Monday, May 28, 2007

Massive amounts of reading

As the second volume of the AIATSIS project didn't turn up last week as promised, I've embarked upon the massive task of reading the entries for the Victorian Premier's Literary Award for Non-Fiction. As all of that is confidential, I can't say much, but I can say I am also nearly finished Portrait of a Friendship, the letters of Barbara Blackman and Judith Wright. (It doesn't qualify for the award as there are multiple authors, and one of them is dead.) Pity, because it is very, very good at many levels, both its indirect account of the literary/art world of half a century (it doesn't change all that much) and the personal lives of two fascinating women. It's the kind of book that when you finish (over 600 pages), you will want to start again.

Bryony Cosgrove is giving a talk next week to the Society of Editors about editing the collection, and though I have heard much about it before, it will be very interesting to hear it all summed up. A little gaggle of Bryony groupies will be in attendance.

On with the books for the award: there are lots of war books, and lots of what someone described as WATO: women against the odds. Some are less fascinating than others.

Had a nice coffee with A. Nauthor on Friday and discussion about his ongoing projects, both fiction and non-fiction. More of that A. Non, maybe. I hardly come across any writer these days who isn't having trouble getting published. It is as if there is a very narrow band of kinds of books which publishers consider saleable these days, against all the evidence that 'niche' markets, so-called, are the way to go, rather than the 'mass' market. It's as if publishers have got stuck in a particular way of marketing, and can't see any other.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Scabbusting Rat

Photo: James Calder, Flickr
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The Celebration of the Rat

The New York Rat which Frank discovered on the web is used as an 'intimidatory' tactic on sites which employ non-Union labour. It is a giant blowup rat which is parked at the offending site. I am sure that the Rats from the Sydney Rathaus will like it a lot.

I had a very social week: Sunday night for beef stew of a very superior quality at Frank's place (with caramelised quinces to follow). We returned the compliment on Tuesday where P. wheeled out his fabulous and meticulous Vera Bolognese, followed by boring old real strawberry icecream. Then on Wednesday I joined a group of ten old Penguinis for a very nice repast at Abla's, reliable as ever and an enormous amount of gossiping and magging.

On Thursday, we finally made it to one of the fixed menu nights at the Terminus Hotel. This one was called Flavours of the Orient: 3 suburban whities unleash the Asian within. There were eight courses of various Asian-influenced dishes such as 'Not your average "Short Soup", and so on, which took you from Japan, through China, Malaysia, Thailand and India. Frank, P. and I enjoyed it immensely and can't wait for the next similar evening.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Corrections, corrections

Much of the week was spent ferrying corrections for Maps to Success (the AIATSIS handbook) around the country. We are nearly finished, with only the prelims corrections to go. The whole book looks very good and has, with any luck, no egregious errors. Its companion volume, the Policy Paper, should turn up any day soon for editing and design.

Meanwhile, just to keep things interesting, five boxes containing 147 books for the Victorian Premier's Award non-fiction prize turned up. All five judges are now trying to establish a shortlist in our heads.

In between times, last Sunday P. and I went to the Nova in Carlton to see the new Australian film, Noise, a very well-made 'thriller' which was absorbing, though perhaps a touch too over lingering on some shots. Also, as P. said, the director had too much of a liking for extreme closeups which told us more than we wanted to know about the actors' nasal hairs. Nevertheless, a very enjoyable movie with fine performances by all of the cast. As we exited the cinema, a nauseating odour of popcorn filled the building from the lollie bar.

Frank came around for dinner on Wednesday and P. remade his delicious Asian chicken broth, a kind of version of pho from one of Frank's recipe cards. There were no markets today at the convent or farm, but after our mall shopping, we brunched at Lentil as Anything at the convent which was delicious. The pay-as-you-like system seems to work very well.

Now for a period of immersion in 147 books! A combination of delights and horrors.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Trees at Weribee Park

The trees are really the stars of the show.
Picture by Frank

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The Winnah!

A series of reflective circles set into the ground. Picture by Peter.
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My favourite sculpture

Picture by Peter
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Monday, May 14, 2007

Chirnside Park mansion

Photo by Frank.
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Sunday, May 13, 2007

A little of nearly everything

The corrections for the AIATSIS handbook arrived this week: first in a lump on the proofs, then via email in dribs and drabs from latecomers. There were a lot, to be expected from 16 organisations and various sponsors and committee members. After lots of emailing, it was got right, one hopes, and sent off to the designer for correction on Friday. Soon after it went, I realised that I though it had CIP information, it had no imprint information. One of the hazards of being both the editor and author/compiler. It has now.

Other fun things this week were a Tuesday seminar at the Collingwood Town Hall on the East-West traffic link enquiry by SIR Rod Eddington. A very good researcher from the bus association virtually proved with an avalanche of statistics that such a link was not necessary, and further proved the obvious, that improved public transport would remove a lot of cars from the roads, especially the Eastern freeway. It will be interesting to see whether in the end the enquiry recommends a very expensive and useless tunnel between the end of the Eastern Freeway and the Tullamarine Freeway or whatever it's called now.

Thursday night brought the launch of El Dorado by Dorothy Porter at Hares and Hyaenas bookshop in Johnston Street. It was a jolly affair, launched with brio by Sue-Ann Post, who made a private observation on the general height of lesbians (she is very tall).

The books-by-the-bed pile is getting larger, with a copy of the Porter and Bruce Pascoe's new book from Aboriginal Studies Press, Convincing Ground. I'm about halfway through Portrait of a Friendship, the letters of Barbara Blackman and Judith Wright, and am enjoying it immensely.

On Saturday, after the shopping. Frank, P. and I zipped down to Werribee in Phoebe to the Helen Lempriere Sculpture Award. It was a glorious day, so we enjoyed the grounds of the mansion immensely. The sculptures were probably of a lower standard than in previous years, though the winner and a couple of others were splendid. There was also a small and interesting exhibition inside the mansion to celebrate Lempriere's own work and the centenary of her birth .

A visit to the Chirnside mansion and estate should be a must for every visitor to Melbourne. As Frank said, it is excellent in comparison to many of the stately homes of England in both condition and state of display, though not in age. One of the best features, and probably artier than the art, are the many splendid trees in the grounds, some showing signs of the drought.

The display could do with a small touch of Pascoe's Convincing Ground to remember the Indigenous owners. In a bizarre twist, a group of sub-continental visitors took advantage of the Victorian dressups provided for a photo opportunity. Men, women and children in Victorian getup, but of decidedly dark hue, provided an antidote to the general Waspiness of the whole place. One also wonders what the critters in the Werribee Freerange Zoo think of the billiard room in the mansion, with its many stuffed deer and antelope, elephant's foot stool, hippo head chair and panther, lion and zebra rugs.

We ended the day with dinner at Frank's: a chicken curry followed by stewed tamarillos and icecream.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


Four generations: Grandbob, Ben Brown and Bruce. The photographer, Kit Brown is the fourth
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Memorial Barbecue

Round the table: Nick, camera-hog Maggie, Ellen, Big Valda, Frank Background: Valda, Ian, Jack and Julie (all photos by Kit)
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Front: Peter and Sally, background, Frank with hankie, and Bob, organising
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Grandkids at Memorial Barbecue

Allie, David, Maggie and Ben. Mark is back home with his grandmother.
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Monday, May 07, 2007

Memorial Weekend

The weekend began with normal shopping and a good lunch at Cavallero in Smith Street with Frank. By the evening, Kit and her son, Ben, had arrived by plane, and Nick, Kirrilly and three of their four children had arrived by road. We all met with Father and P. at Vassili and Yiannis' Greek Restaurant in Johnston Street. We hadn't been there for ages, but the fixed menu remains pretty much the same: dips and cheese for starters, a seafood platter and a meat platter, ending with sweets (baclava, GREEK delight and halva) with GREEK coffee. Make no mistake: it's GREEK. The gargantuan nature of the feast has been scaled back a little, though not much, but our party managed to dispose of virtually all of it. Father's provision of colouring books for the kiddies was a wise move.

Next day, we headed off in Millie the Mazda (on loan for the weekend) to Westerfold Park for a barbie. Everyone (mainly Father and Mother's siblings) brought lashings of barbie food and accoutrements. Our contribution was Non-core Promise patties, Never-ever-a-GST potato salad and Truth Overboard barbecue sauce. Maria from the shop provided GREEK sweet bikkies as a John Howard Election Sweetener. It was a good spot for barbie. I hope we've seen off John Howard. We wish.

This morning, I took back Millie to her Montmorency home, and Dad, Kit, Ben and I headed for the Melbourne Zoo for a good viewing of tigers, elephants, orang utans and so on. A good lunch at the zoo bistro followed and Kit and Co headed off to the airport. We trust that Nick and Co have driven safely back to Nowra.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Plumbing the depths

Dinner at Frank's on Tuesday night consisted of two delicious curries followed by yummy quinces, with a guest appearance from David G. who disappeared after the onset of The Bill, our regular Tuesday night vice.

Greg the Plumber from Ken Caffyn ('We plumb Carlton' used to be their slogan) came and expertly deblocked the sagging drains, so all outlets now empty out with fine efficiency, then two days later he returned and installed a new cistern. Now we are energy efficient, and, for the time being, all leaks are stemmed.

Lunch with Margaret G. at the Convent on Friday completed the week, a very pleasant chat on a rather windy day. She is working for the Diamond Valley rag three days a week, an intriguing experience. The weekend will be occupied mainly with family activities and the Mother Memorial Barbecue. John Howard has obliged by providing some more mean and tricky amendments to WorkChoices, just in time to put him on the barbecue spit.

Proofing the AIATSIS Handbook continued all week, and will be finished early next week. The Handbook is looking very good, and all feedback so far is positive. Meanwhile, the draft of the other volume turned up for comment: more on that soon.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

What I will not die of

A visit to the kidney clinic yesterday was very rewarding. The good news: my protein levels and kidney function are stable, so I was given a koala stamp and told to come back in six months. So I'm now on six months turnaround on both Ear, Nose & Throat and Renal. In other good news, the doctor told me that I would not die of kidney failure, unless I chose to (i.e. by refusing dialysis or transplant). Rather, I would die of something else like a heart attack, at a younger than normal age. (Note: these are just statistical predictions based on experience. Nothing personal.)

The bad news: my chlorestorol is too high, so I've been given six months to try to get it down, though the doctor says it is mainly hereditary, so dietary solutions probably won't have much effect. Never mind. I'll try that, as I don't want to take more pills if I can help it.

Again, I was impressed by the efficiency of the renal clinic. They might be well funded because of their dialysis business, but they are still efficacious and patient-friendly, and you don't have to wait very long. And they know their stuff. I feel in good hands there. And that's probably why I will die of something else.