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Monday, December 1, 2014

She Needed To Know...

It's been a while I know. Somehow I locked myself out of my account and weeks became months and here we are! In the meantime I have been publishing an occasional newsletter using the TinyLetter platform. If you'd like to take a look you can find it here. You can use the 'Archive' button at the lower right corner to see previous issues and subscribe if you like what you see using the button on the left. It's basically my way of sharing things that have surprised and delighted me in the world of books, history, arts and science. A little reading, some podcast recommendations - you get the gist...

Hopefully this blog will once again become a place for more original writing when the mood strikes.

In the meantime, here's a a sample of this month's newsletter.

A month of interesting discoveries...

This week a copy of Shakespeare's First Folio - one of only 230 in existence -  was found in a French library. It is believed that the book was brought to France by the Jesuit order before being confiscated after the French Revolution and placed in the Saint Omar public library where it has lain undisturbed for some 200 years.

An eagle-eyed art historian has re-discovered a long-lost Hungarian avant-garde painting while watching the movie 'Stuart Little' with his kids.

Closer to home I loved this story about the re-discovery of the Verey Collection an intriguing collection of glass negatives taken by Castlemaine photographer Adolphus Verey between 1883-1954. You can see more of the 13,000 strong Verey Collectionhere.

It's been a great couple of weeks for archaeological discoveries too with a beautiful Roman glass plate found in a 5th century AD Japanese tomb, this stunning glass mosaic uncovered at the ancient Greek city of Zeugma in modern day Turkey, and an entire underwater city off the Greek island of Delos.

This week also marks the 40th anniversary of Donald Johanson's discovery of my very favourite fossil, Lucy, the little woman who changed the way we think about human evolution.

How about you? Have you heard about any interesting discoveries lately?

Monday, June 2, 2014

She Needed To Know, 2 June 2014

It's no secret that I'm a voracious reader and seeker after knowledge (I used to joke that my tombstone should read, 'she needed to know') but seriously I read/watch/listen to a lot of great stuff in a week and it seems a crime not to share so here goes:

+ This beautifully written piece, Unprepared: Rob Lowe on Sending His Son To College gave me a new insight into Rob Lowe the man.

+ I was really blown away by soprano Joyce Di Donato's moving speech to the Juilliard School's class of 2014. You can read Joyce's speech here or better still watch her deliver it further down the same page (16:13 mins).

Here's a sample of what she had to say:

'You will never make it ..."It" doesn't exist for an Artist'
'The work will never end ...  whether it’s via unexpected, rapid success or as heart-wrenching, devastating failure - the way back to your center is simply to return to the work'.
It's not about you ... the truth is, you have signed up to a life of service by going into the Arts.
+ Australian author Annabelle Smith's Top 10 Books About New York gave me some more titles for my ever-expanding reading list
+ I loved this piece by Kerry Mansfield about the afterlife of expired library books   
+ "The snow instigateth not lugubriosity within me…" Translating 'Frozen' into Arabic shifted my focus beyond the English-speaking world.

+ And finally as I'm a train traveller once more I've also been listening to some great podcasts. They don't come much better than this episode of Benjamen Walker's Theory of Everything, which looks at the legacy of Walter Benjamin's The Work of Art in the Age of Technological Reproducibility and imagines Hitler and Goebbels discussing the book in the bunker. Heady stuff people...
Hope you find something here to tantalise your imagination. More soon...
You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram where you can follow my growing obsession with mid-century decorative ironwork gates!

Friday, May 9, 2014

To blog or not to blog...

So. I've had a bit of a blog spruce up in an effort to get back into this whole blog thing. They that the effective life of a blog is five years and I must say I've hit that wall pretty hard. A lot has changed since 2009. These days I rarely seem to open my laptop and use my iPhone and iPad o interact with like-minded souls all over the world in real-time using Instagram and Twitter. Blogger seems so old fashioned now with its HTML, uploading and linking (don't get me started on how difficult it is to even comment on a blog!) but I can't quite bring myself to abandon ship. Many of the bloggers I used to follow have jumped ship ahead of me although I have re-connected with some of them on new platforms so I'm still in two minds.

Having said that Instagram and Twitter have introduced me to some interesting new blogs like Mandarine's where Melody walks me through the forest of Latvia and shares her gorgeous knitting projects; Miriams Kafferaps where I get an insight into the vintage scene in Stockholm; and Gracia and Louise where I see what a truly authentic creative life looks like so maybe there's life in the old girl (and this one too!) yet. We shall see...


Monday, April 7, 2014

Happy from St Kilda...

I just love this quirky little video made in my old stomping ground, St Kilda. I spent my first grown-up decade in St Kilda and I loved every minute of it. The faded mansions, kugelhopfs and cakes as far as the eye could see, the beach, the gardens, Luna Park, the bands at the Espy and The Prince, the often scary night life - I still miss it. I left before I was really ready and it still features prominently in my dreams. St Kilda is often seen as a fairly cool place but anywhere can be cool. It takes a certain kind of community spirit to pull off this sort of quirky daggy!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Rushing past my window...


Every day I see these same scenes rushing past my window. For some reason I am drawn to this side of the track rather than the other side. If I'm not reading I watch Melbourne whizz by. Sometimes I am reminded of my associations with these buildings, sometimes I'm just admiring the architecture (the top photo shows the delightfully Art Deco Hawthorn Football Club stand), sometimes I'm thinking about nights spent seeing bands in nearby venues, other times I am moved to find out more such as with the with the old Australian Knitting Mill building in Richmond.
The Australian Knitting Mill building dates to 1910 (although there had been a smaller mill on the site since 1899) and was well known for its production of bathing suits and woollen underwear. It was further expanded in 1912 and became the sole supplier of uniforms during World War I. It's hard to see in the photographs but the buildings were adorned with kookaburras and sheep representing The Golden Fleece in the 1920s. It has been as a recording studio, film set, gallery and so much more over the years. The place must be positively teeming with ghosts!
Today the complex of buildings is protected as part of a Heritage Overlay area. Clothes are still made there, buses and train carriages fitted out with fabric seats and there are any number of creative people working in the huge open plan space used as a drop-in centre and co-working space.
What do you see when you watch the world pass by? Do you ever wonder about all that has gone on in buildings beyond living memory (or is that just me?).

Monday, March 17, 2014


Moomin comic book cover by Tove Jansson

Are you a Tove Jansson fan? Perhaps you have fond childhood memories of her Moomin books or maybe you know her memoirs and fiction? I must admit to being a latecomer to Jansson's work and then only through her remarkable Moomin books. While I vaguely remember them from childhood it was not until I started reading them to my children last year that I fell under her spell. How could I not when she wrote passages such as this:

Now the dictionary was curling up more and more. The pages began to look like withered leaves, and between them the Outlandish Words came out and began crawling around on the floor.
'Goodness gracious me,' said Moomintroll.
Finn Family Moomintroll (1948)
Goodness gracious indeed! Crawling words aside, there is something very comforting about the philosophical, nature-loving world in Moominvalley where seasons are embraced for their difference and for the way they mark the passing of time:

The quiet transition from autumn to winter is not a bad time at all. It's a time for protecting and securing things and for making sure you've got in as many supplies as you can. It's nice to gather together everything you possess as close to you as possible, to store up your warmth and your thoughts and burrow yourself into a deep hole inside, a core of safety where you can defend what is important and precious and your very own. Then the cold and the storms and the darkness can do their worst.

Moominvalley In November (1971)

This year would have been Tove's 100th birthday so celebrations are in full swing around the globe to honour her work not only as a writer but as a artist. If I was anywhere near Finland I'd be hot-footing it to this remarkable retrospective exhibition at the Finnish National Gallery in Helsinki (thanks for the tip Tuula) which includes her surrealist and modernist paintings from the 1930 -1950s, her graphic work during the 1940s and her later paintings which move towards abstraction. If you can't make it there the website is certainly worth a look and if you'd like more information on Tove Jansson related events nearer to you you may find some on the Tove100 website.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I'm all ears...

One of the unexpected delights of commuting to work by train has been the rediscovery of my ears. Poor neglected ears and poor overworked eyes - looking, reading, searching, appraising - only resting when it's too dark to see.
When I was growing up there was always a radio on in the kitchen usually some sort of talkback program or maybe the horse-races or the football. Sometimes the television would be on too and I still find that constant hum of voices in a house very comforting.  As a teenager, radio was all about music and in 1980s Melbourne that meant listening to 3XY, THE rock station. As I got older I discovered the weird and wonderful world of independent radio and became an ardent follower of Melbourne's oldest independent radio station 3RRR. For a country kid it was mind blowing. My favourite programs were Film Buffs Forecast and a late night nostalgia show by 'Cherry and Mario' who among other things would do radio plays based on Hollywood musicals. They would play the soundtrack narrating the story between tracks and this embryonic performing arts historian was in heaven.

Not much has changed it seems because I am again in the thrall of radio, this time through the magic of the downloadable podcast. Although it took me a while to wade my way through the thousands of podcasts out there I'm finally finding my way now and eagerly wait for new instalments of my favourite shows. There are amazing things being done on American public radio (along the 'if you like us donate' model) and if you haven't already discovered them I can really recommend the following:

If you like the idea of fiction/ radio plays
The Truth - Movies For Your Ears
Welcome To Night Vale

If you're fascinated by history and culture
The Memory Palace
99% Invisible (architecture and design)

Each and every one is beautifully produced, truly a feast for the ears. They all run for about 20-30 minutes which is perfect for a weekday commute when you can plug yourself in, close your eyes and give yourself over to another world for a few stolen minutes.

If you have a favourite podcast I'd love to hear about it.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

You have killer taste...

THE GAP by Ira Glass from frohlocke on Vimeo.

Ira Glass is a wise man. You may know him from his work on the American public radio program, This American Life, where you can hear a wonderful mix of reportage, storytelling and other unexpected audio wonders. Here, in just over 2 minutes, Glass with the help of artist Daniel Sax, gives you all the encouragement you need to persevere with your creative ambition.

You can thank me (and Ira) later...

Linking with Meet Me At Mikes because Pip is right. It's important to acknowledge those who inspire us.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Taking Stock... February 2014


Inspired by Meet Me At Mikes (slightly edited version!)

Making :  a little crocheted cat from the book Super Scary Crochet by Nicki Trench
Cooking : Maple Olive Oil Banana Bread as seen on Shutterbean
Reading: 'Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and The Greatest Treasure Hunt In History' by Robert M. Edsal with Bret Witter
Wanting: to see the film of the above
Looking: out a lot of train windows
Listening: to Welcome To Night Vale podcasts
Enjoying: the new season of Sherlock on DVD
Liking: Instagram
Wondering: what to read next
Loving: the cooler weather
Watching: Star Wars and Indiana Jones with the kids
Hoping: those recently affected by the Victorian bushfires are finding their feet again
Marvelling: at the creativity behind White Night Melbourne
Needing: a few early nights to get me ready for a busy two weeks at work
Smelling: lemon-scented eucalypts
Wearing: uncharacteristically flat shoes
Following: Kaz Cooke's adventures at the State Library of Victoria on Fellow Frockery
Noticing: so much more now that I have to walk so much more
Getting: very good at using a myki card
Bookmarking: the Art Loss Register and Interpol for amazing stories of lost and found treasures
Disliking: the direction I see my country heading in
Snacking: on apricots and almonds
Coveting: nothing
Wishing: for 'a room of one's own'
Helping: the kids back into their busy school term routines
Hearing: good things about the 100 Story Building and their work with maginalised children and young people in Melbourne.

Phew! How about you? Have you been taking stock too?

Monday, February 10, 2014

New year, new eyes...

This year has started off very differently from previous ones. For the first time in over 20 years I find myself without a car (it seems I have a problem distinguishing between 60, 70 and 80 km zones when I'm driving). The last time I went on a train coincided with the purchase of my first car in 1991 so it was with some trepidation that I took the first of many trains I will have to take to work over the next 12 weeks. As I've mentioned before I am very claustrophobic and the thought of peak hour trains gave me more than a few sleepless nights over the Christmas break but I must say that so far I have been pleasantly surprised.

Here's some things I've learnt already walking and taking public transport:
  • I have a bus at the end of my street that will take me everywhere I regularly go in my local area including the train station.
  • The buses go every 15 minutes.
  • There is no advertising on my local buses (and very little graffiti). It is air-conditioned and very fast.
  • Only one of the milk-bars within walking distance of my house sells bread.
  • The trains I have caught have all been on time, cool (even during the heatwave), clean and quiet.
  • The trains are nowhere near as crowded as I thought they would be unless I catch one at the height of peak hour.
  • It takes me almost half the time to get into the city compared to driving.
Not only that but I now have an extra hour to myself everyday to read, listen to podcasts and see suburbs I've lived in for many years from a totally different angle (but more about that in other posts).

I do realise that once the train is late/breaks down/ traps me in a tunnel I may change my tune but for now I'm happy to accentuate the positive.