Sunday, June 30, 2013

Great Ugly River by Mike and Mal Leyland.

Great Ugly River by Mike and Mal Leyland.  Hardcover book published by Lansdowne 1965, 226 pages with some black and white photographs.

I wrote about the Leyland’s a few years back whilst discussing “Laraine Leyland’s Food for the road”, which is a great cookbook for those wanting to learn those “camping and caravanning cooking secrets which she made famous on television”.  My copy of Loraine’s meisterwerk did manage to sell and I haven’t found another copy since then (2010).  Recently, whilst on my own expedition, I did manage to find this book, in which Laraine doesn’t appear at all.  I have wondered what the men ate without Laraine’s talents on the fire and camping stove… Cheese on toast? Baked beans?

So this book has nothing to do with cooking but has everything to do with adventuring in the Australian outback.  The Leyland brothers and a mate of theirs, “set out in an open boat to conquer the 1400 miles of Darling River from Queensland to Victoria.  The journey had never been made before and, judging by the experiences of the authors, it is unlikely to be attempted again.”  For some reason, I think I’ve seen the film of this expedition which was entitled “Down the Darling”.  I used to watch all of their docos on the telly, I loved it.  I was 5.  Specifics, I can’t remember, but a general sense of adventure into a barely known landscape, I do remember.  I was enthralled.  These days the Leyland’s would be dropped from a helicopter onto an ant hill with a spoon and packet of biscuits… and then they would probably be voted off their own TV show by Kyle Sandilands.  They don’t make adventure documentaries like they once did.

This book was obviously meant as a tie in to the documentary… or was it the other way around?  These days the book would be released at the same as it’s TV screening and we all know it’s rare that a TV tie book has a lasting appeal.  There are of course exceptions to my previous statement and I believe the Leyland Brothers are one of those exceptions where the book can be popular 40+ years after the fact.  I like the Leyland’s which is one of the reasons I’m writing about it here.  I also figure that if I have some nostalgia, then others will as well, making this book just that little bit more saleable.  If Laraine’s book can sell, so can Mike and Mal’s.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Goodies Rule Ok by Robert Ross.

The Goodies Rule Ok by Robert Ross.  Hardcover book with pictorial boards published by ABC Books 2006, 192 pages with colour and black and white photographs as well as a few illustrations.

I remember watching the Goodies back in the 1970s on ABC TV here in Australia.  It was the highlight of my day.  There was the giant kitten thingy, the Rolf Harris’s and general all round mayhem, episode after episode… and they were repeated… and repeatedly enjoyed as often as possible by moi.  I knew that with each viewing, I was always going to be entertained even if I didn’t understand all the angloisms.  It was great… and it was even better because my parents didn’t like it… which was probably due to their having even less of an idea about the anglocentric humour of the Goodies than I did.

The Goodies are still popular with my generation and those generations around my generation.  Video and now DVD (probably the interwebs as well) have kept the Goodies alive and kicking despite their not having made a new episode since 1982.  At a guess, I would say this popularity is mostly driven by nostalgia and this book is a prime example of that nostalgia.  Published in 2006, long after the fact and published in Australia, it’s obviously been put together to appeal to older fans who remember the Goodies with fondness.  It’s got lots of stuff that any fan who has been waiting for something new for the last 31 years, would thoroughly enjoy.

Now for the truth.  My passion for all things Goodie has waned.  I now sound like my parents… “What is this rubbish”.   I don’t know why, and indeed, I’m a little saddened by the fact that I don’t find them as funny as I once did.  The angloisms are a little clearer to me now… but… I don’t know, it’s just not as funny as it was when I was 12.  I know a number of people to whom the Goodies are still of interest and I think that’s great… and I think a book like this should appeal to them and the thousands of other fans who still sing along to the Funky Gibbon.  For me though, The Goodies no longer Rule Ok.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Poetical Works of Lord Byron: Collected and arranged with notes.

The Poetical Works of Lord Byron: Collected and arranged with notes.  Hardcover book (leather) published by John Murray 1883, 824 pages with some black and white illustrations.

It wasn’t hard to spot this book amongst the many.  The impressive leather binding is more than a statement and the book was obviously bound to impress.  What is interesting here is that the binding does not appear to be original.  The book is, the cover isn’t.  It is definitely a later addition and the binder has put the date of publication on the spine… probably to further impress.  There are a few other copies floating around on the interwebs and they all seem to have different bindings to each other.  I’ve got some theories that I’d like to run by you.  Firstly the book may have been published without a cover or a very flimsy cover with the intention that it would be bound to an individuals personal taste and also to match other impressive tomes in one’s library.  This is the sort of thing that happened in the 1800s*… and less so in the 1900s.  Secondly, the book may have been bound but due to its age the binding has deteriorated over time and therefore needed rebinding. 

1883.  That’s a long time ago… a long time before an ibook or a kindle walked this earth.  Unlike the kindlibook, this book has a sense of history and grandeur.  It has an aura and a beauty, that is only possible with time… and a bit of heavy leather.  Sure it has some wear and tear, it’s 130 years old, but I find that this adds to the overall appeal and I think it would be a bit sad if it didn’t have some wear.  

When I look for books I always hope that I will find something special.  As exciting as a copy of Footrot Flats volume 25 is, it’s not as nice a book as this one… although maybe that’s a matter of taste.  Unfortunately I don’t always find a Byron, but that doesn’t stop me from looking.

*not always

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Light on the Hill: The Australian Labor Party 1891-1991 by Ross McMullin.

The Light on the Hill: The Australian Labor Party 1891-1991 by Ross McMullin.  Hardcover book published by Oxford 1991, 502 pages with some black and white photographs and illustrations.

“The Light on the Hill (a quintessential Labor motto made famous by one of its great prime ministers, Ben Chifley) commemorates the centenary of the Australian Labor Party, one of the world’s oldest political formations, which began to assemble in the pre-federation colonies in 1891.”

I think all the lights have gone out… and it looks like we are heading for continued power shortages for an extended period of time.

For those of you who are not here in Australia let me sum up the current state of Australian politics:

1/ We are heading towards an election

2/ The party that is currently in power (The Australian Labor Party) looks like they may loose the election (…possibly an understatement)

3/ The previous leader of The Australian Labor Party, and former Prime Minister, is hanging around claiming he is: not in the shadows, not hanging around and doesn’t want his old job back even though he is more popular (according to the public) than the current leader

4/ The opposition are hovering around waiting for the last gasp whilst they and elements of the media, peck mercilessly at the Prime Minister

5/ Some members of The Australian Labor Party are already starting to pack their bags and are booking holidays

This book is not about anything remotely related to the current political situation… except that is about the Labor Party who have a long and varied history.  I guess all politicians and political parties have long and varied histories and some have longer and more varied histories than others.  In this current political climate this book should be of interest to anyone remotely interested in the Labor Party… which is not that many people… and getting fewer in number every day.  It would be interesting to see a history of the second hundred years and how this current circus will be remembered.

Can someone please turn the light back on.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Graphic Arts ABC: Volume 1: Square-Serif by Dan Smith.

Graphic Arts ABC: Volume 1: Square-Serif by Dan Smith.  Hardcover book (no dust jacket) published by A. Kroch & Sons 1945, 109 pages with black and white illustrations (some illustrations have some colour in them).


“This book, the first of a series of publications, each dealing with the characteristics and uses of a well known family of typefaces, is the result of an interesting experiment in graphic arts development: the Graphic Arts Clinic initiated by Poole Bros. Inc.” 

A wise man once pointed out to me that books about fonts have a certain popularity with certain members of the book buying public.  Font aficionados enjoy a good font book despite the wealth of font information on the interwebs.  Needless to say, I am always on the look out for any book with a whiff of fontiness and was very pleased when my radar picked out this one.  As you can see the front cover doesn’t really give an indication as to the contents.  The spine with the words Square-Serif was a better clue to the joys within.

Having looked at fonts on more than the odd occasion, I was familiar with the word Serif… not that I know what it means… I just know that it’s often associated with fonts.  The quick flick test and my suspicions were confirmed.  In my hand I had a copy of a vintage book looking at "typeface" which is not a type of face, but what we now know (and some of us love) as fonts.

Most of us now look at fonts in relation to our computers.  This book was published a long time before you and I even dreamed of having a computer or two in our homes.  It was aimed at “various branches of the graphic arts” as apposed to the font loving public, therefore rather than pages and pages of fonts, the book has some excellent 1940s examples of graphic design using, you guessed it, Square-Serif.

This is the sort of book that one day someone will stumble across on the interwebs, or in the flesh (as hard as this is to believe), and get a fonty excitement over it.  It’s an awesome book.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Donald Thomson in Arnhem Land by Donald Thomson.

Donald Thomson in Arnhem Land by Donald Thomson, compiled and introduced by Nicolas Peterson.  Hardcover book published by Currey O’Neil 1983, 146 pages with some black and white photographs and maps.


The Caledon Bay crisis was one of those historical events that seems to have slipped past my knowing.  Yet after finding this book and doing a bit of interweb searching so that I can write this blog entry (and maybe sound like I know what I’m talking about), I think it is one of those stories that I should have known about long before finding this book and writing about it. 

“The Caledon Bay crisis refers to a series of killings at Caledon Bay in the Northern Territory of Australia during 1932–34. These events are widely seen as a turning point in relations between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.” Wikipedia 

There was a lot of killing, rape and a genuine fear that what was a problem in a remote part of the country, could escalate into a full blown Aboriginal uprising.  And then out of the blue along comes this guy, Donald Thomson, who offers to go and fix the problem and surprise, surprise, he does.  I guess that goes to show you, that if you listen, you can fix problems.  The sad truth is that an Anthropologist was always going to be more sympathetic to Australia’s indigenous population than a bureaucracy that didn’t recognise these people as citizens for another thirty years.

This book is a first hand account of Donald’s time in Arnhem Land and doesn’t just look at the “crisis”.   It’s got some great photographs, that seem to me to convey his genuine interest in the locals and in return, their trust in him.  One of his photographs was used as an inspiration for the film 10 Canoes.  

April 1937 

Sir Arthur Bryant wrote that “If a Victoria Cross were awarded for peaceful acts of valour, Donald Thomson deserved the decoration as much as any man.”  I think I agree.  This is definitely a book of interest.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

America Over the Water by Shirley Collins.

America Over the Water by Shirley Collins. Hardcover book published by SAF Publishing 2004, 222 pages with some black and white photographs.

“At the age of nineteen, Shirley Collins was making a name for herself as a folk singer. Whilst attending a party hosted by Ewan MacColl she met the famous American music historian and folklorist, Alan Lomax. They became romantically involved, and before long, Collins found herself boarding the SS United States, to begin an adventure almost unheard of for a young English girl at the time.”

I can’t remember exactly where I first heard about Shirley Collins*, but I do remember the first time I actually heard her.  I had ordered a copy of her collaboration with legendary guitarist Davy Graham entitled, Folk Roots, New Roots and it was a bit of a punt as I didn’t really have any idea of what it would sound like.  I remember that whatever I had heard about it, was enough to pique my interest and therefore worth taking the risk.  (Today of course, I would go to youtube and have a listen, but this was a few years before youtube became the powerhouse of listening and viewing that it is today.) To this day Folk Roots, New Roots remains one of my all time favourite listening experiences.  It was and still is a true revelation and is an album that I often revisit.  I find Shirley’s voice difficult to describe, I guess there’s a sort of polished naivety to it… maybe that’s not quite right.  She sounds amazing.

I wasn’t aware of this books existence until I read Shirley’s name on the spine.  It was one of those things where I nearly didn’t venture any further than a quick glance as I thought it must be a different Shirley Collins… maybe a sister of Joan and Jackie.  Boy, was I pleasantly surprised.  I was aware of Shirley’s exploits with Alan Lomax and as strange as this may sound, I have often wondered what it must have been like travelling around collecting and recording the music that they did, when they did.  And here’s the book on exactly that subject.  The title is a twist of an oft repeated question/comment made to Shirley by various people in the United States when she told them she was from England. “England over the water?”  But the book doesn’t just look at her time in the United States as it has quite a bit about her early life in Hastings.

Being a fan of Shirley’s, I couldn’t resist reading this book before offering it up for sale.  I loved it and it was definitely worth the read.  I think that here in Australia, Shirley’s fan base is quite limited and so far the book hasn’t sold.  I don’t regret buying it and I feel good about trying to sell it.  The question is, am I alone in my interest? ... and what's the story behind that dress?

*Possibly a magazine article.  The Wire?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Derek Jarman's Garden by Derek Jarman.

Derek Jarman's Garden by Derek Jarman, photographs by Howard Sooley.  Hardcover book published by Thames and Hudson 1996, 144 pages with colour and black and white photographs.

I am not a gardener. Fact. I like gardens. (Another fact).   I like having a garden, but the idea of spending an afternoon pottering around in dirt, avoiding spiders, planting things that in my case usually die and then standing back and admiring my handywork, well, it just ain’t me.  Recently I was chatting to a friend about what i would do if i won the lotto and high up on my list was to employ a gardener.  It’s just one of those things, I like having a garden and I am an admirer, but my own gardening activities are an issue.

If you don’t know who Derek Jarman was you can click here and get an idea.

Being an admirer of Derek’s work, I was very pleased to find another copy of this fine book.  Yes, its “another copy”.  The first one I found appealed to me so much that it didn’t make it to the interwebs or the shop and now sits comfortably on the personal book shelf.  It’s probably the only book about a garden that I have ever read from cover to cover… I should also say that it is about Jarman as well.  Here are a few photographs:

This garden wouldn’t suit my house.  It would just look crazy and out of place here in town.  Jarman’s garden works so well because it was surrounded by such a desolate landscape… and it did have a Nuclear Power Station down the back.  I know someone who lives with a similar backdrop here in Clunes… except there is no Nuclear Power Station… and when I saw their wonderful vista all I could think of was how great Derek’s garden, or something similar, would look in their landscape.  This is a very strange thing for me to think as I have never really had any idea about gardens or gardening before.  It just seemed right.  Anyway, I suggested the book to this friend and was shocked at the response.  The reply was a resounding and absolute, no and never would they have a garden such as Mr. Jarman’s.  They even seemed more than a bit offended at my suggestion… I was a bit taken aback.  I guess it’s just a matter of taste and to be honest I haven’t made any gardening suggestions to anyone since then… but I am always hopeful that someone would make a suggestion about my garden.  I wonder what Derek would have suggested?