Wednesday, December 31, 2014

DECEMBER ROUND UP

December is always busy, and this year was no exception, except I was juggling a heavier work load and some mental health issues on top of it all. But you know what, I survived, cause sometimes you just need to amp up your super woman quantities!!! This is not to say, I didn't have dark moments, because I did. Oh boy, there were days I would have rather stayed in bed to sleep or cry all day, cause the mean reds will do that to you. But I had to get up and get moving, because I had no alternative. Sure I came home and usually fell into a heap but I got by and am starting to feel like me again. I am by no means back to normal (whatever the hell that is), but I am close. And for that I am grateful.
 
Each time I 'fall over', and this time I fell further than I have in a long, long time, possibly ever, I wonder if it's the last hit, and will I have the strength to pull myself back up again, but bizarrely I seem to. This, of course, is with the supreme support of key people; family and friends and you know who you are. You listen, and are kind and sweet, and honest and to the point when I need it. I know how lucky I am, cause without these beautiful people I know I wouldn't have half the strength I have. This time of the year has always been a struggle for me, cause as a single person navigating the festive period can be difficult, add a birthday in there too (I was 44 on Boxing Day...yep, I am really, really old!), and it really can be traumatic. And the way I was feeling this year, I admit I was worried...and I think others were too...
 
But I am pleased to report I had the best Christmas and Birthday that I have had in a long time. Possibly as I had no expectations and thought I would cry the whole way through it, lol! And not a tear was shed, to be honest I doubt I have any left in me. And with each day I gain more and more of myself back. It's not easy, but I am determined to have a good start to 2015, because I really fucking deserve it!!! And as always I share this stuff because I believe in being real and maybe just maybe I can help someone. And you know what, I already have. My musings on SM, my ups and downs these past few months have helped some people. I know cause they told me. We are all the same people, deep down anyway. Be kind and careful with your your actions and words and you might find that kindness coming back to you. Of course, I will be musing about this and more in my 2014 wrap up and my 2015 hopes...stay tuned for them very soon.
 
I could write about politics, sieges, death, the ABC, and news in general, but I think we all feel the same. Enough and here's to good news in 2015.
 
So events, and fun were heightened in December, I guess that's the truth for most of us.
 
The lovely J cooked me dinner and it was divine, because it's just me and I am not the best cook, I always adore someone cooking for me.
 
The first weekend in Dec was huge, it was like I packed all my festivities into it! C and I collected my new dining table. After 18 months of looking I finally found something suitable! it came in 5 flat packs to put together, but with the help from my parents, mostly my Dad (who was champing at the bit!) it was put together with no trouble and looks amazing.


C and I then did a final Olive Tree run for the year, it's always a great excuse to chat, and laugh, and have Gozleme!
 
That night our wonderful Bibliotweeps Book Group had our Christmas party as the superb Una Volta followed by some seedy drinking at Coal and Ceder - both two new faves you must go to if not already.



The following day I met A and B for a sublime afternoon of High Tea and conversation at The Novotel. Afterwards I got to see J's new digs, then we had a night of fun, driving in a storm, dinner at our fave Saigon Feast, hot chocs at Coco Mondo, and a movie at The Towers, Men, Women and Children - it was very good, in particular Adam Sandler and the two main kids. Wonderful themes of technology and space and trouble and growing up.

 
Just to keep things rolling I had Monday off, and A and I met for brunch at III Bean, and then headed into ABC Studios for our dear friend, Carol, and her last show. It was bittersweet afternoon for everyone there, most especially Carol. Yes, I may have physically pushed people out of the way when I thought JPY was in the studio, but you know, my feelings were all over the place! Not a dry eye in the place when Carol signed off for the final time. Our love and appreciation is still with you Carol.



That night we met at our usual family dinner haunt, The Royale Inn, to celebrate Dad's birthday.
 
The following weekend was our Twitter Christmas bash at my favourite building in Newcastle, The Great Northern Hotel, and their 80s night. We danced all night and had a blast, great tunes and I won a bottle of bubbly for knowing Groove is in the heart is not an 80s song (d'uh). Funniest moment of the night (and there were many) was a group of younger gals yelling at the DJ to turn the music up when Blister in the Sun does that low part. 'We're not old you know' they yelled. No fucking kidding you idiots, it's meant to be like that. Oh the hilarity!

 
Work was very busy as I was till working on a major project and it was complex and time consuming, but I also had time for fun. Events, local kids decorating the library, and our final film of the year, Muriel's Wedding. And a team get together at Verde Luna to celebrate being freaking amazing at what we do!! Proud of my team, they are superb.
 
A, L, & I helped J christen her beautiful new place with a Christmas celebration of fun, love, and friends...and charades...best leave that alone. (My mind sometimes is not fit for company!).
 
We also moved the big family get together from Christmas Eve to the Sunday before Christmas and hit Speers Point Park. What a great move and hopefully a new tradition.



I caught up with V, N, & C for our Christmas get together, drinks, then a meal at Heng Leong, our new fave Chinese in the old Wallsend Library.
 
Just as I was doing well, I fell over very badly the Monday before Christmas, but my good friend C rescued me and made me go into Merewether Baths for a cleansing night swim. And it worked, I cannot speak highly enough of a night swim or my beautiful friend C!!

I spent Christmas Eve at my sister's property, eating seafood, drinking cocktails, and enjoying the serenity, in the belly on my family. Who has time for the sads?

Christmas day was a full day of family, friends, food, laughter, excitement, napping, and presents.



My birthday was an overwhelming display of love from all the important people in my life. C and I took my nephew to see The Hobbit. Big movie releases are a birthday tradition. We loved the movie, sure there were added bits and it was a little too long, but you know it's the end of an era. Cate Blanchett was outstanding. Then family dinner with my predictable fare of Pork Belly followed by cheesecake. You gotta have your faves on your birthday.



Since then I have been relaxing, feeling great, and just enjoying my little break from work.

M took me out for a belated birthday dinner, I had another birthday morning tea with S, caught up with L in the park, enjoyed the sunshine out and about in Newcastle, and headed off to Wangi for a little spirituality, massage, and soul cleansing...as you do!

I feel ready to head out to an event for NYE, my first NYE out and about in many years. I usually stay at home by myself, feast on seafood, watch movies and think about the NY. I am headed to a lovely event at The Landing with J and L, I will be drinking (I am usually the driver) and I will be dressed up....so look out!!!!!
 
Tomorrow I will work on my thoughts about 2014 (that will be interesting, it's been a crazy mixed up year...good and bad!) and my hopes for 2015. 

In the meantime.... Happy New Year!!!


And as always, a few extra photos:





DECEMBER REVIEWS

What I've been reading

Burning Man: art on fire by Jennifer Raiser - an amazing coffee table book full of the best pieces of art from Burning Man and a history of the event and regular artists.

Only in New York - Lily Brett - Lily is one of my all time favourite authors and her latest is a book of essays and thoughts on NYC. Her writing is sharp and spare, her stories take me straight back to the streets and I can visualise them in my mind. She is a keen observer of people, and a lover of cooking and food. It just made me smile.

Gerard Durrell - I am still power housing through his stories on Spoken Word. They are mostly amazing and funny, especially those of his childhood on Corfu.

This house of grief - Helen Garner - I don't read a lot of True Crime, never gravitated towards it. However some writers are so eloquent and perfect, I will just read anything by them. Helen Garner is one. Her writing is superb, easily Australia's finest writer. She is also sharp and spare (these are qualities I look for in books), and a keen observer. Her humility and kindness always shines through, even in the darkest of darkest. And this book is dark. 

It is about Helen following the trial of Robert Farquharson over the alleged murder of his three children from drowning in a dam when his car went off the road back in 2005. Helen never strays from the reality and the harsh truth, yet she writes in a way that somehow lessons the impact. She never takes 'sides' but simply writes empathetically of all involved and never tries to make sense of what happened because how can you. It's obvious she feels great compassion for Robert, because how can you not. Whether he is guilty or not, his lot in life now is heavy and awful. And this is why I will always read Garner, because whilst honest and to the point, she is humane and considerate...almost to a fault.

The Sun also rises - Ernest Hemingway - I have been carrying this little classic around with me for months, delving into it at every chance, but also trying to lengthen it's reading. Cause when I read a great book, I always want it to last. Written in 1926, it begins in Paris and ends in Pamplona for the running of the bulls. It is very masculine, as you would imagine, but it's his ways with words that will always suck me in, despite some of the 'behaviour'. Oh Papa, you were a naughty man! This is fiction, but knowing Hemingway, you know most of it happened to him or someone he knew. The middle section fascinated me, fishing in the Pyrenees. Something that should not fascinate me at all, but it was so beautifully written, it almost made me want to take up fishing...almost!

The Holy or the broken: Leonard Cohen , Jeff Buckley and the unlikely ascent of "Hallelujah" - Alan Light - this was a fabulous little book about the song Hallelujah. It spends some time on Leonard and how he came to write the classic. It took him years, 4, 5, or more depending on which story Leonard wants to tell, lol! And supposedly 80 verses, many discarded. And then is moved from how the song was received to why and how cover it. For a long while the Cale version was the definitive version. But then Buckley came away and almost took the song from Cohen himself...almost. Many more covered it, k.d. lang and Rufus Wainwright being the most revered after Buckley. It's a great little book full of titbits and stories. But really the song belongs to Leonard, as anyone who has had the pleasure of hearing him sing it will concur. I can tick that off my holy grail of music, hearing him sing this classic live, brought me to my knees and tears to my eyes.

Everything I need to know I learned from a little Golden Book - Diane Muldrew - this is a cute little book in the guise of a Golden Book itself. Loads of pictures from classic Golden Books with tips of living life added. It was a joy to look at and read, and amusing too. One for every bibliophile.

What I've been Watching

How I met your mother final season - I wouldn't call myself a fan of this show, but I have watched it on and off over the years. I watched this against my better judgement and really enjoyed it. I liked there the storyline went, and maybe because I hadn't invested anything in it, thought the ending was superb.

Walking Dead - ok I binged S4 and S5.1 in less than 2 weeks! I find this show puts me on edge and gives me mild anxiety and because I had actually been on edge and suffering proper anxiety in real life, I found the show over-rode that!! Which was most unexpected and marvelous!  Life huh! Anyways, the show just gets better and better. A friend says he feels like he needs a shower after each episode as it gets grosser and grosser...he's right! I love the characters and their many dynamics, depending on the situations they get into or are trying to get out of. 

Whilst it is true Rick (the superb Andrew Lincoln) or Egg as I still like to call him (if you need to ask why, we simply cannot be friends!) is the star of the show, it is Daryl I love the most. Norman Reedus is superb and the layers of intensity and character he peels is awe-inspiring. During these shows we lose some favourites, some in the most upsetting and chilling of ways. There was a double loss in S4 that had me very unstuck. Beautifully written, acted, and filmed, but horrific unlike anything I had seen on the show thus far. And of course some great new characters. I am eager for 5.2!!!

Girls S3 - I love this show so much. Mostly because it is written so very well, some of the dialogue is perfect. The girls, however, are not, and that can be very frustrating and annoying to watch as they self destruct or implode with stupid decisions. But I think because the writing is so very mature, we forget the 'girls' are in their early 20s, and none of us were that smart back then. Our 20s are for making mistakes, and forming our lives, and working out how we are. This is what they are doing. I loved the addition of Richard E Grant and others this season. And as always, very keen to see where Adam fits into Hannah's life.

The Newsroom final season - only six episodes, but six great ones. Under-rated and under appreciated, yes it's not as good as The West Wing, or Mad Men, but it is stunning. Jeff Daniels is great, the entire cast is. I love seeing Jane Fonda, in a small role, knock every one dead with every single word she utters. I am sad it ended, but everything must at some point I guess.

Under the skin - oh my, I really do not know what to say about this very dark film. Scarlett Johansson is outstanding as the alien going through men like it's no-ones business. It is a dark, sexual, and confronting film. I am not even sure I understood half of it. I need to watch it again, I cannot stop thinking about it. I read some of the scenes were improvised with the men not knowing what was happening (eg it was going to be a film) which is very disturbing. It was amazing, mesmerising, and beautiful. I really loved this film, but it's not for everyone.

Labor Day - I somehow missed this superb drama with Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin. Winslet is an unstable mother, who barely leaves the house after her husband leaves her. She leaves the house once a month to accompany her young son grocery shopping. This is where they meet Brolin, on the run after escaping jail. He holds up in their house for a weekend and she falls in love with him. But the story is more than that, it is also a coming of age story for the son. The small cast hold your attention well, the intensity and heat is palpable. She really is something else, always has been and just gets better with age. If you missed this, go and find it, it's very good.

Head - The Monkees - I have wanted to see this for a long, long time. It was really weird, I knew this going in, but how weird, well that I didn't realise. I think I needed some heavy drugs, lol. It was of it's time and I didn't realise Jack Nicholson wrote part of it! But you know, the boys look great (and goofy) and the songs featured are brilliant. Micky Dolenz is my fave.

At The Movies with Margaret and David - this institution ended during the month and I am still beside myself about it. For 28 years, and over half my life I have worshipped and loved these beautiful movie reviewers. I did not always agree with them, but their opinion and thoughts on movies were the only ones that matter to me. The were real, seemingly unscripted (I am sure there was a script, but they always spoke like it came from the heart, not a teleprompter) and just delightful. We loved it when they argued, and even more when they agreed. We knew their foibles and loves. And in the last few years they introduced a new section, classic films, which I loved more than the new reviews. To hear such dedicated lovers of film talk about films of the past, whether true classics from the golden age of Hollywood or newer classics, just made my heart and soul sing. They will be missed, and when David grabbed Margaret's hand and walked her out of the studio at the end of the final episode I wept like a baby. We'll never see their likes again.

What I've been listening to

Songs that made me - Katie Noonan and friends - a lovely compilation of varied tunes as interpreted by Katie, Deb Conway, Mia Dyson, Angie Hart, Renee Geyer and many more.

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga - This was great, an album of duets, showcasing Gaga's actual voice, which is stunning!

New U2 - I actually bought this!! Yes I did, and I really like it, which I know is not a popular thing to say. But it's the first U2 album in a while that I immediately liked when I first listening to it!

Prince - the 2 new albums. Prince has always been an overachiever. I adore him, and these two albums are both equally brilliant. Love them both and have them on high rotation. Don't make me choose between them because I cannot!!!

Kate Miller-Heidke - O Vertigo - I love her voice so very much and her mix of unique and classic pop. Stunning, I must see her live soon.

Monday, December 22, 2014

NOVEMBER ROUND UP

As always November begins with my bil, M's birthday. We celebrated with a lunch at Raymond Terrace Bowling Club this year, and we all had a good club lunch with laughter and love.
 
I also had the extreme pleasure of seeing Julia Gillard on her book tour, with A, B, J, & L, and we indulged in an awesome meal after at Saigon Feast.
 
The charismatic C helped me begin my holidays in style at Caves Beach Hotel with the usual laughter and world solving.
 

The second week of my break was a bit more laid back, lunching with J at Bella Beans, and D at Hippo Express, attending the ABC Rally, shopping in the mall, seeing the Anne Frank exhibit, finally attending the Wed night markets, last book club of the year, and buying a new dining setting after 18 months of looking.




C & I also had a wonderful night out for her birthday at Casa de Loco and Grain Store. And I caught up with R & R for our usual Christmas lunch at Murray's Beach Cafe.



My last holiday 'job' was to decorate my place for Christmas.



Newcastle was in for a treat the night of the 28th, with the fantabulous Skywhale in town for one night only. A and I were also heading to see William McInnes at Newcastle Library, and he had the audience in the palm of his hands with his wonderful, witty, and poignant stories of holidaying as a kid. What a performer, what an entertainer, and what a comedian. We laughed till we cried and umm snorted (that would be me). I was also lucky enough to meet the man himself prior to the talk, he was funny and lovely and very swoon worthy. Thanks to the lovely J for making that happen. And so we joined our friends and their families to see if the magnificent beast would rise, she sort of did, but not for long. But it didn't dampen the spirit of the night, one of the most remarkable nights I have seen in Newcastle for a long time.







After such a rough month in October, I felt like I was on the mend (as it were) in November and I slowly started to feel better only to have a few things punch me in the guts late in the month. Thankfully I was mending and I wasn't knocked down for long, but the journey with the mean reds still continues. Which is a concern at this time of the year.
 
But as always I remain hopeful, cause what else is there if not hope.
 
Here are my reviews for November, being on holidays meant I got through a lot more than usual.
 
And some photography...





 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

NOVEMBER REVIEWS

What I've been watching
Muscle Shoals - rewatch was as good as my first experience
 
Senna - I have had this for a long while, and have just not been able to watch it. As a F1 fan and my Dad, a Senna admirer, I knew the story...it doesn't end well! But this is a superb documentary, with great footage, especially from his showdowns with Alain Proust. I sobbed most of the way through it, because it is a terrible loss, but it is really worth a look.
 
Bill Cunningham New York - this is my highlight of the month, what an outstanding documentary about an extraordinary man. Bill is a fashion photographer, but with a difference, he shoots all the fashion shows but also the people on the street. Then he looks at a weeks/months photos and decides what the trends are relying only on what footage he has. He lets the photos decide and then it becomes a column in The New York Times. This documentary follows him on his trusty bicycle on the streets of Manhattan, and interviews those that know him and tries to find the essence of the man. Bill has to be in his 80s, a loner, never married, very shy, and his work is his life. It is truly a remarkable thing to watch. I think everyone that watches it, regardless of their take on fashion, will love this and fall a little in love with Bill.
 
Blue is the warmest colour - is a coming of age story. Adele meets the older Emma, she falls in love and her whole life changes. This was a very sensual and entrancing story. An honest look into a young girls coming of age. However at almost 3 hours long, it got rather ponderous in parts.
 
Ides of March - a political thriller with a twist, excellent viewing and outstanding cast of George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman (how I miss him so!), Paul Giamatti, Marissa Tomei, and Evan Rachel Ward.
 
Love and other drugs - Jake Gyllenhaal is a drugs distributor, and he meets Anne Hathaway, who may or may not have a severe illness in which she needs a cocktail of drugs. This is a love story, but also a fascinating insight into the life of a drugs distributor.
 
Water for elephants - I loved this book when it came out, and have only just caught up with the movie. The book is undoubtedly better, but the movie is pretty good, excellent casting and worth a look.
 
Crazy Heart - Jeff Bridges is excellent as a down and out country singer trying to keep his head above water. He meets Maggie Gyllenhaal, and for the first time realises he needs to make some changes in his pathetic existence. Bridges, who I have always adored (I mean, he's The Dude!!) won an Oscar for this role ad deservedly so, he is utterly irresistible in this!
 
Scott Pilgrim vs the world - this is a great teen comedy, about Scott (Michael Cera), the world he lives in (a lot of it fantasy), and his friends and girlfriends. It is fast paced, meta, and fun!
 
Private Lives of Pippa Lee - I loved the book by Rebecca Miller (daughter of Arthur) which would appear loosely based on her father's life. It was layered, and witty, and clever, and shocking. The film came off a little lackluster, possibly the casting, unsure. It was good, but a huge letdown if you have read the book.
 
Temple Grandin - a biopic about a remarkable girl with autism, who broke through the barriers and became quite famous for her studies on humans and animals. Claire Danes is outstanding in this. I think I laugh/cried my way through this, which means it is really really good!
 
Love Child - I missed this great Australian series when it aired on tele. Set in 1969 in a teaching hospital/refuge where single girls come to give birth and adopt out their children. A heady mix of romance, sixties, and drama. I really enjoyed this excellent series.
 
Soul Mates - the only thing I watched on tele, a skit comedy show from NZ about two bros who are best friends through time. The skits are Cavemen, 80s detectives in NZ, Bondi Hipsters (now) and the future where they are time travel agents. Ridiculously funny, especially the plot where they are 80s detectives to try and stop a young Russell Crowe become...Russell Crowe! If it gets a re-run, you must watch it!
 
Boardwalk Empire S4 - things are gruesome and the killings keep coming as usual on this fabulous Gangster show. Steve Buscemi continues to impress as the complex Nucky, and when matched with the sassy Patricia Arquette this season, it really amps up the heat and sex. She is fabulous. The usual characters continue to impress, especially Jack Huston and Gretchen Moll.
 
Duran Duran: Unstaged - was a concert movie directed by David Lynch from 2011. It was excellent and they were in fine form, and I really wish I had seen them when they last toured based on the performance here. I didn't mind the new stuff, the old stuff sounded great, in particular Planet Earth (my fave) and a very funky duet with Beth Ditto on Notorious. Highly recommend but caution for those who have epilepsy, the strobe effects throughout are really intense.
 
Mad Men: the final season, part 1 - Oh my, there is some outstanding television out there, and I rave about Game of Thrones, Walking Dead and all the biggies, but Mad Men remains my favourite. It's so utterly different from pretty much everything else out there, and so utterly perfect. Never have I watched something (with possible exception of Wes Anderson films) that comes so close to visual perfection, but backs it up with great script, dialogue, acting and music.
 
This season Don is down and out, people are all over the country, and the sixties are nearing an end. I love the subtly of this show, it is quiet and unassuming, yet packs the most powerful punches when necessary. It's time capsule depiction of the sixties is never over powering, this season the big news story is man landing on the moon and is portrayed beautifully. I also love the music selection, so many sixties based movie and shows pack in every single hit you already know. Mad Men, is very selective about music, occasionally you'll hear a song during the show and there is always a song over the credits, but more often than not it is something unexpected or obscure and always absolutely spot on.
 
Jon Hamm continues to blaze every trail as our hero Don Draper, and there are times he doesn't have to say anything, his face does all his acting for him, he is a cut above the rest and then some. But add in the marvelous Elisabeth Moss as our heroine Peggy and have the two play off against each other and it is sheer magic. My favourite episode of Mad Men ever is a superb two hander between Don and Peggy from Season 4 called The Suitcase. There is a scene during this season that possibly comes close to topping that, and it left me breathless and in tears. I guess I'm a romantic but there is something so very right about pairing Peggy with Don, if only as a work duo, that this is how I wish the series to end, but we'll have to wait and see!
 
I have a soft spot for the ridiculous Pete Campbell (played perfectly by Vincent Kartheiser) and beautiful Joan (oh my Christina Hendricks gets THE best costumes!). And Roger Sterling (John Slattery, who I do have a thing for...he's much younger than you would think!) is back in fine form this season too. Also coming into their own is Kiernan Shipka as young Sally, she get some great scenes with Don and almost steals them.
 
And the writing this season seems better, if that is possible, than ever. Some great lines and pieces and incorporating the time; feminism, space travel, gay rights, racial divide. Yet nothing ever feels in your face. It's the moments in the series when almost nothing happens, or no one speaks, when it is spare and quiet that sing to me, you can really see what's happening behind the facade.
 
What I've been reading
Questions of travel by Michelle De Krester. This is a really difficult book to describe, I have heard people either love it or hate, I definitely loved it. It follows two totally different characters in two different continents and their journeys. It is slow paced, and feels leisurely, even when fast paced things happen. It is almost meditative to read, and the words are so very beautifully written. It follows over a decade of time for these characters and the huge changes they go through and indeed the world around them. And as you read, you stop and think about the philosophy presented or the ideas and thoughts and how they effect you. And towards the end there is a shift in the stories and it took me by surprise, and then I was certain I knew the ending. But boy I had no idea! I love that, the ending of course, in hindsight, was completely predictable (yet apt) but it was so beautifully constructed I doubt anyone would have seen it coming. That is a great book!
 
Spy in the house of love - Anais Nin This is a spicy little novella by the lovely Anais. It is about a bored, young woman, married to a much older man, who pretends she is off working on traveling plays. But she is often checked in to hotels around the corner from her own house having affairs with people she meets in clubs. It is written so beautifully but is so incredibly seductive. She is very descriptive in the surrounds but less so in the action itself, which gives her writing this intangible charisma. If you've never read any Anais, you are simply missing out on life!
 
Gardens of the gods - Gerald Durrell, read by Nigel Davenport. Fabulous stories of Gerald's childhood spent on the island of Corfu. He spent a huge chunk of time wandering the island capturing animals, insects, reptiles and birds and bringing them home to his long suffering but kind mother. The stories are gentle and funny, and so very enjoyable. Hearing them read adds extra delight.
 
Still Foolin' 'Em - Billy Crystal - this was a fun and easy read. Stories from Billy Crystal's life and varied career. It's easy to forget how much he has done and how much amazing he has injected into the entertainment business. When Harry Met Sally still remains in my top 5 films of all time, he writes with joy about the making of it. Also some great behind the scenes on The Princess Bride. I was disappointed in the lack of behind the scenes Oscar information, there was some, but not nearly enough. I would have thought he could have filled an entire book with those experiences...oh, maybe he's saving it for that. But it's a ripper read, especially worth it if you are a fan
 
Cultural Amnesia written and read by Clive James - a whole range of cultural icons, as described and explained in Clive's dry wit. Perfection!
 
We need new names - NoViolet Bulawayo - this was a difficult but important debut novel to read. About a group of young kids in an unnamed shanty town somewhere in Zimbabwe. Their lives are full of horror, and the main protagonist, a gutsy young girl called Darling, dreams of escaping to America where her aunt lives. Early on you realise these kids are 9-11 and it is quite shocking and you are full of despair. They witness rape, aids, violence, mutilation and then some. The second half of the novel depicts Darling's move to America and she realises the grass is not so greener on the other side. Whilst she is living in a far better situation than she came from, things are not rosy and perfect as she imagined. Bulawayo initially wrote this as a short story and then made it into a novel and at times you can feel the padding, however it remains with you and the writing is stunning. It is not perfect but important. I always try to read books from other countries to gain perspective on life around the world and this certainly does that.
 
So, anyway - John Cleese - My love for Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, and A fish called Wanda is extreme and knows no bounds. However, I find Cleese a challenging character and as he gets older moreso. However, I was keen to read this autobiography. It is detailed and rich with family and early schooling information, but also ponderous, wordy, and pompous. I struggled with it, and it seemed to be a bit of a vanity project, especially when he starts writing, in his opinion, his funniest pre-python sketches. It ends in 1969 as Python is starting, so I am guessing there will be more volumes to come. Mostly it deals with his issues with his mother and ex-wives, I am guessing this man is no fan of females. I just found it an uneven, sad, cranky book but I really wasn't that surprised.
 
What I've been listening to
There, there by Megan Washington - a sublime album of stunning ballads, I love it when Megan Washington really showcases her perfect voice, this album is just that!
 
Mue - the new Emilie Simon, French pop as it's best.
 
CW Stoneking - I love CK's fabulous muddy, 20s style blues. And his new album, Gon' Boogaloo, is all of that and more. Great at first listen, and gets better with each one after. I really really want to see him live.
 

Supertramp - a very best of Supertramp came through the library and I have been overdosing on them ever since. I know they are a little bit daggy, but I just love them. Roger Hodgson's supreme lyric and melody writing (and that amazing voice) is superb. Some of the lyrics have particularly been singing to me personally at the moment too, so I've been cranking up that fat 70s sound and driving around singing at the top of my voice.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

LOVE YOUR AUNTY

The ABC - what can be written that hasn't been written before!?!

I guess I can only give my personal experience, which started when I was very young.

I grew up on ABC comedy - Norman Gunston, Fawlty Towers, The Young Ones, The Big Gig, Ab Fab, The Late Show, Frontline, Blackadder, The Chaser just to name a small handful. Homegrown and from overseas. ABC knew what was quality.

ABC also produced my beloved Andrew Denton, national treasure and hero to all Australian geeks.

And great drama and documentaries. Hello Colin Firth in THAT shirt in THAT pond in Pride and Prejudice. Early classical yearnings with Derek Jacobi in I Claudius. Attenborough documentaries. Doctor Who. Redfern Now. Again, too much to even begin listing.

And then there was music: Rage, Rock Arena, and my beloved Countdown.

There is a line in Seinfeld where Elaine says to Jerry, "All your knowledge of high culture comes from Bugs Bunny cartoons." Well, all MY knowledge of any culture comes from ABC.

As I got older I tuned more into news and current affairs programs, ever since news interested me I have ONLY EVER retrieved it from ABC. To me their commitment to truth and transparency is not only the singular way one should receive news but the gold standard.

And in the last decade or so, I have tuned into ABC radio. Local ABC radio and learnt more from the fabulous commentaries by fabulous commentators. People who seemed like my friends, and certainly felt like family, and some even became my friends.

1233 Newcastle is more than valuable to our region, they ARE Newcastle (and The Hunter). They inform and entertain us - in good times and in bad.

I really do not think anyone can mention the horrific Pasha Bulker Storm weekend without simultaneously thinking of 1233 ABC. Stunning work around the clock by dedicated professionals.

Everyone that works there, the names and faces we know well, the ones we hear about, and those that tirelessly work behind the scenes ensuring we the listeners get our radio delivered in that professional way...they are all superb, considerate human beings.

And so these cuts to ABC in general and specifically to Newcastle are beyond devastating. There's nothing I can say about that, that others have not said before me. I'm gutted and cranky!

But let me add my own extra personal spin on it.

Over the past few years I have had the absolute pleasure to work with some 1233 ABC staff and their kindness and knowledge and generosity and supreme professionalism have consistently blown my mind. I want to thank them here, and pay homage to their skills and assistance.

I guess this means I am going to single out a few people, which I am loathe to do, when really 1233 ABC are a team of people who work beautifully together.

Sophie Elinor has written a superb piece about those who did loose their jobs, please read it here.

My first experience with 1233 ABC was roving reporter, Anthony Scully, heading out to my library to do an interview and report on a youth art collaboration my team had completed with the local high school. I was nervous, this was my first experience with being interviewed, but Anthony was so laid back and cool about the whole thing I soon forgot what we were doing would even go on the radio. It was great exposure for my library and for my team and the community. I will always be eternally grateful. This is the kind of thing 1233 ABC does ALL the time.

Years later I got to know Anthony through Twitter and his new project ABC Open. He came out to do a workshop on the 500 Words Project. This project gives a voice to anyone in the community and allows them to publish online autobiographical pieces on a particular subject. I gathered a group of locals I thought would be interested in the workshop and joined in myself. What a blast, so much so I have continued with the project monthly for the past two years. During this time Anthony has been an awesome mentor and a friend, helping promote the project and assisting me with the group.

The project also produced a superstar in my beloved borrower, James 'Doug' Cunningham (a few months off 98 at present), and Anthony championed him as I knew he would. This is what 1233 ABC does!

This is the short film Anthony shot in Swansea Library with the group and Doug a few years back.

Some of our group also were selected to read a story each at last years Newcastle Writer's Festival, what a thrill and a privilege. And all due to 1233 ABC. So to Anthony and to Bronwyn Purvis (who filled in for Anthony some months back) I consider you friends and colleagues, and I am eternally grateful for your assistance and kindness.

I have also had the pleasure of 'working' briefly with Jenny Marchant and Sophie Elinor on the most wonderful Treasure Hunter...a right of passage for all Novocastrians. If you don't know Treasure Hunter, shame on you!! It's an entertaining program produced every Saturday between 10am and 12noon, where two people in the studio try to solve cryptic clues (along with the valuable 1233 ABC listeners and staff in the ABC car) that take you all over the Hunter looking for 'treasure'. And so some months back I got 'hoodwinked' into joining my friend Robert LIVE on air. I was so nervous but ended up having a blast due to the professionalism and friendliness of Jenny and Sophie, and of course the knowledge of Robert and the wonderful 1233 ABC listeners.

And finally I don't even have words that describe how I feel for the beautiful, intelligent, and talented Carol Duncan. Carol is an engaging and charismatic announcer I have had the pleasure of listening to for many years. When I joined Twitter she was someone I followed, and I never thought for a minute we would become friends, but life is funny and strange and wonderful like that sometimes. I followed her because she had an excellent grasp on social media and I felt I could learn something. In my own vocation it was obvious social media was the place to be and who to learn from but people who really knew their stuff. And Carol Duncan really knew her stuff!!!

And so one afternoon, Carol tweeted and I replied and she replied back! Gobsmacked, that golden voice took time to type something to ME! I shouldn't have been so surprised, this is what Carol does best.

Sidebar: As I am typing this, Carol is making friends online with someone who is a friend of a friend of mine in Melbourne, and saying well Michael is a friend of Cathy's and she's my friend!!! This is why we love you Carol (and Twitter!!!)

And so the conversations continued, and through Carol (and another lovely Tweep, Sarah) I made some of the very best friends I have ever had in my life. And of course got to meet her in person, and she is even lovelier than she is on air. The first time I met Carol, she gave me a present of her amazing honey...who does that!?! Through Carol and other tweeps I was introduced to Anita Heiss and managed an author tour with her earlier this year and Carol jumped at the chance to assist me and officially launch Anita's book.  Carol has even interviewed me on air about the Bruce Springsteen concert. And she has always been an avid supporter of public libraries, for that I am eternally grateful.

But mostly she has been a friend, and one I cherish and adore. And she is always there to listen and offer advice or a hug - she gives the most amazing hugs, even when she is going through crap herself she will always put others first. We have all seen that this week, when going through such a dark period in her life, when others would run for the covers, she spends her days being interviewed by the masses and becomes, unintentionally, the face of ABC cuts. I know her family, her husband and her two remarkable boys, and they are hurting for her as we all are. But she is a strong, independent woman and she will go far.

And yet she starts this up, a project, Love Your Aunty, for the 'fallen' 400 to place their names and skills on a database and hopefully gain employment. Bloody hell, if that is not Saintliness I don't know what is!

I think what I will miss the most about my friend Carol on air is her Friday afternoon music show. All her interviews and insights are divine, but her knowledge and love of music is superb. She champions local musicians of all types and allows them to share her airwaves and showcase their talent. This is almost unheard of elsewhere and now will be gone, shameful and upsetting. But her legacy will live on in those she assisted. She should be so proud of all she has achieved at 1233 ABC, because I was proud to listen to her way before I knew her personally, and like everyone else this week my heart was breaking for her loss.

I could go on but this post is already much longer than I intended. I also know there are a zillion television programs I have omitted above, trust me, I've seen anything seminal or important or indie or cult that ABC has ever produced, I just didn't want this to be a list of TV.

So what can we learn from this or do to help?

Vote with caution and consideration (thank god I always have, but sometimes even that is not enough), praise your local ABC wherever you are and complain long and hard!

I attended the Newcastle rally a few weeks back but was unable to attend the Sydney one or the one at 1233 ABC studios last week. If any more of these are organised, I feel it is our civic duty to attend them if possible.

You can write to your local member or email: 
Radio.feedback@abc.net.au

And you can lodge a complaint here: http://www.abc.net.au/contact/complain.htm  

And most of all, as Carol Duncan says, Love Your Aunty!!!!!!!

Monday, November 24, 2014

A WEEK IN MELBOURNE

I've been back from Melbourne a week and it is still in my heart. It is my favourite place to visit in Australia. I love it's laid back feel, the fact most places do not open until 10am (I'm so not a morning person), it's streets stay alive at night, the food is remarkable, the people friendly, the shopping excellent (and I call myself someone who does not like to shop!). and it's magnificent architecture. It is a really cosmopolitan city with a European feel.
 
Mostly I just feel at home, especially now I have found a private apartment that I stay at each time I visit.
 
This trip I had fewer 'missions' than previous visit and was meant to be a bit more laid back but I really did pack a lot in! I did manage plenty of quiet, naps, reading, and watching the world go by though.
 
My main missions were to see the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition, Les Miserables (show and exhibit) and the new musical, Once.
 
I saw the movie Once years back and fell in love. It was a little Irish indie musical about an out of work muso and an immigrant who fall in love via their shared love of music. And so years later it is made into a stage musical, and it lends itself so beautifully to that. I headed off to a matinee of it at The Princess Theatre. The cast were superb, most importantly the two main characters. They needed to be able to sing and act and play musical instruments, and they were superb. The set was simple but worked well. It was a full working bar that encouraged the audience to come and order drinks from prior to the show, which was a great concept. Like the movie the show has heart, is funny, and also poignant. If you're in Melbourne, you simply must check it out. Though I am sure it will travel to other states soon.



 
I also caught up with Stop Making Sense on the big screen at ACMI and Intersteller on the IMAX screen. I love a good movie about space and Intersteller is one of the best I have seen in a long time. It's plot is simple in that it is set in the future (never says exactly how far in the future), and the US (where it is set) has returned to the Dustbowl of the 20s. An ex-astronaut (Matthew McConaughey, superb as usual) 'stumbles' across a NASA co-operative (NASA is no longer meant to exist in this future) trying to locate a new planet for earth to inhabit. But it is sooo much more than that, and I kinda wish I had paid more attention to physics at school. With twists and turns including a lot of time bending, this is just a great story with fantastic acting and amazing visual effects.

 
I spent a beautiful sunny day at St Kilda, wandering, shopping, eating, and just sitting in the sun and reading and watching the world go by. I think that is where I would live if I ever moved to Melbs.



 
I did some good shopping, I love the laneways and little alleys in Melbourne, you always come across quirky little stores with interesting things. I also checked out the new H&M and Emporium shopping Centre plus old favourites like the VIC markets, ACMI store, Readings, and Minotaur Books. And of course, the amazing strip of shopping at Acland Street, St Kilda. I managed a fair bit of Christmas shopping this time round plus a few goodies for me.


 
And as always I ate very well. I returned to old favourites, Time Out Cafe, Beer Hut on Fed Square, Caboose Kitchen, E-Dumplings. My friend M is lucky to work near the wonderful Sunny Boy Cafe which is but a block from where I stay, we I caught up with him there a few times and we lunched at the new hip dumpling place at the Rialto Towers, Mr Huang Jin. Oh my and caramel dessert dumplings!!!






And as usual I wandered the city, marveling at it's beauty and architecture.
 

And finally heading to Melbourne at this time of the year wouldn't be the same without Myers Christmas windows:



Saturday, November 22, 2014

MELBOURNE ARCHITECTURE

After writing my last post about the Docklands Library it made me think about all the wonderful pieces of architecture that make Melbourne Melbourne!

I always take a lot of photos of these building and thought I would share a few here.


Let's start with old favourites:

This is my all time favourite building, The Royal Exhibition Centre.


Also, The Forum on Flinders Street

Flinders Street Station


And this gothic structure on Collins...it has gargoyles!!


And this view back to the MCG...makes me play Paul Kelly songs in my head!


I always take a photo of this corner building, just near where I stay on the corner of Collins and Elizabeth. I have no idea what is in the building, there is an Optus store below, also as you go up Elizabeth Street, you can see a range of edifices of more amazing old buildings. 


333 Collins Street, has the most amazing foyer and dome, it is right next to where I stay, so I always love to look up and admire, here it is ready for Christmas.


I love this sculpture further along Collins


And the Block and Royal Arcades


And the spot where my beloved Degreaves Lane meets Centre Place


Here are some other amazing buildings I saw this time:

This unusual high flyer up Elizabeth Street


Fabulous colours, viewed from the NGV Sculpture gardens


New vs Old at the new Emporium shopping centre


Parliament House


Sheer glass up the other end of Bourke Street


This funky joint near Docklands


And this deco beauty on Queen Street


And a little bit of hidden Melbourne:
The first is the view from my apartment, you can see the gold of Flinders Station middle right.






Some lovely pieces with intricate work:





And some lovely Melbourne sky shots: