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Thursday, May 26, 2016

New Film Release: Hunt for the Wilder People (PG) 93 minutes

This New Zealand film, written and directed by Taika Waititi of Boy (2010) fame, was released today in 75 Australian cinemas. It is a quirky modern day appropriation of Barry Crump’s classic novel Wild Pork and Watercress (1986). The film is beautifully shot and enjoyable to watch in a feel-good, outsiders can win in the end too way.

It is the story of Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) a twelve year-old incorrigible Maori delinquent who was abandoned as a baby by his teenage mother and who has since been shifted several times through foster families by child welfare officers. When placed with the Faulkners, Bell (Rima Te Wiata) and Hec (Sam Neill), he connects with his foster mother and he begins to think that he belongs, as crassly symbolised by the hot water bottle he finds in his bed- but tragedy soon strikes.

Ricky sets fire to a shed and heads for the bush to escape the authorities who want to place him into another unknown home. Some police incorrectly believe Ricky has been taken against his will into the bush and this fuels wild commercial media speculation. What follows is a crazy, fun-filled adventure tale with obvious nodding references to Rambo, Thelma and Louise and others.

Sam Neill is brilliant as the distant, grumpy ‘uncle’ but gradually he empathises with Ricky as they together share hardships in the bush. Dennison is represented as a reckless smart-ass from the start but also develops a greater sense of awareness of himself and others in this coming of age film.

Waititi’s script is sometimes cartoon-like in its view of the world and the characters who inhibit it. He moves away from the realism of Crump to a world of myth, hallucination, caricature and overworked fat jokes- but that didn’t stop the Kiwi bros in the row behind us from laughing their rings out, especially during the first half. 

See my recent review of Barry Crump’s original novel Wild Pork and Watercress:

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Recommended Radio National Podcast: Bob Dylan Blonde On Blonde Special (21 May 2016)

In this Radio National podcast to mark the 50th anniversary of the release of Bob Dylan’s epic Blonde On Blonde double album, Dr Mark Sutton (who has a PhD in Dylanology from Sydney University) and Rod Quinn, the Late Night ABC broadcaster briefly discuss the context, meaning and musicality of each song from the album.

The commentary is immensely clear and “stupendously” insightful. Short segments of the songs follow the commentary, although 'Visions of Johanna' and 'Sad Lady of the Lowlands' were played in their entirety, although for copyright reasons they cannot be heard here.

Unsurprisingly, Sutton reckons, like others, that Dylan’s brilliant but abstract ‘Visions of Johanna’ is one of his best works and establishes him as a serious poet.

Find the song lyrics here on Dylan’s Official Site:

Sutton also considers important ‘Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands’ which Dylan has previously explicitly mentioned is about his first wife and which comprises the entire side B of the second LP of the original album.

For what my opinion is worth, I love this album and have heard it hundreds of times, but perhaps marginally, Dylan’s ‘OH MERCY’ (1989) is more listenable and profound in its underlying messages.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

New Release: Dreaming Inside: Voices from Junee Correctional Centre Volume 4, 2016 (132 pages)

Tonight I attended the Black Wallaby Indigenous Writers' Night at the Wollongong Art Gallery in which they released Volume 4 of Dreaming Inside which includes stories, poems and drawings by Aboriginal inmates in Junee Correctional Centre. The project was initiated in 2012 by the South Coast Writers' Centre and has been supported by a variety of organisations including Arts NSW, and more importantly, the prison authorities.

The key note address was made by the ex-NSW Labor politician Col Markham who praised the project but lamented that since the 1987-1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, Australia has gone backwards:

Unfortunately, the headline indigenous guest, Tony Birch of Melbourne was unable to attend the function due to personal reasons. On the positive side, I was able to purchase his first collection of short stories SHADOWBOXING which I found difficult in the past.

Buy Dreaming Inside here to support our indigenous brothers in prison:

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Charles Bukowski On Writing (Edited by Abel Debritto) London, Canongate, 2015 (216 pages).

The title of this recent Bukowski book is somewhat misleading because you would expect now that it is over twenty years since the American writer died to find a wider sampling of his work, including poetry, short stories, excerpts from his novels, letters and perhaps extensive interviews with John Martin and other publishers and friends. In this volume you only get the dregs of Bukowski’s letters not previously published, in particular, in Seamus Cooney’s excellent three volume collection of Selected Letters: Screams From the Balcony 1960-1970, Living On Luck 1960s-1970s and Reach For the Sun 1978-1994.

The editor of this collection, Abel Debritto, who has a PhD in Bukowski studies, mentions in his Afterwood that he searched through “some two thousand pages of unpublished correspondence to find Bukowski’s most insightful letters on writing.” Interestingly, Debritto structures his book of letters in the same way Cooney has in his trilogy. Chapters are recorded in the years the letters were written, followed by whom the letter is addressed to and the date. Minimal explanatory detail is also included if deemed relevant by the editor.

Debritto does uncover some good stuff, notably highly fascinating letters by Bukowski to Henry Miller, John Bennett and John Fante, A.D. Winans, John William Corrington and many others, but admittedly, Seamus Cooney has already published the cream of Bukowski’s letters, especially in Volume 1: Screams From the Balcony. A quick glance reveals that Debritto also printed parts of letters not previously culled by Cooney, including Bukowski's letter to John William Corrington (1 May 1963) and to Steve Richmond (23 July 1965).

The title of the book Charles Bukowski On Writing is used very liberally by Debritto and the letters cover a diversity of topics related to the notion of writing. They include Bukowski’s discussion of his methods of his writing, his role as an artist, censorship, his disdain for writers and teachers of poetry, his view of fame, his solid defence of his often perceived sexist writing, his explanation of his non-political stance and dozens of other insights and rants into his craft and of writers and writing in general.

On Writing provides a goldmine of quotes by the master on a shitpile of topics. If you are a Bukowski novice, stay clear of this book. You are far better off starting with his poetry and short stories, especially if written before his death in 1994.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Worst Australian Tattoo?

Speaking of tattoos, I reckon John Kenney's above would certainly rate up there amongst the most debauched I have seen. Notice how his eye lids are closed? Ironically, John never considered inflicting his body to the stinging tongues of tattoo needles until he had given up the booze and drugs.

Find his humbling story here:'s-life-of-domestic-violence,-crime-and-homelessness/7349284

Also remarkable, is Kylie Garth's eyeball inking tale. She had hers done by the Melbourne artist Luna Cobra three years ago. She was recently surprised that the NSW had legalised the practice.

Find the ABC article here:

By the way support ABC News. It is free and impartial: