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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.