A modern masterpiece

I’ve not long ago returned home from a quick trip to Ballarat, where I was lucky enough to have a sneak-peak at the Art Gallery of Ballarat’s upcoming exhibition, Australian Modern Masterpieces from the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Modern Masterpieces is an incredible collection of pieces from the superstars of modern Australian art. Carefully curated and thoughtfully arranged, the show includes works from the likes of Margaret Olley, Margaret Preston, Arthur Boyd, John Brack, Grace Cossington Smith, William Dobell, Donald Friend and Sidney Nolan, John Olsen and one of my favourites, Brett Whiteley.

“This exhibition provides a unique insight into the history of Australian modern art from the 1910s to the 1970s, recognising the extraordinary ability of Australian artists and the pivotal role they played in capturing the lives and moments of Australians in recent times.” 

Image: Jeffrey Smart

I was incredibly impressed by the calibre of the works included in this show. The Art Gallery of New South Wales has been incredibly generous in providing some really stand-out pieces, which have been skillfully blended with works from Ballarat’s own stella collection. The show also includes a piece from the collection of the Newcastle Region Art Gallery, which is where the exhibition will move to next.

I was entranced by Dobell’s wistful portrait of Margaret Olley (1948) – the piece made all the more meaningful for Olley’s recent passing. This portrait marked Dobell’s re-entry to portraiture, and won him his second Archibald Prize. The sensitivity behind this portrait is obvious, and it is beautifully whimsical and just a little cheeky.

There are a number of really haunting pieces in the exhibition, such as Drysdale’s Sofala (1947) and Boyd’s The Mockers (1945). Jeffrey Smart’s more recent work The Listeners (1965) is stunning and more than a little ominous.

The absolute highlight for me personally were the Brett Whiteley works, inparticular the inclusion of Remembering Laotse (Shaving off a Second) (1967).

...with Director, Gordon Morrison

We have a print of this piece at the end of our hallway at home, and it’s a favourite. The image is for me at once confronting and comforting, and the handwritten text included in the top left-hand corner of this work on paper, delivered forcefully by pointed finger is both a warning and a reassurance:

Remembering  Laotse …….

He is to be made to dwindle (in power)
Must first be caused to expand
He who is to be weakened
Must first be made strong
He who is paid to be low
Must first be exalted to power
He who is to be taken away from
Must first be given
This is the subtle light
Gentleness overcomes strength
Fish should be left in the deep pool
And sharp weapons of state should be left where none can see them!!!

In my humble opinion, this piece is in its own right worth the trip to Ballarat and the (very affordable) cost of entry to this impressive exhibition.

Australian Modern Masterpieces from the Art Gallery of New South Wales will open at the Art Gallery of Ballarat, 40 Lydiard Street North, on 5 October, and run until 27 November 2011. Check the gallery website for full details, and for some great tips and discounts regarding travel and accommodation.

Further, Rushcrowds currently have some special offers (including free tickets!) – well worth checking out here!

I can honestly say I loved this exhibition, and I’m hoping to get back at least once more before it closes. I can highly recommend it, for both locals and others who feel like a trip to one the best regional galleries around.

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Bargain bin

I’ve got a horribly long list of ‘real’ work to do today, and so was going to give blogging a miss today. But alas, I couldn’t resist sharing my bargain bin find…

I just picked up a copy of Ben Elton’s Stark at the local op shop, for, wait for it… 10 cents. I felt guilty, so I gave them 20 cents. Clearly I’m quite the philanthropist.

It made me wonder how a book that was, in its time so incredibly popular, could years later find itself in the 10 cent basket out the front of a random opportunity shop?

But it was to my fortune, as I’m going through retro phase at the moment, reminiscing on all things 1990s and given that I don’t actually own a copy of this humorous novel, it’ll go quite nicely with my collection of 90s books and music. I do, nonetheless, having a sneaking suspicion that this retro indulgence might be a small sign of my ageing…am I right to worry?

I’d really love to hear about your latest ultra-cheap, bargain bin pick-up? Are you like me and stop and sticky-beak in every book basket and street stand? Do tell…

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Re-draw of September’s winner!

The new lucky winner of the September competition is Maria Marshall! Congratulations! Please email me at info@thatbookyoulike.com.au as soon as you can and I’ll post it out to you quick-sticks!

My first (?) autobiographical read…

I can’t actually remember the last autobiography that I read, or in fact whether or not I’ve ever read one before. So, in keeping with my current crusade to read widely, and differently, I made the choice to have a read of The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do.

I remember seeing this book everywhere when it was released, and I’d heard very good things about it. Quite recently I saw Anh Do on morning TV and it reminded me that I still hadn’t made the time to have a look at his book. He’s a funny guy, with an interesting story and so I thought this would make for a good (re)introduction to reading memoirs.

“Ahn Do nearly didn’t make it to Australia. His entire family came close to losing their lives on the sea as they escaped from war-torm Vietnam in an overcrowded boat. But nothing – not murderous pirates, nor the imminent threat of death by hunger, disease or dehydration as they drifted for days – could quench their desire to make a better life in the country they had dreamed about.”

Anh Do’s story is fascinating to me, and is wonderfully authentic. It refers to a period of time that is close to my heart and I feel at home with his tales of university life in the 1990s and the perils of entering the workforce, complete with false-starts, misadventures and successes, both small and large.

The Happiest Refugee further fascinates, by presenting a perspective of what it was like to leave a ravaged homeland for greater safety and better opportunities. I can’t even begin to identify with this experience, and I feel quite privileged to be privy to this story of dangerous relocation. The Do family’s experience of migration is at once horrifying and inspiring.

In fact, Anh’s whole life seems to ebb and flow between these two poles…

“….the computer turned out to be very significant, with Khoa and I both writing our first screenplays on its Honeywell keyboard. Still to this day Khoa likes to mention the very lucky day when a bus driver almost killed Anh and kick started his movie career.”

Time and again, Anh recounts a fortunate life, cheating misfortune and coming out ahead and on top, more often than not with his big trademark grin on his face.

The Happiest Refugee really is a happily-ever-after story and Anh and his family are grand examples of what can be achieved by hard work and a stack of perseverance. It is also a story of appreciation, a sense of gratefulness which  has lead Anh to do the things that he’s done for his family, for himself and for others.

Ultimately, this memoir is really entertaining. It is humorous and at the same time moving. If you’re a fan of Anh Do, you’ll find this a really interesting insight into his life and career, and even if you’re not a big fan I’d still say that you’ll find this autobiography enjoyable. It’s a fairly quick and easy book, and would work very nicely as a holiday read.

If you like autobiographies, or want to give one a try, check out The Happiest Refugee. 

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Gettin’ our groove on at Rhymes

Oscar really loves me at the moment.

I am a very popular Mum, and all I had to do was arrange a big day out for a groovin’ three-year old at Rhymes Kids Music Festival.

I’m not sure if it’s the promise of Yo Gabba Gabba! or Lazy Town, or whether it’s all about the silent disco and the magic light show but regardless, Oscar and I are both extremely excited about having tickets to go along to this one-of-a-kind music festival.

You can find the complete line up for Melbourne here, and for Brisbane here.

Music is such an important part of childhood, helping kids to learn and of course, to have fun. Rhymes hones in on this, and takes advantage of the fact that kid’s music has come along way of late:

Rhymes Tour Director Adam Coward says “Kids Music has made massive leaps forward with modern musicians becoming parents and wanting to create new genres and styles that not only their kids will like, but, they can enjoy just as much.” Exciting new styles such as “K(indie) Rock” and “KidHop” have emerged bringing the musical world’s of parents and their children together.

“We’ve seen this convergence happen in kids movies” says Mr Coward. “Shrek, Toy Story, Madagascar, Megamind, they are engaging the adult mind as well, allowing parents and children to sit together and enjoy the movie experience. We’re now seeing the same thing with music and it’s very exciting”.

It’s a fantastic chance for parents and kids to enjoy a day out together, it’s a real adventure:

… for all the parents who thought you would have to hang up your festival boots forever after having kids… Rhymes music festival is helping parents relive their festival glory days and giving their kids their very first festival experience with great music running on multiple stages all day.

So watch out Tweenies, here we come!

I’ve put it on my calendar in big red pen… 30 October 2011. I’ve made plans to get to the Melbourne Showgrounds early, and I’ve already made a mental list of the supplies required to get us both through a day of rockin’ out!

Tickets are available here, and if you buy before 30 September they’re cheaper – get in quick for a nice little discount.

You can check out full details about Rhymes Kids Music Festival at their website. Show the kids, they’ll be rapted!

Stay tuned for more on Rhymes as I’ll be chatting soon with Festival Director Adam Coward about just how this great festival came about.

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Brace yourself for a chilling read…

I’m pleased to announce, that Ronnie Mac is the winner of That Book You Like’s September give-away.  Ronnie, I’m sure you’ll find this prize, a copy of Room by Emma Donoghue, a most chilling but enjoyable read – let us know what you think once you’ve read it?

Just email me your details (name and postal address) to info@thatbookyoulike.com.au by end Monday, 26.9.11 and arrangements will be made! If the prize isn’t claimed, I will redraw on 27.9.11

Again, thanks so much to everyone for sharing and for joining in the fun. Watch out for next month’s give-away, it’s my best yet!! And of course don’t forget to follow my blog around on Facebook  and  Twitter.

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If you’re interested in reading this novel, pop into Kidna Books: 422 Hampton Street, Hampton or give Linda a call on 9521 8272, she’ll be able to fix you up with a copy.

Entertain them, the Little Melbourne way

I really enjoy school holidays, but even so, kids bouncing off walls is no fun for anyone. So, I asked Jo from Little Melbourne if she’d like to suggest some fun ideas for the school break. To my delight, she did, and so here are some really different, fun ideas for keeping the kids entertained.

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If you’re in search of something that ‘little bit different‘ these School Holidays then check out Little Melbourne’s recommended activities and events happening in and around Melbourne.

A Day at the Circus – School Holiday Program
Roll up the circus is coming! During the September School Holidays, the National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA) is offering a series of full-day activities comprising circus skills workshops, performances by renowned children’s entertainers, fun circus games and classic circus films.
When: 26th September – 2nd October

Arts Program
Let the budding young artist in your family explore a world of creativity with three jam packed days of fun, facilitated by leading artists, including classes in music, puppetry, circus, animation, and visual arts. Held at the Footscray Community Arts Centre.
When: 4, 5 and 6th October

Northcote Kids Festival
With 55 performances over 13 days, and workshops in theatre, music & performance, there’s something inspiring for all ages at the Northcote Kids Festival.
When: 25th September – 9th October

Georgie Porgie Cooking for Kids
Georgie Porgie Cooking for Kids is a hands on and interactive introduction into cooking aimed at the 8-12 year old crowd. George will teach you about how to find the best ingredients, and the secrets behind making a delicious meal.
When: 3rd October

Petit Atelier + Twisted Tastes Holiday Program
Get your kids out of the house and into the studio, with one of Petit Atelier’s inventive Art and Craft Workshops! There’s an exciting range of activities to stimulate your blossoming artist and solve the “Mum I’m bored” dilemma!
When: 26th September – 7th October


Little Picassos in the Garden at Babycinos Cafe
Gardening 4 Kids and Mini Picassos are teaming up these September school holidays for some gardening and art workshops for the kids. Your creative little green thumbs will be kept busy with planting, garden art and story time activities.
When: Wednesday 28th September and Friday 7th October

Bollywood Workshop at The Arts Centre
Learn how to move your body and twirl your hands to the exotic sounds of India in this simple and energetic Bollywood routine with Parvyn Kaur Singh & Josh Bennett. While taking a breath from dancing, you can listen to the soothing sounds of instruments such as the sitar and dil ruba (bowed sitar) and learn how to beat-box Indian-style on the table.
When: Wed 28 September – Sun 2 October

Looney Tunes Live! Classroom Capers
This hot new musical will have you on your toes. It’s a barrel of laughs for the whole family. Starring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tweety, Sylvester, Taz, Marvin the Martian and Porky Pig. Don’t miss this fun-filled up-close-and-personal lesson of classic gags that made Looney Tunes a must-see class act!
When: Scattered dates over September – October

Is this where Thomas the Tank Engine Lives? Natured Kids Program
Sessions have related songs, stories, activities, craft, with time afterwards for you to relax, play and picnic in nature.
When: Tuesday 20th and Wednesday 21st September

The Enchanted Maze
An explosion of mind blowing 3D fun, giant twisting tube slides, towering topiary hedges, a spine tingling indoor maze, an sweet filled lolly shop serving old fashioned humbugs, acid drops and hand made boiled sweets, a cafe and stunning gardens and you’ve got yourself a great family filled day out!
When: Throughout the Holidays and beyond

The Living Library
True stories from real people.

In The Living Library you’ll meet a friendly librarian, borrow a ‘living book’ (or two or three!) and discover all kinds of true stories. Sit down together in the cosy library to hear about books’ lives, adventures and misadventures!
When: Wednesday 28th September – Sunday 2nd October

Reptile Encounters at the Queen Victoria Market
It’s not every day you come across pythons and crocodiles at the Market. But when you visit the Market during the first week of the School Holidays, you can expect to meet these as well as lots of creepy crawlies!
When: Tuesday 27th and Thursday 29th September

Crayola Creative Hub at Harbour Town Melbourne
Calling all creative kids! For the first time in Melbourne, the colour of Crayola, Australia’s number one children’s art and craft brand comes to life in a fun and interactive LIVE event. Kids can check out the ‘Lights, Camera, Colour’ tool that turns photos into a black and white colouring page for printing, then road test the latest Crayola products and take home their completed works-of-art, FREE!
When: 3rd – 9th October

By the Pond Launch at Spring Open Day
By the Pond‘ launch is being held at 10.30-11.30am at the Melbourne Royal Botanic Gardens, Spring Open Day on Sunday September 25th. Alex Papps (fabulous Play School presenter, also very fondly remembered as Frank on Home and Away) will be launching ‘By the Pond’. We’ll also have an indoor/outdoor screening with live entertainment to get the kiddies hopping, buzzing and quacking about, and finish up with some craft activities.
When: 25th September

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Little Melbourne is a great place to find out about what’s on and happening in Melbourne for parents and their little ones.

The wide range of activities means there is a little something for everyone, and budget conscious suggestions are frequently included. If you’re keen to get the kids out of the house, have a browse on this great site.

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Galanti – a perfect finish to a perfect day

We found a wonderful new restaurant in Highett last night, a lovely trattoria and bar called Galanti. Well worth sharing…

Before I start, to be fair, you should know that we were in a very good mood when we arrived. It had been the most incredible day, with Evan’s basketball team winning their grand final and Evan scoring MVP for the game. Matt is their coach, so it’s fair to say that the whole family was pretty over the moon. I was so proud of Evan, for all his hard work and so pleased that Matt had had such fun helping this great group of boys to leave the court with a winner’s trophy.

The win was followed by a team lunch, noisy and celebratory, after which I needed a little sit-down. After I caught my breath, I thought it only fitting that we took Evan out to celebrate his win. But where to go?? We racked our brains… an old faithful? Somewhere new? Junky or fine dining? I’ll admit we’d still not quite decided where we were going when we piled into the car.

Then Matt threw out a wild card – how about this new little place, Galanti’s that he’d seen being renovated in Spring Road, Highett? An unlikely spot for a restaurant, but it had looked impressive from outside…

We drove a few minutes around the corner, and parked outside the Italian eatery. It looked good, but I still wasn’t quite sure so I got out of the car and had a look for a menu in the window. No menu, but they were playing Coldplay, and the waitress gave me a smile. I was was convinced.

We were greeted warmly and shown to a cosy booth in the corner. The kids were made really welcome, always a good start when dining with small ones and Oscar was thrilled to be given his own menu to peruse.

The service was friendly, prompt and careful. The menu offered a wonderful range of authentic Italian fare, including a nice selection of kids meals. We indulged in entree, mains and dessert, wine and coffee and we were all extremely satisfied with each course. Matt raved about the prawns, Evan asked for more pasta, and I loved, loved, loved the tiramisu. It’s rare that everyone at the table is equally happy with their meal, but in this case even Oscar finished off a whole plate of meatballs (no small feat, as seen here.)

The restaurant itself is spacious, and set-up beautifully. No detail has been overlooked, and as such you feel that real pride has been taken in this family establishment. There is even a little private dining booth, perfect for parties and cosy dates, a nice touch.

You can find Galanti at 23 Spring Road, Highett (just around the corner off Highett Road). Their phone number is 03 9553 1573, if you want to chat to them about a table. Pop on by, I’m sure they’d love to see you.

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Women’s secrets in ‘The Red Tent’

Not all blood comes of violence.

This beautiful novel, The Red Tent by Anita Diamant shares the secret of blood not spilled, but rather cherished. It is a haunting insight into the private and largely untold stories of women in a biblical age, and of the Red Tent where they gather each month.

The novel tells the story of Dinah, daughter of Jacob and sister to Joseph. Dinah features only very briefly in the bible story that recounts the story of her many siblings, but in Diamant’s tale Dinah is front and centre. She is transformed from the invisible, to the influential and used as a vehicle to share a view of what it was to be a woman amongst women, and amongst rough men in a harsh and basic period of history.

‘We have been lost to each other for so long. My name means nothing to you. My memory is dust. This is not your fault, or mine. The chain connecting mother to daughter was broken and the word passed to the keeping of men, who had no way of knowing. That is why I became a footnote, my story a brief detour between the well-known history of my father, Jacob, and the celebrated chronicle of Joseph, my brother. On those rare occasions when I was remembers, it was as a victim.’

This story is part history, part romance, part violence and part inspiration. Despite being a work of fiction, it reads as incredibly authentic, and you can almost feel the heat and hardship that these characters live amongst. I found it incredibly fascinating to hear about the bonds shared between women, and of the conflicts and competitions that existed between wives and sisters. The story of the Red Tent with it’s camaraderie, restfulness and sweet aroma’s was intoxicating, and I was at once both horrifying and enlivened by the recounting of childbirth in a such a raw and non-medicalised world:

‘There was one great gift that my teachers learned from the women of Shechem’s valley. It was not an herb or a tool, but a birth song, and the most soothing balm that Inna or Rachel had ever used. It made laboring women breathe easier and caused the skin to stretch rather than tear. It eased the worst pains. Those who died – for even with a midwife as skilful as Inna some of them died – even they smiled as they closed their eyes forever, unafraid.’

The turn this story takes at its half-way mark is tragic, and references back to Dinah as victim in the biblical version of this story. It is both violent and heartbreaking and very nearly ends Dinah herself. It shows a darkness in Dinah’s family, but it is responded to in a hushed, measured but passionate way. In fact, that is how the whole book is voiced. It is hushed but heartfelt. It is deeply feminine.

I read The Red Tent with my book club, and I hear that it’s an absolute favourite amongst book clubs around the world. I think I understand why – the subject matter gives permission for women to share their own experiences with each other, about maturing, about childbirth, about family and about the relationships they share with men, and more interestingly perhaps with the other women in their lives.

Coming from a family of sisters, with a doting and inspirational mother, I appreciated the sense of women’s space and commune found in this story.  I fell head-first into this book, not surfacing again until the story was over. The setting, the biblical context of Jacob and his family was one that was really familiar to me, and this added to the richness of the story. As a result, the story was truly multi-dimension, and the way in which Diamant structured this novel reminded me of another of my favourites Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, the play by Tom Stoppard which places Hamlet in the wings, and his bit-part colleagues centre stage. So clever.

When I heard Sophie Cunningham speak at the Melbourne Writers Festival a few weeks ago (read about it here, listen to it here) she spoke of female invisibility and of the failure to give voice to women’s stories. I thought of this book while I was listening to Sophie, and was grateful for this important, albeit fictional, illumination of a previously invisible woman.

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Ladies and gentleman, kids of all ages…

Thanks to the kind folks at Rushcrowds, the boys and I made a spur of the moment decision to go along to Silvers Circus, Sunday just gone.  I was lucky enough to pick up a free double pass from Rushcrowds which meant that all I had to do was pay the kids’ way, making it a really affordable outing.

On entering the tent I realised that we were extra lucky, as we were shown to ringside seats. This meant that we were wonderfully close to the action. We were only centimetres away from being hit by flying hula hoops and rouge juggling balls and it made acts like the ‘Globe of Death’ particularly thrilling, being close enough to hear the crazy metal globe creak and sway as three motorbikes spun wildly inside it, sounding very much like a bottle full of angry bees.

I’ll admit, I mainly agreed to go on this outing because Oscar kept shouting ‘circus, circus, circus’ like a madman every time we drove past Southland shopping centre, but I’ve got to say, once I was there I had as much fun as the kids. It’s been a very long time since I went to the circus,  but the glitter and stage make-up, the costumes and general carny-culture immediately reminded me of what a big deal it is to go to the circus when you’re a kid. I was entranced and thoroughly entertained.

Evan was too cool for school…he’d been to the same show this time last year and as such he kept offering up spoilers, telling me what was coming next. Oscar was wide-eyed, absolutely transfixed. He laughed at the clowns and clapped along on cue, but more often than not he sat with eyes wide and his little hand covering his mouth agape,  a real mixture of enjoyment and trepidation. He had an absolute ball.

The show itself includes a great variety of acts, and is suitable for all ages. In keeping with circus-norm, there are no animals, just a lot of clever people.

The two-hour show was filled with juggling, extreme hula hooping, and magic tricks complete with white doves and beautiful vanishing magicians assistants.

There were insane daredevils too, which had me on the edge of my seat. Evan thought I was a real dag when I covered my eyes, quite certain that the showy young man running the ‘Wheel of Steel’ was going to plummet to his death. Evan assured me that his stumbles were all part of the act, but I still I wasn’t so sure. I was quietly relieved when the act was over and done with, his feet firmly planted back on the ground.

There really was something for all of us, and I’m really glad that we went. It was nice to do something a little unplanned on the weekend, and the boys really seemed to enjoy the afternoon out.

Check out the Silvers Circus website for show times. On the weekends, Silvers Circus run day-time shows, which are pretty perfect for the little ones. Also, don’t forget to keep an eye on Rushcrowds for discount tickets and free passes!

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