Time to resurrect an old blog?

I’m not quite sure where the last x years have gone but I really didn’t think it had been so long since I’d touched this old blog. Looking back I think my mix of distractions has changed quite a bit – with books and film taking the lead over music, art lagging behind due to disorganisation at making it to things, and poor old craft being relegated to the “I wish I still had time” category.

That aside it is currently the most wonderful time of year in Melbourne – MIFF which means lots of film!!

My fun starts tonight, as I realised I couldn’t quite be in two places at once this morning despite wondering if perhaps, somehow I could. This evening I see Miss Sharon Jones! and Kiki. Maybe I’ll even write about some of the films, as I am seeing a crazy amount, and they do make for good conversation.

See you in the cinema perhaps.

Distraction, procrastination, blocked words

It seems to always be the case that when my mind is procrastinating or blocked about a piece of writing I have to do, that the ideas flow for a piece of writing I don’t have to do. I’ve been fighting it this time but decided to raise the white flag and at least jot some of the ideas down as maybe, just maybe getting them out of my head will allow for a clear flow in what I need to be doing.

Is this what happens to everyone else?

What I end up with is an ever-growing collection of unfinished, unedited, unpublished posts. I find writing them in this interface useful as it’s often different to the one I’m stuck and staring at the screen in.

I do think it serves a purpose – especially when I’m blocked (not just distracted) in the piece I should be working on. What I write here is a brain dump. It’s what I’m thinking, as it comes out with little if any editing. It reminds me that I can string a sentence together (sometimes) so whatever issues I’m having getting the ideas out of my head on that other piece are temporary. The words will come.

Some of these unpublished posts are two or three times the length of the piece I should be working on, and they fell out of my head in no time at all. They’re not flippant little pieces like this but are often highly reflective, exploratory pieces that will probably sit hidden forever. That doesn’t bother me. They’ve performed their function which was to unblock the writing portion of my brain that had been doing its best to drive me nutty. Sometimes I like my chocolate without nuts.

Summer classics from the bookshelf

Inspired by Literary Minded’s ‘20 Classics in 2011‘ project I’ve used it as a springboard to get around to an item long on my to do list. That’s right, read those classics. You see despite many that know me assuming I came from an arts background I flipped from arts to science come VCE (year 11/12 or high school senior years for those not from these parts). I put aside my paint brushes, charcoal, silk screens, sewing needles, history and language books two-thirds of the way through high school and switched to maths/science. Don’t ask. I still don’t understand all this time later. So yes, this meant I missed out on the fun subjects offered in those final years. I never did English Literature for one and lets face it – the more interesting choice of reading material (back when I was in school anyway) was saved for the literature class, not the standard English class.

So here I am, with almost twenty years having passed and I’m finally going to pick up some of those books I never got around to. I imagine my summer reading list will be a little haphazard. A mixture of books I did read (but oh so long ago) and some I wish I had. Others I see on high school and university book lists and get a little pang for, wishing I’d studied them. More still I found at second-hand stores and bought full of good intention; they made it to the bookshelf but never the bedside table. This I hope shall be the summer to fix that! Then there’s also the library. My local library is amazing and the cube of my bookshelf dedicated to library borrowing is always overflowing.

I’ll add my list as I go and I expect the project will continue once the summer is over at a slower pace when free time more scarce, but the loose plan is to aim for one book a week while the heat of summer is here to encourage me to hide under a shady tree, in a lovely park, with a good book and a cold drink. Ambitious yes. I foresee I rewrite to this plan quite quickly but for now let’s swing with it.

The rules, loosely speaking, are this: the book is to preferably come from the bookshelf, if not the local library or a friend’s bookshelf. One of the points of this pursuit was to remove the dust gathering on these neglected classics on the bookshelf.

The first classic I’ve picked from the shelf is A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. I’ve not read it before and it’s one I picked up at a local second-hand bookstore in the last six months or thereabouts. I’m aware that Joyce’s prose can make getting into the book a little more challenging but this is one of the classics I’ve long wondered why it’s taken me so long to pick up, hence top of the list for no other reason that it sprung out at me from the bookshelf demanding to be read.

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Before I begin I need to finish the book I’m currently wandering the streets with, miraculously not bumping into poles and other people, while my head is propped downward reading. I’m a little too attached to We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. No discussion of the film please, I won’t be seeing it until the book is complete.

The idea with this project is not simply to read the books but also write something about them once they’re read. So in that wonderful universe where all things go to plan (i.e. not the one I’m currently filling) there could actually be regular weekly blog posts about books I’ve devoured. Note: take this paragraph lightly. I shall attempt to keep to my plan of reading and writing regularly. I am after all doing this both by choice and for pleasure – what could possibly go wrong?

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A music soaked weekend, finally

I’m happy to report that after a lengthy hiatus, the weekend just gone was a flashback to times past – times past being music filled weekends! A long overdue scenario and one I’ve been aching for, so the onset of cold and flu-like symptoms wasn’t going to put a stop to the music.

Friday night required a coin toss between the Geoffrey O’Connor & Wintercoats album/ep launches. A tough one (Chaper/Mistletone…) but the winner of this round was Geoffrey O’Connor, an unfair advantage as I’d missed Super Wild Horses in the past and was rather keen to catch their support set. I didn’t find the instrument swapping midway through the Super Wild Horses set gimmicky as it has been rather cheaply described. It looked as though they were having fun and that’s the point, isn’t it? That said, I must say it was a strange night. I can’t recall the last time I went to a music gig with hecklers, but that’s what we got when Geoffrey O’Connor hit the stage. There was a group of guys near us very clearly at the wrong gig but the bizarre thing was they chose to stay. Even more unusual was a girl behind them that let herself be baited by their heckling. It was such a strange social interaction to watch. Admittedly the guys were amusing and harmless. They weren’t violent, or overly drunk and they weren’t even very loud. They got shooshed a few times, obeyed then mocked shock when no one complained about a louder heckler further back in the crowd. The lesson to be leant here – audiophile quality earplugs. They protect your ears at gigs prolonging your years of music enjoyment and dampen this idle chit-chat going on in the audience. I cannot recommend them highly enough. And in case you were wondering Geoffrey O’Connor, he was good too.

Saturday. We were all set to head on over to the Toff for Laura Jean‘s A Fool Who’ll launch. I even popped the album on in the store that afternoon to set the mood but a quick text after work and in the space of a few minutes Sigur Rós with their film Inni showing only three times this weekend at the Westgarth had leapfrogged into pole position for the night’s entertainment. I’ve seen Sigur Rós live and they’re spectacular. The chance to see this film in a cinema was hard to pass up, and I couldn’t. I know I’ll own the DVD but a full cinema experience must be taken when it’s on offer. The film does a wonderful job of capturing their live performance and the experience of seeing them live. Shot in black and white HD digital, transferred to 16 mm film then projected and re-filmed with various effects the finished look and feel of the film is perfection for the music its matched to. Your eyes fix on a slow steady close up then chase another image fading in and out of light. The detailed close-ups and lighting are magical. Watch a sample, decide, then go out and buy a copy. I will be.

xx

By Sunday I’d developed a nasty dry cough. Drinking was out. It all tasted pretty foul with a throat lozenge stuck in my mouth but more music was to be had. A dear old friend had long been preaching the need for me to come out and see Silver City Highway. I couldn’t count the number of times I’d let him down on this one and they were support to Ned Collette & Wirewalker‘s final Melbourne show for an age so off we went. It was great to catch up, have him watch me react to a band for the first time and visa versa. I liked what I heard of SIlver City Highway and can see and hear why he’s so charmed by them. As is always the case when this happens I wonder why it’s taken me so long to get out to see them. The guys have been to see them without me, I can’t recall what my excuses have been. Something trivial I’m sure but I’ll have to remedy that now. I found the new Ned Collette material intriguing. I had to leave before the set was through so didn’t catch it all but what I did hear left me wanting for the new album to hurry along. I place the blame squarely on that spanish guitar, it’s the anomaly, or new piece of the puzzle to their sound.

I always feel a little guilty when I’ve seen a ‘free’ gig. I know it’s my warped logic. It’s not like I’m a high or even middle-income earner so I need to embrace these free gigs where I can. By choice I have a very low income mixing part-time and volunteer work, still, if the gig’s free I always wonder how the band(s), the venue, mixer etc are earning a living. Sigh.

I know the weekend’s over but tonight in the Triple R performance space Montero are playing live to air during Local and/or General. So why stop the music just because the weekend’s through? I’ve only heard two songs from this new local project headed by Benny Montero and featuring members from Crayon Fields, Baseball, Cuba Is Japan and the TM Band but what I’ve heard I’ve liked. Should be fun!

Nights out seeing bands taking precedence over sitting in the cinema… maybe summer is on the way after all.

Joining the dots

Last night I finally saw Withnail and I the way it should be seen: on the big screen, in a cinema with other patrons laughing along, a drink in hand and good company. I was at the Astor Theatre for a suitable double feature, wondering why I’d never seen it at the cinema before.

I’d watched it often enough on DVD but not when it was fresh and new, I came to the film quite late. My first experience of anything to do with the film had been without even realising it. One of my early band obsessions was Ride. By the time their second album ‘Going Blank Again’ came out in 1992 I was well and truly hooked. I was completely unaware that the soundbite at the start of track 7 “even a stopped clock gives the right time twice a day” was Marwood from early in the film, or that the track title “Cool Your Boots” was another quote (Danny) from late in the film.

It’s an odd moment when you do eventually join the dots and find you’ve come to things backwards. That album is so familiar to me. It was at a time when the music I was listening to, my friends, seeing bands, going out, dancing, socialising, that was everything. I knew the soundbite was from a film, but at the time that was enough. It’s years later that I wonder why I never did wonder more back then.

So why write this now? Seeing the film large, loud, with full surround sound at the cinema really made that connection hit home. Even though I’d made it previously the size and volume, ok the volume, lets bring the focus to the sound where it’s due as that’s what really did it. I’ve already said my first accidental run-in with the film was via the audio and although I was watching the film my instinct shot me back to my first association which was listening to the music that came with that sound. I sometimes worry about the way my mind works, or wanders.

Either way what it does for me now when I watch the film or listen to the album is it makes both experiences a little more enjoyable, as I have that extra connection I missed for so many years, and that’s got to be a bonus.

So why not flash back to the early ’90s with Ride and Cool Your Boots. Enjoy!

Losing time and it’s Radiothon already?

I’m not quite sure how it happened but with the blink of an eye and the clap of a hand that four day gap that is supposed to see me rested and recuperated between the end of MIFF and the start of RRR’s Radiothon evaporated without any chance of recovery. I’m usually so good at this. I block the Monday out, sleep, eat, watch tv then sleep some more but this year I had visitors on the Monday. Ok. It was my folks and my nana. I couldn’t say no to my nana. She’s so cute, and little and frail these days. It was great to see them but boy could I have done with more sleep.

Anyway somehow Monday became Friday and worse still that lurgy I’d fought off right through the film festival made an appearance – for radiothon! Not cool. You thought that was bad. ‘My thing’, ‘the thing’ I do during radiothon is bake lots. Bring on sickness and baking stops. I mean I like to share but I draw the line at sharing germs with two dozen people via a couple of batches of cupcakes a day. As a consequence my only baking this year was for Monday’s Breaking And Entering shift. So sad.

You can’t have it all I suppose. But there is something you all can do and that’s subscribe!

Subscribe to 3RRR

MIFF catch-up

It was bound to happen that with so much on I wouldn’t get around to writing a word about anything I was seeing. I now understand why taking time off during MIFF felt like such a necessity. I miss that privilege. So here I am, last day of the festival. On my way to the Forum for my final volunteer shift, sleep deprived after 16 days of squeezing more than I should out of myself, burning the candle at three or four ends to accommodate as many films as I could and then to top it off – Closing Night, what fun. It’s been such a wonderful festival, it always is but this time it’s been different. I haven’t simply seen a spectator I’ve got to stick my head behind the curtain and it’s been lots of fun.

But the films. Can I write anything coherent about the films I’ve seen in my current state? I think I’m likely to have to add a further post or two after the festival as a personal reminder of what I’ve seen or particularly enjoyed. I’m still cursing that I can’t find my marked up guide from last year’s festival with my film selections but can recall the films I saw in 2001. What ludicrously!

The tail end of my festival has been exceptional, though I still have two films after my shift today but believe they are relatively safe bets (Another Earth and Le Havre). Friday afternoon I saw a fun Australian feature Swerve. Friends that had already seen it mentioned the story felt familiar which I wouldn’t argue but I enjoyed the ride. I loved Melancholia. I know after the first screening there was lots of chatter from both sides of the Lars von Trier camp shouting adoration, maybe with this I missed the negative comments also floating about. I didn’t notice the 130 minute length, the time flew for me, but others I’ve spoken to this weekend wished for it to hurry up, ‘do’ something, ‘say’ something other than simply look visually stunning. Stunning it did look right throughout. The final shot is awe. For me though the entire film had me gripped. The story first told through Justine’s eyes suffering depression then Claire’s with another ailment I found so honest and true.

But here I am at the steps of the Forum. Shall finish this another time.

MIFF 60, it begins

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Melbourne International Film Festival, it’s my 11th festival (yes I was a bit slow off the mark) and it’s also my first festival in a while where I’ll be juggling work commitments with festival sessions. I’ve been fortunate for the past few years to have an accrual of leave allowing me to take the full festival as paid leave, grab a passport and pretty much settle in and develop a vitamin D deficiency while chalking up as many films as I could handle between countless coffees, drinks and chats with films loving friends.

This year I’ve taken a different approach. I decided to put my hand up to volunteer for the festival. Something I’d wanted to do for a while but it would mean giving up on my 60+ sessions. As it turned out, this is to be the year. I’ll mostly be gracing the corridors of the Forum (my favourite Melbourne venue) with one side trip to IMAX.

Last night saw the donning of one’s finery for the festival’s rather lax interpretation of a ‘black tie’ Opening Night. Seeing as only this week I commented on twitter that ‘we really did wear a lot of black in Melbourne’ I opted for a very bright, very girly, vintage frock from the wardrobe. Pity about the winter chill but bright yellow and red accessories it was to be. It’s always fun to dress up for a night.

I only clicked on Wednesday that this year’s opening night film, The Fairy, is the new film by the creators of Rumba (MIFF 2008) which I thoroughly enjoyed. This was another charming little slapstick comedy from directors Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon and Bruno Romy, though Rumba’s running time of 77 minutes possibly suits their style of film making a little better than the 93 minutes allocated to the The Fairy.

The Fairy

After the screening we all waltzed our way around the corner from the frocked up GU (it’s amazing what a layer of curtains can achieve) to the more fitting Melbourne Town Hall where most flocked immediately to the bars for liquid refreshment. Not boozing for the evening I was able to wait for the masses to thin out then politely ask for a mineral water. There was plenty of opportunity for film chatter with friends, opinions on the film we’d just seen, what we were most looking forward to seeing, if we’d make it to an 11am screening tomorrow etc. After much harassment and no opportunity for a hasty exit without being spotted, I joined the AFI circle for a ‘quick dance’ before leaving. Once you start of course you don’t stop and before I knew it the house lights were on and it really was time to go. Much fun was had and again what a great start to the festival!

Now wait for it, I woke up and booked a film! I saw the King of Comedy this afternoon which was great. There was a big group of us there which made for even more fun. I’m not sure what was better, seeing it on the big screen or Glenn Dunks cackling two seats over.

In other news, my first volunteer session is on Sunday!

In the frame

One of the things I am most guilty of when looking at art is getting lost in the frame. I mean that literally. Most of the time I will first look at the painting, photograph, print etc but eventually my focus will divert to the square surrounding it. The frame.

I will become completely lost in this square of timber, fabric, paint, embellishment. I am absorbed in the craftsmanship, intricate detail, variety of material, colour, scale, the volume of work that has gone into this ‘encasing’ of the artwork, yet is given so little acknowledgement and recognition.

You can understand then that I was so very happy this week to discover that recently the NGV Australia has started to amend its information plates to include detail on the frame. In the 19th century Australian art galleries on the second floor of the Ian Potter Centre select works now contain information about the frame. Whether it is original or a reproduction, who the maker is or otherwise ‘maker unknown’, if it is a reproduction when it was reproduced and based on what timeframe etc. I haven’t yet checked across the road at the NGV International to see if it too is doing the same but would be very excited to find that it was.

Now me being me I couldn’t just leave it at that. I had at ask about why some of the information plates contained frame detail and others didn’t, and what informative and helpful responses I got from the lovely NGV staff. If I’d thought about it for a minute or two I would have figured it out as it’s pretty obvious really. If research has been undertaken on a frame then it can be labelled with what was discovered. I did say it was pretty obvious. I was also directed to an interesting book on the frames in the NGV Collection, titled Framing the Nineteenth Century by John Payne.

One of my favourite frames in this gallery is fitted to Ugo Catani’s Lovers’ walk, Mount Macedon. It is rich, dark, layered, full of detail and fits perfectly with the painting without detracting from it. The frame maker is John Thallon of Melbourne and there are quite a few of his frames in this gallery.

Ugo CATANI Lovers' walk, Mount Macedon, 1890 Melbourne. Frame: original, by John Thallon, Melbourne

Detail of John Thallon's frame around Lovers' walk, Mount Macedon by Ugo CATANI

A frame you can’t miss due to the scale of the work (285.7 x 433.0 cm) surrounds John Longstaff’s Arrival of Burke, Wills and King at the deserted camp at Cooper’s Creek, Sunday evening, 21st April 1861 (1907). The frame is mammoth but when you get up close the workmanship is beautiful. I stare in wonder and think of the hours involved in creating each of those leaves and buds, and that’s just the outer layer of the frame.

The enormous original frame by an unknown maker around John LONGSTAFF's Arrival of Burke, Wills and King at the deserted camp at Cooper's Creek, Sunday evening, 21st April 1861 (1907)

The works in the Joseph Brown Collection do not contain frame information as they came from a private collection and as I was reminded collectors commonly re-framed works to fit with the appearance of their existing collection. A nice example of this is Rupert Bunny’s Mermaids dancing. Although the painting is from 1896 it’s paired with a clean mid-century frame. Very nice.

Rupert Bunny's 19th C Mermaids dancing in a 20th C frame

Many thanks to Vicki at the NGV library and MaryJo in the Furniture and Frames department for their helpful responses to my email.