In da joint again…

No, not that kind of joint (hehehe) the hospital kind, green curtains, nurses and adjustable beds (Homer says bed goes up, bed goes down).

So just a quick little note to let you know that That Book You Like will have to take some a little bit of convalescent leave while they fix me up (and the old Mandi J needs plenty of fixing). Stay tuned though, can’t keep me down for long.

I’ll just mention while I’m here, one of the main things that is keeping me sane at the moment is my ipod, and in particular podcasts…ABC’s Big Ideas, BBC World Book Club, The Penguin Podcasts.  God-sent.

Has anyone got any suggestion of good, easy-listening podcasts?  If you do, maybe pop them up on That Book You Like’s Facebook page.

My ears are ringing (in a good way)

Sometimes, just every now and then you get to go to a show that feels a little bit dangerous. Not dangerous to my well being, I’ll admit, but dangerous in the sense that you’ve got NO IDEA what’s coming your way.  No clue what to expect, over and above the fact that it’s bound to be in your face.

Amplification, by Phillip Adams’ company BalletLab was one such show.  I had a sense before walking in that I should be prepared for just about anything, and it did not disappoint.  It seemed to me to be more performance art than contemporary dance, but I’m by no means an expert in either, so I was quite happy to go along for the ride. It most certainly seemed to be largely about movement, and an appreciation of movement most deliberate.

From the outset, it packed a punch. The DJ (on stage throughout the performance) was the first on stage. His introduction was industrial, grinding, shrill.  The dancers commenced to grind along, with frightening, fluid violence.  They actually looked at times as though they might hurt each other.  I shouldn’t have worried though, they were at all times perfectly in control.

The show itself had no obvious linear narrative, but it most certainly made reference to many dark, starkly important themes – power, imprisonment, abuse and gender.

About halfway through the performance the music stopped, leaving a slight ringing in our ears, and the lead dancer continued to dance.  I’ve got to say, this was strange and seemed a little on the silly side, but then I noticed the sounds that her dancing was making.  I was quite thrilled to listen to dancing, the slap of feet on the wooden floor, the light but strong thump as she came into contact with the ground, the slightest rustle of her clothing.

As the performance moved through warehouse industrial, to sitar burial tunes, to a little West-Side Story style dance-fighting, I became aware that this was the first time watching a DJ that I actually got a real sense that they were playing a musical instrument.  His intensity and skill was exactly as you would see from any professional musician. I was impressed to say the least.

The show concluded nakedly. Dancers bodies, lying incredibly, frighteningly still and then moving, intertwined Inferno-esque.  An act not for the faint-hearted, but perfectly in context.

Getting to see this show was a wonderful opportunity, as was meeting @joidesign, and spending an evening with @fionak (my wonderful host).  Thanks for a great Rushcrowds event.

A little glimpse

I’m a little disappointed to report that I’ve not been able to get along to see the Fabric exhibition that I mentioned last week.  But, luckily, my friend Lisa made it there and has kindly agreed to put together a little glimpse of the show for me to share. Thanks Lisa! The show is still open for a couple more days if you’re in the area.

Fabric is a lovely little exhibition bringing together 15 Artists who’s fabric in life is represented and weaved in many different ways.  I especially love Rosemary Cato’s etchings, such delicate threads of work. The patchwork coat made by Dominique Horne is truely amazing bringing the past to life.  Here’s a snap of a linocut ‘a velvet touch’ by Lisa Sewards which presents the gorgeous velvety coats of lovebirds.

As a bonus, you can book yourself into a printmaking course whilst you visit the venue, and there are lots of great cafes around on Glenferrie Road too!

The last days of this exhibition are this week, open this Wednesday and  & Thursday 11am to 5pm at the Firestation Print Studio, 2 Willis Street Armadale. Further details can be found:

Too busy writing to write

I’ve been trying, for the first time in a long, long while to write something that is a little less on the technical side.  That’s right, I’m working on a story.

So I’ll apologise in advance for not sharing very much for a couple of days, while I shift my focus to just a little left of centre and see if I can’t get a story that’s half-decent out and about in the world.

But before I launch head-long into this crazy little experiment, I want to share just one little discovery I’ve made today.

Have you ever wondered why you keep all those old books from school or university?  Now that we have that interweb-thingy do we really need flesh-and-blood, hard-copy tomes on art history, lost animal species or Medieval Europe?  Well, today I helped my son do his homework, and guess what?  He used them.  He picked up my Handbook of Art, and he flicked to the index. He searched (not Googled) for facts on the Colosseum, the Eiffel Tower, on Michelangelo. He found the page, he worked through the information and he sited the book. He was, simply put, a little bit astonished and a little bit thrilled.

This has made me happy.  Very.

On the cards

I’ve got a pretty busy calendar over the next couple of months, by my standards anyway.  Here’s a few things on the cards…

I must get along to see the exhibition of artworks on paper, Fabric which is being held in Armadale until the 25 March 2011.  This exhibition is apparently quite small but features works by many local artists. The venue itself is also very interesting, the Firestation Print Studio provides a place for professional and amateur printmakers to learn, print and exhibit.  I tried to get along to the show this weekend just gone, but being a long weekend it didn’t happen.  I’m assured by my sports-mad family that after basketball we’ll head on over this Saturday. Full details about this exhibition can be found here

Another local show is being held by Christopher Rimmer, an extremely talented photographer who was heavily involved with the 2010 Pink Lady Art Exhibition.  His exhibition In Africashowcases his latest breathtaking images of his former homeland. The show is running until 8 April 2011 at Galleria Rocco Interiors, 1st floor, 407 Hampton Street Hampton.

I’m looking forward to April, and it starts with a birthday celebration.  The Star Community Cinema in Bendigo turns six years old this year, and they’ll be celebrating on the 1 April with a special screening of True Grit (check their website for full details).  The Star Cinema is a community run enterprise, and is invaluable to the Bendigo region, screening an amazing range of independent and art house films.  They also hold special events throughout the year so be sure to check out their website to see what’s coming up.

Lastly, I’ve booked tickets for Matt and I to go and see Frankenstein. This show is on stage in Britain at the moment and thanks to National Theatre Live, is being shown live on screen in April.  I’ve got tickets for the screening at Cinema Nova Carlton.  The play, by Nick Dear (based on the novel by Mary Shelley) is directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, 127 Hours).  It stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, who alternate the lead roles of Frankenstein and his monster from night to night.  I’m extremely excited about this one…I love horror, and I’m a big fan of Danny Boyle.

So, all going well, March and April are looking very cultured and lots of fun.

Have you guys got anything on the books for the next month or so?

Take your pick

I’m a slow reader…

I take my time when I’m reading, taking small blocks of time-out to read and allowing for moments to pause. I flick backwards and forwards through the story reminding myself of character details or refreshing on a sub-plot or backstory. I’ve always read like this and it’s a deliberate preference, my process.

It is nonetheless a bit of an impediment – it caused me no end of frustration when I was studying Lit at Uni, where I was asked to get through a couple of books a week.  I could manage it, but never happily.

My slow-coach reading style still causes me consternation, when the amount of reading material available out there is copious, to say the least. There is so much to choose from. When I pick a book to read, I choose carefully – I’m going to be carrying that book around with me for a while.

So…how best to choose the next read?

My current undertaking, Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle was a recommendation by my friend Tim, facilitated by a long-term loan of a copy. It’s a perfect pick.

Also, on rare occasions my interest is sparked by a review. Currently, I’m pretty curious to look at the latest work by Joyce Carol Oates, Give me Your Heart.  It got a write-up in this weekend’s ‘M’ magazine (The Age) and although it’s a very different genre to that which I’d usually read, I’m intrigued.  I’m surprisingly nervy about starting with a new author.  This makes me think that maybe I need to take a few more reading risks – let’s face it, little harm could come of this…at worst a few bucks down the drain and a wasted afternoon.

But mostly I just follow my nose…one title leads to another, and I work through my collection.  Sometimes the references are obvious. Reading Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson, he mentions Oscar Wilde a couple of times which puts me in the mood to revisit Dorian Gray. Sometimes though, the links are more obscure. Recently I was reading Chandler’s  The Big Sleep, and for some reason it got me thinking about The Great Gatsby so that was next on my list.  Don’t ask me why or where the connection was, it was just there and so that was the direction I headed in.

Looking at my current list of wanna-be-reads, it made me wonder how other people go about picking what they’re going to read – there are so many options and such limited time.

How do you choose what to read next?  What are you reading now and how did it get to the top of the pile?

Way back when?

Oh, the hoops you have to jump through just to get five minutes writing time. Work on this, project that, pick up this, clean up that. Lordy me…

Is it any wonder then that from time to time a gal retrospects on simpler (?), happier (?) times?

Hence my delving back into the pre-kid, pre-career, pre-thirty something days of 90s share-housing, with all its wild characters and foul odours.  And how better to get there than via John Birmingham’s He Died with a Felafel in his Hand. For those who’ve not picked this one up (or who have forgotten reading it, in a bucket-bong haze) John’s novel recalls a range of houses, housemates and various misadventures when sharing-housing in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. It is darkly funny and very entertaining.

I’ve got to admit I’d forgotten a lot my own stories about hairy house-matery (my own and others) and this collection of tales is a hilarious reminder.  If like me, you’ve let those trainee pharmacists, gamers, market-researchers, English-language students, and guitarists slip your mind – this will bring it all flooding back.

One of the most intriguing things about this book is that although the various characters; the goths, the junkies, the writers – are of course fascinating, it’s the accessories to the tales that resonate the most with me; the pets, the food and the furniture.  Share-house cats bring to mind my first time out of home, living in a house full of kittens and everything covered in fur and cat poo (i.e. not so keen on the kitty now). The repeated ‘theme’ of fish fingers and meat pies seems fitting, as let’s face it, we’d have all starved without the ready availability of this kind of fare. I myself survived on scrambled eggs for six months. Even the title of the book reminds me of many a night spent wandering (weaving?) up and down Chapel Street deliberately passing by the felafal store a few extra times to cop the free samples being handed out by some poor minimum-wager.

And who’d think mention of the old brown couch would bring back such a cascade of memories?  My own couch was brown, and was ingeniously held up with milk-crates and phonebooks.  This was only topped by my on-floor mattress, hand-me-down fridge with no freezer door, and my op-shop cooking pot (yes, singular).

So, John, thanks…Felafel gave me cause to remember all those crazy chicks, dirty boys, kitty-cats and crappy food. Fondly. It also highlighted quite nicely just how much more comfortable my new corner lounge suite is, and how nice my current housemates are (a husband, two boy-kids and a dog)… even if they do still leave dirty socks pretty much everywhere.

Look what I got!

Another nice second-hand book find – I’m on a roll. This time I came across some lovely things at a local garage sale, a very big fluke as I tend not to go near garage sales and the like, they’re not so good for my home de-clutter projects.

At least today I was a little sensible and left another half a dozen titles behind me, casual books that I would have quite happily taken home with me.

I’ve not read any of these Roald Dahl books, so I’m very pleased to have them in the collection.  And, I’m thrilled by the editions, the covers are classic.

Also picked up The Great Shark Hunt, by Hunter S. Thompson for a song, not to mention a near-new copy of The Tasmanian Babes Fiasco, by John Birmingham…a nice coincidence given that I finished my re-read of Falafel just a couple of days ago.  Nice how things go sometimes.

Hoot hoot

For the last month, every time the boys and I have walked past the video shop Oscar has hooted…

He’s been very keen to see Legend of the Guardians: Owls of Ga’Hoole. He seems to be quite fascinated by owls at the moment so this week,  needing an afternoon to get some work done (sorry, can I admit that?) I picked up a copy for him.  I hired it (old-school) as I wasn’t entirely sure that I wanted this one permanently in the collection, not being quite sure if it could bear repeated viewing or not.

First thing to be said, it’s a beautiful looking film.  The animation is skillful and the owls make wonderful subjects.  It was really nice to see a film featuring Australian wildlife, without it being too cheesy.  In fact, the Tasmanian Devil at the beginning of the film is quite frightening, it made Oscar jump in his seat, which in turn made me laugh a little bit.

The characters were voiced by a plethora of Australian talent (must have been a slow month in the Australian film industry).  The old favourites – Sam Neil, Hugo Weaving, Richard Roxburgh, Geoffrey Rush, and Barry Otto made listening to this film entertaining in its own right.  The casting of Abbie Cornish, Joel Edgerton, Ryan Kwanten, David Wenham and Angus Sampson added some new blood to the blue blood, and lightened the mood a little.

So, the kid-verdict… Oscar, who is three, lost interest a bit during the first watch, although he did come back to it on subsequent viewings. He asked to watch it again (and again, and again) and I’m taking that as a sign that he enjoyed it. Evan, my ten year old really seemed to enjoy the film too, which I wasn’t so much expecting.  In saying that, he wasn’t all that interested in watching it over again so the appeal was a little limited for him.

As for myself, I’m a little unsure about it. Maybe I should have sat down and paid more attention, but I’ve got to admit that I struggled to keep track of which owl was which. Maybe I’m getting a little dopey in my old age, but the characters did seem to get a bit mixed up at times.

So, I’d say that this film is visually impressive and a pretty great story for the kids. It’s maybe just a little bit earnest for it’s own good, but overall it’s well worth a weekend watch.  It might give you a couple of hours off kid-wrangling to read a book or have a nanna-nap?

I’m kind of sorry I didn’t get to see this in 3D, I’d think it would have been quite a visual treat.  Did anyone see this at the movies in 3D?  What did you think?

A matrimonial treat

My friend and colleague Joan very kindly shared this poem with me and gave me the okay to share it with you guys.  The poem, written by a friend is a really lovely wedding gift to Joan and her fiancé Michael.


A sleepy morning star quietly awakes to lemon stripes of dawn
The hush of distracted dreams rest on the present silent breeze
Each has a special way – born in Echuca and Dundonald
From distant horizons they meld today under a past Celtic gaze.
In Mathoura the sky is plumed with perfect cirrus chevrons
And a canvas is ready to seep in a flood of ideas and desires
Their pallet is willing with a roulette of welcome vibrant colour
The brush sings on a promise of what the land could bring.
Symbolic golden rings bind strong the essence of their family circle
A private gallery etched in the embracing suede landscape.
In time the brilliant canvas will be painted with ribbons of wheat
Sheep in ochre fields – artistic twists unravelling as time permits.
With dreams that burst from this first diamond night star
Together they create a bright tomorrow from their two yesterdays.

On its way…
Stay tuned for a bit of a blurb on kid’s film, Legend of the Guardians: Owls of Ga’Hoole, and in a day or so, for the more grown-up and shabby of us, a quick chat about the rememberings of share-housing.

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