Monthly Archives: July 2015

The Short Long Book – Martin Flanagan

I think of him during another year of tribulation for his club – blessedly not my club, but any club that has had to go through what this one has damages the game I love so much. This individual I think about is as competitive as they come. He crossed over just before the shit hit the fan. Deep down, I wonder what he thinks now. He knew the window had closed at his previous club – one that had come so close, but yet had fallen short at the final hurdle. Soon it was headed for a stint of cellar-dwellering, despite his best efforts. He wanted so much for the ultimate. It looked a seriously stronger list where he opted to head to. Guided by a canny coach, a former champion of the outfit, they were on the up and up, starting to look the goods – or so he reasoned. Now, a couple of seasons in, there is no let up from the pain some might say that this mighty club has inflicted on itself. It just goes on and on. The players, for the most part, have been stoic and loyal, despite the testing times. The captain, as courageous and straight-talking as they come, has admitted that a recent injury, seeing him off the field for the long haul, came as somewhat of a relief. There is debate as to whether he will continue on carrying the load, such has been the pressure of the messy affair. And the player I am thinking about, looking at his old team, under a new coach who is building them back up and now possessing a list full of talent, in his more reflective moments, must be shaking his head. Yet he will suit up and go into battle week after week for his new employer, still giving his all because that is the way he is made. But along with his colleagues, be must wonder if there will ever be an end to it – will it all eventually be too much and the grand old club will be bent and beaten. He says the right adages to the media and works frenetically on the field to paper up the ever widening cracks, but how long before it all comes tumbling down around him? It’s another bitter winter for the Bombers. There is no greater test of his or the club’s character.

And then there’d be Longie. He is a hero from another football age – and still a hero today, even if his playing pomp is far behind him. His era was a time before footy became a corporate game, massaged to suit the big end of town and the demands of a voracious media. Some claim the core fans have been forgotten and the spectacle is but a mere shadow of its former self – but I would disagree vehemently with the latter at least. Longie knows that it has all changed, but for him, a servant of Essendon in his playing days still with strong ties, he had a different battle to fight. In many ways he is still fighting it. He is inscrutable, but he too must be bleeding for his beloved club, as well as for a coach/father who is back there to lend a hand; to see if a wise old head can help drag it back from out of the mire. It’s not his fight though – Sheeds can have it on his own. It’s not that he is not up for a job, but he has stood tall in the past on another issue and that particular journey is the one he feels he needs to see to the end. And as we have seen in recent times, with all the brouhaha over the Adam Goodes debacle, there is still much to be done off the field. Back in the day, with Sheedy at his side, he changed attitudes and made our indigenous game a safe haven for indigenous sportsmen, a place where they can display their magic for our collective wonder. We are all in thrall of what the Jettas, the Franklins, the Ryders and the Riolis bring to the table for our fantastic sport.

One of our leading writers on Aussie Rules, Martin Flanagan, took Michael Long on and has devoted a fair amount of time over the last decade trying to pin him down so as to construct a linear biography. It hasn’t worked. He failed. It was impossible from the get go – as impossible as it seems to be for Longie’s team to extricate themselves from the bogey-man that envelopes them today.

short long

What we have, instead, is ‘The Short Long Book’ – a lovely play on words to describe an equally lovely product. And it is that perhaps with this factual novella-sized work we get to the touchstone of the man better that a more traditional hagiography would ever do – for that is what a biography of this man could not help but be. For what he’s done and continues to do he is universally admired – including by Flanagan, such a capable renderer of words. Nicky Winmar may have provided the photographic symbol, but Long provided the story and the grunt to get it done. He was a black man who took that long walk to change perceptions – and he took the nation along with him. At its termination he told a nay-saying Prime Minister a few home truths.

In telling the yarn of how he failed to pin his elusive quarry down, the author has come up with a mini-gem. There are yarns within the one great tale too, dominated by the time Michael L took Flanagan into the desert lands and the Top End of his people so he’d understand more. It is also the saga of how MF became the Great White Hunter to Longie and his mob. In such tales, tall but true, we are given a hint of what makes such a mesmerising subject tick – one that, despite his elusiveness, is an out and out hero.

Flanagan, Martin

Martin F tells of how a Longie would relate to him a story, but the telling could take several years to complete as he would deliver it one sentence at a time. The book is brim full with tellings of these wonderful stories. There’s the young Longie sleeping regularly on his mother’s grave. At a similar age he found all his belongings on the family lawn when he dared to float the idea that his future lay with basketball rather than Aussie Rules. He got the message loud and clear on that one. And there’s………well there’s plenty more, but it is a short tome. Better you go out and purchase your own copy. But, just to pique interest a little more, in it you will find a hilarious description of the great footballer’s running style, another of Dermie’s infamous shirt-front of Paul Van Der Haar and best of all, there’s the magpie goose.

The nation will remember the Essendon star for his ‘Mandela’ year, 1995. To his credit, the villain of the piece, Collingwood’s Paul Monkhurst, now stands alongside Michael Long as an advocate for racial tolerance. At that time, when the black man he targeted with his racial tirade reacted by standing up for a principal and telling us all it would, from now on in, definitely not be left on the field on that day nor any other. He pointed out where we were all failing; he pointed us towards a better tomorrow.


Unlike many commentators, I refuse to concede that our game has lost its soul. In recent days we have only to look to the footy family’s coming together over the death of a coach who went before his time; as well as for a champion’s sister passed before hers. I also know that the great club of Michael Long, Kevin Sheedy, James Hird and countless other legends, as well as now a player who seeks grand final glory for himself, will rise to the top again


The Long Walk website =

Gemma and Mia – Madame(s) Bova(e)ry

Gemma and Mia have both been the tragic wife in two new takes on a French classic, Flaubert’s eternal ‘Madame Bovary’. They both, the actresses and the movies themselves, bring something very individual in doing so – one much more than the other.

Mia Wasikowska’s vehicle is by far the straighter retelling of the two. The Canberran is on an upward trajectory since her debut in local production ‘Suburban Mayhem’. Prior to that she’d had some appearances in the usual soaps, had given up a promising future in ballet and claims to owe her cinematic poise to her parents. Both professional photographers, they were constantly placing her before the camera lens. And no wonder – what a photogenic young lady! She’s a self-starter. At an early age she was spiriting herself off to every Australian talent agency listed and eventually one took a punt, casting her ethereal looks around the traps to see if there were any takers. There soon were and she was away. At only seventeen Hollywood came calling, casting her in HBO’s ‘In Treatment’, as a suicidal gymnast. Big screen appearances followed. Her breakout role came playing Alice in another adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s classic tale. It helped that the director was Tim Burton. Later came ‘Jane Eyre’, ‘Stoker’, as well as ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’. Then the ingenue returned home for ‘Tracks’ and Tim Winton’s ‘The Turning’. To come is ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’.

madame b

Her ‘Madame Bovary’ is quite routine, some might say even plodding. Directed by Sophie Barthes, it is the first time that a woman has been at the helm for a film production of the novel, but it’s still somewhat of a let down all for that. This is a saga so repeated that to start at the end, for which the director has been criticised, hardly matters. We all know the journey, but there was little deviation from a rote telling here. A young woman is taken away from a convent by a hubby-to-be she hardly knows and after a village wedding, she settles down to life in a dank, bleak Normandy. The groom, the local doctor, is distant and leads a narrow existence. Her life soon becomes stultifyingly boring so she takes lovers and engages in the equivalent, back then, of on-line shopping (emporium catalogues), placing the couple deep in debt. In the end, she sees no way out but to take the ultimate step. The costuming of the film is really the only stunning feature but, dear me, why did the director have her actors, a mix of nationalities, speak so heavily in Americanese? To appeal to where the money is? It just made it all sound quite hokey.


In the end, Madame B is just a plaything for her assistants in cuckolding the good doctor. She’s is naive putty in the hands of the rapacious merchant Monsieur Lheureux- an odious Rhys Ifans. His playing thereof is perhaps the film’s highlight. Mia does an okay job in the lead as a none-too-bright ninny. In truth, it doesn’t require great acting chops, although she is beautiful poured into her array of fancy outfits – and I did appreciate the way her beauty seemed to mature as the offering progressed.

Screening simultaneously to Madame Bovary is the latest version of ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’, headed by a luminous Carey Mulligan. If one had to make a choice as to which production to spend a dollar on, get oneself to the latter would be my advice.

‘Gemma Bovery’ has now left our screens, but inevitably will soon be out on a smaller format. It is a much lighter take on the cautionary tale – and here rural France is sun-dappled and most appealing. It updates the whole business to current times, but still with a tragic outcome despite, for the most part, being played as a form of farce.

Gemma B (Gemma Arterton) breezes in from across the Channel, with hubby in tow, to set up residence next to Flaubert-loving retiree Martin Joubert (Fabrice Luchini). The lesser lights all are more than adequate in their roles, but as one would expect, it is a showcase for the sensuous Ms A.


She’s one of my favourites, this ravishing thesp. Although being in the game for a while, her breakout performance seemingly is still yet to come, despite the fact being a Bond girl figures on her CV. The poor girl has even lost roles she would be superb in due to her perceived lack of star pulling-power. Nevertheless, she still has managed to pile up quite a resume on the large and small screen. Her debut was the romp ‘St Trinians’ in 2007. She was Strawberry Fields in ‘Quantum of Solace’, had lead roles in the underwhelming ‘Clash of the Titans’ and ‘Tamara Drew’, then she flounced around in the footlights for ‘Made in Dagenham’ – the musical. She’s played Hardy’s Tess on tele. Her bravest and most demanding role, to date, was in ‘The Disappearance of Alice Creed’. Here a kidnapping victim gets her ultimate revenge, but not before much gritty realism takes place. It caused some well-founded controversy on its release. I can but imagine the fortitude it took for her to take on such a taxing story.

But as Gemma Bovery, she is all charm and sparkling, come hither eyes. She happily has an affair behind her husband’s back under the watchful gaze of Joubert – a gaze that becomes obsessive, with him soon perceiving she is headed for deep do-do. And when this did come it was quite a shock, given the tone of the piece up until that point. Her retribution was not at all in the manner of the original. Do the explanations for this version of it stand up to close scrutiny? You be the judge on viewing this fine addition to the oeuvre. To me, despite this, it was a joy, coming to us in a manner we expect of the French. Another woman, this time Anne Fontaine, of ‘Coco Avant Chanel’ fame, was guiding the cast along the narrative and it is most entertaining.

I know I’ll be accused of being unpatriotic, but in this battle of the two Madame Bova(e)rys, the luscious Gemma wins, hands down.

gemma b

Trailer for ‘Madame Bovary’ =

Trailer for Gemma Bovery =

Son and Father


She’s as keen as mustard, is Janet Carding. That was the tone of a feature article on her in our local daily recently. What was once a fusty and in places, woebegone collection of bits and pieces, bibs and bobs, has now been transformed into a happening hub. It’s not quite up there with its newer, flashier, brassier, edgier colleague further up river (MONA), but it’s also not too shabby in comparison, thank you very much. The last time your scribe visited, on a mid-winter morning, TMAG (Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery) was pumping with people. Ms Carding is newly in the top job. Considering funding restraints – current governments tend to hold such meccas of culture and community activity low on their priority lists – she has a task ahead of her. But she is very determined to maintain standards and patronage. There are plans as big as kunanyi, our city’s stolid overseer, to further expand TMAG, but for the present, it’s a holding process for her until purse strings loosen.

Janet Carding has the view that our local museum is here ‘…to tell Tasmanian stories,…’ and that these will be ‘…forever shifting’. She wants it to be not only the go-to location for tourists to discover much about the island they’re visiting, but somewhere for Hobartians to return to over and over again. She eschews the notion that it be a ‘Night at the Museum’ clone, a ‘…big, stuffy, boring institution full of dusty showcases and uniformed guards saying ‘Shhh…’ That was the old TMAG, not the vibrant new face it displays to its public today – and will continue to do so under her watch.

The first exhibition that came on-line after she took up her tenure, back in April, was ‘The Suspense is Awful – Tasmania and the Great War’. That was what I perambulated down Argyle Street to its site between city and docks that morning to see. By the end of my viewing I was impressed. During the hour or so I spent perusing I had been moved to tears several times. And that is also where I discovered a letter from a father to his son, both personages being intimately involved with another museum. It was a missive, together with its accompanying few words of explanation, that piqued my interest and left me dewy-eyed. It also caused me to take to the ether and to do a little imagining as well.

Launceston’s Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery (QVMAG) has had a similar make-over to its southern cousin. It was there that the two men in question spent a very large part of their working lives.

Herbert Henry Scott died on March 1st, 1938. I have no idea whether his son, Eric Oswald made it back for his funeral. He had just commenced some travels in the other hemisphere. I suspect not, given the state of international transport back then – the flying boat service to and from Britain only commenced later that year – see, I’ve done my research. So this is where the imagining comes in. I imagined that somehow he was there to say farewell to his father. What follows is perhaps something akin the eulogy he would have given from a pulpit somewhere in the city on the Tamar, before his father was taken away and laid to rest in Carr Villa Cemetery.

My dear family, my dear friends and friends of my father – I am standing before you, on this sombre occasion, to tell you something of my father – of the man I respected and loved. I will tell you a little of his life and deeds, as well as how a letter from him to me changed the course of my life. You all know his character, you all know how admired he was in this community, particularly in the scope of his preoccupation with the surrounds of this beautiful island that has added so much knowledge of it to the scientific world. You all know the immense contribution he made to our local museum, a place that has afforded most of us assembled here hours of wonder through the many exhibitions he curated. You all know the tireless hours he willingly gave up to enhance that city asset. We also all know, that as I speak, war clouds are again gathering over Europe and that gives me such a heavy heart due to the knowing of what he, my mother and my sister went through during the years of the Great War. Many of you before me also were sorely tested during that period. I will relate to you my own testing time during the last year of that war and how my father was able to prevail on me to take, or rather not take, a certain course of action.

My father was London born, grew up in the United States of America, returning to the UK at age eleven to be apprenticed to a cabinet maker – a trade that would hold him in good stead in later life, building display cases. He was a sickly young man and he was advised to migrate to a climate possessing cleaner air. That turned out first to be New Zealand, but eventually Launceston. After various occupations he was invited to take up the position for which he has become well known and even revered in our city – that of curator of our museum, the Queen Victoria. It was two years after that I came into the world.

Before he took up this position he had been noted by the powers to be as a fine chronicler of the natural environment of Northern Tasmania and he was keen for the Queen Victoria to reflect that. At the onset he found the place, on close inspection, to be in a state of neglect and disarray. He took wholeheartedly to the task of transforming it into the pride of the city it is today. In fact, it would be fair to say he became obsessed by the never-ending tasks he found necessary to complete single-handedly there. My father could be equally seen dusting its various collections as he could be pouring over the books, trying to balance the meagre budget, in his broom-closet of an office. The museum also became a home for his teaching; the passing on of his knowledge of the natural world to students of all ages. He was particularly sort after for his intimate awareness of the native marvels of his beloved adopted island.

The museum expanded during his tenure, adding new galleries and acquiring another building in which to exhibit what previously could not see the light of day due to lack of space. Every new showing he would have to set up himself. He was also busy publishing learned accounts of the natural history of our environs. To my mind, he was a great man; a great man that all who are gathered here will retain positive memories of. He will sorely be missed for his contribution to our community. Of course, as family, we will miss a loving husband and father.

As you are all aware, since 1930 I have worked alongside my father at the Queen Victoria. I am with heavy heart, but nonetheless excited, to be taking over in his role a curator after I complete my travelling scholarship.

In conclusion, I wish to relate to you some of the contents of a letter my dear father wrote to me on the 16th of May, 1918. It was the last year of the conflict and we had discussed the previous evening my desire to do my bit for my country now that I was finally old enough. I informed him that I would be shortly leaving for the front. He was a persuasive letter writer and found it easier to formulate his feelings and arguments in that format rather than verbally. He knew of my mother’s would be reaction to this news and was well aware of the fact that I may not return. Friends of ours had lost loved ones and he determined that I should not be among them. Without that letter there is every possibility I would not be standing here, sending him off, this hour. In part, these are the words he put to paper to me:-

‘Dear Eric
Apropos of our talk last night respecting your keen desire to go to the great war, I wish to pen you a line or two. I have to ask you a very hard thing, namely to put your love for your mother in front of your fixed idea of your duty to State. The decision on your part to serve at the front would end her life with worry so I ask you to spare that life for you and your sister, and also for myself. The law of love for a mother overrules all but the deepest call of state or country.
Always your friend and best chum

In the circumstances, back then, he well knew that he was asking me to make the hardest of calls, given the pressure at the time for all men of my age, who were reasonably of sound health, to sign up. He was well aware of how many in the community would brand me with cowardice and I know it was not a plead he took lightly in the making. Such was my respect I acceded to his wishes.

Thank you for bearing with me for these few words. I will continue to dearly lament the passing of my father for some time.

Now as a father myself I have, since that sojourn to TMAG, often thought what a thing it was for that other father, long ago, to make such a request of a son. How much it must of taken out of him to dissuade him from going – and how relieved he would have been that he was successful in that argument. I would imagine there would be some Muslim fathers around the country at the moment suffering in the same way, anxious that their sons not be tempted by the zealots of IS. In those years, though, the anguish of such a great number of parents, fearing a son joining up and facing the likelihood of death in a foreign land, must have taken a terrible toll. I thought on all that after I read that letter in the TMAG that morning.

No doubt Eric used the occasion, to a degree, to set the record straight – and all too soon another war would again sorely test him. He had already been appalled by what he had seen in earlier travels immediately after the first war, especially how the rest of the world treated the German people who were innocent pawns in the games their leaders had played in the years pre-1914. That and the letter would possibly prove instrumental in Eric deciding to become a conscientious objector, on religious grounds, during the next war. For that he lost his position at the Queen Victoria and was imprisoned.

Before he joined his father, Eric was a teacher, plying his calling at such places as Epping Forest, Devonport and Ulverstone. At the latter he met and married fellow chalkie, Freda Lloyd. After the Second World War Eric returned to his teaching career.

In his later years he became, to his own admittance, quite eccentric and reclusive, dedicating himself to a study of sea-life. He co-authored ‘Fishes of Tasmania’, published in 1983. He wrote over eleven thousand quatorzains, a form of verse – one every day. He was fatally hit by a car in 1987. Eric Scott was survived by a son, as well as two daughters, no doubt giving him also a great understanding of the import of that father’s letter he treasured to his dying day – a letter that may have saved a life. But at what cost to son and father?

queen vic

Website for the Queen Victoria Museum (above) =

Website for the ‘The Suspense is Awful – Tasmania and the Great War’, TMAG = ‘The Suspense is Awful – Tasmania and the Great War’.

When the Killing's Done – TC Boyle

‘And dogshit wrapped in neat little plastic bags. Does that drive her crazy? Yes it does. That people should take something natural, waste, feces (sic), the end product of an animal process, and seal it in plastic for future archaeologists to unearth from landfill in a thousand years is pure madness. This world. This skewered and doomed world.’

TC (Thomas Coraghessan) Boyle is one weird geezer. He looks weird and from all reports, behaves weirdly too – an eccentric, perhaps, with his slick looks and flamboyant dress. This professor of literature, for the University of Southern California, is well known around the traps for the equally flamboyant readings he gives. He’s a latter day Dickens.

He’s pushing up towards seventy now, this oh-so-cool dude, with a literary legacy that will mark him, in future years, not only as a one-off, but also a true great of turn of the millennium literature. He has been described as a maximalist novelist – one who eschews the simplicity of style advocated by many notables of last century – the warriors who put the American Dream into print. We are now in a new age, a complex age, with Boyle reflecting that. He is as flamboyant in his prose as he is in everything else – but here’s the rub. Although the reader may not have discovered previously in print a whole plethora of the magical sounding words he divines from who knows where and litters his oeuvre with, we know immediately their meaning – no need to go rushing off to dictionaries. It’s all explained in the context. He is amazing, his output so varied in narrative, but always so seductive in reeling the reader into each novel’s web.

tc boyle01

And ‘When the Killing’s Done’ is no exception. The opening paragraph to this opinion piece on the tome is of an Alma Boyd Takesure rumination on one of her early morning beach perambulations. And it is a pet (pun intended) peeve of mine, this nonsense of wrapping up canine crap, particularly when it’s taken to the ridiculous extreme, such as on our island’s gorgeous beaches. Here dogs may be permitted to run as free as the breeze, just as long as we follow the firm instructions on some rusting signage to clean up after them – with bags conveniently provided. On Bondi I see the point, but on our strands, where humans are rarely in mass numbers, it’s quite frankly ridiculous.

Alma is an environmental fixer-upperer of islands, those set in that same archipelago, off the Southern Californian coast, as Boyle’s subsequent offering, ‘San Miguel’. She works for the National Parks Service, tasked with clearing those isles of their feral populations, restoring them to pristine condition. But to her arch-enemy, Dave la Joy, any form of culling is an anathema. He’s a rabid greenie – as far left in that activist grouping as it’s possible to be. He will stop at nothing to protect every living organism on those islands, come hell or high water – and the latter figures prominently. He does not stop even at introducing fresh feral species to confound Alma and her crew. At first I read this character with disbelief. Could there be people around so madly fervent in their obsessions as to be unhinged? His main squeeze, Anise, a child of the islands, seems to put up with him almost to the end – I suppose it helps that Dave isn’t a short of a crust, being a successful businessman, owning a chain of profitable stores. But such is Boyle’s skill in the telling, in an odd way, I ended up liking this cove who obviously wasn’t the full shilling. He’s one of the author’s more out-there creations.

Even if the ending of the book didn’t unravel in the direction it seemed to me to be heading, in that sanity is eventually restored (not really a spoiler), it didn’t seem to detract. Boyle claims he places immense thought into the conclusions to his tales, but is open-minded about them till he actually gets there – or so he says. This could have gone either way.

Boyle is not a mega-seller here, although some of us may have seen the movie version of his ‘Road to Wellville’, based on a cereal king. Nonetheless he is well worth a library borrowing just to get a taste of what this unique wordsmith is all about.


TC’s website =

Bathsheba Everdene

It’s a name to fall in love with. Bathsheba Everdene. Bathsheba Everdene. Say it out loud a few times. Roll it around the tongue a couple more. Magical.

And fall in love, I did, with that feisty miss – one who was before her time. Looking back, I initially presumed I would have given her my heart from the print version, rather than the one projected up there on the big screen. There was, of course, no VHS or DVD back then as the sixties imploded and turned the corner into the next decade. After all, I had spent my uni years working through the remaining Hardy novels after first encountering him via the tragic Tess in Year 12. She also caused, in me, much inner longing – for what, I wasn’t quite sure.

Julie Christie Far from the Madding Crowd

But, having completed my due diligence, the ether told me the film was released in 1967 and therefore the Bathsheba I was first so enamoured of must have been the Julie Christie version. It’s so long ago now that I viewed this film version and read the novel of ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’. I remember the sheep falling off the cliff and the stolid farm hand, played back then by Alan Bates (who else?), treating Miss Everdene’s flock for the bloat. And I could bring back how dashing Terence Stamp looked in his uniform playing the cad, wooing our heroine for a fast shilling to get him out of debt. He seduced her in no time flat despite the worthy Gabriel Oak, the farm hand, having stuck by her through thick and thin – completely besotted. After she pranked unfortunate rich neighbour on Valentines Day, William Boldwood (Peter Finch) was also pursuing her hand and being driven almost insensible by her constant refusals.

So, with a fond memory of a bygone infatuation, I traipsed off to see the 2015 version of the great work a few weeks ago, optimistically expecting the new Bathsheba, Carey Mulligan, to entrance me as much as her predecessors.

madding crowd

I was not let down. I enjoyed every moment of it – and the story came back to me almost in its entirety, even if I still could not recall how it was all going to pan out. The resurrection of Frank Troy, the slimy soldier-cove was still a great surprise. This time around Tom Sturridge played the execrable, but charismatic, gold-digger to the hilt of oiliness, with the marvellous Matthias Schoenaerts compelling as the faithful Oak. ‘Masters of Sex’ leading hand Michael Sheen ably filled Finch’s shoes as the lovelorn elder suitor. And, as for Carey, if she didn’t win you over as Daisy in ‘The Great Gatsby’, she’s sure to in this. As Bathsheba she takes on a man’s job with steely determination and is the independent woman personified, that is until she’s completely undone by the odious Frank Troy. She would not ride side-saddle, she would not be bidded down for her grain seeds just because she was a woman and she proclaimed she would not give herself in wedlock for gain She’d do it only for love. Ha!

madding crowd01

Starring beautifully, as well, was the lush Dorset countryside, with director Thomas Vinterberg ably recreating the descriptions of landscape that Hardy mastered for the printed page. And if you like the director’s take on this classic, look out for a DVD copy of his chilling tale of what can go wrong in the classroom with his astounding ‘The Hunt’. Mads Mikkelsen steals the show in that harrowing journey, but in it there’s no one to match the sublime Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba Everdene, Bathsheba Everdene, Bathsheba Everdene……

Official trailer =

David Bailey

Despite the title, no, this isn’t about the esteemed Brit photographer – what hasn’t been written about him? No, this is about another camerasmith entirely – one whose family nick-named her that because of her obsession for taking pictures from a young age. These days she’s very accomplished at her art, although it would be fair to say she’ll never be in the same league as the great Bailey. But, nonetheless, she is making a splash and she caught my eye.

Abandoned Fishing Boat, Dungeness, Kent, England

It was the boat, first of all, that drew me in during a systematic trawl through an on-line photography site – then the head. Both were black and bleak, the former beached on a grassy sward like a wannabe Ark. On a closer inspection it wasn’t that large a wreck of a vessel – it was all in the framing. With the other, the head, broken and distended – well, it just seemed so incongruous. What was it doing there in that desolate location? Most likely it’s a sculptural installation designed to surprise. Perhaps it is attached to something we cannot discern due to a rise in the land. But whatever the case with these two images, I decided then and there there was much, much to admire about this woman’s product.

And, as her family intimated when they accorded her the appellation of the other famed lensman, Dawn Black freely admits she is addicted to capturing images. As she stated in a recent interview. ‘… I delight in the creativity that photography gives me to interpret (landscapes)…in my own way.’

She has this knack for the art in her gene pool, with both her father, as well as his father in turn, keen amateurs with a camera The elder man worked all his life for Ilford, in the now redundant profession of film processing. From an early age Ms Black had a Kodak in hand. She later studied architectural design at university, but her fervour for pointing a camera and snapping re-imposed itself once digital technology arrived. She claims she is not a manipulator of an image, preferring to present what the eye nets via the lens.

"The Light of The Moon" by Igor Mitoraj

It has also helped that she has been a bit of a gypsy in her life. She’s now resident in the Netherlands, but English born Black has lived in Wales, Scotland and Singapore, before finally settling on The Hague to raise her family. Her work also features product from the US, Italy and France. The mother of four has found that she can make a reasonable living selling her prints and since 2009, her offspring apart, this has been the main focus of her world.

Dawn Black has deliberately tried to create her photos in the old style of black and white darkroom production that her grandfather would have been up to his neck in. Her attachment to an older style is perhaps the reason why my focus was so drawn to her. No doubt, if he is still around, Granddad would be awfully proud of his now not so little David Bailey.

dawn s black Dawn Black

Her site’s on line – check her out =

Off to the Great War': Woolloomooloo, 1915 – Peter Stanley, June 1, 2015

off to war

In 1915, more men volunteered for the Australian Imperial Force than in any other year. July was the peak month, with over 36,000 men enlisting—one-tenth of the total number who served in the war.
Herbert Fishwick’s photograph depicts a volunteer walking past the big waterside sheds at Woolloomooloo—today probably waterfront apartments worth hundreds of thousands of dollars—just before he embarks on the transport that will carry him to Egypt, then Gallipoli or Britain and the Western Front.
None of the individuals in the photograph is named, but they stand for the almost 100,000 men who left that year for the war and for those who farewelled them.
The volunteer carries his kitbag on his shoulder. One of the two young women—his sisters, perhaps, or even daughters—carries his rolled-up overcoat, with his service cap dangling from it; he’s preferred to wear his slouch hat. The woman on the far right could be his mother or wife. The women wear white; this may be autumn or spring. The young ones are buoyant. Only the older woman seems to be ambivalent about farewelling him. She might one day be wearing black.
If this is early to mid-1915, the subjects of this photograph have not yet seen the full extent of casualties on Gallipoli. In July 1915, the first wounded from Gallipoli will arrive home, also at the wharves of Woolloomooloo.
The photographer, Herbert H. Fishwick, was born in Britain and became well known in the commercial field in New South Wales and beyond, working for The Sydney Mail and The Sydney Morning Herald. He recorded a wide range of subjects, including the Southern Alps (Fishwick was a pioneer skier and kept skiing into middle age); aerial photographs of towns; boxing matches;  landscape scenes—and sheep. The Pastoral Review and Graziers’ Record noted when he died that ‘in the realms of the stud Merino sheep breeding industry he excelled … outstanding amongst these experts in animal photography’. The National Library holds over a thousand of Fishwick’s images.
See the boys larking about—embarkation for them meant a more interesting day out. The lad on the right is about to be yanked out of the frame, but he has been captured forever—a bystander innocent, for now, of the war that will come to dominate his country and, perhaps, his life.

The Blue Room – I initially discovered the photograph and the above piece about it in the June edition of the National Library of Australia Magazine. To me it was the informality of the photograph that seemed to be its significance in an era where posing was de rigeur. The author makes his own educated guesses about the women around the departing infantryman, but I’d like to imagine, displaying the romantic in me, one of them to be his sweetheart – perhaps the damsel to his right who may well have her left arm encircling his back. That would give him something to think about during the terrors that lay ahead for him. It is, I agree, difficult to deduce exactly how old the soldier may be and we’ll never know if he returned to Oz in one piece or forever lies in foreign soil.
I love the look of the lad in the far right hand corner being taken hold of by an unseen parent, we imagine, in order to calm him down amidst all the excitement. Is it his brother to his rear, in the cap, heading off quick smart to escape those same clutches?
For me there is so much to relish about this photograph from an instant in time in the year 1915. Adventure was thought to be over the horizon on the other side of the globe for the unknown soldier captured for all eternity by Fishwick’s lens. All too soon, in a few month’s time, both will know that such send-offs will be little cause for jubilation. That then had to wait till war’s end.

fishwick armistice_photo_

Fishwick – Armistice Day

Summer Sound

Word somehow reached him that ‘real’ surfers hated his music. How would anybody know that? Did those ‘real’ wave-riders phone into radio stations to diss his hits; to slag off how trite and trivial they all were? Surfies I knew back then would be far too laid back for that – but maybe the US variety were different. ‘Back then’ was fifty or so years ago now – no internet, no social media. Could it be that pollsters were paid to walk around SoCal beaches to ask surfer types their opinion as they came in from hanging five out on the break? I don’t think so, but somehow he was told that those guys out on their boards all summer long didn’t dig what he was putting out there – and so he went into another one of his funks because of it.

He didn’t surf himself – although he spent a fair amount of time in a sandpit. Only brother Dennis occasionally hit the swells. But it mattered not. At around the time I was entering my teens they were the sound of summer. They sang of hot cars and surfer chicks, but mainly they sang that ‘…the beach was the place to go.’ And I did, summer after summer – here in Tassie when weather permitted, or when I escaped to Mangoland (where it permitted it all the time). But it’s not this early stuff (‘Surfin’ USA’, ‘California Girls’, ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’, ‘Help Me Rhonda’) that had me hooked, but more the tunes coming out around the time I had my first automobile. Can you remember ‘Sloop John B’, ‘Barbara Ann’, ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’, ‘Then I Kissed Her’, ‘Do It Again’, the iconic ‘Good Vibrations’ and what many, in the know, consider his greatest, ‘God Only Knows’? Later, in my uni years, I kept following him through such albums as ‘Surfs Up’, ‘Holland’ and ‘Sixteen Big Ones’. Although critical successes, he struggled to capture the same commercial profit for those with his band, the Beach Boys, as he did for their isolated singles – the public had moved on.

Sadly, for most of his life, this consummate songsmith, Brian Wilson, was a train wreck of emotion. The movie, ‘Love and Mercy’, tells of his time in the depths of the sandpit – so to speak. It informs us, as well, how he’s come back to us as a survivor – well enough to give the world his performances again. But still, obviously, he’s greatly shaken and stirred. And ironically, he is the only Wilson still standing of the three brothers forming the nucleus of the eternal Beach Boys. They will be forever associated with their Southern Californian musings of what made life so magic and simple before it all went so belly-up with complexity and stress – and perhaps BW contributed to that as well.

love and mercy

It is, as critic Philippa Hawker describes it in her positive take on the movie, a ‘Clever biopic…’ It’s split in two, with Paul Dano playing the younger Brian W as he starts the downward spiral. The second half features John Cusak as the musician at his nadir, following him through his journey back up the slippery slope. At this stage Wilson is in the clutches of his Svengali, Eugene Landy, joyfully and oilily played by Paul Giamatti. Here we follow his attempts, in the eighties, to clumsily woo the woman who will be his ultimate saviour – his now wife, Melinda.

Dano was masterful in bringing the younger version to the screen. He certainly looks the part, unlike Cusack whom, if you’re familiar with the muso-dude, struggles to carry off the role convincingly as there’s no resemblance. Just to emphasise this, the man himself puts in an appearance as the credits roll. But, if you can put all that aside, Cusack, in his aping of Wilson’s mannerisms, goes some way to make that distraction not detract so much as to ruin one’s appreciation of what Brian was up against.

There is much to intrigue with ‘Love and Mercy’ and the way novice director, Bill Pohlad, interweaves the two narratives. As well, he organises it so we go right inside Wilson’s head – both visually and aurally. There is also the joy to be had as we watch the members of the band put together some of their best known music product in the studio. Many of these are mini-symphonies as they try to quench Brian W’s fixation on out-Beatle-ing the Beatles.


Not much screen time is given to his brothers Carl and Dennis, with Mike Love coming out of it as an insensitive tool. More emphasis is placed on the two demons in Brian’s world, Landy and his fruitcake of a father (Bill Camp). Together these two characters well and truly made the remarkable singer/songwriter a blathering wreck, that is, until he meets his own gorgeous, feisty Californian girl, played by Elizabeth Banks.

Thankfully these days he’s back up on stage playing his back catalogue for us, as well as his newer material. But he still so obviously carries the legacy of his trials. At seventy-three we trust he will be around a while longer, for ‘god only knows’, what he created is timeless.


Official trailer for ‘Love and mercy’ =

Katz and the Cashews


Dear Danny
I am a fan. Admittedly I am not the fan I used to be – but there you go. You have been off the boil for quite some time now. Your move to Saturdays has not, it seems, done you any favours. Back in the day, when you were a mid-week regular of the former broadsheet that runs second to the Murdoch press in Yarra City, you were the highlight of my newspaper reading week You outshone all other columnists. You made me laugh – so much so that on occasions I took the paper to school and read your contribution out to my students – making them also chortle with glee, giving them something of joy to remember as they plodded through the hours to freedom.

And now I am going to be brutally frank, Danny. On Saturdays you have come back to the pack – not so bad, I guess, given the quality of my other favs – Flanagan,, Wright and Squires. But even worse, once in a blue moon you also write total drivel. Once upon a time your shtick was consistently delightful – now, not so much. Why, sometimes I do not even bother to complete your contribution. I turn to the other ‘Insight’ columnists, mentioned above, instead. They rarely let me down. But, Danny, even if you have lost your edge, I will never completely forsake you. Each week I do return and on occasions, you still richly reward me to the degree I think, that perhaps, you are back on song.

I suspect doing it for as long as you have it must be supremely difficult to come up with something fresh and original to riff about for each deadline, thus your waning. Some of your fellow regular wordsmiths have now departed – I’d reckon for similar reasons. I lament the passing of Kate Holden still and I now also miss Bob Murphy. I live in hope that’s only because he’s ascended to the captaincy of the Doggies and will return once he’s hung up his boots. But I diverge…

Now I’m about to congratulate you on last week’s effort, Danny. Your rumination on the delicious treats of your youth, when growing up in the sixties – yes I did check on your vintage – was a sparkling gem, brightening a wintery Saturday. It spoke of what you could look forward to being treated to, as a child, when there was some excess money available for such luxuries. You were almost Pythonesque in this memory piece and you inspired me to do similar. Well done.

For you, Danny, in that golden age when the world turned on its head momentarily, before righting itself again, your treats took the form of cashews, mangoes and smoked salmon.

My dear darling Leigh loves cashews too – but unlike your scribe, she is very strong. I’ll often buy her a packet for a treat too – although, in your recollection, they came to you as single units. And you also reported to us that these days, even while composing the very column under examination, you now stuff them down en masse – just as I would if I was let loose on them. No, my Leigh can just allow herself a handful a day and leave it at that. She is an inspiration to me that I can never live up to, so when she offers me the packet to partake of a modicum of its contents, I always decline. A couple are never enough. I truly love cashews, macadamias and pistachios but, as it is no doubt for you too, Danny,once I sample I am then invariably overcome by that dreaded disease from which there is no escape – the munchies. Once I start I can never stop until the receptacle containing the blissful offering is empty.

I am a fifties child, my friend, so therefore I cannot remember cashews ever being around the shelves of our corner grocery shop – supermarkets were a long way off appearing in my regional corner of Tasmania. Peanuts would be there I would think – and mixed nuts, but they were reserved as a Yuletide only attraction. As for mangos and smoked salmon – they were exotica beyond imagination. For the former read a whole pineapple rather than the tinned variety; for the latter a good feed of couta, locally caught, so devoured more or less straight from the sea.

So what were the special treats of my childhood. My parents were by no means rolling in pounds, shillings and pence but we did okay. Here are some of my recollections – not only of the stuff that made me salivate, but of general tucker as well.

Roast chook. Yes, roast chook. Back then the fowl itself came from backyard coops, its flesh a rich yellow in hue. It was served biannually – at Christmas and Easter, wrapped in brown paper and aromatically cooked in the electric frying pan. Just the smell alone tantalised the taste buds beyond belief. Accompanying it on the table were fizzy drinks, originating from a small factory run by Cooee Cordials. Initially they were for only birthdays and other special occasions. I always chose the green – that colour didn’t send me troppo as did the red invariably selected by my mini-mates. There were also the joys of Choo Choo and White Knight bars, as well as the marvellous Cadbury Snack assortment. And clinkers, don’t forget clinkers. But don’t get me stated on the glory years of lolly treats.

These days scallops are a rare treat and crayfish beyond this scribe’s budgetary means – but back in the day they were common fare – albeit still incredibly delicious. Whitebait patties were a regular when in season, as was the greasy, but delectable, mutton bird. Rabbit was either stuffed and placed in the oven for and hour or so, or stewed with a flavoursome bacon gravy. Roo and wallaby were not unheard of either on the table – an acceptable patty could be made from them as the meat was considered rather strong and gamy.

For desserts, Danny, my mother was a dab hand at trifles and sago plum pud and I adored them. Ice cream was generally home-made from condensed milk, but the commercial variety came in cardboard bricks, rather than tubs. We all jostled for the chocolate part in these Neapolitan confections. Jelly contained fruit and I also treasured junket. Rice and macaroni were also considered as sweets, served with copious sugar and milk.

There were Sunday lamb roasts and lamb’s fry with bacon. Much could be done with Belgium sausage, even fried – as was the afore-recalled pineapple. I can remember the first icy poles putting in an appearance, a more sophisticated version of the fruity ice blocks we produced ourselves, or so we thought. I recall the first frozen peas and best of all, the arrival of potato crisps. My father produced from his work case the first I ever laid eyes on – a packet a Samboy barbecue flavoured. I though I’d died and gone to heaven and that taste sensation was probably the cause, for me, of the contagion that is the munchies.

And for breakfast – what else but dripping on toast.

All those memories came back to me, Danny, as I read ‘Remember when Cashews were a Special Treat’ – so thank you for returning me to my own days of yore, in culinary terms. And you are forgiven, Mr Katz, for any past loss of zing – as long as you can still come up with such excellent content, now and again.
Your Still Fan
Steve from the Blue Room

Danny’s column that Saturday =

Harry King of the Posters

One of the joys of summer in Hobart, for me, is to wander around the CBD, or down in Salamanca, when a cruise ship is in. Both locations are abuzz with folk sporting lanyards around their necks, often communicating in foreign tongues and on occasions, asking yours truly for directions or tapping into my local knowledge. I always ask after their provenance and how they are finding us. The word on all their lips seems to be MONA.

Tasmania, particularly down here in the south of our state, is receiving a spike in visitor numbers – not only are more and more ocean liners plying their way to us but airlines are lifting their flights in to cope. Even in winter the recently completed Dark MoFo had the joint hopping and filling hotel beds in the off season. All this is on the back of one visionary man, David Walsh, who is giving our city an edge over its rivals. He continues to plan as big as kunanyi to enhance the burb of his birth.

kelly 02

I remember another time when similar occurred and that was in the early days of Wrest Point, opened in 1973, during my uni stint. As the only casino in Oz the punters flocked in and our former backwater came alive. Then other places caught on and we returned to our slumber.

We are on the cusp of something special, or so it seems. Yet there are also a small group of the well heeled and/or rabid environmentalists who oppose any fresh, innovative ideas to keep the ball rolling. The Battery Point elite, ten in number I believe, have successfully prevented community and tourist access to part of our glorious foreshore because they have cash and therefore, they believe, rights above the rest. Arguments over a cable car to Mount Wellington and a light rail drag on. Even Walsh’s newly proposed tower had its naysayers. All this in tough economic times when our young cannot get jobs!

Ours is a very special place and so alien to the rest of Oz which can focus on beaches, sun, large cultural hubs and the wide open outback. There have been a long line of state government campaigns to attract national and international audiences – some have worked, some have been abysmal.


But let us go back to more innocent times and the first concerted effort on the part of our isle in the southern seas to lure the mainlander to the sublime attractions here. It seemed a no-brainer that the natural wonders to be discovered should tease numerous souls to sail across the Strait. Of course, back then, there weren’t the millions to sink into the multi-media campaigns of today – it was all done on a smaller scale. But it was still seen that our enticements needed to be given a helping hand.

So was it Governor Sir James O’Grady, back in 1926, who set it all in motion with these words?:- ‘I sometimes think that Tasmanians – living in their beautiful surroundings, enjoying their ideal climate, revelling in beauty upon beauty until some of them forget that it is beauty at all – do not realise the bountiful gifts that they have.  I can tell them – and I am glad to do so – that Tasmania is a scenic wonderland without rival, a tourists’ paradise without peer, a holiday Island that has no equal in the Southern hemisphere.  Let your friends of the other States know about these things.’

His comments appeared in the Mercury in September of that year. By November, ET Emmett, head of the Government Tourist Bureau, had commissioned one Harry Kelly to design a series of posters to spruik our island as a serious destination for the Australian tourist pound. What Harry produced are treasured as a pinnacle of advertorial art, with his product having a serious impact in an era way before television and the World Wide Web.

Harry K was a Gallipoli veteran, a resident of Kempton and prominent in local artistic circles. Because of his talents Cadbury at Claremont came to employ him as their art director. Later on he was prominent in producing recruitment posters during the war years, as well as garnering other advertising work.


For his efforts in promoting our Tassie, he was duly praised in an edition of the Hobart newspaper in 1929 – the island was about to find out that it needed every penny it could muster from whatever source:- Tasmania is to be congratulated on the excellent posters that are being designed and printed within the State at the present time for the Tourist Bureau.  The one-sheeters advertising the tourist resorts are works of artistic merit.  The London underground railway has become noted for the series of artistic posters produced to advertise its various lines, and these have been so constantly sought for framing purposes that they are now sold to the public as well as used on hoardings. Two recent paintings by Harry Kelly, the Hobart artist, showing Lake Marion and a trout-fishing scene are worthy artistically of inclusion in such a fine series as that produced by the London underground. Among the Australian States Victoria has produced by far the most striking series of tourist posters but if Tasmania maintains the standard of its recent posters Victoria’s supremacy will soon be challenged.

Gaze on his work promoting the city under Wellington, the wilderness and the lure of the trout – it is still impressive, even in this era of digital complexity.

Recently I was able to view a selection of them in the flesh at the State Library – I refuse to address it under its new branding – and it can still be found around the traps as souvenir items in the form of post cards. Harry Kelly was a pioneer in the promotion of our beloved island and should not be forgotten by history.