Musk Sticks, Museums and Movies

In 2018 Sweden opened it’s Disgusting Food Museum

Australia’s contribution to the museum collection includes Witchetty Grubs and Vegemite – sacrilege! 

Perhaps most surprising within the museum is the presence of the humble Musk Stick. They’re simple, unassuming lollies that neither creep nor crawl. Hot pink and sickly sweet they are a throwback to many Australian childhoods. I have memories of crushing them up into the milk we were given in bottles at primary school, though I won’t share that with my daughters as I’m still nagging them about the benefits of Brussel Sprouts.

Who didn’t make their first trip to the “pictures” without a couple of musk sticks in a white paper bag? At 1c each they were an absolute bargain.

Selected Cinemas across the nation are holding a Hollywood Classics Festival until early December. Movies will be shown at the first time slot on Monday mornings once a fortnight. It’s going to be a bit early to eat a Musk Stick but I’m going to give it a go in silent protest and a nod to the past. That’s my August Goal. Judy Garland on the big screen at breakfast, tragics singing along to The Trolly Song, without throwing up.

Porter, Big Bands and Hip Replacements

Showing my age but I remember when pre wedding festivities consisted of a gathering of women who thought it dreadfully risqué to open a bottle of Porphrey Pearl or Cold Duck and to gift such wondrous things as wooden spoons , tea towels, and paper towel dispensers to the bride-to-be. Yes, the compulsory Kitchen Tea, when mothers and maiden aunts openly drank the McWilliams Port or Sherry from the flagon and guests dined on sausage rolls, Devilled Eggs and fruitcake. ( Question: why is it that any drink that is pink kills pot plants?)

Times have changed and the Hen’s Night is now almost as big as the actual wedding requiring just as much planning. Some young women fly out of the country for the event on the basis that “ what happens in Bali stays in Bali”. I did not attend my eldest daughter’s Hens as I’de had enough of waking up on Saturday mornings to find some strange teenager laying across my bed wanting relationship advice and breakfast. From a divorcee. What’s that all about?

My favourite Hens function took place nearly thirty years ago. Frocked up we went to a Saturday matinee to see A Swell Party, a musical which was overlaid with biographical content, followed by a slap-up Thai meal where we all got sill-ily sloshed. That was my introduction to the music of Col Porter.

I often play a CD of Porter’s music by the original artists. It’s old. The sound quality is not the best but it’s still fine music. Helps with the mopping.

De-Lovely is a 2004 musical biopic. The screenplay is based on the life and career of Cole Porter from his first meeting with his wife, Linda Thomas, until his death.  Critics may have panned the movie but I loved that it introduced a new generation to the music of Porter with a soundtrack featuring contemporaries such as Alana Morrissette, Robbie Williams and Sheryl Crowe.

So a recent Dinner Dance with a Big Band playing all the tunes of Porter and the songs of Dino and Cranky Frankie was just De-lightful.

Swing Central at Cloudland in Brisbane

Better than my previous weeks venture to a nightclub for Baby Boomers – yes, they are a thing – where the only positive was that I seemed to be the only one not requiring a hip replacement.

Steinbeck And The Bikes Of Wrath

Last night, dressed in my usual winter fashionista outfit of Bed- Sox-with-matching-Wheat-Pack, I sat up watching The Bikes of Wrath. Not generally one for late night TV my interest was piqued by a blog, Exploring my own backyard by Graeme Cash, and his recent post on Cannery Row, Monterey: great photos of places I’ve heard about but never visited.

The Bikes Of Wrath is a documentary film made to reenact the journey depicted in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Set in 1930s America, it follows the Joad family who are escaping drought and the Depression in Oklahoma and are heading to California for a better life.

Five young Australian lads opt to cycle the 2600 km journey to best take in the countryside and recreate the tough slog of the original migrants setting off with $420 between them, the modern day equivalent of the Joad’s $18, aiming to reach their destination in thirty days.

Having had minimal cycling experience, the lads are ill prepared. They purchase musical instruments on their arrival in Oklahoma expecting to raise funds busking along the way, transported in bike trailers, which only causes further dramas. Within days there are fractures and torn muscles.

I was full of trepidation when the young men camped for the first night in Sallisaw. Visions of the 2005 Australian movie, Wolf Creek came flooding back. (Three road-trippers in remote Australia are plunged into danger when they accept help from a friendly local. Let’s just summarise by saying that meat hooks feature.)

Through chance encounters with everyday Americans, the cyclists expand on the novel’s core themes of migration, inequality and the perceived land of opportunity. The group (subtlety) explores whether America has progressed since the book was written, discussing the wealth gap, immigration and the American Dream. 

The people they meet along the way are warm, kind and fascinating. This is an America not seen by most, certainly Down Under. I loved the human connections, the characters, and particularly the locals reading excerpts from the novel.

If you’re in trouble or hurt or need—go to poor people. They’re the only ones that’ll help—the only ones.

This year is the 80th anniversary of this Pulitzer winning novel. It was cited prominently when Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1962. 

How can you frighten a man whose hunger is not only in his own cramped stomach but in the wretched bellies of his children? You can’t scare him – he has known a fear beyond every other.

To be honest, I never “got” this book when it was compulsory textbook reading. At 13 or 14 years of age, not surprising. It’s big on concepts and honestly, I battled deciphering the dialogue. This doco should be referenced in all schools with its historic photographs of landscape, the people, and the times.

Great viewing. Thought provoking, warm, and with a cast of characters…….

Off to the Library today – for a copy of the book and the movie!

Vale Bill Collins OAM

We lost Bill Collins, 84 years of age, during the week. 

I grew up with Collins who fronted the Golden Years of Hollywood on TV every Friday and Saturday night. For ten minutes before the evening movie he would chat about the program providing information that was so bizarre it was fascinating. Information about the costume and set designs, who was sleeping with whom, tidbits about the Director, and most importantly, where the concept for the movie originated.

It was Bill Collins who encouraged my collection of books that were the basis for favourite movies. I was not even in my teens when Collins took us through his home Library which absolutely had me gobsmacked. He used to move every few years to accomodate his growing collection. Boy, did I want that Library!

My introduction to Lust.

He also introduced me to a wonderful store under Town Hall Station in Sydney in the late 70’s. Ava And Susan’s specialised in movie and theatre books and LPs. I was 18, earning $63 a week, and I would buy something once a fortnight as a treat, and at the shop next door : a chicken specialty shop. My father was disgusted that a Teenager would bring home 8 quails for tea or half a dozen spatchcock.

Memories of my mother are limited but she did sit transfixed watching Bill in full flight. Everyone else’s mothers did too. It was bad news when he started introducing the mid day movie.

Collins gave so many people a great deal of pleasure. He was an eccentric but his joy was simply infectious. He will be missed.

Note : As is often the case you don’t know what you had until it is gone. When I downsized two years ago I tossed out boxes of VHS tapes with Collins introducing his favourite movies. He was a Flynn fanatic – of course.

The Perfect Souvenir

My daughters, the Gadabout Girls, are big on travel and experiencing different cultures. Add the label Adrenalin Junkie to my eldest who does all kinds of horrific things that she doesn’t even share with her mother these days, such as jumping out of planes, hiking through South America and driving Go Karts through the streets of Tokyo. She unashamedly admits bonding with her partner when they patted a shark together whilst surfing off North Stradbroke Island.

When she told me a few years ago that she and her military lad were touring Europe she mentioned Switzerland. Switzerland. Stupid mother asks, “why Switzerland?” The reply? “Large dairy industry and great cheeses”. Mother was stupid AND naive. They jumped out of a plane, landing in water, and floating down an icy river. As you do.

So today, on the 110th Anniversary of the birth of Errol Flynn I thought I’de share the souvenir the daughters brought back for me from their trip to Greece via Egypt.

Yep, these they found in Athens. Better than a miniature sphinx or a snow dome, hey.

I’ve been away for a few days to a beautiful part of our world though home earlier than expected. Bit of an issue so a bit blahhhh.

In an attempt to lift my spirits a friend jokingly said “ what we need is some Errol music, but we haven’t got any”.

Well guess what, my friend. The jokes on you.

On The Must Do Movie List

I know I recently said that I’m not a regular at the cinemas. Much more comfortable in my own home with dark chocolate or Camembert and a glass of vino. Often at this time of year with a knee rug. No shame, the rug is of good quality. Hides the flanelette pjs.

Two movies have gained my interest and both will be released within weeks:

Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan

Cross from Long Tan at the AWM

Robert The Bruce

I am conflicted about this one as I haven’t forgotten that Angus Macfadyen betrayed William Wallace. Down Under Remembers……

My apologies. I had meant to attach clips but WordPress is not cooperating and has done my head in. Not a happy Vegemite! Grrrrrrrr!

I’m also in the process of culling all the cheap second hand DVDs purchased at markets during summer. With it getting dark around 5pm it is so easy to slip into hibernation mode in winter. Just as well Music Trivia has restarted with its $15 Chicken In Pyjamas and complimentary drink.

Keeping A Girl Happy 101

This lot of DVDs and more books ( I tell ya, everywhere I go people give me books) are going to the local Special School. The physically and intellectually disadvantaged kiddies hold a monthly market whereby they raise funds for their school, and learn such skills as listening to and following instructions, handling money, customer service, communication, and merchandise placements. All good stuff.

  • Disappearing for a week. Log fires and wineries:)

Top End Wedding: Movie Review

National Reconciliation Week is a national campaign held each year to commemorate two significant milestones in Australia’s reconciliation journey—the successful 1967 referendum and the 1992 High Court Mabo decision. It is an awareness program designed to encourage Australians to join the movement towards a unified future by building positive relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Don’t worry…….I don’t talk politics or religion on an empty stomach.

This year during Reconciliation Week a prominent Australian sporting event took place at which a number of our Indigenous sportspeople refused to sing the National Anthem on the basis that there was no reference to the Aboriginal race in the song lyrics. 

Fair enough. Still no political commentary from this end.

I recently went to the cinema to see a great little Australian flick called Top End Wedding. Don’t go to the movies often. Too Old School: I keep my shoes on, don’t dangle my feet across the top of the seat in front, and I never, ever take KFC into the cinema to eat. I haven’t eaten KFC since I was 13 and they were still using chickens.

Miranda Tapsell (Laura) plays an Aboriginal lawyer in Adelaide who heads to Darwin to spring a surprise wedding to an Englishman, Gwilym Lee (Ned), upon her Indigenous mother and white father – only to find her mother has disappeared. She’s got 10 days to follow her trail across the Northern Territory, and finally to her mother’s birthplace, the Tiwi Islands, and salvage her wedding plans before they crumble entirely.

Many of the reviews I’ve read have knocked the movie for being “clumsy”. Guess what people? We aren’t a polished lot. Embrace it! Some of the earlier scenes do make you cringe slightly, but they are all scenarios that we are familiar with : the drunken Hens Party with crass girlfriends, wedding decorations from Spotlight, the phallic cake, and introducing the pet dog to the grandparents as if it were human. Happens all the time. Admit it. That’s how we live, it’s who we are.

It’s so Australian that I’m not sure that international audiences would get the humour, though the scenery would have them enthralled. Darwin is just so Darwin ( and I adore Darwin), the miles and miles of red dirt of Katherine, and the magnificent chasms and cliffs of Kakadu National Park are simply stunning.

The second half of the movie moves into different territory, literally and metaphorically. When Laura locates her Mum on the Tiwi Islands we are in a different cultural sphere. Though part of our Northern Territory, they are 80 km to the north of Darwin adjoining the Timor Sea. They comprise Melville Island, Bathurst Island, and nine smaller uninhabited islands, with a combined area of 8,320 square kilometres. 

They are inhabited by the Tiwi people as they have been since before European settlement. The Tiwi are an indigenous Australian people, culturally and linguistically distinct from those on the mainland just across the water and number around 88 per cent of the population.

This has definite universal appeal with themes of family, friendship, cultural differences and reconciliation. Reconciliation. A good little flick with a subtle message and fun soundtrack.

Tip : Take tissues

*Bathurst Island has a fascinating history. It was from Bathurst Island that the Japanese aeroplanes were spotted headed for Darwin. The Catholic Father reported the sighting but no one took any notice. In the movie Australia, which depicted the Bombing of Darwin the island where Nulla and the other indigenous children were taken was Mission Island, which was actually Bathurst Island.