Monthly Archives: February 2015

Transportation : Islands and Cities – edited by Sean Preston and Rachel Edwards

Following, as I did, the gestation of this fine collection on Facebook, it did have an entry into the world that garnered a few bumps along the way. A crowd funded project, it is a tribute to its editors and backers that a successful function at Fullers Bookshop saw its emergence with a degree of fanfare. At its southern end co-editor Rachel Edwards did a magnificent job to carry it all through to fruition. It was an ambitious task to group

Rachel Edwardsracheledwards21

together an eclectic range of Taswegian and Old Blighty contributors to examine the notion of island and city. As one would expect, what has been produced will see some efforts not to everyone’s taste in the mix. I must admit there were a couple of short stories I struggled with. Taken as a whole, though, it is a most worthy compilation – with local wordsmiths more than holding their own in comparison with the Londoners in quality of product.

Ben Walter continues to impress with his alluringly dense, articulate prose – with so much of the outstanding artistic endeavour on our island always being ‘…something to do with the light.’ We have had a recent example of this these last few days as dusk has settled over Hobartian hills after a spate of unusually, for this summer, warm days. Oliver Mestitz’s original take ‘How to Pick Up an Echidna’ also delighted. For my enjoyment the pick of the bunch was Claire Jansen and her atmospheric rendering ‘Manhattan is an Island’. This up-and-comer recently graced the pages of the Mercury’s Saturday Tasliving feature and, if her story is any indication, she would seem to have a bright future in writerly pursuits.

Claire Jansen jansen

Her story, as with many of her character’s generation, is a tale of participation in the Tasmania diaspora to the four corners of the world – a theme reflected, as well, in other offerings here. For these people, as well as often those that choose to remain, the magnetic pull of our island in the southern seas becomes stronger as years pass. We know we inhabit a unique place – despite its economic and social woes we eventually come to conclude there is none better to be found at those four corners. I know that, as my years gather up around me, I find it harder and harder to contemplate leaving it, even for relatively short amounts of time. The pull of London, Paris or NYC cannot match what we have here. As Ben says – it truly is ‘…something about the light.’

Congratulations Rachel. Like our island, you too are a gem.

transmportationTransportation Islands and Cities Facebook page =

Charlie Goodnight, West Texas Heaven and a Stripper

The Jigglewatts are here. They’ve arrived – all the way from Austin Texas for their tour Downunder, starting in Perth – and sadly, from what I can discern, ending in Perth. But on show at that city’s Fringe World ’15 Festival they will bump and grind their way around several stages. They’ll strip, tease and set male – and female – hearts a pumping with their displays of sumptuous flesh – all very tasteful, mind you.


Charlie Goodnight – ever heard of him? No, nor had I. But he’s famous enough for the US Postal Service to issue a stamp in his honour. What a man he, as a result of my investigation, turned out to be. But my research of the ether didn’t commence with him as a starting point – in fact it was a present day chartreuse I was interested, but it’s with Charlie I ended up – with a comely stripper in between.

charlie goodnight stamp

But let’s start with Charlie. They don’t breed ’em like him these days. Imagine this – he was renowned for his swearing and cussin’ – think ‘Deadwood’s’ glorious Al Swearengen. He smoked fifty cigars a day, realised it was doing him no good, so switched to chuggin’ on a pipe in his later years. Those mature years lasted till the grand old age of ninety-three. And he was, let us say, very vigorous. He remarried at ninety-one, going on to produce a child. His wife was sixty-five years his junior. As I said – what a man!

If you think our Kidmans and Duracks, Charlie Goodnight was a Yankee equivalent. He was a cattle baron of the Wild West, blazing a trail across West Texas to get his beef to market as quickly as was conceivable back then. In doing so he won and lost fortunes several times. He wasn’t going to die wondering, was Charlie Goodnight. When he was done with redefining the map of the harsh lands of Texas territory, he found time to invent an effective side-saddle for women, established places of worship around his local areas for churchgoers of denominations other than his own, became part-owner of an opera house and built schools for the education of drovers’ sons and daughters. But it remains his first passion that built his lasting fame – cutting new trails where white men hadn’t ventured before. If you think our own Canning Stock Route or the Birdsville Track you get a notion of what he was about. For the Lone Star State it was the iconic Goodnight-Loving Trail that enabled Texan cowboys to eschew the Kansas railheads in favour of opening up new routes and markets to the west instead.

charles goodnight

The story of how this was achieved won a Pulitzer Prize. Larry McMurtry based his character Woodrow F Call on the West Texan drover for the novel ‘Lonesome Dove’, which garnered the prestigious award. When Call’s partner McCrae is ambushed and killed by the Indians during a cattle drive in the book, it is exactly what happened with Goodnight and his mate Oliver Loving. Charlie pulled a poisoned arrow from the chest of the dying Loving and rode the dead man back up the trail for a burial in his home town.

Goodnight was born in 1836, never learnt to read or write, fought in the Civil War and was known to one and all as the Colonel. All his employees were prohibited from drinking, gambling or fighting – but he inflicted the strongest punishment on anyone who mistreated a horse. He was no doubt a man of his age with many of his attitudes, but by any measure was a force to be reckoned with. He was also the forebear of Kimmie Rhodes, the subject of my initial foray into the web – the name Goodnight being passed on down through the generations to Kimmie and beyond. And it is through this singer I discovered the amazing, superlative Townes Van Zandt.

I picked up Rhodes’ ‘West Texas Heaven’ way back in the mid-nineties, probably attracted to it by the words beckoning on the CD’s cover – ‘Featuring Willie Nelson (and) Waylon Jennings’. Like TVZ, Ms Rhodes is songwriter’s songwriter, with her tunes having been recorded by a disparate selection of greats – everyone from Emmylou, Mark Knopfler, Peter Frampton, Trisha Yearwood right through to Oz’s own John Farnham – as well as, of course, Willie and Waylon.

Kimmie grew up in Buddy Holly territory. She was a Lubbock lass. Singing on stage since the age of six, she moved to Austin in ’79, becoming a vital part of that city’s outlaw country scene. There she met long term partner Joe Gracey, a music producer who passed in 2011. In ’81 she recorded her first album in Willie’s Austin studio. She has issued a plethora down through the years since, both in solo and collaboration form, but for some reason WTH is the only one I own. Must do something about that.

Although a legend in her own state and popular in parts of Europe, Kimmie has never caught on in this market. Her product only seems available on import. Like her ancestor Charlie, Kimmie is also a bit of a jack-of-all-trades being, as well, an author, playwright and producer. Rodney Crowell describes her as having,’The soul of a poet and the voice of an angel.’ Sweet Emmylou states, ‘Kimmie has the voice of a beautiful child coming from an old soul. She touches us where the better angels of our nature dwell,…’ Country music folk are really into their angels.


Her duet on the album with Townes VZ, ‘I’m Gonna Fly’, opened up his own oeuvre to me – his tunesmithery and his sad, sad life. She tells the story of how that collaboration all came about on YouTube – look it up. Like many of our musical heroes, Townes did not live long enough to enjoy any measure of the fame he now holds – had he done so he’d probably have drunk it all away in any case. Kimmie is made of more resilient stuff, although she too continues to fly under the radar in many parts. Her time will come. I still play ‘West Texas Heaven’ and ‘I’m Gonna Fly’ still gives me goosebumps, bringing a tear to this old fella’s eye.

Kimmie and her hubby of twenty-eight years produced one daughter, although she has a couple of sons from her first marriage. The daughter is also pretty special. She is Jolie Goodnight and she takes her clothes off for a living.

‘If you want to see strippers in Austin,’ trills the Austin Post, ‘you can head on over to the Yellow Rose and buy yourself a lapdance, but if you want to see burlesque in Texas, you’ll have to look a little harder. If you’re lucky you might find Jolie Goodnight, a dish-water-blonde-turned-flame- haired-beauty who dazzles audiences as she sings jazz standards and does a striptease at the same time.’ What Jolie does to entertain is part strip but mainly tease – its an art form currently enjoying a world wide revival under the broad banner of burlesque.


Jolie became hooked on it as a youngster during her mother’s tours of Europe, where it has always been held in high regard. What she does is not for the raincoat brigade as it’s classy, albeit undeniably sensual – with a soupçon of bawdiness as well. Ms Goodnight is set apart by the fact that it’s her own voice that is singing as she dispenses with her garments. Check her out too on YouTube. You’ll only need to be moderately of broadish mind.

This burlesque queen loves what she does and claims there is absolutely nothing salacious about it. She reckons for five or six minutes she gets to be a goddess up there on a pedestal. Sure she’s ogled at, but by a far more appreciative and discerning audience than would inhabit the Yellow Rose. For her, it’s all about the tease, aided by black stockings, pasties, and feather boas. Together with her fellow troupe of ladies of similar ilk, the Jigglewatts, she may one day come tour our eastern states as well.

I wonder what the Colonel would have made of her?

Kimmie Tells the story of how ‘I’m Gonna Fly’ came to be on ‘West Texas Heaven’ =

Jolie Goodnight puts a spell on us all (NSFW) =

The Jigglewatts in action (NSFW) =


Not everybody loves Billy. I accept that. Maybe it’s those f-bombs he so liberally peppers his comedy with. Yes, they grate on me too – but I forgive him. I forgive him because of the joy that he expresses for life every time he takes the stage. To my mind Billy is a one off, a planetary treasure. How can a man (or woman) go up to a microphone, with no idea what they’re going to roll with and then entertain – no – have them rolling in the aisles – for several hours? Unfortunately though, for all his genius on this platform, ‘What We Did on Our Holiday’ proves what I’ve thought all along – Billy can’t act.

This is a movie with faults on many fronts. There’s the miscasting of David Tennant – brilliant in such vehicles as ‘Broadchurch’ – but in this comedic role he is all at sea. Unlike Billy he is not a natural comic. Many scenes seemed overly staged in the very worst way – so much so they resembled a series of skits from the ‘Paul Hogan Show’. It was that bad. David S had it in a nutshell when, in his recent review of in the Weekend Oz, he opined on the movie’s ending ‘…the film-makers opt for the feel good rather than embracing the astringent mood of the rest of the movie. Everything is wrapped up just too neatly, and that’s a pity.’ On top of this there’s the problem with the kids. The offering comes to us from the same people responsible for television’s glorious ‘Outnumbered’. Over its five series its three youngsters were unscripted, with the adult actors having to carry on regardless with the general direction of each episode despite the red herrings their mini-tyros threw up at them. By the time the show had its legs all had their place in proceedings down pat. Compared to the joys of that modus operandi on the small screen, the new configuration of Emilia Jones, Bobby Smalldridge and Harriet Turnbull just simply were not in the same class. What was so natural in ‘Outnumbered’ here was clunky and forced. At times Ben Miller also seemed very stilted in his role as Doug’s (Tennant) miserly, insensitive brother. And on top of it all, then there’s the issue that Billy can’t act.


Yet, despite all of the above when it’s examined forensically, like David, I was still pretty rapt in this BBC production. The audience that shared the viewing room with me laughed in all the right places – and I, at times, struggled to keep my mirth in check. Billy, despite his thespian shortcomings off the stand-up stage, still enhances any film he’s involved in simply by just being Billy. And as staged as they might be, some of the scenes with the children are still delightful – particularly if Billy is there too. Rosamund Pike, completing this before her game-changing star turn in ‘Gone Girl’, lights up proceedings whenever she’s in shot. The movie is an affirmation that life is for living for its pleasures and we’re not to be distracted by its silly, mundane minutiae.

What’s it about? Well a dysfunctional – I hate that word but listen closely in the film – couple decided to try and hold it all together one last time for the sake of the dying Gordy (Billy Connolly), Doug’s father. Gordy resides in far off Scotland and is having his very last birthday on Earth. The road trip there is a train wreck, but that’s nothing compared to what happens on a Scottish beach after arrival. Here, I must say, you have to put the practicalities of how the kids actually achieved what they did to one side and simply go with it. Also featured are an ostrich, a lesbian and a Viking ship – so from all that you can gather you are in for a fair amount of mayhem and that is duly delivered. And even if she’s a bit like Billy in the acting department, if you are anything like me, you’ll be simply enamoured of the notebook addicted eldest child. I hope I see plenty more of little Ms Jones.

As most of us are aware, in real life Billy is not a well man. He is battling the ravages of time on several fronts and, touch wood, to date winning – he’s still touring the world presenting his captivating shtick of crazy patter and making movies – in which he defies acting. I fervently hope She up there, beyond the silver lining, gives him a little more time with us.

The Official Trailer =

The Lake Shore Limited, The Senator's Wife – Sue Miller

Women give with their breasts in so many ways – some of these ways are involved with their exposure for the deliberate appreciation of males. As the latter gender move towards their terminal years, so that giving is even more appreciated and certainly not just accepted. In Tom’s case it was cherished. Neighbour Meri gave him her gift – and in doing so he gave her much in return. ‘If someone had asked her (Meri) about the nature of what happened between them, of course she would have had to acknowledge its eroticism, its sexuality. But it was more than that. It was a charge between them. Or a recharge she thought.’

Very much in decline, Tom received from Meri what most in his position could only dream about. I would have no idea how easy it would be to give such a gift – Meri didn’t seem to have too many problems with it. But Tom was able to give back – and now that is something worth staying on the planet for.

I like the tale Sue Miller tells of her days as a struggling single mother, before literary fame and (one assumes) some fortune came to her. It needs to be told against her upbringing with a father an ordained minister and both grandfathers also of the church – as were great-grandpas too. And there she was, working in a seedy bar – ‘…think high heels, mesh tights and the concentrated smell of nicotine.’ – being ogled at by leering men.

It is reported that many of her works are indeed semi-autobiographical. Miller’s formative years, as well as being of an ecclesiastical nature, were also severely academic. She went on to Harvard. But later still she also went through the marriage wringer, produced a child that she had to raise fettered by not having a partner. In doing so, she was simultaneously attempting to establish herself as a wordsmith. Thus she struggled, working base-rate jobs such as the afore-mentioned to support her son. Her eventually successful efforts to improve herself have shaped her and given her an ample dollop of life experience. As a reward, along came grants and at age 43 she struck gold when ‘The Good Mother’ was accepted for publication. It shot into the best seller ranks, Hollywood came calling and she was on her way. Since then her novels have been gonged many times and she is regarded as one of her country’s leading practitioners of domestic fiction – what the Brits would term the aga-saga. It is the richness of her prose I succumb to – the descriptions in detail of the minutiae of any dramatic setting. I have had two of her recent novels sitting on my shelves for a while and decided to tackle them one after the other. It didn’t take me long before the first and the most recent, ‘The Lake Shore Limited’ had me in its thrall as it took me to WASPish middle class America.

lake shore

At this tome’s core is the eponymous play. Around it Ms Miller builds a saga of falling in and out of love in several of its variations. It is cleverly constructed from the perspective of several souls connected with the stage production – an actor, the playwright, her boyfriend’s mother, this mother’s would be lover and so on. It’s post Twin Towers, but nonetheless very much in the shadow of that event. It is a deeply satisfying work, one that is sad to depart from on completion – a tribute to Sue M’s skill in unravelling the various entanglements of her characters as they come to terms with an unexpected, high profile loss.

Now back to Tom. Was he the most fortunate of men? Well, in one sense he managed to luck in throughout most of his adult life – as he continued to do so with the neighbour right at near life’s end – but at what cost? He had the ability, deep into a marriage, to still enrapture younger women, such as his daughter’s bestie – who ultimately caused his political downfall – he was the Senator in ‘The Senator’s Wife’ – but not him to change his philandering ways. But we have more questions. Who was this Alison Miller who was with him when his health finally crumbled? Why did his wife remain devoted, contriving an unconventional arrangement with him on top of her own affair with Paris? She continued to have satisfying intercourse, at regular intervals, with him throughout their long estrangement. Then, most poignantly, at the end – there was the question of what was ailing Meri when she gave him the gift of her breasts? The story of the Senator is related to us through the mouthpieces of both Meri and his long, not-so-suffering wife Delia. The time frame is from the seventies till near present day, but concentrating on the last decade of the previous century.

lake shore2

Of Miller’s two offerings and despite the attractions of the first reviewed, it is this second tale that had the most impact – an absorbing, unputdownable page-turner. Neither of the novels strayed too far from the author’s own Bostonian home – although she has had flirtations herself with northern California. Miller writes of her New England region with much affection – and similarly of the type of people who reside there. She has them down to a tee. Progressing through her seventies now, her own talent displays nary a sign of being in decline.


Eddie and Julianne, Felicity and Alec

It is the season for gongs. As at the time of this scribbling the culmination of it all, those Oscars, are yet to be announced. But it’s a fair call that, with their nominations, Eddie and Julianne would be, for many ardent cinema goers, the hot tips in their respective best actor categories. One is a near novice, the other an old hand – and after viewing the two vehicles transporting them towards golden statuettes, I can see where many keen observers would be coming from.

For my money, as terrific as his performance was in ‘The Theory of Everything’, Eddie Redmayne would still be behind Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Keaton. To start with, their films (‘The Imitation Game’, ‘Birdman’), were much stronger products. As for the ladies, Felicity gets a look in for the main gong as well, but Julianne’s was the more demanding outing – although I would suggest one still short of Academy standard.

‘The Theory of Everything’ and Ms Moore’s ‘Still Alice’ remain extremely worthy movies. They are well crafted affairs and a pleasure to sit through – and that’s saying something, considering their potentially harrowing subject matter.

It seems Eddie, with his particular body and looks, was a dead cert to play the great Stephen Hawking – although Benedict has had a go too in a production for the small screen. Hawking’s mega-intelligence is beyond my comprehension, as is how he has lived on all these years, considering his disabilities. His initial distressing prognosis was one of only a warranty for a couple more calendars. He’s had two marriages and produced offspring – so there! Eddie’s physical performance is mesmerising – the contortions he had to force his body and face into! The outcome was a thoroughly convincing semblance of the wheel-chair bound, mute scientist – but the strain on the actor must have been immense. There is little one could quibble with over his garnering of a Golden Globe. That Keaton became the parallel bestie makes for an interesting tussle at the major award. The film, at times, attempts to explain, in layman’s terms, Hawking’s ground breaking theories, but this punter was none the wiser. This aspect of his life is downplayed, though, to concentrate on his personal affairs. It strongly features his first wife – after all, the film is based on her memoirs. One cannot fault another contender in Felicity Jones here – but I thought the more interesting performance came from Maxine Peake as his nurse/second missus. It took me a while to figure out this was radiant star of ‘Silk’ and less radiant one of ‘The Village’, two classy television offerings. She is a scene stealer in this. It was sure tough for Stevie H and his first Mrs Hawking, as his disease took hold, in the days before fame alleviated their financial woes somewhat. There was little that could be done to aide his shrivelling body, or ease the pressure on Jane to cope, in these early times. I imagine, in reality, it would have been ten times tougher than the film portrayed, as would have been Alice’s struggles in the movie that carries her name. Prior to my outing to see the former gem, I only vaguely knew about the famous physicist’s private life. ‘The Theory of Everything’ opens this up and – sorry if this is a spoiler – it is gratifying that both Stephen Hawking and Jane achieve happiness in their later lives.


Of course, for the affliction carried by Julianne Moore’s character in ‘Still Alice’, there is no possibility of a happy ending – not even Hollywood could conjure that. Alzheimer’s doesn’t grant second chances – and it is particularly churlish towards its host when it is early onset. I was disappointed in some ways by this movie – but conversely glad I was. I must admit I was expecting something more akin to the gut-wrenching ‘Amour’ – with the Oscar contender’s performance needing to be more extreme – for want of a better word. We all know what this highly regarded actor is capable of and she has truly been one of my favourites for many a long year – ever since she stunned me, the world and the Dude in the classic ‘The Big Lebowski’. But with ‘Still Alice’, despite the ravages the disease inflicts on her mind, her role was not as confronting as I expected. The package as a whole seemed a mild take on what must be so incredibly difficult for any family unit in such circumstances. Maybe because this one is relatively affluent, with the funds to make it as comfortable as possible for an afflicted mother and wife, this was not so much  the case. Hopefully, though, the movie’s success may bring dementia sufferers in from the cold. At one stage Alice states that she’d rather have had contracted any form of cancer than the mental hell she knew was on the cards for her – then she would have felt less of a social outcast. Moore carries it all off with aplomb, and there are scenes that one thinks ‘shoot me if this ever happens to me.’ Praise must also be given to those actors playing off both her – and equally with Redmayne’s offsiders.

I have a soft spot for Felicity Jones after watching her in her entrancing previous turn, as Dickens’ lover, in ‘The Invisible Woman’. And she was up to speed as Hawking’s wife in ‘TTOE’ – but I think the fact that she too is nominated for best actress says something about the quality of roles for women available over the last twelve months. As Jane she is believable as a woman torn between being a dutiful spouse to a man a mere whisper of the one she fell in love with and with wanting to lead a normal life. This predicament becomes especially galling when a very comely music teacher becomes a de facto member of their family. Another old hand, in Alec Baldwin, gives a quiet but nuanced performance as once more a partner going above and beyond the call. In some reviews he has been criticised that his emotions should have been more overt throughout – but he’s male, he holds stuff in – and of course he adores his Alice dearly, in any form. He stands back – it is Moore’s show.


So, we’ll soon find out if my Oscar ruminations will come to pass – but my tips are compromised due to those wild horses that wouldn’t drag me to the cinema to see films like ‘American Sniper’ or ‘Whiplash’ – and I found ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ clever but trite. Still, the two films above continue the run of cinematic excellence the brand new year has produced. Go Benedict and Michael.

Trailer ‘The Theory of Everything’ =

Trailer ‘Still Alice’ =