or since 6 July 2009) can you view the bible in its entirety on the Codex Sinaiticus web site.

The Sinai Bible was written in the fourth century AD and lay for many years undiscovered at St Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai. It was uncovered by Constantine Von Tischendorf in 1844 and presented to the Alexander II, Tsar of Russia in 1862. The manuscript was purchased by the British Museum in 1933 from the Soviet Government.

*The codex is split into four unequal portions: 347 leaves in the British Library in London (199 of the Old Testament, 148 of the New Testament), 12 leaves and 14 fragments in the St. Catherine's Monastery of Sinai, 43 leaves in the Leipzig University Library, and fragments of 3 leaves in the Russian National Library in Saint Petersburg. - Wikipedia

As for the link to Edward Whittemore, it is obvious that Whittemore used the Sinai Bible as the basis for the original bible featured in Sinai Tapestry, the first book of the Jerusalem Quartet. Whittemore’s bible is a scandalous document purportedly written by an imbecile from stories told by a blind man, a catalogue of wonders that “denied every religious truth ever held by anyone”.

In Sinai Tapestry the original bible is discovered at St Catherine’s Monastery by Skanderbeg Wallenstein, a linguistic genius and fanatical Trappist monk from Albania who on finding it is horrified by its contents. He is thus led to forging an original that will justify faith, and buries the real Sinai Bible in Jerusalem, where it remains hidden and long sought after by other characters in the book. His forgery is substituted for the original in St Catherine’s Monastery, where it is discovered by Tischendorf, therefore becoming the Codex Sinaiticus.

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Breath of Fresh Air – Sal Kimber and The Rollin’ Wheel at Basement Discs.

It has to be acknowledged that Melbourne, indeed Australia, is blessed to have such talented young musicians coming out of the woodwork so to speak. Today’s In Store at Basement Discs featured yet another impressive young singer songwriter – the delightful Sal Kimber.

She was showcasing songs from her debut CD, Sounds Like Thunder, with help from her band, formerly The Good Ole Boys, now renamed Rollin’ Wheel. It is a five piece band and comprises Sal on lead vocals, banjo and guitar, Cat Leahy on drums, Jake Cole on lead guitar (electric), Trent McKenzie on Bass and Buffy Kimber (Sal’s sister) on Piano accordion, GLOC, keys and harmonies

Sal’s music could be classified alt country and encompasses folk, blues, roots and country. The lovely tunes are certainly enhanced with Sal’s fantastic voice. It reminded me very strongly of Patty Griffin, having that same timbre and power.

As I had never listened to Sal Kimber’s music before, it was indeed a pleasant surprise to hear her finally. Let’s just say, I was impressed enough to acquire a copy of her CD. Who needs International stars when Melbourne has such talented musicians?

I am extremely grateful, that such musicians as Sal Kimber, Jordie Lane et al are continuing the roots tradition and giving it a new lease of life.

Sal and band will be doing An Evenin’ of Glam Country at Northcote Social Club on 23rd July with Toxic, the Glam Rock Britney tribute band. Sounds fun and I’m tempted to go.

Give Sal Kimber a listen on her
My Space page

Next Thursday, iconic Aussie rockers Spectrum will be performing an in store at Basement Discs. Always good fun, not to be missed!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Dalí Exhibition

“Every morning upon awakening, I experience a supreme pleasure: that of being Salvador Dalí."

dali_exhibition 001 (Small)
The National Gallery of Victoria currently has running a comprehensive Salvador Dalí exhibition. As I had the day off work yesterday I took myself along to it on a free ticket from Mercedes Benz, the major sponsor of the exhibition.

The last time I visited the Gallery was to see the Art Deco exhibition which I reported on around this time last year. B accompanied me to that exhibition, so I never got a chance to roam around the rest of the gallery.

B wasn’t interested in seeing Dalí, so I went by myself and availed myself of the opportunity to see more than Dalí. In all I spent about three hours wandering around and was footsore as a result and relieved to get on a tram and make my way home.

I took some photos on my way to the gallery…

dali_exhibition 003 (Medium)
Shadows cast on the wall of the gallery from the Arts Centre next door

It was all worth it though, as I did manage to hunt down the Pre Raphaelites and saw some other fine paintings as well.

So first the Dalí exhibition…

It was indeed comprehensive, covering Dalí’s career from his early years to his surrealist period including his collaborations with film makers, Luis Bunuel and Alfred Hitchcock. You could actually watch Un Chien Adalou , as it was showing in a theatrette in the gallery. I eschewed the opportunity, not wishing to be horrified by the eye slicing bit at the beginning, and besides there was quite a queue to see it, so I moved on.

Of course photography was not allowed, but I purchased a couple of postcards to scan as examples.

The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory

Three Young Surrealist Women
Holding in their arms the Skins of an Orchestra

dali_slave market
Slave Market with the Disappearing Bust of Voltaire

I was surprised at how small some of the famous paintings were, though others, like Three Surrealist Women were large and glowed alluringly from the walls. Despite there being quite a crowd moving through the exhibition, everyone was polite and considerate, taking turns to get up close to the paintings to view the finer details and read the commentary displayed by each of them.

And yes, it was comprehensive, covering all aspects of Dalí’s life and art. I was unaware that he had made jewellery – the tiny gold brooches and pendants were exquisite.

The commentary on select paintings was framed in the form of a rhinoceros, no doubt in reference to the following photo. Dali considered rhinos to have the perfect geometrical shape.


I’m pretty sure I saw the whole collection on display (it was large), so having had a surfeit of melting clocks and such, I set out to explore what else the gallery had to offer.

I intended to go and look at the European Art collection, where I figured the Pre Raphaelites could be found, but I was distracted by another special exhibition, The Satirical Eye: comedy and critique from Hogarth to Daumier and somehow ended up in Persuasion: Fashion in the Age of Jane Austen, a collection of 18th Century dresses. All very interesting, but I didn’t spend that much time there and soon found my way to European Art, working my way up and up through the Middle Ages to the early 20th Century.

thomas_rowlandson_a little bigger
Thomas Rowlandson – A Little Bigger

I found the Pre Raphaelites eventually and snuck a few photos when the attendant was elsewhere.

dali_exhibition 009 (Medium)
Arthur Hughes - La Belle Dame Sans Merci

On my way, I was taken by many paintings like this wonderful Matisse nude.

matisse_reclining nude_on a pink couch
Reclining nude on pink couch

Making for the exit I discovered two fine Max Ernst paintings, one of which is pictured below.

ernst_war of two roses
Max Ernst - War of Two Roses

By that time I’d had a sufficiency of fine art and my feet hurt, so skipped the Asian section and whatever else was on offer. Another day I’ll get round to exploring those sections and also visit the Ian Potter Gallery for the Australian art collection.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Funky Blues for a Chill Day in Melbourne

Geoff Achison, recently returned from a sojourn in the USA, was the star performer at an in store at Basement Discs today. A local artist, and famed as a master of both acoustic and electric guitar, Geoff entertained the small audience with songs off his new CD One Ticket, One Ride.

He played, not so much blues, as funk and rock with a few quieter numbers mixed in with the livelier stuff. He has an interesting voice, throaty like Joe Cocker. And he is indeed a fantastic guitarist.

Anyway it was all good, and a pleasant break in the day as always.

I haven’t felt much like going to live shows of late, so these in stores keep me in touch with the live experience despite myself.

Next Friday,
Sal Kimber and her Good Ole Boys strut their stuff. Should be good!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Children’s Book by A S Byatt


I have been a great fan of A S Byatt’s books ever since discovering her writing in the early 1980s first reading her initial “Frederica” novel The Virgin In The Garden. She blew me away then and still continues to do so.

Over the past three weekends I have been making my leisurely way through The Children’s Book, A S Byatt’s new novel. I finished it last Sunday, though I wanted it to last forever.

The Children’s Book is a wonderful, richly textured, multi layered reading experience where one metaphorically wallows joyously in the historical setting, following the fortunes of four families and their friends and associates - a huge cast of characters in fact. It is up there with her best work, and may be her best book yet. If it doesn’t win any major prizes, one can only wonder at the stupidity and lack of taste of prize judges.

A meticulously researched period novel, it opens in the late Victorian period and follows the lives of the Wellwood, Cain and Fludd families through to World War 1 – approximately 25 years.

It is a fascinating period, one that is rarely considered these days, but Byatt certainly illustrates that the late Victorian and Edwardian era was not without interesting events. She covers the political and artistic movements of the time and cleverly interweaves her characters lives into the framework. There are Pre Raphaelites, the Fabian Society, Anarchists and Socialists, the Art Nouveau movement, Symbolists, German Expressionism and Suffragettes to name a few of the major strands.

Central to the novel is Olive Wellwood, who is a writer of children’s books and mother to seven children who may or may not be fathered by her husband, Humphrey Wellwood or even born to her. Olive writes somewhat sinister fairy tales and also authors a separate tale for each of the children to which she adds additional adventures through their growing years.

The title of the book says it all. The theme of children’s books runs through the entire novel. Famous children’s novels of the time, Peter Pan, The Wind in the Willows and E Nesbit’s fantasies especially, haunt the novel. The Children’s Book itself is not by any means meant for children to read. It is intelligent, mature and thoroughly adult.

The Humphrey Wellwoods lead an idyllic sort of hippy existence inhabiting a house called Todefright (delightful name) in the countryside. Humphrey’s brother, the banker Basil lives in London, but the families are close. Close neighbours to Todefright are the Fludds, headed by the formidable Benedict Fludd, a brilliant but erratic master potter, who dominates his family of two daughters Pomona and Imogen, and son, Geraint. Seraphita his wife, a former artist’s model for a Pre Raphaelite painter, I imagine looking like Jane (nee Burden) Morris. In fact the female Fludds are constantly defined in Pre-Raphaelite terms – in their names, clothing, and appearance, they all reference art works of the period. The other family, Prosper Cain with his son Julian and daughter Florence become acquainted with the Wellwoods early in the novel when Olive visits the V & A Museum where Prosper is curator of the precious metals collection. This visit also introduces Phillip Warren, a working class boy with artistic ambitions who becomes a protégé of Benedict Fludd. My favourite character is Phillip’s sister Elsie – a self made woman with great esprit.

Byatt uses her comprehensive research to explore all sorts of topics as is her usual want, and her fascination with fairy tales is very much catered to in this novel, with some dazzling stories interspersed throughout the novel.

She is a beautiful prose stylist and I love the way she uses colour. She does this in all her novels and it makes them glow with meaning. The colours of The Children’s Book are predominantly Pre Raphaelite hues. If you’ve ever seen a Pre Raphaelite painting in the original you’ll understand. I feel like visiting the National Gallery here in Melbourne to see their collection again, such was the impact of Byatt’s book on me.

My review cannot do justice to The Children’s Book as I am as usual lost for words, but there are many other reviews out there (see below). Or don’t bother with the reviews, just get yourself a copy of the book and read it – it’s a fantastically good book, quite the best I have read this year. Well, equal to, or just as good as John Crowley’s Four Freedoms.

A tip: You can buy a hard covered first edition of The Children’s Book on Amazon UK at a cheaper price than you would pay for the paperback.

I also recommend listening to Ramona Koval interviewing A S Byatt on The Book Show on ABC National Radio. You can read the transcript online, but you really should download the audio file and listen to A S Byatt herself.

The Daily Telegraph Review

The Guardian Review

Dove Grey Reader

City of Tongues Blog