A different kind of twilight

Sometimes I get struck by just how nice life can be.  Friday night was one of those times, an evening when I was able to thoroughly enjoy watching the kids have a ball, pick up a few treats for myself, and have a couple of drinks with friends.

Hampton Primary School held their Twilight Carnival on Friday. Being the first time in many years that the school has run a fete, we were all waiting with bated breath to see how it would come together. In short, the result was spectacular. It was a fab event that’ll be talked about for a long time to come – plenty of fun for the kids, yummy food and shopping treats, and great entertainment. The dedicated group who organised all and sundry should be loudly congratulated and many thanks sent to the school for supporting it.

I got my hands on a few really lovely things worth bragging about.

Needless to say, I couldn’t stay away from the second-hand books. I found a few really lovely kids books which Oscar has already officially approved. I picked up  a couple of pulpy novels for myself too, but by far the highlight was this little find, a really great copy of The Misfits, by Arthur Miller, in Penguin orange no less. I’m quite smitten.

I was also quite taken with another little find, of all things, swap cards…

Swapstar have a really lovely new take on the classic swap card collections.  Locally and lovingly designed, I was particularly taken by this owl set and I couldn’t resist the silhouettes set as well. Now I just have to decide what I want to do with them. Swapstar sell albums, but I’m thinking the cards might be able to be up and out somewhere.  I’ll put my mind to it and let you know what I end up doing.

The constant crowd was well entertained throughout the evening.  The Ulumbra Stage was put to good use –  the school choir was a nice way to start the program, and the duo performances, jazz and otherwise set a lovely tone.  A school favourite, Clinton Bowditch and friends concluded the evening’s entertainment with a handful of tunes.  We were really lucky to have special guest, Clare Bowditch join Clinton and co. for a couple of songs…a really fine way to top off the event.

After a few tunes, I joined my friends in the beer garden…a very popular spot on a balmy Friday. In the end, I’m pretty sure the only reason that we went home was that the mosquitos started to bite.  That, and the fact that it got a bit harder to keep track of the kids in the dark…

So we packed up our books and our chutney, our swap cards and our cupcakes and we went home to look forward to the next carnival.  Well done to all, what a job well done.

A night at the opera

Just to mix it up a little, I asked my friend Fiona to put together a review of a recent night out at the opera (she’s much more civilised than I am)…and here it is. Thanks for your words Fi.

Thank-you to That Book You Love for inviting me to guest post today. Mandi noticed on Twitter that a number of us from RushCrowds had a big night out at the opera and suggested a bit of a review could be good.

Viva Verdi was the name of the first event that we could call a true RushCrowders event. Last Friday night I went to the opera for the first time in maybe eight years.

When Victorian Opera became the third company to test out our RushCrowds platform with a show that looked light-hearted and friendly on paper, I decided that this was the opportunity to wear a proper Victorian opera skirt that I’d purchased in a crazy moment  a couple of years ago from Vintage Rose.

Viva Verdi was dedicated to the Dame Joan Sutherland whose recently passing saddened many true fans of opera.

So back to the skirt –  the designers at Vintage Rose make beautiful garments, many influenced by the Victorian era and Empire line style. However there are very few opportunities to wear a full length opera skirt with bustle and lace-up bodice, so this romantic purchase had been consigned to the back of the cupboard.

On Friday night the skirt and bodice got an outing and it couldn’t have been a nicer way to come out. Viva Verdi was a snapshot of the opera of Verdi – 2 parts – the first from La Traviata and the second from Il Trovatore.

Forget the stitched shirt opinions you may have of opera. With the Victorian Orchestra conducted by the flamboyant Richard Gill, and the opera singers decked up like, well me, the show was one of high gaiety, cheeriness almost a bit bawdy really.

I’m glad there was a translation on our seats because now I know that Verdi had a pretty robust sense of passion, humour and didn’t mind telling folks to stop speaking if they weren’t making any sense!

And Melbourne Town Hall is such a gorgeous venue. The huge pipe organ as the backdrop was suitably impressive but cast your eye around and you could get soaked up into the huge wall frescos and transported by the duck egg blue and gold patterning on the ceiling. Really lovely all round!

On this RushCrowds adventure were several friends from Twitter @digitalkulcha @joidesign @pomegranate02 @pupsinmelb @kelllll and several folk from the Abbotsford Convent  who were curious to see what a night out at the opera might be like these days. Our RushCrowders were on the look out for @kelllll who was there with friends under the RushCrowds special offer but we missed each other’s tweets and I for one felt a tad naughty checking my iPhone during the performance.

Victorian Opera has more excellent shows that we hope to RushCrowd this year, the Magic Flute in March should be a ripper. If you haven’t stumbled across RushCrowds yet but love the notion of meeting up with a bunch of people who are going to the opera, theatre, a meal out, supper etc – then come join us at www.rushcrowds.com and let the RushCrowding begin!

A sad rumble

As I’m sure many people are, I am feeling very sad today after watching the coverage of the Christchurch earthquake.  The footage this afternoon was terrifying – live coverage of a disaster like this is gut-renching.  I don’t know about anyone else, but the sense of urgency transfers painfully. I’ve got to admit to a degree of disaster fatigue, and I switched the news off after awhile, if for no other reason than to give the kids a break from it.

I was of course very aware of how fortunate I was to be able to turn it off for a while, something that’s not possible for those stuck in the middle of the chaos and distress.

I hope that all your family and friends are safe.  For what it’s worth, all my best thoughts are heading their way.

If anyone would like to suggest ways in which we can help please feel free to add a comment to this post. Any suggestions would be great.

On paper…

Now here’s something to look forward to!

I’ve popped this exhibition on my calendar as a must do, as a chance to catch the work of a few friends and acquaintances.  I love print-making, and works on paper are just my kind of thing.

Fabric includes the work of a number of artists who were involved with the very successful Pink Lady Art Exhibition.  I’ll be watching out for pieces by Louise Einfeld, Trudy Rice, Sue Picot & Lisa Sewards.

The exhibition is on from 3 March to 25 March at Firestation Print Studio, 22 Willis Street, Armadale.  Opening Night is Thursday, 3rd March (6 -8pm).

Stay tuned if you’re interested in a run-down, I’ll work on a bit of a write-up once I’ve seen the show.

You found a bus where?

I indulged in a mid-week movie with hubby this week.  Now don’t get me wrong, we didn’t get crazy and go out or anything, but settled on our new comfy couch, with kids sleeping, and glass of cheeky red, it was still quite a treat.

Into the Wild
was Matt’s pick, and a good one too. The film (released in 2007) is based on Jon Krakauer’s non-fiction book of the same name, and retraces the steps of Christopher McCandless. It’s a fairly somber boys’ own adventure story. In the tradition of  Henry David Thoreau and Jack London, Christopher aka ‘Alexander SuperTramp’ takes to the road, eventually finding his way into the Alaskan wilderness. His trek is a means to escape his dysfunctional parents, and is both an enlightening and destructive journey.

A couple of things really stood out to me about this film, and make it well worth a watch…firstly, its soundtrack, taken care of by Eddie Vedder sets the mood perfectly, it’s appropriate to the era of the film (set in the early 90s) without being retrospective or dated.  Secondly, the story itself seems pretty reliable.  It’s not overly romanticised (well, maybe a little, but not too much) and it seems to be taken from a variety of sources.  This makes it a  really well-rounded storyline.  Lastly, it’s an interesting study of how some choose to deal with trauma and with genius.  This film provides glimpses of transition from childhood to adulthood, a young man struggling to escape his situation and surrounds.

For lovers of literature, this a really interesting film.  Chris is inspired by writers (for good or ill), and analyses their work as if he’s trying to crack a code.  His tendency to look for answers in the work of his favourite authors eventually proves his undoing.

So now I’ve got another book to add to my reading list.  I feel a little like I’ve cheated by seeing the film first, so I’ll have to get my hands on a copy sooner rather than later.  I’ve heard that reading the book is a bit of a different experience to the film, so it’ll be an interesting comparison.

Has anyone read the Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer?  How does it compare to the movie?

Do you think it matters whether you watch a film or read a book first?

Tell me a story?

Last Friday I managed to get out of the house (no small task) and into the Melbourne Town Hall.  At this most impressive of venues, amongst many people (some very like me, others very not) I was told a few stories…

The Gala Night of Storytelling 2011: Voices from Elsewhere, began the Wheeler Centre’s 2011 program and also marked the centre’s first birthday.  I’ve got to say, I think that the Wheeler Centre and all who sail in her, should be given a little clap – it’s a noble endeavour and very warmly received, as evidenced by the impressive crowd in attendance.

The evening itself was a rich mix of themes, places, and people.

The program began very locally, with a generous welcome and a quiet reminder of Melbourne’s sometimes dubious history.

And then came Mem Fox.  Bright yellow jacket and a shock of red hair, a delight. In a tone typical of her picture-book storytelling she told a tale that had goosebumps up and down my arms, the hairs on the back of my neck standing straight up and cold chills running down my spine.  The contrast of tone and content was quite unsettling.  Her story, of a family, was short and powerful. When she finished, the audience was more than a little rattled.

Yannick Haenal was next, and was earnest.  He delivered in French, and I caught myself closing my eyes while he told his story and listening in much the same way as I’ve done in the past at concerts.  The French language is just a little bit musical.  I didn’t understand very much (it’s been a while since High School French), but I could sense that it was a serious story, and its translation proved this to be the case.

What, no smoke-bomb?

Next up was John Birmingham, more familiar in content and style.  The story that he told, with its martial arts theme was humorous, as you might expect, but was just as earnest in its own particular way.  I certainly found myself buying into the idea that his friend’s commitment to a discipline, and his ability to follow his own intuition was what allowed this story its happy-ending.

The next two writers, Abha Dawesar and Murong Xuecun told us stories which had lovely magical twists.  Murong’s ironic set-up was compelling, and it was great to watch him watching us as his story was translated.  He seemed to take great delight in the fact that we were laughing in the right places.

Sonya Harnett, like John, told a story that I could latch onto very quickly.  She chose a story about her Mother, and her Mother’s nursing textbooks.  My Mum was also a nurse, and I still have the little pocket-sized nursing guide that I was so fascinated with as a kid.  I knew exactly what Sonya meant when she described the fact that she couldn’t quite reconcile the grotesque of the texts with her care-giving Mum.

Dagma Leupold‘s recollection of a dream was quite lovely, and I thought her slight detachment from the room was quite fitting given the subject of the story.

Nam Le was both insightful and hilarious.  Much like Sonya’s story, he managed to capture what it is to expect one thing, and get quite another thing entirely.  A funny guy, he summed up nicely why it is so important not to act on assumptions, but also exactly why we are so inclined to do just that.

And then there was Archie Roach.  I could have listened to Archie for a whole extra hour, but alas, only one song.  It was a fabulous way to finish the evening.

I was really fascinated to see how this type of program came together, and I really was impressed by how well this format showcased the writers’ work, their influences and their backgrounds.

To finish, can I just say that if you have a chance to get to any of the Wheeler Centre events – please do.  A pure indulgence in some fine writing and new ideas. Their program for the first bit of 2011 can be found here…

The beat of my heart

Romance stories can be about love, about imagination, and about washed-up rock stars.

I had an echocardiogram a couple of days ago, just to make sure that my heart was still beating…rest assured it is, a relief to be sure.

The scan, along with the fact that Valentines Day is being flogged a bit at the moment, got me thinking about the more romantic titles I’ve read over the years.

It’s actually been a while since I’ve read anything very concerned with matters of the heart, but here are a couple of favourites that found their way off my bookshelf most recently.

Juliet, Naked, by Nick Hornby

Hornby is really good at this kind of story.  He’s stories are essentially about relationships, but the contexts that he sets them in are unique and engaging, making his novels about much more than just romance.  I’m thinking particularly of High Fidelity and About a Boy…it’s really easy to engage with the characters and identify with the situations (particularly for us X-Gens) and the search for romance is only part of the appeal.  Hunting for love tends to link closely to hunting for a better understanding of themselves. Juliet Naked is no exception, and I found it even easier to get hooked into this story, thanks to its female protagonist – Annie.  It’s a story of a romance, but it’s so very innocent and conservative, very much like Annie herself.

This novel seems to me to be more about imagined relationships than actual ones. Duncan’s obsession with Tucker, Tuckers’ fabled love-triangle with Julie Beatty, and finally Annie’s crush on Tucker.  It’s when these relationships become real that they loose some of their appeal.  A very nice ditty, this one.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover, by D.H. Lawrence
Oo-ah, bit naughty!  A little snobby I know, but I really have to admit to this being one of my favourites.  It’s an absolute classic, and a blueprint for so many romances hereafter.  And it’s more than a little bit naughty as far as classic literature goes.

The most obvious observations would be around the themes of discontent, passion, so on and so forth.  I think though the element that I like the most is the fact that Connie is so inclined to throw caution to the wind.

It is perhaps a little bit of a shame that the tale itself has been a little over simplified in screen adaptations (just Google-search images for Lady Chatterley’s Lover and you’ll see what I mean).  Nonetheless, it’s a beautifully written novel, and a compelling tale from start to end.

Nice Work
, by David Lodge
Now,  some might argue that it’s not really a romance, but at the end of the day that’s the part of the story that stood out for me so I’m going to list it.

At first I didn’t want to read this book.  I had to read it for Uni and I found the description not at all tempting.  So, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the story of academic Robyn Penrose, and engineer Vic Wilcox was quite fascinating.  Even now, I’m surprised by how often this book comes to mind.  Perhaps it’s because the unlikely affair between Robyn and Vic is somewhat synonymous with the unlikely balance we all have to find day-to-day…often we work outside our interests, we do chores well outside our passions, and we have to get along with people who are well and truly of a different ilk to us.  As unfamiliar as Robyn and Vic’s worlds are to each other, I’d think that this type of scenario is familiar to many readers.  At the end of the day this unsettled, unsettling and short-lived union between two different worlds works very nicely as a romance story.  Lovely.

If you’re interested, David Lodge spoke to BBC World Service about his novel – quite interesting actually.  Check it out here if you’re keen… David Lodge Podcast

Read any lovely love stories?

Junk-food for the mind

Commuting is a great chance to zone out for a while, and maybe get a bit of reading done.  Perfect time for a little junk-food for the mind.

In the last two days, I’ve had a quick jet-set up and back to Sydney for work.  The organisation that I work for, PIEF turned 5 years old this year (no small feat for an education foundation) and we celebrated over dinner with the team, the Board and some faithful supporters.

A glass of bubbly and some fine food at L’Aqua in Darling Harbour was, in my opinion a wonderful way to mark the occasion.

On the flights there and back I had a bit of a look around at what people where reading and wasn’t entirely surprised to see that a lot of it was pretty light.  As for myself, I was reading He Died with a Felafel in his Hand which is lots of fun, but not exactly profound. I guess at the end of the day there is no need to try and read a Russian classic or some Shakespearean drama when surrounded by public on mass and loudspeaker announcements.

In saying that, I’ve never been really good with pulp fiction – I’m not very good at picking it or reading it, so now I’m curious.

HELP US OUT?  What was the last light/pulpy/junky read that you had?  Can you give me some suggestions, and let me know if you’d recommend them as worth a look?

Oodlies of fun.

Despite it being a little on the wet side, and the plumbing in my house sounding like Linda Blair, I managed to run a few errands yesterday. The most exciting of these errands was a quick stop at the picture-framing place to pick up my newly framed print.

The print, Josie and the Electric Cats, was a gift from my friend Fiona. It’s part of the Electric Orange Series by Joi Murugavell and it’s going to look great above my desk.

It is whimsical and it’s enticing in its repetitions and controlled use of colour.

As a gift, it’s intended to inspire, and I’ll remember that when I look at it. It’ll be a bit of a touchstone, and perhaps at times a little pictorial kick in the bum to just get on with it.

If you like the look of this work, I’d suggest checking out the rest of the collection. I particularly like Duchamp’s Hole Boy.

An update on my homework…

The other errand that I ticked off yesterday was a quick trip to the library and I got my hands on a couple more books that I want to have a look at before next week. I must say, before I go on, that I am usually very much a one-book-at-a-time kinda girl.  I take my time getting through a book, and I usually try and finish one before moving on to another. In saying this, I am at the moment trying to mix it up a bit (in a bookish kind of way) plus I’m keen to have had a look at some titles by Hartnett, Birmingham and Mem Fox.

So, I spent the evening reading He Died with a Falafel in His Hand, by John Birmingham.  Laughing out loud, and feeling just a little bit old as Birmingham so roughly and poignantly describes student life in the 1990s.  I’ve got a copy of After America, also by Birmingham to take a look at today.

Got a way into Hartnett’s Of a Boy on Friday.  Interesting story, not quite so sold on the writing itself…but I’ll come back to that when I’ve finished the book. I reserve the right to change my mind.

Lastly, selected three Mem Fox books for Oscar and I and the one I chose to read tonight was quite a hit, Hello Baby went down a treat.

So, busy busy, better not forget to use my reading glasses or my head’ll be sore…

You just don’t get it Mum!

Last day of school holidays, and Evan (my ten year old) is a little on the sad side. And who can blame him…late nights, Playstation, sleep-overs and plenty of time lounging around reading.  So, to ease the pain, we made a little stop at Kidna Books to buy a couple of new books for the last week of the break.

Now, these titles have most certainly not been written for my demographic – these are definitely pre-teen reading, and I think I can be forgiven for not quite getting what Captain Underpants is really all about.  So, I’ll let Evan describe them himself…

Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilet, by Dav Pilkey

“This is the second book in a series of stories about two boys who create a comic book about a hero called ‘Captain Underpants’ and accidentally hypnotise their Principal into thinking he is Captain Underpants.

In this book, George and Harold get detention for mucking up the entries in the the all important Inventions Contest. During detention they make a new Captain Underpants comic, put it in one of the new inventions (a new type of scanner-copier type thing) and from there the story takes off.

I think this book is very funny and creative.  It is a story like no other, as Captain Underpants is one of a kind!”

And from undies to zombies…

Zombieson’s Time Machine, by Knife and Packer

“This story is about a very freaky street, with four crazy families…the Humansons, the Wizardsons, the Aliensons, and of course the Zombiesons.

The Zombiesons are looking after King Tut’s treasured cat.  Trouble starts when the Zombiesons’ pet Zobbla (their three-headed dog) bites the sacred cats’ tale and gets zapped a thousand years into the past, to ancient Egypt.  The Zombiesons need to try and get their pet dog back from the evil Pharaoh Gruesomekamun.

I think this book is a great read and it’s very colourful and the pictures are really funny.”

It would seem that they’re a pretty quick read, but suitable for re-reading.  I tend to judge how good a book is based on how hard it is to get Evan’s attention while he’s got his head in it – these are both a ‘three repeat’ title (i.e. Evan, hey Evan, EVAN!)

Seems like a pretty good way to finish off the break.  Thanks for the reviews Ev.

Grown-up reading…

As well as continuing to read Murakami, I’ve set myself a little homework before next week’s Gala.  I’m hoping tonight to take a look at Sonya Hartnett’s Of A Boy before I hear her speak next week. I heard her talk about this book at the Popular Penguins Launch a couple of years ago and have been meaning to get to it ever since – I think now’s the time to at least have a quick look-see.

Has anyone read any of Sonya’s stuff?  Which titles would you recommend?

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