Monday, January 20, 2014

A year with the Russian Princess

Talya asleep at the foot of the bed – I love the blend of colours which complement her grey fur.

Tomorrow marks the first anniversary of our adoption of Talya, the Russian Blue princess, and I must say it has been mostly a pleasure having her as part of the family. She’s a lovely looking cat with a sweet nature as far as humans are concerned, but is a bitch to other cats.

It’s a pity that her relationship to Willy still needs the kinks ironed out, but at least the occasional hostility between the two of them has not resulted in any collateral damage.  Fur is intact, attitudes remain suspicious.

Last night, whilst we were reading in bed, Willy was leaning against my legs, when Talya jumped on the bed and indicated that she wanted to curl up there too. When she was choosing a spot her tail every so often brushed against Willy - eek, she’s touching me! –  to his horror. Talya eventually settled down, curled a few centimetres away from Willy leaning against B’s knee and all was peaceful as both cats went  to sleep.

Snapped with my iPad, so picture is not perfect.

Talya has recently taken to sleeping on my pillow at night, which is a dangerous practice, as Willy uses the route across my pillow to climb under the blankets. We were woken in the early hours of the morning recently by a terrific shriek followed by a scuffle, as the inevitable occurred.  It makes me nervous. I certainly don’t want a cat fight on my head in the middle of the night, so I’ve been discouraging Talya from sleeping there. She has a perfectly comfortable bed in the computer room on top of the dresser…


…but with the usual contrariety of cats, she won’t sleep there if she doesn’t want to.

The cats coped well with the extreme heat last week, Talya mostly staying indoors where the evaporative cooling system provided relief from the 44°C outside. Willy chills out under the house in hot weather, as he appears to be disturbed by the fan blowing cool air.

However, the local possums were zonked. I was out in the backyard the other afternoon crumbing old bread crusts for the birds, when I heard a rustling in the trees by the fence, and a small brush tailed possum staggered onto the fence, looking very distressed. It  crawled under the water tank, and we don’t know if it survived or not.  No doubt we’ll find out soon enough, if and when a corpse makes an assault on our olfactory senses.

Thank goodness it’s cooled down this week, a relief after a week of 40°+ temperatures, though one expects it in Melbourne during summer.

I’m hanging out for the start of the autumn racing season. So far this year the racing scene has been pretty dull, though I have been assessing the young contenders for the Blue Diamond Stakes and Golden Slipper as they prepare for the big races. A few have attracted my interest – Unencumbered for one, who took out the Magic Millions Two Year Old Classic. He shows great promise. Another is Nostradamus who had his first start last Saturday and won it easily after missing the start.

I was disappointed to read that my favourites Super Cool, Fiveandahalfstar and Puissance de Lune will not be racing this autumn, for one reason or another. It’s A Dundeel however will be back, but only in Sydney. Hopefully Fiorente will come to Melbourne to contest the Australian Cup, but I fear that in Melbourne we’ll miss seeing several equine stars, with most of them being kept in Sydney to contest for the bumped up riches of its carnival.

It’s early days yet, so I’ll wait and see if it will be worth attending the track in a few weeks time.  Who knows what new stars of the turf will emerge this autumn.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Clothes As Art – Modern Love

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Bendigo Art Gallery Interior – Permanent Collection

I’ve never really thought about clothes as forms of art, but when you think about it, some haute couture is just that - the imaginative use of materials and textiles in new and dynamic ways as a form of artistic expression.

For a person who expresses little interest in fashion, and certainly doesn’t dress á la mode, I appear to have attended three exhibitions over the past 12 months that concentrated on fashion and clothing. Blame it all on my friend M, who is keen on clothes and always dresses very stylishly unlike myself.

In April or May last year I went to the ACMI Hollywood Costume Exhibition in Federation Square, then in November attended the Edward Steichen Exhibition at the Victorian National Gallery. And this week M and I ventured to Bendigo to visit the Bendigo Art Gallery’s Modern Love exhibition

Because the train tracks were being upgraded or something, we travelled to Bendigo by a VLine bus. It took about two hours to get from Southern Cross Station to Bendigo Station and from there we walked to the Art Gallery. Opinions of the locals were varied as to the difficulty of the walk, one woman averring that it was hard, and a bus driver telling us it was easy. We believed the bus driver and he was right – it was an easy 15 minute stroll through the main street of Bendigo to the gallery.

Bendigo is a pleasant rural city about 150 kilometres from Melbourne  that originated as a boom town in the 1850s gold rush.  It has many fine buildings still extant from the period.

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The Capital – Bendigo’s Performing Arts Centre next door to the Bendigo Art Gallery

On to Modern Love

The Exhibition, subtitled “fashion visionaries from the FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising) Museum LA” covered  fashion from the 1980s to the present. Many well known designers were represented – Chanel, Yves St Laurent, Christian Dior, Comme des Garçons, Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen; the list goes on.

The costumes ranged from punk to glamorous, all highly individual designs, many in bright colours. There was the outrageous and the beautiful; clothes you wouldn’t mind wearing and others you wouldn’t be seen dead in. 

I assumed that photography was banned so didn’t take any photos of the exhibits, though apparently non flash photography was permitted.

Here’s some photos I found on Google Images…

Wool Jersey dress designed by Christian Francis Roth – photo from Milca Designs

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Vivienne Westwood – Anglomania Suit – photo from Handmade by Carolyn Blogspot

As well as the exhibits,  there were videos playing on big screens with footage of the clothes being modelled on the catwalk by famous models. This was both mesmerising and occasionally hilarious.

It took about two hours to absorb the exhibition -  reading the commentary, viewing the costumes and videos - so we didn’t have much time to explore the rest of the Bendigo township, before catching the bus back to Melbourne.

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Folly created by Sebastian Di Moro in the garden adjoining the Bendigo Art Gallery. It ‘s made out of timber, polystyrene, fibreglass and artificial grass

If you are into fashion or the history of haute couture, or just like beautiful clothes, you would probably enjoy the Modern Love Exhibition. Even a non fashionista like me found it interesting and felt the trip to Bendigo was worth it. 

Monday, January 06, 2014

Welcome 2014 – Looking To The Future

It’s not yet a week into the New Year, but I’m thinking that 2014 could be a good one.

One of the reasons why I am feeling particularly optimistic is that two of my all time favourite writers will release new books this year.  New novels from David Mitchell and William Gibson are occasions for rejoicing in my opinion and very much worth the wait for their publication whenever that may be.

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David Mitchell’s new novel is called The Bone Clocks and is described thus:

 ‘This  “rich and strange” novel will follow the story of Holly Sykes, who runs away from home in 1984 and 60 years later can be found in the far west of Ireland, raising a granddaughter as the world’s climate collapses.”

In between, Holly is encountered as a barmaid in a Swiss resort by an undergraduate sociopath in 1991; has a child with a foreign correspondent covering the Iraq War in 2003; and, widowed, becomes the confidante of a self-obsessed author of fading powers and reputation during the present decade. Holly’s life is repeatedly intersected by a slow-motion war between a cult of predatory soul-decanters and a band of vigilantes. Holly begins as an unwitting pawn in this war – but may prove to be its decisive weapon.

The publisher (Sceptre) said: “The arc of a life, a social seismograph, a fantasy of shadows and an inquiry into aging, mortality and survival, The Bone Clocks could only have been written by David Mitchell.”

Sounds good doesn’t it? But you’ll have to wait until early September to read it.


Over the past two mornings I have been watching on my iPad a long interview with William Gibson that was recorded at the New York Public Library in April 2013. I hadn’t  known about this interview until I noticed a reference to it on The Guardian Books Blog recently, where readers of the blog were asked what books they were looking forward to in 2014. As soon as I saw the recommendation for William Gibson’s new book, apparently titled The Peripheral, I followed the link and watched an excerpt of the interview where Gibson reads a few pages from the first chapter entitled The Gone Haptics.  I was so riveted by the excerpt that I felt compelled to watch the whole video. It is 1 hour 41 minutes long, but a really fascinating and revealing glimpse into the mind and methods of the acclaimed writer.

Rather than me describing it, there’s a good review of the interview on The Awl . However, it doesn’t mention some bits of the interview that I found really interesting.

William Gibson is an original prose stylist, his style being smart, dry and crisp with apt analogies. During the course of the interview, part of a track from Bruce Springsteen's Darkness on the Edge of Town is played. The ensuing conversation was a revelation for me and also one of those moments when you say to yourself “Of course!”  Gibson’s style is to literature what Springsteen’s lyrics are music.

PAUL HOLDENGRÄBER: Speaking of music, let’s listen to something.

(Bruce Springsteen, “Darkness on the Edge of Town”)

PAUL HOLDENGRÄBER: So you’ve said of this album that it had quite an important influence in some way, that’s Springsteen, and this album of Springsteen in particular. How so?

WILLIAM GIBSON: Around the same time I was looking—looking for an arena that I could write science fiction in, I was looking for voices that resonated for me that I had never encountered in my reading of science fiction and in that album I found that really abundantly. I mean, I would listen to that I think what I thought was, “Wow, what if there was a kind of science fiction in which this is the voice of the protagonist?”

Gibson goes on to say that “when I started trying to put my own science fiction together, it wasn’t as though these characters were springing fully formed from my brow, I couldn’t even figure out how to do characters, but Springsteen, who is a superb writer of fiction, a superb writer of fiction as a lyricist, and an absolute master of terse but intense characterization gave me, gave me that and, you know, I studied him very carefully, and Lou Reed as well..”

The above conversation was about William Gibson’s first novel Neuromancer wherein he is credited with coining the term “cyberspace” and is hailed as the Godfather of Cyberpunk. Gibson explains in the interview how he came up with the word cyberspace...

Dataspace didn’t work, and infospace didn’t work. Cyberspace. It sounded like it meant something, or it might mean something, but as I stared at it in red Sharpie on a yellow legal pad, my whole delight was that I knew that it meant absolutely nothing.

Anyway, if you’ve read William Gibson’s novels or not, I highly recommend watching the interview. William Gibson comes across as modest, humorous and quirky, and talks just like he writes.

Another book that I have been awaiting for over 8 years is a special edition of John Crowley’s wondrous novel Little, Big.

Yes, the Little, Big 25th Anniversary Edition, is by all accounts almost at the printing stage and will - cross fingers - be published this year.  I subscribed to this edition way back in February 2005 and have been waiting patiently over the ensuing time. I’m sure it will be worth it – a book of superlative beauty and highly collectable.

By a curious coincidence, I learned of this edition on the William Gibson message board back in 2003/04, where Ron Drummond who is the publisher Incunabula and also the editor of the new edition, mentioned it in passing on one of the active threads at the time.

So that’s three things I am anticipating in 2014. What other thrills await me?

For a start, I’m heading off with a friend to Bendigo this Wednesday on a day outing, ostensibly to see the Modern Love Exhibition at the Bendigo Art Gallery.  We’re utilising one of our Senior’s free travel vouchers, so it will be a bit of an adventure. I haven’t visited Bendigo for decades, if ever. And there is a Space Age Books connection. The Director of Bendigo Art Gallery is Karen Quinlan, whom my friend and I both knew when she and her sisters worked at Space Age in the 1970s/80s.

Gibson photo credit Michael O’Shea