Thursday, 21 August 2014

Library Loot-- Well Sort Of

Yesterday was my Play Reading class and afterwards I generally go to the State Library either to pick up something I ordered or to return things. I seldom pull books off the shelf to bring home. For one, they are generally by people I have never heard of. If I want something really good or current I need to place a hold on it and then pick it up when the library staff notifies me.  Secondly I have so many books at home that I shouldn't go anywhere near a library.

I have been in a reading slump. That's not to say I haven't been reading. I have, but I seem to get about 1/3 to 1/2 into a book and then lose interest. Nothing is really grabbing me. No idea why but we all do this from time to time.

I was walking into the library to pick up the DVD of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. I really want to see this as the short story by James Thurber has always been a favourite. I can't believe it is anywhere near as good as the short story.

I had a brain wave so to speak. My brain waves are rather innocuous so I don't get too excited about them. They can occur anywhere and usually don't amount to a lot but the idea did involve the library and I was there so why not.

I decided I would walk the stacks and pick the five slimmest volumes I could find. I knew I could finish them, I knew I'd have no idea about any of the books chosen and I knew they would vary by degree in how good, well written, interesting they are.

This is what I found as I walked up and down the aisles of fiction.

1.  The Betrayers by Robert Morrison. An uncle and nephew go to Bangkok to visit the sister who has been arrested for drug trafficking. They see her and she looks emaciated with circles under eyes and dark as bruises and the skin of her face stretch tight over her cheekbones.(from back cover.) Their father was an Australian artist who committed suicide not long before and the experience in Bangkok draws them all together. (Inside front cover of DJ) We'll see. 139 pages.

2.  Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli. In the heart of Mexico City a woman, trapped in a house and a marriage she can neither fully inhabit nor abandon, thinks about her past. She has decided to write a novel about her days at a publishing house in New York about the strangers who became lovers and the poets and ghosts who once lived in her neighbourhood.  In particular, one of the obsessions of her youth-Gilberto Owen- an obscure Mexican poet of the 1920's, a marginal figure of the Harlem Renaissance, a busker on Manhattan's subway platforms, a friend and an enemy of Federico Garcia Lorca. Somehow as she writes the two lives connect across the decades. 148 pages.

3. The Embassy of Cambodia by Sadie Smith. Now I have certainly heard of this author but not this book. Inside cover of DJ states "A rare and brilliant story from Zadie Smith taking us deep into the life of a young woman, Fatou, domestic servant to the Derawals and escapee from one set of hardships to another." Beginning and ending outside the Embassy of Cambodia which happens to be located in London. It is a story of how small things in an ordinary life always raise larger more extraordinary questions. Hmmm. 69 pages

4. Quantum of Tweed by Conn Iggulden. (From back cover) Albert Rossi has many talents. He can spot a cheap polyester at a 100 paces. He knows the value of a good pair of brogues. He is in fact the person you would have on speed dial for any tailoring crisis. When Albert accidentally runs over a pedestrian, he is launched into the murky world of murder for hire. Instead of a knock on the door from the police, he receives a phone call from a man who sounds surprisingly like Stephen Hawking. At that moment Albert Rossi decides to change careers. His life is about to get a whole lot more interesting.  This is a Quick Reads book which makes me think it must be one of those high interest low reading books. It is from England and at only 74 pages I am bound to finish it.

5.  Secrets by Patricia Scanlan. Published by New Island Public Door Ireland. It states- Kate is finding it hard to come to terms with her husband's unemployment. She and Bill are struggling to pay the bills. They don't have enough money for the children's Christmas presents. And having a boastful next door neighbour isn't helping either.  Then Kate's old friend Carmel phones to say that she'll be visiting soon. Carmel is glamorous and rich- she seems to have it all. What will Kate do? She hasn't told Carmel about Bill's job loss and she's too proud to admit that they're in trouble. But Carmel has a secret of her own.  76 pages

There you have it. I have 3 weeks to finish these five little books before they are due and then I plan to review all of them. I'm hoping to kickstart my reading habit again, gain more enthusiasm in what is still a chilly winter and at the end of those three weeks begin on my enormous TBR pile. Wish me luck.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

The Opera Rigoletto at MONA Museum Cinema today

A couple of years ago an art loving gambler named David Walsh built the MONA museum (Museum of Old and New Art) in Southern Tasmania to house not only his art collection but to exhibit art from all over the world. The MONA museum is anything but traditional and it is one of the best things to happen to Hobart almost ever.  People can drive to the museum, about 20 minutes north of the city or hop on the regular ferries at the waterfront and come by boat. Many tourists prefer this method as they may not have their car with them.

The view from the waterfront.
It is a beautiful, very modern building that is specifically built to house all types of art. When you walk into the main building you take an elevator down to the fourth floor, the whole building is mainly underground, to the cinema.

The cinema is great fun as the screen is very big, the chairs are comfortable, including big comfy leather arm chairs scattered around.

The museum grounds are part of a large winery, and we entered down a long driveway through the vineyards. There are several different buildings. Some for meetings and conferences, restaurants, cafes and the main museum.  The art is almost always controversial and some of it most confronting.  David Walsh made his millions through gambling around the world and as he grew up in Tasmania he wanted to give something back to the state he loves.

People within Tasmania have free entry and people from everywhere else have to pay $20.00 per person.  MONA is very much on the world stage now for modern museums and the place is always rocking with people.  It is just such a treasure.
Act I - A casino in Las Vegas
As the museum and the grounds are quite extensive, I am only going to focus on the cinema today.

We arrived at the cinema about 10:30 this morning for an 11:00 sitting.  We got there early so we could get through the doors as soon as they opened. We wanted to sit in one of the red leather armchairs that are so comfy. There is a bar just outside the entrance door and we ordered a couple of coffees to take inside.  You can also have snack foods brought into you by staff.  Today was the last performance of this wonderful opera Rigoletto and there weren't many people there because it was a Sunday morning. 

This particular performance of Rigoletto (a Michael Mayer production) has been modernised and the setting for it was Las Vegas in 1960.  It was inspired by the casinos and the lifestyle of the Rat Pack in that year.
Rigoletto's daughter 
It was performed by the Metropolitan Opera in New York City and was filmed live. We watched the film. It felt as though we were there only we thought it was even better.  The screen is very large. (The photo of the theatre inside doesn't do it justice.) The actors were from around the world and their voices were incredible.

We sat mesmerised for the two hours and the time went by so quickly.  I have never been to a film of a live streaming of opera and it was most enjoyable. The focus was so much on their faces and you could really see everything close up.  The sound system is very good and the music surrounded us.
There are more events planned in future months.  I hope to report back on some more.  They show operas, films, theatre and art exhibitions from around the world.  It is silly because we have this wonderful facility in our back yard and we haven't attended a lot of things. Yet people come from all over Australia and overseas to attend the events that MONA provides.  I don't think I'll be so slack in the future.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Books Galore at the NEW Tip Shop

Construction work at the site of the tip (dump to you Americans) had been going on for ages and nobody knew what was going on. Suddenly there was a grand opening. Yeah, a grand opening of a tip shop, the dump, landfill.  When Australia was going through the "collector's frenzy" as the rest of the world probably knows with England's Bargain Hunt and America's Pickers, Container Wars etc. everything was marked up in price sky high.  Penguins in the tip shop went from 10 cents, 50 cents suddenly to 2, 3, 5 dollars a book.

Of course nobody bought them so they sat on shelves for ages. They also took the best of the best from the tip landfill and opened up a shop in the city centre called "Collectables."  Now, that store was expensive. I found an old, smelly Penguin book that somebody thought was rare because the colour was the wrong colour for the genre. Some bright spark found somewhere that a particular book had been printed with a purple cover and the staff member said it was supposed to be green.

Well, actually it was supposed to be cerise because it was a travel and adventure. He put $20.00 on it. I explained to him it wasn't worth half that but nope, no luck. It sat on the shelf for over 2 years. Then they marked it down to $10.00. I told him again it wasn't worth half that as it was filthy dirty, yellowed and it really did smell.  Nope, no luck.  Next year it went down to 50 cents and they still couldn't sell it. I don't know what happened to it in the end.

Anyway. Collectables closed. Ha!  I knew it would. They priced themselves right out of the market and everything in this two story building went back to the.............guess where? The Tip Shop. The downmarket tip shop. Last stop - Landfill.  I was delighted. Not only that but they opened a wonderful, brand new building. Purpose built for all those things that are excellent all the way down to can't even sell it in an op shop.  This really is the last stop before landfill sucks the stuff into its bowels.

Good news is there are tons of books and they are actually sorted. Not really into any kind of genres but on fresh new book shelves that you can read, not scattered around in shopping trolleys that you have to dig through.

Well I went to the tip shop today as I was out on my bike. The sun was shining, it was 11 degrees C so not bad (52 for you Farenheit people). I hadn't been there in a while so the Penguin hunting began in earnest.  This is what I found. All of these books for $8.00 in total. Enjoy (if you're a Penguin person like some of us) and until next time......

Part of the book section. There are about 5 or 6 shelves like this. 

A Penguin Vintage Puffin
Original Puffins are harder to find than Penguins b/c children were hard on them.
Another old Puffin Book

Number 2133  Looks like a real cold war book from late 50's to 60's
Number 2816- How sixties does this look.

This is a real find. Green ones are quite collectable and this is a very early first.
Number 279

An old Georgette Heyer at 2511.  Interesting cover.

This book is from the Penguin Poets series. An interesting cover.
I find these little partial Penguins as I call them that have been removed from boxed sets.
The original boxed sets were published for Penguin's 60th birthday. I have the completed box sets
but whenever I see these little books I pick them up because I can't stand the thought of them lying in landfill with the
seagulls pecking at them. I have a whole pile of them.