Bluebeard’s Egg – a review

In this book, Margaret Atwood shares with us a set of short stories. The principal characters are all women. The narrative revolves around their self perception. Each story represents an episode from a life. Many of these episodes are ongoing and without conclusion regardless of coming to the end. However, this doesn’t matter because the stories are more about getting an insight into what makes each principal tick, rather than the story itself. This is an intimate and rewarding approach to sharing the motivation for some women’s choices. In a way, this approach makes discussion of the stories themselves superfluous. So, I am going to consider the writing style used to communicate these internal dialogues instead.

I like Margaret Atwood’s style. It is direct and concise. Atwood’s sentences are short and often punchy. She is descriptive in a precise and succinct way. She fills out her characters in a purposeful, almost business like manner, but without sacrificing personality. Quite an achievement really. There’s something empirical in the way she speaks to the reader. She writes from an evidence base. There is an explanation for everything so that the content becomes believable and thus compelling.

Internal dialogues are an important tool for Atwood. She utilises self consciousness to tell the character’s story in such a way you develop an intimate perspective. It feels partly voyeuristic. On the other hand, there is a concurrent application of third party detachment. This balance allows you to proceed without feeling too guilty about listening to private thoughts and observing private actions. This approach works well for the reader. It invites you in. As a consequence, each encounter feels primarily like a unique sharing of a personal psychological profile. Each story becomes something of a secondary tale, just a vehicle for achieving the author’s primary goal.

Recommended as an interesting and informative approach to gender specific short story telling.

Australian Rules Football: the best game in the world. A game good for bad times.

Thank you Australian Rules Football: The AFL, Administrators, Organisers, Players, Coaches, Support staff, Promoters, Deliverers and Volunteers.

Thank you for managing to organise an ongoing fixture in these sad times. Thank you for overcoming obstacles, learning your way to solutions and giving us back the game. The best game. Australian Rules Football is the best game in the world. The continuity of competition is a welcome fraction of “normal” that reminds us good things can still happen (even when Collingwood gets a complete shellacking).

I still feel this way after watching the second half of West Coast vs Collingwood because the Eagles played with such athletic beauty. A team of well prepared AFL players can perform most of the feats achievable by the human physique in the course of a season. However, the Eagles delivered many in a single game.

The second half was a virtually flawless display of sublime skill and football smarts by West Coast players as individuals and as a team. The goal kicking was extraordinary. One slotted after the other in a peerless demonstration of accuracy and purpose. The strength and dominance of their aerial work included some lovely speccys. The immediate and right decision making delivered ball after ball to a teammate. It was uncanny.

The procession like waves of players streaming in absolute synchrony down the field as they passed the pill in bullet like hand ball and short passes was a joy to watch. Every long bomb seemed to hit a target. Every spill was gathered and spat out. Players propelled themselves at their opposition in irresistible tackles. Their defence ruthlessly puounced on turnovers and relentlessly deflected every move into the Magpie forward zone. They were the launching pad for one successful offensive attack after another.

Did I mention full forward Josh Kennedy yet? No? How could I have come so far without acknowledging 7 majors from a veteran star? Still waxing, rarely waning, always a threat, he did it again, one perfect line after another, one perfect goal after another, one reason to celebrate football after another.

And through it all, there was Nic Nat. I have never seen such a dominant demonstration of the art of ruck work. His vision, his leap, his taps and his persistence once the ball hits the ground is astoundingly glorious. Even more astounding, his opposite number was Brody Grundy, arguably the best ruckman in the game. On this occasion it was a total eclipse!

The Hunt for Red October – a review

From the first scenes, where the new Soviet Typhoon class submarine leaves the Polijarny Inlet, the sense of menace is profound. You just know this is going to be tense all the way through.

Sean Connery is perfectly cast as commander Marco Ramius, “The Vilnius Schoolteacher” of Russian attack Commanders. A bear of a man in charge of a monster of a boat with an arsenal of annihilation at his disposal …… and then there are the “doors”.

Meanwhile, the Americans become aware of the emergence of the new sub. Tom Clancy’s perennial character CIA analyst Jack Ryan puts his highly sensitised and suspicious nature to the test.

Concurrently, USS Dallas, an LA class attack submarine is patrolling near the Russian Sub base at Murmansk. It picks up the Red October, tracking the new beast of the sea carefully, until, the Russian inexplicably disappears.

Unaware of the proximity of a US sub, Ramius confronts a weasel like Soviet political officer who precociously awaits the commander in his private cabin. This does not bode well. Together they must open their mission orders from the Commander’s safe. They use their two independent, missile arming keys. A “dreadful accident” ensues and the scene is set.

It never lets up from here. The build of Red October is intense and anxiety provoking. As the Soviet fleet scrambles and the US NSA fears a fist strike, against the odds one person prosecutes a rational interpretation of events.

This is a deep sea game of cat and mouse that threatens the security of the world in a way that any one of us can relate to, fearfully, in fiction or in truth.

As relevant and potent today as when released in 1990, be afraid, be very afraid.

Australian Crawl – Sirocco (S2 Reviews)

sirocco

EMI Records 1981 Vinyl

The cover outside:

Six very clean cut young men grace the gatefold black and white cover. They are generously spread across front and rear panels. The nice thing about this is you have to open the cover fully to appreciate the photograph. It is a grand image, on a truly large scale, in a way only an LP cover can deliver. They look so comfortable with each other. A relaxed confidence and bonhomie smiles out from the sleeve. They are a pretty handsome looking crew as well. Only front man James Reyne stands apart, challenging the cameraman with a look of veiled menace. Somebody in this band has to represent the rock ethos.

The cover inside:

Black and white once again features across the interior. Six portraits from the same shoot as the front hang across the centre top of the display, only this time it is Simon Binks doing the meaningful look into the camera. The potrait shots are placed across a greyscale muted sun, shining down onto the yacht Sirocco (it does look like the actual yacht). The yacht is sailing a calm sea. White on black gives the lyrics definition. They wrap themselves around the sides and base, parting just enough in the middle to encourage our eyes to track reflected sunlight up to the silhouetted boat.

 

Side 2: Track by track

Trusting you (Bill McDonough, Guy McDonough)

This song immediately sets a frantic, choppy pace with Reyne’s similarly choppy vocals requiring a familiar (to the previously initiated) bit of concentration if you want to catch all the lyrics. The sentiment revolves around a relationship from which trust has fled. But it doesn’t appear to be a romantic relationship. Maybe it was with management.

 

Errol (James Reyne, Guy McDonough)

Errol is based on a genuinely infectious pop bass run that gets straight into your head. This was a big hit for the band and I have fond memories of belting it out at dances and parties along with the rest of the off your face masses (wistful sigh). It is an expert paraphrasing of the great Errol Flynn’s bio. A song that not only makes you want to dance, but also know more.

 

Can I be sure (Simon Binks)

I think you could describe this as a bit of a lyrically sophisticated, musical plodder, of the dah de dah bass line variety. In a fairly analytical way, the lyric once again is questioning trust. My guess is that being in a highly successful band meant coming across all sorts of fakers and people so image conscious you would never be quite sure who was real. It is a worthy piece of reflection.

 

Easy on your own (Kerry Armstrong, Brad Robinson, Simon Binks)

The ringing guitar solos and a cute reggae break are features here. James’ voice invites you in by challenging your capacity to understand what he is singing, so you tend to concentrate on what is going on. This is not a bad thing. Actress Kerry Armstrong was partner to Brad Robinson, so writing lyrics about how much easier to be on your own was a surprise to me. Maybe the song is saying it is tough being partner to someone often on the road – and this could have referred to either of them.

 

Love boys (Bill McDonough)

Something a bit musically heavier. This song would have gone down well live. It is topically a pretty heavy song as well. I mean the characters are tattooed, bent, bash their women and heading for prison. I don’t know who the Love Boys were (are?), but they sure sound nasty. I only ever went to King’s Cross a few times. I am glad we never met.

 

Resort girls (Guy McDonough)

Here’s one that pricks up your ears as initially the lead guitar follows the vocal nicely and closely. However, it also has an air of desperation from the get go as women, young and older, head for resorts looking for love and finding something less.

 

Summary

This second Aussie Crawl album was a huge hit for the band. Sitting at the top of the charts for 6 weeks and only bested by John Lennon’s “Double Fantasy” for the year, it remains a keeper. Side 2 is no slacker, hosting one of the three single releases, “Errol”. The lyrics hold much more interest than your average pop/rock album. For this feature in particular, I rate it highly. Full of memories and just as fresh to hear again today. I still enjoy it.

Diary of a Retiree: Day 281