Monthly Archives: November 2018

Movie: Vita and Virginia

This was a very wordy film, as you might expect given that it was set amongst writers and artists in the Bloomsbury circle. Elizabeth Debicki was excellent, playing an ungainly and  mentally fragile Virginia Woolf. There was rather too much of Vita and Virginia staring face-on to the camera in close-up, talking, and felt myself getting rather bored by it all. I wanted to like it more than I did.

I saw this as part of the British Film Festival.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 30 Oct – 5 November 2018

History Hour (BBC) I don’t know why it took me so long to find this program. The episode from April 29 2017 is a cracker: the campaign beginning in 1977 by the mothers of children who disappeared during the military dictatorship in Argentina who are now known as the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, Bulgaria’s attempt to crush Turkish language and culture. and a gruelling interview with a woman who survived Bosnia’s rape camps. I also listened to a recent one about when Russia’s richest man was jailed, which had a good section on the discovery of oil in Nigeria.

Conversations (ABC). Richard Fidler is such a good interviewer. I listened to him interviewing Leigh Sales about her new book Any Ordinary Day. And in Inside the Family: the bizarre and brutal Australian cult, from a writers festival somewhere Richard interviews the authors of a documentary and book on Ann Hamilton-Byrne’s cult up in the Dandenongs, where children were adopted under very questionable circumstances (originally broadcast in 2017)

Earshot (ABC) The Conquistador, the Walpiri and the Dog Whisperer is about two Chilean women, from different sides of Chilean politics who ended up working in Central Australia managing Warlukurlangu Art Centre in the desert community of Yuendemu. I have conflicted feelings about the industrializing and commercializing of traditional art, and feel even more conflicted after listening to this.

But Robert Manne’s Voice is absolutely, completely wonderful. Robert Manne is an Australian public intellectual who has spanned the political range from left wing to right wing and back again. He has recently had surgery for throat cancer, which means that this man, who continues to speak out about climate change and refugees, now speaks only in a whisper. Even if you don’t know who Robert Manne is, listen to this. It’s really good.

History Hour (ABC) For Armistice Day, there’s an interesting podcast about the tradition of the ‘minute’s silence’,  suggested by an Australian soldier who enlisted from England. He originally planned for five minutes silence until they realized how l-o-n-g five minutes of silence was.

Duolingo. Episode 13 Refugiados. An interesting episode about a political refugee from Uraguay during the military dictatorship during the 1970. A mixture of English and slowly-spoken Spanish. There’s a transcript on the webpage.

‘Almost French’ by Sarah Turnbull

turnbull_almost_french.jpg

2002, 309 p.

Somehow or other, the deluge of books about women going off to France seems to have rushed past me. I hadn’t particularly been drawn to dip my toes into the flow, but this book was chosen by my bookgroup and so I read it, some sixteen years after it was published.

At the time of writing it, Sarah Turnbull was an expatriate freelance journalist living in Paris. Most of her journalistic work was published in magazines (similar to the Weekend Magazine that comes with the Age), and the lightness of her touch and self-deprecation makes this an easy and very pleasant read. Food, fashion, the joys (or not) of pet ownership are topics that she addresses in the book, and could easily be lifted for lifestyle magazine consumption.

She only intended going to Paris for a week, having met Frederic in Budapest, and accepting his offer of a week in Paris on a whim.  She ended up staying eight years. In this time she came to realize the truth of the words of an elderly man she had met on the Greek  island of Samos on her travels. After migrating to Australia, he had returned to Greece but felt it “a bitter-sweet thing, knowing two cultures”.

She has to learn the language, and she feels excluded by her limited French and frustrated by her inability to assert herself. But more than words, she has to learn the French purpose of language in a social setting as a game, to show one’s quickness and wit. She struggles with the coldness of other French women until she recognizes it as a manifestation of competition. She mocks Frederic’s horror at her donning tracky-daks to go down to the nearby bakery, but finds herself equally affronted by the tackiness of English dress-sense when they go over to England for a weekend.

This book is laugh-out-loud funny in places, for example where Frederic quickly ties his jumper around his waist and affects a dodgy French accent when pretending to be an Australian tourist when they are challenged for trespassing. There are moments of poignancy too, like when she needs to don sunglasses in the plane when leaving Australia, looking at the Qantas advertisement and seeing the landscape curving away from her from her plane window.

This is really just a series of anecdotes, with no great plot shifts or crises. She is insightful in identifying the nuance and yet solidity of cultural difference. It is something that we can and should all be reminded of, going in the different direction, by people who are adjusting to Australia. It’s a light, enjoyable read- and yes, it made me wonder if perhaps I could go to France next year after all…..

My rating: 8/10

Sourced from: CAE bookgroups.

AWW-2018-badge-rose-199x300 I have put this title onto the Australian Women Writers Challenge database.

Movie: Jirga

There’s not a lot of dialogue in this film, or at least, not much dialogue that you and I will understand. An Australian ex-soldier, Mike, returns to Afghanistan where he served in the army some years earlier. He had been involved on a raid on a village, and he wants to make amends. He doesn’t speak Pashtun, and to put us as viewers in Mike’s place, nothing is translated.  The landscape is stark- no wonder armies founder there.

It’s an excellent meditation on repentance and forgiveness.

My rating: 4 stars.

And here’s an interesting video about the making of Jirga

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 22 October-29 October

Revolutions podcast. Episode 9.09 The Tiger.  At last! Francisco Madero finally does something, Portfirio Diaz finally retires (after promising to do so thirty-odd years earlier) and we finally bring all the gang together by introducing Pancho Villa, whom I vaguely remember from History I back at La Trobe in 1974.

Articles of Interest. Episode 1 Kids’ Clothes introduces the concept of this podcast series about fashion and clothing and then goes on to explore the design restrictions on children’s clothing, especially for an adult of small stature who has to shop in the children’s wear department. Episode 2: Plaid looks at tartan, its history and its use as identity marker from Highlanders to the gay community. It starts with a woman with such a bad case of vocal fry that she sounds like she’ll just combust, or croak away into silence.

The Horror of Delores Roach I listened to Episode 2 You Know He Lives Underground, Right? I’m not really sure about this one. It’s pretty grimy and it has a lot of swearing. Even I am finding it gratuitous.

News in Slow Spanish Latino Episode #280

BBC History Hour This is a weekly broadcast that has about four stories in a 50 minute episode. Although there might be a contemporary event or publication that has prompted the segment, the podcasts themselves don’t date. I listened to an episode from 23 Dec 2017 about the filming of To Kill a Mockingbird and a fascinating one from May 6 2018 where Margaret Thatcher’s personal secretary, a left-leaning public servant, spoke about her ambivalent relationship with her. It also had a segment on the Childrens’ Crusade during the early 1960s civil rights movement, and the striking changes to the way Shakespeare is interpreted brought about the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Russia If You´re Listening (ABC) The series has officially finished, but Matt Bevan sometimes releases ‘Trumpdates’ if something has arisen worth discussing. In this podcast he is talking with Leon Neyfakh the host of the podcast ‘Slow Burn’ which examined Watergate in its first season, and White Water/Monica Lewinsky in its second season. Here they discuss Trump’s Russian travails against these earlier scandals. Couldn’t find the episode on the ABC website, so you might have to go to your ABC Listen app.

Rear Vision (ABC). This was an interesting podcast about Megacities, comparing the past and future of megacities in the global north and south.