Monthly Archives: August 2014

Yes DD, the BR Likes a List Too

The Blue Room cannot resist a challenge of this nature – especially one where it involves making a list within an interest area. So when Age regular David Dale constructed his on the subject – well this blog just had to follow suit. There was no alternative – it was a given.

Compiling such lists as I do, particularly at the end of a calendar year, can be, in DD’s words, ‘…intensely painful, but deeply pleasurable’, especially when excruciating decisions have to be made. What DD was attempting to do was a response to an American publication’s (‘Entertainment Weekly’) top characters on television ‘right now’. That revered mag duly ruminated and ultimately made its considered and weighty pontification. The ‘right now’ is a loose term as the resulting product encompassed the last twelve months or so – as did DD in his contribution. Our local scribe went on to break his down, as I will, into two sections – International and Australian. It seems it is implicit that only one protagonist from each small screen show can put in an appearance, thus DD’s angst. His quandary was whether to include Arya Syark or Tyrion Lannister from the monolithic ‘Game of Thrones’. I also enjoy that juggernaut – but it does not figure for me as a vehicle for idiosyncratic character. No, my ponderings were between the two leads in ‘The Bridge’ – the Scandinoir version of course. In the end I went with the Sara Norgen role – mainly because her partner-in-crime (solving), Kim Bobnia, who plays Rohde, in this tele-gem, didn’t like what was to happen to his character in the third season, so pulled up stumps. It remains to be seen how Ms Helin copes without her sidekick.

So – in your opinion, does what the Blue Room has produced measure up to DD’s? What would you, dear peruser, add and delete? Those list-addicted, like myself, might try your own hand at such a compilation. For those who know me, the first few are givens:-

International

don d

1. Don Draper                               Mad Men                              Jon Hamm
2. Hank Moody                            Californication                  David Duchovny
3. Sara Norgen                            The Bridge                           Sofia Helin
4. Birgitte Nyborg                       Borgen                                 Sidse Babette Knudsen
5. Alec Hardy                                Broadchurch                     David Tennant
6. Frank Underwood                 House of Cards                 Kevin Spacey
7. Christopher Foyle                  Foyle’s War                        Michael Kitchen
8. Frank Tagliano                        Lilyhammer                       Steven Van Zandt
9. Lorne Malvo                             Fargo                                    Billy Bob Thornton
10. Nucky Thompson               Boardwalk Empire          Steve Buscemi

Home Grown

asher-keddie1

1. Nina Proudman                     Offspring                              Asher Keddie
2. Cleaver Greene                      Rake                                       Richard Roxburg
3. Janet King                              Janet King                             Marta Dusseldorp
4. Lucian Blake                          Dr Blake Mysteries             Craig Maclachlan
5. Lewis Crabb                           House Husbands                Gary Sweet
6. Luce Tivoli                              The Time of Our Lives       Shane Jacobson
7. Jack Duncan                          A Place to Call Home        Craig Hall
8. Ted McCabe                           Old School                             Sam Neill
9. Clarke                                       Clarke and Dawe                 John Clarke
10. Cora Benson                       The Moodys                           Jane Harber

David Dale article – Part 1 = http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/blogs/the-tribal-mind/these-are-the-best-international-characters-on-australian-tv-20140816-3dsxx.html

– Part 2 = http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/blogs/the-tribal-mind/the-10-best-australian-characters-on-australian-tv-20140823-3e6f0.html

 

Being In Love With My DLP (Darling Loving Partner) Makes Me Feel Like The Foam On The Crest Of A Wave

Isn’t that a beautiful simile for love? That’s exactly how I feel when I look at my beloved and count the many ways that I am so lucky to have her in my life. That she chooses to love me in return, even after all these twenty odd years, still gives me immense blissfulness

Who came up with that lovely allusion? It was twenty-three year old Julius Robertson, son of Kathy Lette and Geoffrey R.

I was right royally peeved last Saturday to discover my Age was missing its two best bits – ‘Spectrum’ and ‘Good Weekend’ – for my perusal the following week. It usually takes me that long to get through the weekend’s Australian and Age. Eventually, as well as inexplicably, they both turned up in Monday’s edition. I was delighted they did as they contained even more exceptional writing than usual – such delicious reading. It was ‘Spectrum’ that featured young Mr Robertson, as part of its ongoing ‘Two Of Us’ segment. Here we have a take on the ‘he says/she says’ format, with two connected persons telling of their relationship from their individual perspectives. Over the years this single and singular page has featured couples from all walks of life, as well as from all degrees of fame. Without fail, whether the duos involved are celebrities or ordinary Joes, perusing their musings is always time well spent. Often what is read here leads me to the ether for more research on the persons involved. The linkage between the two participants needn’t be one of love, but I mostly find it more interesting if it is.

As for the twosome in last Saturday’s offering, there certainly exists a great deal of affection between Julius and his mother Kathy, although the former has a unique way of expressing it. You see the young man is on the high end of the autism spectrum. In fact he has Aspergers.

Over my teaching years I have taught many a student diagnosed somewhere on the continuum. Hand on my heart there were a number I found it extremely difficult to contain, but with those I could connect with it was a hell of a ride – in a positive way. They were so intriguing and gave so much I felt privileged to be in their orbit.

Some, as with Julius, have a prodigious memory and are quite obsessive. As his mum puts it, he has fixated on everything from Serena Williams’ posterior to Hamlet, which he can recite rote. It’s the way their brain works. I found it fascinating with some of my students. Some of these guys ask very curly questions in class and were often responsible for very perceptive replies to mine. The article gave examples of Julius’ amazing queries:-
‘What is the speed of dark (if light has speed)?’
‘Is a harp just a nude piano?’

kathy-lette

The wonderful Stephen Fry is the young man’s favourite from the cohort of his mother’s friends – describing him as ‘…like a honeybear.’ Kathy was once flirting with Hugh Jackman, only to have Julius draw the thespian’s attention to the dark hairs on his mother’s top lip, just in case Hugh hadn’t noticed them for himself. On meeting Kevin Spacey he was transfixed by ‘…his moonhead’, bald for a play. He regards his mum, Ms Lette, as ‘…the modern Shakespeare’, but wishes he could display the same emotions as she does. He is bemused by her gait, describing it as like ‘… a dolphin’s.’ Pleasingly, he reckons people are generally happier in Oz than the UK (I suppose you wouldn’t have to be all that bright to figure that one out!) and he thinks the animal his dad most resembles is a polar bear. He knows his authorly mum wouldn’t mind if he was gay, but he confesses he is’…very attracted to women’s bodies’ – and so he goes on. Despite his occasional social faux pas, there is no doubt of the adoration one of our best known ex-pats has for her boy.

Their relationship has been shared with the nation in print form elsewhere as well, including in the Womens Weekly. Her novel, ‘The Boy Who Fell To Earth’, tells the story of a single mother raising such a boy with Aspergers. This will soon feature in a Hollywood movie.

‘My love for you my DLP is like the foam on the crest of a wave.’ Try that line with your very own partner sometime soon. I am sure you’ll be happy with the results.

The ‘Two of Us’ column = http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/two-of-us-kathy-lette-and-julius-20140728-3coal.html

The ‘Women’s Weekly’ article = http://www.aww.com.au/news-features/in-the-mag/2012/2/kathy-lette-my-son-has-aspergers/

Analogue Man – Nick Earls

I do miss Neville H. He’s my mate. Between us we could happily, contentedly feel like ‘…analogue men in a digital age.’ He’s still my mate, my best male mate. I just don’t get to see see him as often as I would like. We met aeons ago – shared a school uniform and a local footy team. His only downside is that he’s Collingwood through and through – and I cherish the ‘poo and piss’, as he repeatedly calls them – Hawthorn. We did uni together – shared digs at a residential hall – married our sweethearts and commenced our teaching careers. Then we moved to different locales, gained new mates, parted from our spouses and lost touch. Eventually he returned to my town, we reconnected, reviewed our pasts and made ready for the autumn years. Mine involved a beautiful woman from Hobart, his one from Thailand. I moved south to be with my Leigh – and now, sadly, I miss my mate.

I miss our Friday nights – together, us two ‘analogue men’, throwbacks to when it was all less complicated, less busy. The digital age has made our lives so full of crap. I tried to comprehend it and largely failed. He gave less ground than I. We’d sit around the table at 15 Lane Street, telling tales large and fantastical. I’d cook him tea, we’d sink a few reds. Then we’d get onto politics – always dangerous. He was rabidly Green, my beliefs of a lighter hue – but I couldn’t bring myself to vote for anyone else. Then we’d settle down to watch the footy – except if the Hawks were playing. Then we’d make it another night. But if the Maggies were on and they lost, it would always be the fault the ‘white maggots’. But this was a put on, an aberration for Neville H has more humanity in his little finger than Tony Abbot in his whole being. He looks out for the downtrodden and repressed – he’d give them the shirt off his back. I am extremely content with my new life by the river in Hobart Town and I trust he’s found similar in our old stomping ground up north. We will continue to get together on occasions, but there’s no regularity now. I wouldn’t swap what I have here by the river, but I do miss those Friday nights with Neville H.

That’s why I enjoyed Nick Earls’ take on it all in ‘Analogue Men’ so much. Reading it was akin to those Friday nights with Neville H, getting gently to the ‘Mr Wobbly’ (in joke) stage and talking, talking, talking. Earls’ central protagonist, Andrew Van Fleet, is about to enter the autumnal years – the years yours truly and Neville H inhabit (with some joy I might add). We know our pomp is substantially behind us, but like Andrew, reckon we’re not completely kaput. We have all downsized – although Neville H reverted to up-sizing a while ago – he’s had a second wind. Van Fleet has been a high flyer, but like many who have realised the digital age has taken away their lives, he has opted for a quieter existence on reaching the cusp. He wants more time with family – his missus Robyn; his offspring, Abi and Jack. And then there’s his dad out there in the granny flat – ailing in his late dotage, but once a legend in in his own lunch-box on the local radio airwaves.

analogue men

And that’s what Andrew VF takes on – a managerial role in a radio station – as if that’s going to lead to a quiet life! It’s here he comes face to face with another legend in a terminal decline – albeit one of a different ilk – Brian Brightman. Once the king of the wireless in Brisbane, his star has long fallen- but he still battles on at the bottom of the ratings chart, trying to compete with the shock jocks and the new shiny hip kids on the block. He has a patter that has seen better days, often getting him in deep shit he is so out of touch with political correctness – or is he? Andrew soon finds he is drowning – he’s beyond his depth and now he just can’t swan away to NYC or HK on a business caper. There’s also family conundrums a plenty to deal with. Then comes the ill-conceived plan to combine both and solve all issues in one knockout blow. It involved minding BB at a comedy festival down on the GC, paralleling that onerous responsibility with a family holiday. It spells disaster – it was.

Earls has created some characters for the ages with this. From the two kids with digital apparatii hanging off every appendage to a constipated bulldog – he is back to the rare form of his earlier novels that bought so much Mangoland sunshine to a chillsome Tassie winter.

Of course Neville H and I never reached any great heights in our professional careers – which does not mean we weren’t successful at what we did. There is, though, in AVF a soul I can relate to. Luckily I do not have to compete with all that plurry technology as much with these days of retirement bliss. I loved this book. At times I laughed till the tears were streaming. All the trouble Andrew had with his buttocks is priceless. Sure the climax involving a shark and an errant tongue is a tad over the top – so weird it just may be a possibility (except in fiction) – but even with this I was happy to be taken along for the ride. So thank you Nick Earls. For a short time perusing your offering I was around that table again with Neville H, fixing up the world, with not a digital device in sight. Your book, Mr Earls, did that for me – even if it made me miss Neville H even more.

earls

Nicks Earls’ website = http://nickearls.wordpress.com/

Elizabeth

I am in need of music that would flow
Over my fretful, feeling fingertips,
Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,
With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.
Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low,
Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,
A song to fall like water on my head,
And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!
I wonder why, in my sixty plus years, I had never encountered her. I thought I was across all the great poets, particularly those of the last century. But her name had never entered my orbit. Despite her literary prominence she had remained invisible to me all this time – that is, until the movie. Then I had to move from screen to page – and with the wonders of the digital age, her stunning verse has opened up to me. Of course the movie gave what I discovered in the ether some added lustre, but it only concentrated on one of her two great love affairs. Here’s what I found out of this gem of a composer of words.
Poet Elizabeth Bishop was gay – lesbian at a time when it was shrouded off to the sidelines. Perhaps not regarded as being as prurient as its male counterpart, participants were still either shunned or treated with overheated curiosity. Born in 1911, Elizabeth had a fraught childhood that left her somewhat scarred and wary of the world. Her father had a premature demise when she was small, also causing her mother’s already fragile mental state to collapse and become as dead to the child, as a parent, as her spouse. Elizabeth had physical ailments to contend with, as well, all her life – asthma, a nut allergy and eczema. Despite her semi-orphan status she was a gifted student at school, discovering at an early age to use written words to their advantage. With them she could see her way forward in the world.

elizabeth-bishop

I am in need of music that would flow
Over my fretful, feeling fingertips,
Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,
With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.
Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low,
Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,
A song to fall like water on my head,
And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!

 
Early on she formed relationships with Mary McCarthy and fellow poet Marianne Moore. Her collection of verse, ‘North and South’, was picked up for publication, eventually coming to the attention of Robert Lowell. They met; he liked what he saw and read, so paved the way for her into the upper echelons of the American authorly establishment.
In 1951, at the age of forty, her life veered off in another direction. She fell in love twice over. She had an urge to see the Amazon and travelled to South America to do so. Here she became enamoured of Brazil – its culture and people. Simultaneously she became deeply enthralled by one of its leading citizens. Her heart was stolen by the prominent architect Lota de Macedo Soares. With this duo of addiction providing her first true happiness in life, her poetry soared, so much so that her signature collection, ‘North and South – A Cold Spring’, featuring poems old and new, won the 1956 Pulitzer.

lota

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

 
It is this period of the wordsmith’s life that the Bruno Barreto directed movie, ‘Reaching for the Moon’, focuses on. Delicate rose Elizabeth meets the swarthily feisty Lota and her world is turned on its axis. They fall intensely in love and into bed – although the film’s handling of the latter is almost chastely realised. As Elizabeth’s health and mental state improve, if not her alcoholism – so Lota’s does the opposite. She has been caught up in Rio’s toxic politics, whilst trying to complete her dream, the Parque do Flamengo – a beach-side swathe of parkland – now one of the world heritage listed city’s prime attractions. The relationship between the two women disintegrates into a fug of booze, depression, adultery and ultimately, for Lota, suicide – after fifteen years with her poetess.

reach
I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

 
The movie is based on a Brazilian best-seller, ‘Rare and Commonplace Flowers’. With this film their story will now reach a wider audience, for reportedly the book, with its convoluted machinations of the ruling class of the city of Ipanema and Copacabana, is impenetrable to anyone other than that nation’s readers. Aussie actress Miranda Otto and local fellow thespian Gloria Pires shine in this cinematic offering, but the narrative itself is largely paint by numbers. The fecund surroundings of the lovers does cast a spell. Of course, Rio cannot be otherwise than a star turn in the piece. In this place the two women’s love is perhaps more readily accepted than in northern climes, although they still have to be on their guard.
Times change – and despite the worst efforts of our unfortunate Prime Minster, the world is now more comfortable with non-hetero activities. ‘Reaching the Moon’ is of another time and place. Not a great movie by any stretch, but well worth time spent on it for its tale of two remarkable women.
After Soares’ passing Bishop gave up on Brazil and returned permanently to the US in 1970. She took up painting. By now she had met Alice Methfessel and loved her for the remainder of her life – the following poem is dedicated to Alice. The poet also took up painting and left us the worse for her passing in 1979.

 
Breakfast Song

My love, my saving grace,
your eyes are awfully blue.
I kiss your funny face,
your coffee-flavoured mouth.
Last night I slept with you.
Today I love you so
how can I bear to go
(as soon I must, I know)
to bed with ugly death
in that cold, filthy place,
to sleep there without you,
without the easy breath
and nightlong, limblong warmth
I’ve grown accustomed to?
—Nobody wants to die;
tell me it is a lie!
But no, I know it’s true.
It’s just the common case;
there’s nothing one can do.
My love, my saving grace,
your eyes are awfully blue
early and instant blue.

‘Reaching for the Moon’ trailer = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=654X8V2bwA0

bishop4

Bishop’s art work

 

The Black War – Nicholas Clements

In my latter years I shied away from it – I really did. The history needed to be taught – in fact, it should be a compulsory requirement in our island’s schools. But working with the Aboriginal community to improve the outcomes of indigenous students (one of the most enlightening and enjoyable aspects of a forty year career), I discovered there were divisions within their number over the story that needed to be told and so, from the classroom perspective, I became wary. I stuck to the big picture, the narrative over the whole of the country, conveniently ignoring that of the local peoples. I am now out of the loop, so to speak, so I am not sure if attitudes have changed – softened in recent times. I firmly believe no Tasmanian child should depart the process without a firm understanding of the clash between two cultures on this state’s historical frontiers.

‘The Black Wars’ is a fascinating, often troubling book. Clements has been courageous. He doesn’t shy away. Some of the factual accounts of what actually happened during the period covered does not make for pretty reading. With this whole, decidedly sorry saga, there are two words that have always troubled me – the notion that what happened out on the backblocks during this time was a ‘war’ – the notion that the result was a conscious policy of ‘genocide’. As for the former, the raw figures are minuscule compared to the great clashes of the last hundred years and it always seemed to me that the skirmishes that went on would be better described as a ‘conflict’. But when Clements boils it all down to percentages, then a different hue is cast on the events. It transforms the data. The military involvement he illuminates was also much larger that I had previously envisaged. As a result, ‘war’ now sits more comfortably.

black war

Certainly there were calls for ‘extermination’ as the ‘war’ rolled over from the 1820s into the next decade – and on the North West Frontier on into the 1840s (it intrigued me that the final recorded skirmish of it occurred in the Table Cape area, the very region I spent the final years of my time teaching). During these years, as Clements so vividly describes, the fear and loathing on both sides of the ledger for the other were palpable. For a time the colony was nigh on paralysed by the atrocities committed by ‘white’ and ‘black’ and the terror that ensued. In some sectors of the settler community hotheads did call for the Aboriginals to pay the ultimate price – and there is no doubt of what, by the end, the latter were attempting to do. Of course their goal was futile and they knew it as their attacks went from targeted to indiscriminate. Never was it otherwise that the odds were stacked in favour of the invaders. The problem with all this is that, out in the remote rural areas, officialdom had little control – and the brutal background of many of the ‘white’ transgressors in these locations meant there occurred scenes of unmitigated inhumanity. This could not be tolerated by the native warrior chiefs – they were forced to retaliate in kind. It is worth remembering that, in the period just before the conflict heated up, Van Diemans Land had only just recovered from the debilitation caused by unrestrained bushranger gangs.

Clements, after placing what he intended to do with ‘The Black War’ in context, looked at it largely on the ground rather than in the halls of government. Using the reasonably considerable contemporary accounts to be had – at least on the invaders’ side – he successfully places the reader squarely in the middle of it all so he/she feels the desperation increase for both parties as no solutions to it, other than those of a violent nature, could be found. No soft gloves were used here by the author, as even the nobility of the ‘black’ cause gave way to heinous slaughter of the innocents – as well as the deserving.

Circling around all this was the work of George Augustus Robinson – once the hero of the times (as well as in the era of my own education), but these days more of a divisive figure. It’s his copious journal keeping that has largely provided Clements with the Aboriginal take on the events. The saddest, most heart wrenching data of all involves the incredibly small numbers that he retrieved from the bush as the last of the warrior groups surrendered. The settlers were incredulous that so few caused so much mayhem towards the end. For me much of the territory Clements wrote on was known in an overall sense – albeit not the gory detail. What really came as a surprise was how much of a shambles the notorious Black Line was. I knew how badly it failed, putting that down to the ingenuity of those they were attempting to ensnare. Largely, though, it was the complete mismanagement of the grand strategy by the authorities, as well as the lack of real enthusiasm by the settler/military participants once they had to do battle with the vagaries of a Tasmanian spring in a wild terrain.

Logically sex would have had to have been a factor in all this – the bulk of ‘white’ maledom wasn’t getting any, at least of the ‘legal’ variety, as a result of a substantial gender imbalance. Here the ‘blacks’ could provide a source for alleviating that need. In the main this was foul, unforgiving sex. The ‘gins’ became little more than slaves if captured, often ending their use with a bullet to the head – and the crass class that inhabited the fringes of ‘civilization’ liked their prey to be as tender in years as possible. Ugly, ugly stuff – at its most barbaric out on the Strait’s islands. It is this frontier that Clements suggests is worthy of a deeper examination in a future tome – only, at this stage, he isn’t prepared to write it. This is largely, I would think, for the same reasons that I wasn’t prepared to take what I knew into the classroom. He claims ample documentation for what went on is available and not all of it puts the blame squarely on the side of the colonials. Clements noted that Aboriginal women were used by their men folk as bargaining tools – in some cases readily prostituting their females to gain favour, tucker or other wares.

With ‘The Black War’ Clements complements others working in the same area such as Boyce and his mentor, Henry Reynolds. I would strongly suggest that this book be an insisted read for any educator intending to take our island’s dark history to his/her students. With his research you would also think that the so-called ‘history wars’ have well and truly been put to bed.

To complete this appraisal, here are two interesting facts that the author brings to our attention. The first was that the initial Tasmanians never attacked during the night when the spirits abounded, whereas their enemy usually preferred the cover of darkness to slaughter our first inhabitants in their camps. Secondly, contrary to expectation, although the killing of livestock by the ‘blacks’ was common, what they speared and waddied out of existence was never consumed.

clements

Clements’ tome is a fine achievement, with the author greatly impressing at the recent launch of ‘The Black War’ in Hobart. I had the pleasure of sitting next to his mother at the event and she was justly proud of her son. His work is revelatory to say the least.

From The Australian = http://www.theaustralian.com.au/arts/review/beyond-black-and-white/story-fn9n8gph-1226895004177?nk=8fe21f338350b1ee60e8806adeac7887