Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Magic Realist Moment

You know, I'm a bit of a fan of magic realism. Not as a genre, really. Its more that I happen to be a fan of both Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Jose Saramago, and both authors happen to be - more or less - in the magic realist realm.

And here's a magic realist moment, from my own back catalogue. In 1998, after training a few disability support workers in Toowoomba, I was driving back home, down the mountain towards Brisbane. As I passed through Gatton, or thereabouts, and the only car on my side of the road, a huge cloud of white butterflies emerged from the fields and floated across the highway. Sheets of fluttering white wings in the yellow sunshine. There were literally thousands of them, tossed like flotsam on air currents, a mass folding in on itself, expanding, contracting, swerving, fleeing, like an airborne school of fish.

There were so many of them that after about ten seconds, I could no longer see, and had to switch on the windscreen wipers. Driving at 100 kilometres per hour, wiping away white butterflies like snow.

True story.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Grandfathers and War

I don't know if anything particularly profound will emerge from writing this, but, inspired by Pavlov's Cat, I offer this reflection on my grandfathers. Seen here enlisting for service in 1941.

On the left, my paternal grandfather, who I never met, though he survived the war. A sapper in the 9th Division, he was wounded in action at the 2nd Battle of El-Alamein in 1942. His casualty record blithely states "Cas Sect. 28-10-42 wounded in action. Confusion, hallux. Evac 2/3 AFA". The 28th October was a critical day in battle against Rommel. He had two shrapnel wounds from a shell, and was evidently found disoriented.

More mundanely, and no doubt demonstrating the constancy of stress, his record shows he was sectioned several times with hemorrhoids. Jesus, I can well imagine. By 1943 he was in Port Moresby, having returned on the fleet that Curtin brought home for the Pacific War. My dad recalled hiding under a bed when his father returned in 1946, yellow with malaria, and scary to behold to 6 year old eyes.

His occupation was listed as 'labourer' upon enlistment. He ended up life as a publican, however. According to my Aunt, he rescued a young solider at El-Alamein whose old man was a Brewery magnate. She remembers their family pulling up at their house after the war to give my Grandad a chance at running a pub.

It has occurred to me before that this near random chance event just might be one key reason I was born securely middle class. He certainly wasn't. Born in Bolton, Lancashire, to cotton mill piecers. The twisted sea of fate!

On the right my maternal grandad, the one I knew and loved all my life. He died a few years back at 91. I met his older brother at his 90th birthday, and also met his near-centenarian mother when I was very young. A teacher, and a Captain in the Australian militia (Citizen's Military Forces), he was transferred to the AIF when a friendly doctor reversed an earlier decision on a childhood spinal injury. He served in Bougainville and once fled his tent on instinct in the dead of night to see it explode seconds later. A grenade had been rolled in. He mentioned the war only twice in the thirty odd years I knew him. Once was that grenade story. The other was when he was a bit tipsy and maudlin, and before he shook it all off, quietly let out that he had found himself covered in a dead mate's blood and body parts after one attack.

He was allergic to any and all tropical foods. "Only since the war", said my grandmother.

No wonder they wanted a quiet life.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Boom Boom

Well, muchachos, it's that time of year isn't it. I must admit, I'm quite pro-December. End-of-year get-togethers, and seasonal pissups, as summer's long nights and social calenders collide in that month-long inexorable charge to..... the eruption of barely suppressed family tensions over Xmas lunch.

Its been a splendid time blogging in the company of such fine compañeros this year. Why, I even received my first Viagra spam on the blog today. And they said we'd never make it!

So, here's cheers et salutations saisonnières from BmL, home of the France Gall Appreciation Society (Bureau de l'Australie) wishing all of you un gran latte for the party season. Personally, I've been warming up for seasonal soirees with this track, one of my France Gall faves, and a splendid piece of 60s jazz-pop: Boom Boom (1966).

Entonces, felicidades a todos.

Credits roll until 0.30.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Seasonal Cheer

It would appear one of my local neighbours is somewhat cool on Yule.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Lusobeats#2: Nara Leão sings Insensatez

If you're at all interested in Bossa Nova, you'll dig this clip. First, you not only get to listen to Nara Leão's utterly beschmoozling interpretation of the standard Insensatez (starts at 0.45), but you also get to hear her speak a little of the history and milieu of Bossa Nova. Frankly, the mere sound of her Brazilian Portuguese beschmoozles yours truly - but the history she alludes to is interesting.

Its a softly spoken style of acoustic jazz / samba, pioneered by João Gilberto, Tom Jobim, and herself, among others. Its grew up among the middle class of Rio De Janeiro - and all the genre's proponents speak of a great flowering of Brazilian culture and music from 1957 through to 1964 - until the coup leading to the dictatorship lasting until 1985. Like so many Latin American countries, the populist import substitution regimes of the era created a middle class that was later squeezed by dictatorship (and alternative 'economic medicines') in the years that followed. She is missing João Gilberto (Bebel's Dad, and first hubby of Astrud) because like many Bossa Nova artists, he was in exile in this period.

Anyway, its a beautiful song.