Monday, March 30, 2009

Back to Marysville 

Yesterday we went back to Marysville, to sift through the ashes of Jill's Mum's house.

Once past Healesville, the burning was immediately evident and pervasive. There were small respites, such as in Fernshaw and Black Spur, but also a few patches of remaining green forest in other places, but these were few.

The brown colours of everything surprised me, subsconsciously suggesting Autumn hues, but the deathly stillness and silence told otherwise. Close to the ground were some signs of life returning, but the tall trees looked for the most part dead. In the forest surrounding Marysville, the tops were burnt right off many of them, as the fire had gone at once through
the canopy and understorey.

Of the house itself, only the basement walls, frame and some roof iron remained. In the dust, amongst the book ashes and melted glass, were the occasional remains of a coffee cup or the iron frame of the piano.

The plants in the garden mostly stood as they were though dead and brown. Stone paths through the garden remained, as did the Hills Hoist, alone apparently untouched by fire. Out the front was the garden gnome on his front, knocked down by the surging heat and looking like a remnant of Pompeii. We took him home, but he fell to pieces on the trip, the cement baked to cracking point.

In the afternoon, as Jill, Peter and Kath sifted through the house ashes, I went for a walk with J and L.

Carefully crossing the river by trees or stones, we wandered across Gallipoli Park. J got across on a fallen tree first (as the bridge was burnt) and called out that she could see some of Bruno's sculptures! Sure enough, it looks like a number of the inhabitants of Bruno's Art & Sculpture Garden had survived the flames, even while the plants around them burnt.

Similarly, elsewhere a few things survived - the swings opposite the Lolly Shop, signposts - while all else was gone.

The occasional building also survived - the untouched Marysville Bakery, The Tower Motel unattractive as ever and the gorgeous Crossways Historic Inn, saved with a bucket by its courageous owner. We were unaware that a party had taken place a little earlier (hinted at by the pile of cupcakes in Crossways). Other places, such as Kerami Guest House and Mary-Lyn were completely gone (apart from the liftwell of the latter, which still stood).

Here are some pictures of the forest, and below are a few comparisons to happier times, including some pictures I previously blogged taken at roughly the same location.

There are some small signs of life returning - a few treefern fronds unravelling here, a bit of lawn there, some green trees in the main street, even some shoots on tall trees in the forest, but sadly not many.

While birdsong is usually everywhere at Marysville, there was virtually none to be heard. A few hungry currawongs lurked by the bakery. In the garden, there were a few skinks, butterflies, dragonflies, even the odd grasshopper, and the buzz of bushflies, but of the wombat - who would normally be tempted by the lawn - there was no sign.

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Friday, March 06, 2009

Fist Full of Comics 

Fist Full of Comics cover by Owen HeitmannThere may be life in the Australian anthology comic scene yet. I've always been a fan of past regional anthologies, such as Sporadic from Brisbane, Quasi from Canberra and Vacant Lot from Tasmania.

The irony is, I like these comics so much I tend to want to contribute to them (as with Sporadic), thus diluting the geographical aspect that is one of the attractions. When Owen Heitmann announced his intention of resurrecting the Adelaide comics anthology Fist Full of Comics (as appropriately suggested in his eye-catching front cover design, coloured by Loren Morris - see at left) - I had to submit something!

The first volume of Fist Full of Comics was from some years ago, helmed by David Milne, then Sarah Milne and Dan McGuiness (who are still present in this new issue). This new 24 pager features comics by about 10 local artists, along with a couple of text pieces to lend it some zineiness. It is currently available in Adelaide from Pulp Fiction Comics (34A King William St) or by mail order for $3 plus $1.50 postage from fistfullofcomics(at)gmail(dot)com.

Tree sample by Ian T.The piece I submitted is a two pager, that happily ended up in the middle. This is a poem that I think has been misunderstood (and rejected) elsewhere in the past so I took the opportunity to revise some lines, particularly the end, to clarify its metaphorical aspects. While I've written a lot of songs, this particular piece was only ever really intended to be (not very good) poetry, and I think illustrating it has added something it needed :).

The art is a contrast of styles, between pure black-and-white linework and gritty textures for the tree itself, though all scanning was initially done in 2bit b&w. I think the result captures the look I was after.

Fist Full of Comics back cover by Ian T.

I also knocked out a quick cover design, just in case :). This picture ended up on the back cover. The challenge was to design allowing for the required white border space - something I tried to integrate into the picture. I took the opportunity to experiment. I wanted to represent the concept, and work with flat colours and a limited palette towards a silkscreen print look. The basic design is a bit like a children's book illustration, but I tried to keep it mostly non-linear.

My one reservation about the anthology itself is that, due to the nature of the pieces, it necessarily has a MA (Mature Audience) rating, which means that the readership will be limited. This is often a problem for Australian comics - The Ink #2 copped this rating due to only one story, and a one pager at that. It was a fine piece, but meant that the issue (and the set) couldn't be sold so easily. Artists need a great deal of freedom, but this audience limiting factor is a dilemma for small-press works.

There is plenty to like in FFoC though, with Delta's A Brief Summary of Twilight being a particular favourite, and one piece I had to show to J, who really appreciated it!

If you're producing comics in Australia at the moment, I strongly recommend that you support this comic/zine and submit something - next issue submissions are required by the last week of March, for publication in early April - see guidelines. Go to it!

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Coldplay at the Rod Laver Arena review 

Last night, J and I caught Coldplay's first Melbourne show and it was amazing!

It's been a long time between concerts for me - so long, I'm having trouble remembering exactly when I last went to one. Still, I have strong memories of favourites - the first, Ian Dury & The Blockheads (with No Fixed Address) at Festival Hall, and others such as The Talking Heads "Stop Making Sense" show at Kooyong, and The Floyd (sans Waters) at the same tennis centre venue as Coldplay are currently playing. I'd certainly never experienced an audience lit up with mobile phones filming before!

Coldplay first began to register with me in a good way when they hosted Rage some years ago, choosing such fine songs as The Jayhawks "Blue" (a possible inspiration for "Yellow"?).

With the Melbourne Cricket Ground carparks shut for the stormy weather, J and I had trouble finding a parking spot, but we did find one, and free - possibly a benefit of coming early enough to catch the support bands.

Decoder Ring opened with an instrumental set of three pieces. While initially drawn in, their sound had a sameiness to it after a while that became wearying - fine musicians plying their craft in straight fours - maybe I've heard too much accomplished and meandering progressive rock to really enjoy something so driving, and I didn't think their slideshow featuring microbiology, anatomy and the odd bird added all that much.

I was astounded to hear that the next support band would be Mercury Rev, a great band, who I like a lot, both for their songcraft and their videos. Their live show somehow failed to capture that magic, with Jonathon Donahue's quirky vocals sounding forced, and again, the band's sound being somehow too driving to capture much of their frequent magic. Good, but slightly lacking, though in fairness, neither support act had the benefit of much in the way of lighting and pyrotechniques.

After a second interval, Coldplay themselves emerged in the darkness as four sparklers, then got down to the business of showing us how to put on a captivating live show. Chris Martin fronts the band in a charming manner, often speaking directly to the audience in self-effacing asides - "some of you 55 year olds will be wondering what you're doing here" - or weaving a sly line into a well-known lyric. He began by introducing Coldplay as one of "England's premier soft-rock bands" a tag he again mentioned later (better to embrace such a veiled insult to diffuse it, I figure). What's clear is that the band has worked to earn their position as possibly the top band in the world, but are also fully enjoying it, and giving their absolute best to their audience.

I'm not wholly familiar with Coldplay's back catalogue, but they barely played a song I didn't recognise, mostly from overhearing J's constant playing of their albums. Something that is clear about "Viva La Vida" is that the material - along with the "Prospekt's March" additional CD - forms a coherent thematic work, long live the album format!

Chris Martin and Jonny Buckland certainly know their arpeggios :). While Martin fluffed slightly on the beginning of "Clocks" as the band emerged from the darkness, such idiosyncracies only added to the sense of how live the show was, and how real the band. I remember seeing an early Coldplay show on TV while on the phone to a mate and relating how unimpressed I was. Either they've come a long way, or I was completely wrong. Probably both!

For four musicians the music was wide-ranging and incredibly tight. The consistent fast pacing surprised me - I'd expected them to be more laid back - but this show rocked, while remaining consistently engaging and musically appealing. Coldplay have an excellent sense of dynamics - of when to strip the music back to just Martin's evocative voice and piano, or even just percussion - and when to bring bassist Guy Berryman and Will Champion thundering in (the band probably don't deserve to be labelled in their roles, as they're all multi-instrumentalists).

Lighting and multimedia effects were used expertly throughout - multiple screens and catwalks, a shower of yellow balloons and lights for "Yellow" and coloured paper butterflies for "Lovers in Japan," an extraordinary laser show, and huge hovering globes. The band shed layers of their revolutionary outfits as they grew warmer, eventually down to shirts displaying the blood red letters of VIVA, with Martin's placed like he'd returned too soon after an appendicetomy.

Coldplay also had many surprises in store, including decamping to a ministage near the cheap seats for a sublime acoustic set, featuring Will Champion playing guitar and singing a folk-inflected song. Speaking to the audience, Martin claimed he drew the short straw in the early days and became the band's vocalist, something lent real credibility by Champion's lovely solo spot (I was reminded of the TomTom Club emerging from Talking Heads). Despite the magnificence of Martin's voice, I think there's room for exploration here in Coldplay's future.

I wonder about their practice of crediting material to all four band members, and would be interested to know the mechanics of who actually writes what. Martin mentioned Genesis at one point - a band of songwriters who put their words in the mouth of their frontman - and I wonder to what extent they all contribute to the actual wordsmithing. While this crediting will work beautifully for now, distributing royalties and helping keep them together, I have to wonder if it's a good idea considering the experience of so many other bands.

Coldplay are a band who totally deserve their success at every level. If, like me, you're perpetually short of money and can only scrape together the money to get to one show, I can totally recommend Coldplay. Don't be put off by their enormous popularity :).

By the way, can anyone tell me, what was the classical baroque piece that Martin played on piano?

  • Coldplay Clock Up a Winner
  • Review and setlist

  • Best of all, when we came out, after a day of some of the direst wind, fire and weather warnings ever (ratings of 200-300, based on a usual scale of 50-100) it had finally rained!


    Monday, March 02, 2009

    Strange weather 

    The weather is seriously weird. The last week or so it has seemed like conditions were right for it to rain, but it never does anymore. I'm sick of the smell of smoke and the constant threats of high fire danger, not to mention the eerie yellow days, that are like something out of Life on Mars. Rather than continue trying to describe the dryness and the mood, here are a few photos from February (click for larger pics).

    Fitz at Seville 9.36am 7th February 2009 by Ian T

    The day of the fires J and L went riding early - all lessons had moved, but it was still a hard day for the horses, even before it hit 46.4 Celsius. I don't think Fitz was ridden that day (he's fairly old).

    Sky at home 8.28pm 8th February 2009 by LT

    Taken by L the night after the fires - everything remained yellow for days, but the evening light was particularly strange. This is taken at our place - you can see why we're worried by the current fire danger.

    Sun on the road to Lilydale 14th February 2009 by Ian T

    I pulled off the road early in the morning to take this, as the Sun was bright red.

    Seville 7.39am 14th February 2009 by Ian T

    Here it is a little later, out towards Warburton.

    Don't get me started on the long-established industry that is climate change denial!

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