All posts by Steve Lovell

On the Couch01

Line of Duty – In Season 4 Leigh finally convinced me to sit down and watch this series with her. ‘You’ll love it,’ she reckoned – I did and have continued to do so. One of the features I appreciated about the UK police procedural was, that as well as the regular cast, well-knowns appear as guests. In 4 it was Thandie Newton and Lee Ingleby. Stephen Graham – if you don’t know the name, you’ll know the face – was in the next instalment and a 6 is promised as soon as the wretched virus allows it to be filmed. Given this, I have retraced my steps back to the very beginning and have now watched what I had been missing out on. Season 1 (Neil Morrissey and Gina McKee), 2 and 3 (Keeley Hawes) were also thoroughly revelled in as I came to know the regulars. Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) is the head of AC-12, a section of the men and women in blue that investigates corruption within – bent coppers in other words. He’s experienced, straight as a dye but with a few issues of his own that become apparent. He has two main off-siders, Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure), who specialises in going undercover, and Steve Arnott (Martin Compston). They are worthy adversaries to the small percentage who are in league with big crime. Now I’m up to date I can safely say it’s one of the best of its genre on the box – available both on Netflix and Stan.

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Hannah – The former platform above brings the Taswegian Gadsby back with her outstanding new one-woman show, ‘Douglas’. The Smithton lass changed the face of international comedy with her previous effort, ‘Nanette’. This time she tones it down somewhat in front of an American audience. They greet her to the stage with a standing ovation, such is her standing now in, well, stand-up. She then right royally manages to take the piss out of her hosts with hardly a mention of the T-word, Trump. There’s much else to delight, other than the knocking of the Yanks. She is unique – and if she’s not already a living national treasure, she darn well should be.

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Mother Father Son – This Brit series (ABCiView) hasn’t totally won over the critics, but my lovely lady and I have found it a reasonable watch, even if the ending took a little believing. But it’s worth it mainly to see Richard Gere go to work on the British class system in his capacity as an unflinching press baron, who puts everything into giving the people exactly what he thinks they want – everything.

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Hightown – Who knew Provincetown, Massachusetts was the gay party capital of the USA? I didn’t, but I sure do now. It’s a pretty hedonist place sitting out there on Cape Cod. In this series on Stan, recently renewed for another season, fisheries inspector Jackie Quiñones (Monica Raymond) is in the thick of it. Then a body is washed up on the beach. Being a Starz production, there’s plenty of sex, drugs, swearing and violence. But pushing all that to one side, it’s also a rattling good story.

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The Cumberbatch – Missing the charismatic Pom on the small (or big) screen? Well, you can catch him in ‘Brexit, an Uncivil War’ (on Stan too). He plays one of the faceless men behind the victorious Exit campaign in the referendum that will eventually forever change the face of Britain. And he’s pretty fantastic in this too. As a television movie it has won plenty of gongs. A bonus is the guy (Richard Goulding) who attempts to replicate Boris’ uniqueness. He’s a hoot.

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Alfie – On the same platform you can see an undoubted worldwide treasure, in Sir Michael Caine, host ‘My Generation’. It takes all of us who can remember, as well as those of us who’d like to, back to the Swingin’ Sixties. All the cultural notables are featured, reminiscing about the short time when Britain again ruled the world. We can marvel at how gorgeous Marianne Faithful, Joanna Lumley and Twiggy were back in the day. Still are of course. We hear the voices of these and other major players as they spin tales of those exciting days before drugs and the war in Vietnam bought it all tumbling down, ruining a generation’s spirit.

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Movies on Stan – There are some terrific titles here that, in recent years, I caught on their cinema release. If they passed you by, they’re worth a gander – ‘Love and Mercy’ (the story of the Beach Boys), ‘Sing Street’ (music is at the heart of this Dublin drama), ‘Military Wives’ (who form a choir to take on the world), Brooklyn (Saoirse Ronan shines), Sully (no plans to fly anytime soon, have you?), ‘Mr Turner’ (biopic of the crotchety artist), Normandy Nude (just a little nudity but mainly a ripping yarn), ‘Hell or High Water’ (the best contemporary western you’ll ever see) and ‘Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool’ (terrific performance from Annette Bening).

We have also recently savoured ‘Baptiste’ (ABCiView), with Tom Hollander to the fore as well as the redoubtable sleuth, ‘Great Asian Railway Journeys (SBSonDemand)’ featuring Portillo at his vibrant best (just wait to you see him try his hand at Thai boxing), Monty Don in raptures over his ‘Japanese Gardens’ (ABCiView) and, taking us back in time, ‘America in Colour’ (SBSonDemand).

His Bobness

Dylan. Like all of us he’s getting on now. 79. The end is nearing – one way or another. But, for his Bobness, there never really will be an end, will there? He’ll just go on and on.

My first encounter with him would have been courtesy of my parents back in the early 60s. They were fans of Peter Paul and Mary and had a few of their LPs. Yes, LPs. ‘Blowing in the Wind’ and ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’ were on high rotation in my family household for a while. Of course, much later, I was to realise that the writer of those protest songs was Bob Dylan.

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It was an album cover, though, that introduced him fully, leading on to his music. I’ve no idea what year that would have been as the memory is of the vaguest nature. It must have been well pre-uni. I was rifling through a stack of somebody’s records – whose I haven’t a clue – when one caught my eye. This was before said covers became an art form – they then usually merely portrayed the performer(s) grinning cheesily back at you. This one was different. It stood out, having a couple seemingly snugly hunkered up together against the elements, walking along a city street. There was a kombi in the background – very popular at the time.

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What if Suze Rotolo had stayed home on July 29, 1961?’ This query and possible answer, written by Mark Ellen and an inclusion in a collection of pieces on the Minnesota folk singer – as he was back then just starting out, looking improbably young – my beautiful daughter gifted me a while ago. Thank you Katie. The answer to the question is that we probably wouldn’t have had Bob and all the wonderful music he’s gifted all of us. Suze was the young lady snuggled up to him on that cover. I assumed then that the first song listed on ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’ would have caught my eye – was it the tune I recognised from one of Mum and Dad’s albums? Methinks I would have then asked my host if he/she would give it a whirl on the gramophone to see. ‘My,’ I would have presumably ruminated, ‘that ain’t like how P, P and M did it at all.’ The voice, with its rasp and sneer, was like nothing I’d heard before, but, along with so many others, I just knew it had something. It undeniably had something. Perhaps even I might of thought he could be a new voice for my generation. It sounded as though he really meant it, being his songs were without the usual syrupy accompaniment you got back in the day. It was so raw. Many would say now that the album’s collection of protest was Dylan’s first hoax.

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Rotolo is no longer with us, succumbing to cancer in 2011. But, aged just 18 when she made the trip to be in the audience that day for a radio broadcast at Manhattan’s Riverside Church, billed as ‘An Afternoon of Folk Music’, she was as far left as it was possible to be. Her parents were avowed communists, very supportive of a Russian spy they knew. She was already a member of CORE. Dylan was apolitical at the time, but Suze changed all that. Roger McGuinn, another habitué of Greenwich Village at the time, reckons the folkster only penned his anti-war songs to impress Suze. You see, he was smitten and remained so during an on again, off again relationship, lasting through till ‘64. So Dylan’s entry into famedom was largely down to her – and ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right’ is regarded, by those in the know, as a kiss-off song preceding the final break-up. ‘Freewheelin’ included two other tunes that have stood the test of time in ‘A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall’ and ‘Masters of War’.

Soon I too was buying his albums as they came out. I can’t remember if the one that first attracted my attention was in my collection or not. If it was, I have no idea where it is now as, once upon a time, vinyl was out of fashion. Who’d have thought! I adored ‘Nashville Skyline’ (1969) and ‘Self Portrait’ (1970) back in my uni days.

Will I buy ‘Rough and Rowdy Ways’? I don’t automatically purchase these days so I’ll have a listen on YouTube or Spotify. So we’ll see.

We do owe thanks to Suze Rotolo, I guess – and then to your Bobness for giving the universe so many anthems of a generation. His crotchety, scratchy greatness will never be dimmed, even by his eventual ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’.

Mark Mordue on Dylan – https://www.smh.com.au/culture/music/from-jfk-to-indiana-jones-and-queen-bob-dylan-s-39th-album-is-a-map-of-the-ages-20200604-p54zm5.html

Shame Anson – Just Shame

The hide of the man. He has been one of my favourite columnists for years, but now, after last weekend’s shocker, I’m not so sure. I was appalled, truly I was – and on behalf of all Hobartians, I’m speaking out. How dare he!

My beautiful lady and I love cruising. It’s a wonderful way to see a little of the world, where the getting there is often more enjoyable – and certainly more restful – than the various destinations en route. We would have been eagerly awaiting out third voyage, one over to our Kiwi neighbour, this coming summer, but the wretched virus put paid to that. We have postponed it till next November and who knows what the world will look like then. But to describe us and all our fellow travellers, on the high seas, as being constantly ‘…drunk on vodka slushies…’ – well, I was highly offended. Granted, a certain small percentage do drink themselves stupid from dawn to dusk, but the vast majority of our maritime companions on board, like us, tipple only in moderation. So, stick that in your cap Mr Cameron. But, if only that was the worst outrage he inflicted in his scribing! That jibe was easily surpassed by what came later in the scandalous column entitled ‘Welcome to the Wasteland’, as you will discover when you read on.

Now nothing beats sailing into Sydney’s magnificent harbour to visit, or terminate, a cruise, but doing so along that gorgeous entrance to my own city must come close. As for Melbourne, as much as I love the place myself, after steaming up the featureless Port Phillip Bay, there’s no comparison to either. I’ve done so on the Spirit (of Tasmania) and, seeing for myself what the main thrust of what Anson’s column is on about, it’s no wonder that the TT Line will soon be docking at an obviously more attractive site in Geelong’s Corio Quay. The Age writer does adequately describe Port Melbourne’s inadequacies as a destination for vessels bringing in Taswegians and other voyagers to Yarra City. It is, yep, dullsville. I had a more detailed look on a later stay when I hopped on the 109 from the city to explore the area around Station Pier. I was soon hopping back on that tram.

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Cameron is so ashamed of that bayside suburb as a disembarkation point – and I can hardly type these words – that he is actually advocating passing it off as Hobart. My city, because of its vibrancy, arts scene and its stunning location under the ramparts of kunanyi, attracts far more cruise companies these days than does poor old Melbourne. It is his contention that, as the travellers coming off the boats would be so pissed anyway, they’d be none wiser. If they had any recollection at all, then changing the sign, atop the pier, to ‘Welcome to Hobart’, would place them in no position to cast any aspersions on his only remotely fair city. They would denigrate mine instead. Yes, that’s right dear reader, he is trying to pass off Victoria’s capital’s dour first disappointments as being those caused by our beautiful burb on the Derwent.

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Now the Age, the vehicle for this contributor’s misplaced mischief, does not have the biggest readership in these parts, so I am alerting all my fellow islanders so we can rise up – yes, rise up – and nip this travesty in the bud. The audacity and repellent attitude of the man to want to place a Welcome to Hobart sign across the old tatty pier! Just as well that city, across the Strait, has a more pressing matter to think about at this time. Perhaps indeed it is his ploy to take minds off that. Well, it hasn’t worked, sir. I’m on to you.

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Anson’s reprehensible column = https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life-and-relationships/cruising-into-a-not-so-sacred-site-leaves-much-to-be-desired-20200702-p558bt.html

Reboot 05

Even the Grass…

Sisters Beach sunshine is beaming this morning in one of my homes away from home. Whilst Hobart and surrounds received a drenching, I was having the vagaries too – but for a couple of days it was divine as if She up there was saying, ‘See what I can do. You didn’t expect such bliss at this time of year, did you?’

And at Sisters I am blessed to have some local friends – Richard and Narelda, Mary and Cheryl – to visit for company. Of course there’s a dog and beach walks. My dear mother’s close by, as are old friends and teaching colleagues.

On such a dazzling day to my new eyes, even the North West grass looks so much greener. Tomorrow I head home, but I’ll be back – over and over again I hope. Thank you Kim and Ruth.

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Nanny Naps and Blaze

During COVID days the afternoons saw me more often than not taking to my bed for a few hours. I insisted to myself it was to read, lying on top to start with back in those March days. But as the iso went on and on, gradually I succumbed to slipping under the doona as autumn morphed into winter. Instead of copious pages of my novel, I’d soon pass into slumber to the accompaniment of my man-cave music machine or, increasingly, the radio. During that period a skilled practitioner was in the process of righting my eyes for the remainder of my days – and they needed resting, especially after some screen time. Well that was as good an excuse as any for continually drifting off. Leigh had her shows to watch and pod-casts to listen to and I was more than content in the world I had fashioned for myself in the once spare bedroom. Here my photographs surround me and my books were stacked – if only I could get to the latter. As the news become worse before it became better, I was insulated.

One such afternoon I was emerging from a restorative shut-eye when the local ABC radio presenter announced, ‘And here’s a special voice for you now…’ and on came Townes Van Zandt. ‘Fancy the Auntie playing Townes,’ was the thought that crossed my still sleepy mind. But, listening more closely, I started to realise that it wasn’t the legendary Tennessee troubadour, but this voice had the same low lonesome drawl. ‘That was the wonderful Blaze Foley. And now it’s news time.’

Wide awake now, I reached for my hand held device and did some delving for this guy, to me, was an unknown. And as I read his biography I soon realised I could have been reading about Van Zandt himself. Strike me down with a feather – turns out the two were mates back in the day. Like Townes, he too met an untimely and unseemly death well before his time.

The Arkansas singer/songwriter, born 1948, was a scruff of a man who lost numerous gigs, the love of his life and ultimately his life, full stop, to an overindulgence in alcohol. His stage name was a tip of the hat to his namesake and hero, Red Foley. Former partner, screen-writer Sybil Rosen, stuck with him for perhaps longer that she should have, but eventually she had seen him drunk senseless too many times and when he moved on, she didn’t. When Foley and TVZ crossed paths, they would go on unholy binges together and any progress he had made with the demon drink was blown away. He thought he was made when Merle H recorded his signature song, ‘If Only I Could Fly’, but there was no follow up to lead him to stage or recorded success, so he drifted back to his old temptation. At various times names such as Lucinda Williams and Kimmie Rhodes tried to give him a helping hand, but eventually he was beyond assistance. He could not be swayed from his destructive ways.

In 1989, after a night on the booze, he had an altercation with the son of a friend and was shot. He hardly went out in a blaze of glory. Despite attempts by some, including his former love interest, Rosen, who made a film feature of his life, he has not reached anywhere near the cult status of Townes – and perhaps never will. It’s a tragic story I woke up to that afternoon from a nanny nap.

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Mark Seymour and the Undertow – ‘Slow Dawn’ – Music for these Times

He’s getting on now, like the rest of his demographic, but the former lead singer of Hunters and Collectors has lost nothing of his vocal chops, has Mark. His 10th studio album again excels.

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On the Couch

It is its most popular foreign language series and Netflix is milking it for all its worth with four seasons to date. ‘Money Heist’ features a well organised gang’s raid on the National Mint in Madrid. The expertly drilled drilled crew soon find themselves besieged by the city’s finest. But how will the police coordinator’s relationship with her mysterious new friend pan out? Series One was quite riveting, so I’ll soon be taking in the next. Moving north to Belgium, another group is also besieged – but this time it is by fact or lie as a jury attempts to nut out if the one culprit is responsible for two murders a decade apart. It’s a tad clunky in places, but well worth time spent in SBSonDemand for ‘The Twelve’. A viewer will see the back story of the case as well as that of some of the jurists, for they are all not squeaky clean either. And he’s madder than ever, is Tim Roth’s alcoholic Jack Devlin in the second instalment of ‘Tin Star’ (SBSonDemand) – with a third and final season approaching. There’s mayhem a plenty as the daughter joins a religious community whose leader just happens to be in cahoots with a Mexican drug cartel. Stay tuned for the final shootout as Jack’s Liverpool back history arrives to bite him on the bum big-time.

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A Tome to Re-emerge With

It’s a rude, raucous and vibrant picture of an extended indigenous family of entertainingly disparate parts, but so powerful it took out last year’s Miles Franklin. See the Blue Room’s review of Melissa Lucashenko’s ‘Too Much Lip’.

I’m Hanging Out

Mozzarella and pickle croquette, African chicken curry with eggplant and okra, Katso fish sando’ – I don’t think so Mr Durack. I’m a more ‘days of yore’ man. Why, last Saturday night, at Launceston Best Western’s Tram Bar, I partook of the ever ubiquitous parmi – and darned good it was too. A reasonable steak does me just fine too. Yep, the pubs have reopened and the aforementioned venue was my first sally forth. I waited till the iso was far enough in the background so certain watering holes were operating close to their past glory, but I still couldn’t have what I have really been hanging out for. Sadly, I am yet to enjoy a pulled pint. The Tram Bar offered only table service and bottled brew. Good, admittedly, but it’s not the full experience till on tap comes back on. And please, She up there, we are back to you, can we not follow Melbourne’s example and have to pull our heads back in? Obviously not only for this reason, but I’m craving draught beer again.

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More about Blaze Foley here – https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-country/blaze-foley-movie-biopic-songwriter-ethan-hawke-718036/

Mark Seymour’s website = https://markseymour.com.au/

Trailer for ‘Money Heist’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMANIarjT50

Trailer for ‘The Twelve’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aL9uDVYIrkY

Trailer for ‘Tin Star S2’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_dI36NYpgs

FB for the Tram Bar, Great Western Launceston = https://www.facebook.com/thetrambar/

Pemulwuy et al

They were so brave, those lads who went north to the sweat and swamps of New Guinea to hold the line. This was against a possible Australian invasion if the Japanese broke through on the Kokoda Trail. They should be venerated, along with many of our wartime leaders. So it always seemed an anomaly that our powers to be do not afford the same to the First Australians who also attempted to hold the line against a foreign invasion. If not outnumbered, back in those early days, they were certainly outgunned, from the time of the first European settlement to well into and past colonial times. Historians know their names and many are advocating for a change. Perhaps their leaders will never be in the same league as Blaimey, Monash, Pompey Elliott or Weary Dunlop. But these too were leaders of men and women who took it up to the enemy. They should be at least recognised as such, particularly in our national war memorials.

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I’ve written of the exploits of Pemuluwuy in another place. He scared the be-jesus out of the Brits and their convicts in the very early days, keeping them from venturing out in into the bush, away from the safety of numbers. Later on, along came Windradyne. In Western Australia there was Yagan and decades on, up in the Kimberlies, the redoubtable Jandawarra. On our own island, during the Black Wars, noteworthy were Musquito and the fearless Aboriginal woman, Wayler.

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All of these leaders mounted gutsy rearguard actions to try and stem the tide, but of course the odds were so massively against them. Undoubtedly there was cruelty on both sides, but that is the nature of any conflict and these were desperate times, even if one side’s cause was realistically hopeless.

There’s no suggestion here that we should engage in a rush to erect statues to these heroes of the frontier skirmishes, but nor should we put to one side that these warriors were defending their lands as much as our boys at Kokoda.

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As for Captain Cook? He was undoubtedly a great explorer of the seas, navigator and cartographer, but an argument could be mounted that his role in our history is overrated. Should he, though, be to blame for his discoveries leading to the forced foreign incursion to these shores? I don’t think so. It certainly, in my view, does not warrant the tearing down of statues honouring him, akin to what’s going on overseas with former slave owners and traders, as well as Confederate generals. Just don’t put up any more to him. Please!

Peter FitzSimon’s commentary = https://www.smh.com.au/national/a-statue-of-warrior-pemulwuy-in-hyde-park-what-do-you-say-clover-20200612-p55249.html

Ingenious Indigenous Treats

Heat and Light – Ellen van Neerven, Too Much Lip – Melissa Lacashenko

She’s been around a while, has Melissa Lacashenko, publishing laudatory novels since 1997. The other, Ellen van Neerven, also an accomplished poet, is the new kid on the block as far as indigenous fiction is concerned. In their works we meet the Kresingers and the Salters, with both taking us on some journey.

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Seriously,’ I thought to myself, ‘plantpeople, a new seaweedy species of ‘humans’ emerging from the mangroves of an island off the coast of Queensland. This is not my thing at all.’ But it was. I continued and I’m glad I did. For me the section ‘Water’, of Ellen van Neerven’s ‘Heat and Light’, was the stunning highlight. Set in the future, but in many ways taking us back to the past, it’s a contrast to the contemporary nature of the bookends, ‘Heat’ and ‘Light’, as we meet generations of Kresingers in linked vignettes. None, although exhibiting quite glowing wordsmithery, attracted me to the extent of Kaden’s story. She’s a young liaison officer to those studying, read subduing, the new species. They are trying to pave, read clear, the way for a development project. A relationship grows between her and Larapinta, one of the supposed ungendered plantpeople. The treatment of the ‘specimens’ hark back to our black, black history which gives, to this day, such discomfort to Australians of British descent. It is brave and adventurous writing for van Neerven and the collection won the NSW Premier’s Award for 2016.

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We mightn’t have plantpeople, but we do have talking totems, crows and sharks, in ‘Too Much Lip’ by Melissa Lacashenko. I don’t know about too much lip, but the plethora of f-bombs and c-words were much too present for my normal taste. It does, I guess, make the novel ‘real’. We all know the type – people who open their oral orifices to produce sentences in which at least one word has to be an expletive – otherwise their standing as hard men or women would be lowered. If the awardees of 2019’s Miles Franklin can live with that, then so can I. The author has produced a rip-roaring yarn and it’s a worthy winner.

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When sassy Kerry Salter roars back into her home burb, to rejoin her family, as the patriarch is near departure, she discovers the Salters are just as dysfunctional and disparate as when she left them. She comes to escape, as well, from some heat for misdeeds in her previous location and is firmly of the belief she’s gay. Boy, is she in for a surprise – and not only with her proclivity. When she discovers the plan the devious white local mover and shaker, Jim Buckley, has for a river island sacred to the Salters, she and the rest of her family are up for a fight. There’s Pretty Mary, her mother who, when the going gets tough, takes to her fruity lexia. There’s brother Black Superman, a Sydney-sider , as well as brother Ken, too, a said hardman with an explosive temper. Add to this more unique characters in the extended family and the only one who’s missing is a sister who did a runner many years back.

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There’s never a dull moment with the collection of rellies as with the tome. This, as well as ‘Heat and Light’, indicates that the literature of the first people of our country is as strong as ever in the age of #blacklivesmatter.

Ellen van Neerven‘s website = https://ellenvanneervencurrie.wordpress.com/

Melissa Lucashenko’s website = https://www.melissa-lucashenko.com/

Ken and Alice

Q1. Which American President-to-be had the unfortunate occurrence of both his mother and beloved wife dying, of unrelated causes, in the same house on the same day?

Q2. Which American President-to-be took as his bride a woman whose maiden name bore his own surname?

A1. Theodore Roosevelt A2. Franklin D Roosevelt

Earlier in the year SBS treated its viewers to ‘Country Music’, tracing the genre from its roots to the last decade of the 20th century. In recent times I have also watched ‘The Civil War’, being the epic series making the name of its now revered documentarian, ‘The Dust Bowl’ and ‘The National Park: America’s Best Idea’. So I was excited when SBS programmed his latest series on the music genre I love, narrated, as have been all his recent offerings, by the great Peter Coyote.

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Ken Burns, the Michigan born film-maker, made his first documentary, featuring the Brooklyn Bridge, back in the 1980s. He progressed onto ‘The Shakers’, ‘The Statue of Liberty’ and ‘Huey Long’. The eleven hour ‘The Civil War’, from 1990, remains his crowning glory. Burns works entirely with archival footage – none of this penchant for re-enactments that so often blight today’s documentary work.

And ‘Country Music’ was special and I was so enjoying it once it commenced. Then I read that the BBC had butchered it for its UK showing, reducing its length to fit its schedules – and this is the version we received. I was horrified to the extent I’m considering buying the box set to gorge on the missing bits. With so many platforms these days it seems an extravagance. We’ll see.

But we’re not here to talk solely about Ken or SBS ripoffs. We’re here to talk also of Alice.

Now the exercise to commence this scribbling were titbits from another Ken Burns’ masterpiece entitled ‘The Roosevelts: an Intimate History’. It’s a six episode opus, made in 2014, concentrating on the big three – Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor. It was narrated by Coyote as well, with assistance from Meryl Streep and Paul Giamatti.

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During watching some of the first episodes I met Alice. She was the incredible, rambunctious and maverick daughter of the 26th President, for two terms, of the USA. This US leader was also the hero of the Battle for San Juan Hill, leading his legendary Rough Riders. I was intrigued by the girl, but soon she faded from view as I encountered other fascinating feminine figures, including the predominately lesbian group of women who gave succour to Eleanor while Franklin was conducting his personal relationships with various other partners.

Then my own beloved daughter also discovered Alice. She sent me a link, as is her practice when she comes across someone who may tickle my curiosity. I was tickled and started delving, eventually being won over. That other interesting bunch Burns pointed me to will have to wait.

So let me introduce you to a young lady who, in her youth, ‘…breathed new life into the very idea of young womanhood in the early 20th century as the suffrage movement was gaining steam. She herself would be involved in that… movement and the sexual revolution some half century later.’ Leah Silverman ‘Alice Roosevelt Longworth: The Original White House Wild Child’ Check it out on ‘allthatsinteresting.com’ on line.

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To do so, though, I’ll have to take you back to that fateful day of February 12th, 1884, that we started with in Q1.

The day Alice was born, to a delighted Teddy Roosevelt, she was named after his beloved wife. Two days after delivering his daughter she died of kidney failure. It was a double whammy for the future POTUS as, elsewhere in the house, his own ailing mother succumbed to her illnesses. The 25 year old father was almost paralytic with grief and soon after hightailed it off to the Badlands of North Dakota to play at being a manly, hairy-chested cowboy and big game hunter. Although he took a distant interest in his little girl, he was happy enough to leave her in the care of his sister for three years. Anna, Alice’s Aunt, was a woman of strength and independence. As a role model she definitely had more influence on her niece than her oft absent father as she was growing up. Sadly, Teddy could never call his daughter by her given name, inventing nicknames for her instead. This reflected how he felt being so bereaved, but indicated little care for the daughter’s feelings. This refusal carried on into his next marriage, to a childhood sweetheart, Edith Carow, after his return, in 1886, from his self imposed isolation.

Young Alice rejoined the family when they moved to Long Island, but as she grew up and Edith kept producing step-brothers and sisters, five in all, tensions rose between the step-mother and the wilful eldest daughter. Edith was always wary of her husband’s undying regard for his departed first wife and that seemed to effect how she related to Alice. The fact that, as she progressed through her teenage years, her father still didn’t address her as Alice, continued to weigh heavily. But she resisted bowing to her problems. These were compounded when her father threatened to send her to boarding school to get, she presumed, her out of the way to improve familial cohesion. She fired up big time, confronted her father and in the end he backed down. The event was an important life lesson for the sassy youngster. The compromise was that she would return to her aunt’s home. Thinking she’d won a victory, Edith started to gossip that the girl was out of control, haring around the town with all the local lads instead of engaging in the prim and proper activities expected of the fairer sex at the time. In reality, Alice distrusted all men intensely, probably a legacy of her fraught relationship with her father, who always had weightier matters on his mind. She told all and sundry she’d never marry – and she never did, in the conventional sense.

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TR’s burgeoning standing as a mercurial public and political figure bought the spotlight onto his eldest child. The equivalents of our New Idea and Womans Day back then had a field day with her, due to her non-conformist ways, to the joy of her gender and generation. But that was also to the increasing chagrin of Teddy. His career continued to advance, only problem was, so did Alice’s notoriety. Sadly he started to see her as a millstone. At eighteen Alice had the eyes of the nation on her and he increasingly felt they should have been on him. She even caught the attention of the Kaiser of Germany during a visit – so much so he named a yacht after her. So is it any wonder the public started calling her Princess Alice? And then Teddy, in 1901, unexpectedly assumed the Presidency.

She still gave him plenty to think about, though, apart from the affairs of the nation. She took to driving cars – outrageous enough for a woman, but worse, she drove then exceedingly fast. She smoked and chewed gum in public – unheard of! Like any fella she took to wearing pants, slept in till noon regularly, particularly after partying hard into the night. Her headlines appeared on the front page of the dailies – her father’s policy-making in the inner pages. He fumed and fumed, but no matter the entreaty from him, nothing stopped her. She even had one of those newspapers keeping a daily tally of the events she attended. It was noted that, in a fifteen month period, she made it to 1706 engagements that made either the social pages or the scandal sheets. ‘I must admit a sense of mischief does get a hold of me from time to time. I’m a hedonist. I have an appetite for being entertained,’ she gushed in one interview.

She was banned from the White House on occasions – once when she took a dislike to the future President Taft’s wife and held a ceremony to bury a voodoo likeness of her on the grounds.

President Roosevelt continued in office till 1909 and during that time Alice drew crowds to rival him. But as time went on so her interest in the issues of the day captured at least a part of her mind. And by now she was in love – sort of. The object of her attention was Congressman Nicholas Longworth. He was rich, older and came to her with a long history of newsworthy entanglements with women. And he also had a passing resemblance to her father. They became a couple, out and about partying up a storm and keeping the punters interested with a string of affairs each. All that continued after their marriage, at the White House, in 1905.

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By the 1920s Teddy had passed away and Alice took up with a Senator William Borah as her new bit on the side. The daughter she bore during that time – well, she really couldn’t say, could she, who was the father – her Congressman hubby or the Senator. Typical – and more fodder for the press.

But age does catch up. She remained forthright and fearless in her opinions, not afraid to share them around. She was a vocal pacifist until Pearl Harbour and later gave counsel to the Kennedys, Johnsons; even the Nixons. She was also loud in her advocacy for women’s rights in her later years, right up until her health deteriorated in her eighties. No longer a wild child, but forever venerated, she passed away in 1980.

It was a long and boisterous life – and here’s a final word on her from Jimmy Carter, ‘She had style, she had grace, and she had a sense of humour that kept generations of political newcomers to Washington wondering which was worse – to be skewered by her or ignored by her.’

If her father didn’t notice her enough, she made sure the rest of the world did. You can meet up with her and many other fascinating figures associated with this great US family on YouTube. Just plug in ‘The Roosevelts: an Intimate History’. Yes Katie, your Alice was a standout.

Trailer ‘The Roosevelts: an Intimate History’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Fl6pnOgq3E

Trailer ‘Country Music’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fZ_S_wlx0Q

Sorry, it’s Shmith – not Smith

I wonder how may times the above had to say that during his lifetime?

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I reckoned I purchased it sometime in the early 70s at OBMs, a book emporium on the corner of Collins and Elizabeth in Hobs. I remember purchasing novels there too – Graham Green, Andrea Newman, Margaret Drabble, Françoise Sagan. It’s long gone now, replaced by an Angus and Robertson and now it’s a chemist franchise. Lord knows where the book is now, but it was my first. As my confidence grew, others followed – but, being my first, it was a bit special.

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The recent release of a set of stamps by Auspost – Mid-Century Fashion Focus, featuring the cream of the local photographers of the genre at that time, took me back there. One such, Helmet Newton, went on to great world-wide fame and presumably, fortune – renowned for his fine art nudes as well as his fashion portfolios. The others had local renown only. One, Athol Shmith, dabbled in nudes as well. And it was his book of beautiful women I forked out for, probably placing it amidst some other volumes to lessen the embarrassment, back in my uni days. I remember thinking how classy it was compared to Playboy and the other glamour magazines around then. As for the models – he went on to marry three of them whom he captured for public perusal. An extra allure was that they were local lasses. To me the emphasis was on ‘art’ rather than ‘nude’ – or, at least, that’s my excuse. Such publications, I recall, were quite rare back then on the shelves of genuine bookshops.

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Today there’s some glorious beauty to be had at the helm of a keyboard, but Mr Smith – sorry, Shmith – introduced me to eye-opening bewitchment, which I engaged with some more on one of my recent trips to Melbourne where the State Library had an exhibition of his fashion prints. Like OBMs, Athol S is long gone. But one can still view his images at various sites on-line – and now we have a stamp in his honour as a lasting tribute.

More images here – https://cv.vic.gov.au/stories/creative-life/athol-shmith/

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No, stop, too soon. I don’t want the world to go back to normal again. The only anxiety I have is about the old way of being that’s now roaring too soon at us, snapping at our heels to jump back on the treadmill all over again. And actually, I’m not quite ready to be strapped into the bra just yet. Not ready to face those congested, manic, indignant roads; there’s a lot of aggro out there and lockdown has provided a much-needed respite from it. The experimental, home-shaved heads of various sons have not grown out sufficiently for the world to see, and marvel at, plus a household freed from the stresses of the daily commute has been a thing to behold.’

Nikki Gemmell ‘No Going Back’ Weekend Australian Magazine June13-14, 2020

The great unfettering is occurring as I type. It commenced over the June long weekend when Premier Gutwein unleashed the shackles and evidently we exploded out from the cities to shackdom, coastal resorts Tassie style and walking tracks through the virgin bush. As a result, the Westpac Rescue helicopter was hard at it, ferrying injured hikers up out of the wilderness to the new helipad at the Royal. The news also reported, tongue in cheek, that a quarter the population of Launceston had migrated to the seaside gem of the North-east, Bridport, for the three days. Don’t blame them myself. Why, even the said Premier was there in the town chillin’ out. From here on in I suspect it will be full steam ahead for many – racing to get back to pre-COVID19 lunacy. Is it fair to call it that – lunacy? Yep, many, including a favoured columnist in Nikki Gemmell, who will feature heavily in this scribing, and I liken it to that. Some thrive with life in the fast lane, but then, on the other hand, you have this:-

People are trying to cope by loving being in lockdown, by creating a cocoon of safety, a haven, to make the whole experience more tolerable … Ironically that can create problems later on because people can love their lockdown too much and become anxious about going outside.’ (‘No Going Back’ ibid)

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Love lockdown? Well, yes and no. It’s certainly been no chore, sharing it with my wonderful Leigh. But, you could say, we’re ready to spread our wings, although we’re not being bullish about it. We’ll take it gradually. Trips to the north are first cabs off the rank and that will start to occur as June morphs into July. It’ll be after that, sometime, that we will start to venture to the cinema and restaurants, but I am starting to crave a beer and a steak at one of our preferred counter meal venues. Cafes will be the go sooner than that.

But largely we’re still in lockdown and I’m woolly. I examined myself in the bathroom mirror this morning and crikey, so woolly. Admittedly there’s precious little hair on top, but around the sides my fluff is sprouting in perpendicular fashion and the neck hairs have reached my shoulders.

And I guess that’s quite the big one, isn’t it. Nobody outside of my family, with the possible exception of my dentist (yes, a gorgeous female too), gets so up close and personal with me as the two lovely ladies at Lorraine’s Coiffure in Claremont who attend to what’s left of my hair. I’ll soon have to take the bit between the teeth, make an appointment with Jane or Hannah, to get the deed done before people will start thinking I’m a throwback to Black Bobs. I’m a little anxious about it, but I don’t think I’ll freak out. For me, facing crowds is still a long way off but, yes, I’m coming out.

Giving Consent Here, in Ireland and the USofA

When it came, early in ‘Normal People’ (Stan), it was stunningly frank, brave, beautiful and tender. He looked after her, he really did, did Connell. He’s a school sporting hero with a brain. He is a complex character – intensely private with considerable hang-ups that impacted on any relationship he could have with the opposite gender. When they first met he tried to keep his love for Marianne hidden from view. She was considered ‘different’ by the in crowd. Marianne was delicate, feisty, fragile and an outsider. She was from an affluent background with a distant, strange mother and an arse of a brother. His deflowering of her and the subsequent sex scenes, liberally scattered throughout the episodes of this series, are as intensely intimate and revealing as anything you’ll have witnessed on the small screen. These no doubt aided in propelling ‘NP’ into the stratosphere in the ratings, here and overseas. It’s also very Irish. Its impact launched two largely unknowns in Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal into celebrities – why even the fellow’s gold chain, that he wears around his neck, has its own FB page. Throughout it is unflinchingly honest as the two squander chance after chance to build something permanent from their obvious obsession with the other. It’ll no doubt be marked by many as one of the year’s best.

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Contrast the care that Connell takes with his Marianne’s virginity to the way Nikki Gemmell loses hers, as she laid out to the reading public via the Oz in ‘Age of Consent’. Such a marked difference. For the columnist there was no tenderness involved – an experience she’d rather forget. Ms Gemmell reckons the scene from ‘Normal People’ should be compulsory viewing in sex education classes around the country, especially for our young men.

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Another series that provided some excellent viewing is the Reese Witherspoon driven ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ (Prime) where, as critic Karl Quinn describes it in a recent review, she plays the obsessive mother who is the adult version of ‘Legally Blonde’s’ Elle Woods. This, as well as ‘Normal People’, is based on a well regarded novel. Leigh, having read the source for this series, constantly remarked that the tele version little resembled the print, but that perhaps worked in my favour as I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Witherspoon’s Elena has her ultra-perfect life upended when Mia (Kerry Washington) comes to town. The coloured woman is soon taken on as Elena’s ‘maid’, for want of a better, if not more appropriate, word. The stereotype is obvious, but Mia’s no shrinking violet. Her daughter, the impressive Pearl (Lexi Underwood), soon takes a shine to Elena’s youngest son, Moody (Gavin Lewis). They become close cross-racial mates. However, when Pearl considers who to lose her virginity to, she rejects him for his moronish jock of an elder brother, Trip (Jordan Elsass), on the grounds that he’d be more experienced. The doing of deed was, unfortunately, more akin to Nikki G’s story and of course he cannot be blamed for any shortcomings, can he? By the final episode, though, he realises, to an extent, his failings and a bond does develop between the two, much to the chagrin of Moody.

This is only one strand of a fine product that focuses far more on the relationship between Elena and Mia, with both having an impressive back catalogue of secrets which they’d hate to have revealed. The inevitable happens. It is a step down from ‘Normal People’, but still a worthy binge.

Karl and his List – Music for These Times

In years to come, we may look back on this time as ‘The Age of Lists’. Facing the prospect of months in isolation, people looked forward to what they might watch, read and listen to and backwards over their favourites. One of the more popular iterations has been the ‘10 albums that inspired you’ meme on Facebook.’ The Age Spectrum June 13, 2020

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Karl Quinn, in his piece ‘The Soundtrack to a Life’, realised that his selections* for the meme were not only just inspiration, but more. Being invited into the meme by lovely friends, here is my contribution. These are the soundtracks to my own life during the hiatus that COVID19 has incurred, in no particular order:-

Dylanesque – Bryan Ferry (2007) – I love both his Bobness and Ferry, so the combination of the two is irresistible.

Freya Ridings (2019) – In the early days of the pandemic’s visit I’d wake up edgy. This English songstress’ debut soothed.

Pay the Devil – Van Morrison (2006) – It was his 32nd studio album in which the Man goes country. He’s a constant.

I Still Do – Eric Clapton (2016) – any release from Ol’ Slowhand is to relish. This is the latest I’ve purchased so it’s the most frequent in my music machine.

Standard Songs for Average People – Mac Wiseman and John Prine (2007) – Mac passed last year and the bastard virus took John a couple of months ago. It remains a magic pairing.

Western Stars – Bruce Springsteen (2019) – He’s promised a new E Street, but until that this will just have to suffice – and boy, does it ever!

Come On Up to the House – Women Sing Waits (2019) – Tom’s unique rasp is replaced with honey as the best voices in Americana, and one Australian, do justice to his songs.

Charcoal Lane 25th Anniversary – Archie Roach(2015) – Containing the original, plus interpretations of its tunes, including the iconic ‘Took the Children Away’, by some of our best. He’s a living national treasure.

Great Country Songbook – Troy Casser-Daley and Adam Harvey (2013) I spent a wonderful evening with my beautiful daughter listening to these two live sing up a storm. So many of their (and my) heroes have gone now. But fear not – Willie’s still around.

Tides of a Teardrop – Mandolin Orange (2019) – It’s a sweet, sweet collection of songs from the North Carolina married duo – one of my latest obsessions.

These all helped me through – and, all things considered, personally it hasn’t been too tough. I know for so many, here and overseas, that has not been the case. Hope they have had some music with them too.

Normal people trailer = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1JQuWxt3cE

Nikki Gemmell ‘Age of Consent’ = https://www.theaustralian.com.au/weekend-australian-magazine/why-the-sex-in-normal-people-is-a-breath-of-fresh-air/news-story/7fa839ca1aafda662dbdda302abdb2d2

‘Little Fires Everywhere’ trailer = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWGkX8ClhBI

Karl Quinn ‘Soundtrack to my Life’ article = https://www.smh.com.au/culture/music/the-soundtrack-to-a-life-my-top-10-albums-20200514-p54t14.html

* Karl’s list – Sladed? by Slade, Sound Affects by The Jam, Swingshift by Cold Chisel, Before Hollywood by The Go-Betweens, Doolittle by Pixies, The Stone Roses, Rubber Soul by The Beatles, 13 by Blur, Lemonade by Beyonce and Marquee Moon by Television.

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Terry and his Lists

Since retirement my brain has become somewhat befudged – befudged being a good way to describe it. Befuddled seems a tad extreme although, after I’ve said something completely obvious, stupid, random or provided a poor segue, the way Leigh looks at me I may have to revise the descriptive term for the harsher one.

So, along with my befudgement, lists have become essential to me. Top 10 lists have always been a part of my life – I love compiling them and comparing with others. I list books read, tele shows and movies watched; as well as what I send in the mail to my dear friends – otherwise I’d drive them mad with repetition. Probably do in any case. But a comprehensive shopping list, as with Terry Durack (see his column following), is new – a result of these times we’re living in.

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Gone is my daily romp into Claremont Village to pick up The Age and as a sideline, whatever I may need for that evening’s meal if it’s my turn to play chef. Now it’s a more complicated process of both Leigh and I compiling our own grocery requirements for our once only weekly excursion to the supermarket. I consult recipe books to assist. Leigh is more free range. Before we head off Leigh does a check to ensure we haven’t doubled up and Bob’s your uncle. We’ve taken to doing the necessary at Woolies in the Village early on a Monday morn. That place has so impressed with their commitment to social distancing, hygiene and big heartfelt smiles that it becomes a wholly pleasant experience.

There’s something, I don’t know, reassuring about a long grocery list. It’s quietly comforting to have it clutched in your hand as you perambulate the various aisles, after which checking it off to make sure all items are in the trolley. Them there’s the checkout – a longer process these days with disinfectant, followed by the only part that got me flustered, the self packing – now a thing of the past as we emerge out the other side of what for us wasn’t a pan- but more, in comparison to the chaos caused overseas, a mini-demic. It could have been so much worse without all our precautions. But more time allows for more communication with the guys and gals doing the scanning and that is another small joy in days that do have a habit of becoming very routine.

I’m wondering, as it becomes more certain that we have indeed got the plurry thing beaten, if Leigh and I will revert to our more ad hoc ways. We’re certainly spending far less time in supermarkets, but, dear me, how we have come to appreciate them so much more.

Dustyesky

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Now and again ‘Australian Story’ (ABCiView) produces a tale that both amazes and touches the heart. This one is how a largely previously unheralded group of mostly bearded Mullumbimby gentlemen have warmed the frosticles off the denizens of the Land of Putin – a country that, despite what its leader and cronies may proclaim, is doing it hard with the CV. The episode examines how this winning of Russian hearts came about. The choir they formed, specialising in traditional tunes of the motherland, were, as a result, invited to the biggest May Day parade in the world. Coronavirus spoilt that, but they still got to perform digitally for that country’s major television network. And the locals lapped it up, along with their tanks and missiles. Amazing and well worth a gander. Go Dustyesky.

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Music for these Times

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Reunions’ is lovely, lovely stuff from the reformed Alabama crooner. He’s turned his life around and is now producing the best music of his career.

Paula and Billy

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If you’re a fan of the financial machinations of ‘Billions’ (Stan) then I have a great treat for you. It can be found on SBSonDemand, can that star attraction’s German equivalent, ‘Bad Banks’. There’s the same heartless, scheming, suited money-grabbing grubs to be found, dealing daily in squillions and the ruination of the lives of others. This time, though, it’s two women to the fore, including the youthful Jana, played with intensity by Paula Beer. It’s difficult to discern if this career driven young lady does indeed have the pumping organ in her body as she uses all her feminine wiles, tears and street smarts to get the deals done, no matter the cost. And she’s not above betrayal either. Ms Beer is certainly entrancing and I’m hooked, ripe for the second season.

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But sadly I’ll have to unhook myself from Billy Campbell. In Season 4 of the Canadian production, ‘Cardinal’, he appears even more grizzled and woebegone than before as he steels himself to come to terms with some particularly gruesome murders in the snow in this North American take on scandi-noir. All seasons have been addictive and bingeworthy. There has been his younger female sidekick as a possible love interest throughout, but will they get it together before this last season’s episodes run out? I won’t let the cat out of the bag, but in the final stanza there is room for hope that his world could become a little less dour. ‘Cardinal’ is highly recommended by this fan on the same platform as above.

A Tome to Re-emerge With

Dervla McTiernan’s ‘The Good Turn’ is a rip-snorter of a whodunnit. Her third novel is set in Ireland and I’ll be chasing up the Australian author’s other two. Read my review of it in the Blue Room.

David and the Angel

Daughter – ‘Mummy, what’s that smell.’

Mother – ‘It’s nature, darling.’

Daughter – ‘It’s like all the birds are wearing perfume.’

The smells of our forests, here on my island, are remarkable, unforgettable. You hanker for them if you’re away for a while. I imagine, as our wild places open up again as we reboot, many kids, long cooped up, would be asking similar questions about the majestic trees and creatures of the bush. No more so than those embarking on reacquainting themselves with the forests surrounding Tassie’s capital city, within eyesight of everyone in town, but for months forbidden.

In his long, but thoroughly readable and all-encompassing essay on the state of the forests, published in The Age’s Good Weekend magazine recently, journalist David Leser asks, ‘Exactly how loudly does she (Mother Nature) have to scream?’ And scream she did over this past summer. And then:-

Trump and Co – ‘There is no way we can shut everything down in order to lower emissions, slow climate change and protect the environment.’

Mother Nature – ‘Here’s a virus. Practise.’

We did and it worked. But, already, with our tentative re-emergence, the signs are not promising that we have learnt from the experience. We just have to.

Lesser’s report, entitled ‘Trunk Call’ (type author and title into Google), takes us from Victoria’s national parks to the Styx and the Weld locally. He explains how the world’s first nations were miles ahead of modern humankind in their husbandry of the vital asset; how the great fungal lines aid trees in ‘communication’ and he takes us on journeys with writers and activists trying to alert the planet as to how urgent action is. They, I suspect, but hope otherwise, will continue to struggle to be heard above the noise of the digital age. Unless we heed their advocacy, Mother Nature will give up on us and deliver a final cataclysmic blow. We have been warned.

Despite its length there’s plenty more food for thought with Leser’s writings here. And, to be fair, I know most of the world’s leaders are on to it – but they’ll need the same sort of help most have been giving to bring us through the pandemic. Trump, of course, is beyond help.

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The author also re-introduces us to the Angel of the Weld, Allana Beltran, who bought the attention of the planet to the situation within Tasmania’s old growth forests. What made us all sit up and take notice was attained by her positioning herself on a tripod, wreathed in feathers, at the entrance to the Weld. Back in 2007 the visual artist took her stand to ‘…pray for the forests and for people to realise what they are doing. I was ready to stand up for these ancient forests.’ In no uncertain terms she did.

It’s simple. If we can’t save the forests we can’t save the planet. The bastard virus has given us and Mother Nature some breathing space, but, by all indications the pause will not last much longer. In many parts of the world, though, wild places are breathing again. ‘Nature is speaking to us very loudly now. We’d do well to listen.’

So please seek out his article on line. Read it and ponder.

Terry Durack’s column on lists = https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life-and-relationships/don-t-leave-home-without-the-shopping-list-it-s-too-dangerous-20200424-p54mym.html

Australian Story Dustyesky = https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-05-25/australian-fake-russian-choir-dustyesky-goes-viral-mullumbimby/12270670

Jason Isbell’s website = https://www.jasonisbell.com/

‘Bad Banks’ = https://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/program/bad-banks

‘Cardinal’ Season 4 = https://www.sbs.com.au/guide/article/2020/05/21/revenge-dish-served-very-very-cold-final-season-cardinal

David Leser’s essay on the forests =https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/environment/climate-change/call-of-the-wild-listen-up-people-time-is-running-out-20200424-p54mzq.html