Review: Jo Walton’s alternative British fascist history trilogy

FARTHING. HA’PENNY. HALF A CROWN. By Jo Walton. Corsair. 316pp. $19.99 each.
Nanjing Night Net

The Small Change trilogy, from Welsh Canadian author and Hugo award winner Jo Walton, is now released for the first time in Australia. Walton’s alternate history predicates a Britain which made peace with Germany in 1941 after the Rudolf Hess mission.

Walton’s books, published between 2006 and 2008, predate C.J. Samson’s darker and more complex 2012 novel Dominion, which has a similar Nazi-dominated Britain. Walton says, “I wrote these books during a dark time politically, when the US and the UK were invading Iraq without a Security Council resolution on a trumped up casus belli.”

Each of the three novels features the same main character, Inspector Peter Carmichael, whose voice alternates with a different first-person female narrator in each book. Farthing, set in 1949, is deliberately modelled on the country house murder mysteries of Agatha Christie and Michael Innes. Sir James Thirkie, about to replace Anthony Eden as Prime Minister, is murdered, with a yellow star of David pinned to his chest, during a Farthing country house weekend.

Lucy Farthing is married to a Jewish banker who immediately becomes the scapegoat for the murder. Carmichael knows the identity of the real murderer, but has to manoeuvre the realpolitik as Farthing-Set member Mark Normanby becomes Prime Minister.

Ha’penny, set two weeks later, is more a political thriller than a murder mystery. Walton says its alternate title was The Hamlet Bomb as a Mitford sister clone, actress Viola Lark, becomes mixed up in a plot to kill both Normanby and Adolf Hitler. Walton says, “The idea of a theatrical Mitford sister and a plot to blow up Hitler was irresistible”.

A major problem with Walton’s female main characters is their lack of depth, and this is even more evident in Half a Crown, set in 1960. The female voice is teenager Elvira, Carmichael’s niece ,who is more interested in fashion and society than the deportation of Jews, the “British Power” streetfighters, and Nazi politics.

Carmichael is now running the Watch, the equivalent of the Gestapo in Britain, despite his secret liberal leanings. A global meeting is scheduled in London, where Germany and Japan will divide the world. A plot to overthrow the “soft” government of Normanby, and place the exiled Duke of Windsor on the throne over Queen Elizabeth, sees Elvira as the key to unlocking the conspiracy and a deus ex regina conclusion.

Half a Crown is the weakest of the three novels, as the British passivity for 11 years in the face of increasing fascist actions is never explained and thus seems unlikely to be immediately energised by the Queen’s intervention. Walton’s alternate title for the trilogy, Still Life with Fascists, perhaps best reflects Walton’s populace frozen in time from 1949 to 1960.

The Small Change trilogy takes its place as a readable and entertaining contribution to the alternate history World War II genre, but its lack of contextual depth and its weak female characterisation means that is never reaches the heights of Len Deighton’s SS-GB, Samson’s Dominion and Iain Macleod’s The Summer Isles.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net. Read More …

Mourners find respite from their despair in poignant St Paul’s Cathedral service

‘We gather to offer the best that we can be for each other in grief.’ Photo: Justin McManus The noise of the world was deafened and was replaced by a choir that sang words of comfort. Photo: Justin McManus
Nanjing Night Net

‘Australia mourns the loss of her children.’ Photo: Justin McManus

There was a peace that was found in St Paul’s Cathedral on Thursday. For some, it was the first time they had found it since their ordinary lives were upended.

“This was uplifting,” Dorina Rizk said. “We’ve been very angry in the past week. We want them back home.”

Ms Rizk lost her brother-in-law Albert Rizk and his wife Maree on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. The Sunbury couple were returning from a European holiday.

She found solace in an hour inside the church’s walls in the middle of Melbourne, flanked by 1800 mourners.

The noise of the world had deafened and was replaced by a choir that sang words of comfort, and of the dead that now rested.

In his sermon, Anglican Archbishop Philip Freier said there had been little comfort and respect for the victims of MH17, whose innocent lives had collided with a conflict on the other side of the world.

“We look for hope in the midst of so much despair,” Dr Freier said.

“Even in death, a proper and dignified response has struggled to find a place in the midst of a violent separatist war.”

He called for support, privacy and respect for the family and friends of the victims.

“We gather to offer the best that we can be for each other in grief. We gather to show respect for the dead, to do our best to honour them,” he said.

The deaths of 298 people aboard flight MH17 brought together leaders from all religions. Those attending the multi-faith service were greeted by 37 daffodils laid on the steps of the church – one for every Australian victim of the downed aircraft.

“Australia mourns the loss of her children, 37 daffodils to represent your beautiful spirits,” an accompanying card read. “May you find sunshine in heaven.”

Inside, Dr Freier’s message was shared among Catholic, Muslim, Buddhist and Jewish leaders and with the hundreds of mourners. Hundreds more watched a live feed on a large screen in Federation Square.

Eighteen Victorians died in the plane disaster, the largest number in the country. After the one-hour service, Premier Denis Napthine said he had spoken with some of the families and shared in their grief and anger. He joined calls for the bodies of all Australian victims to be brought home at once, but warned some families would face the “added tragedy” of not having bodies to bring back.

People wrote messages of comfort in books at the back of the church while, to the side, prayer candles flickered.

From a pew at the back of cathedral, a woman named Pam, from Hampton, said though she did not know anyone on MH17, she came to the service to find solace and pay her respects.

“I think it might bring me peace,” she said.

“It has been feeling wrong to lead an ordinary life.”

As mourners filed out, the noise of the outside – of trams, of chatter, of cars, of bustle – fractured the silence.

But still there was peace.

“The service was comforting,” Ms Rizk said.

She turned back to her family and was enfolded in their embrace.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net. Read More …

McKeons set up shot at destiny at Commonwealth Games

David and Emma McKeon look set to fulfil what bloodlines would indicate to be a pre-destined path when they impressively won their heats at the Commonwealth Games pool to qualify fastest for Thursday night’s finals.
Nanjing Night Net

The McKeon siblings have a famous swimming heritage with parents Ron and Susie (formerly Woodhouse) having both swam for Australia as has uncle Rob Woodhouse, all of whom were watching from the stands on Thursday. Both have come into their own during the past year, charging up the world rankings and showed that form when David won his 400 metre freestyle heat in three minutes 45.23, more than one second ahead of next fastest qualifier veteran Canadian Ryan Cochrane (3:46.62).

David McKeon, who had a relatively disappointing world championships last year, which were his first major meet, showed in not being unsettled by a reasonable fast previous heat, which included teammate Mack Horton, who made the final in 3:47.33.

“I only really saw what Mack went when because I looked at the top five times and I know that I can go faster in the mornings. I proved that at trials so I had that in the back of my mind,” David McKeon said.

“I took it out and just went strong in the back end. It was a good way to blow out the cobwebs I guess.

“I’m pretty happy with that. I raced it well and I didn’t take too much out of me . I slowed down a far bit in the last 50.

“I sometimes think the heats are the hardest things, just to blow the cobwebs out after not racing for a while and travelling.”

Jordan Harrison, who like Horton was taken by surprise by the fast times on the first morning, qualified eighth fastest for the final.

Emma set a new Commonwealth Games record when she won her heat in 1:56.57 with England’s Siobhan O’Connor second fastest in 1:56.58. Australian teammate and London Olympic bronze medallist Bronte Barratt scrapped into the final in eighth in 1:58.71.

“I was surprised by the speed of the morning but I’m happy with my swim and pretty excited for tonight,” Emma McKeon said.

Christian Sprenger however was not as happy with his 200 breastroke heat. The 100 breaststroke world champion had somewhat reluctantly included the four-lap event into his schedule for the Games after impressive performances at the national titles in April and only just made the final in the final position in 2:11.96.

“I thought it would have been a bit easier but it wasn’t,” said a clearly frustrated Sprenger.

“At various points in the race I wanted to hold back but then it was too late and I just wasn’t swimming how I should swim my own race and that’s the problem,” Sprenger said.

“The second I move away from what I know best, things start to occur and if you look around at people and see what they’re doing you could lose the race and I think that’s what I got caught up doing.”

“Depending on the outcome tonight this may or may not be my last one. I’ll try and come back and give it another go but I just don’t think it’s quite what I want to do. I think 100 metres is where I want to be, on top of the world … but I’m going to give it everything and I want to go out swinging.”

In other races, the Australian 4×100 women’s freestyle relay team smashed the Commonwealth Games record in posting a time of 3:34.57, more than six seconds ahead of second fastest England, and that was without first choice swimmers Cate and Bronte Campbell.

Keryn McMaster was the fifth fastest qualifier and Jessica Pengelly, sixth, in the 400 individual medley behind local hope Hannah Miley, who was another who set a new Games record.

Josh Beaver, Mitch Larkin and Ben Treffers all qualified for the semi-finals of the 100 backstroke while Olympic and world championships silver medallist Alicia Coutts was the fastest qualifier in the 100 butterfly while Emma McKeon and Ellen Gandy, who missed a berth in the 400 individual medley final, also made it through to the final.

Leiston Pickett, Sally Hunter and Lorna Tonks qualified for the 50 breaststroke semi-finals while Jayden Hadler, Christopher Wright and Kenneth To also progressed to the 50 butterfly semi-finals.

Rowan Crothers, Matt Cowdrey and Brenden Hall qualified in the top three positions for the para-swimming 100 freestyle final (S9).

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net. Read More …

Queen selfie goes viral after right royal photobomb on Hockeyroos

Royal blush: The Queen photobombs the Hockeyroos selfie. Photo: TwitterFull coverage: Commonwealth GamesMedal tallyDay-by-day schedule
Nanjing Night Net

Australian hockey player Jayde Taylor’s selfie has quickly become a worldwide social media phenomenon after Queen Elizabeth inadvertently photobombed the picture.

Taylor and teammate Brooke Peris took the picture before their opening match of the Commonwealth Games against Malaysia, which the Hockeyroos won 4-0, at the Glasgow National Hockey Centre.

Prior to the match, the Queen was introduced to the players.

Taylor wrote on her Twitter post: “Ahhh The Queen photo-bombed our selfie!! #royalty #sheevensmiled #amazing”

She later tweeted a message to @TheEllenShow “I think our selfie tops yours! #queenselfie #queenphotobomb #hockeyroos #callme”

It was a light-hearted moment before a match played with heavy hearts. Players wore black armbands in the wake of last week’s Malaysia Airlines disaster.

Australia proved far too classy for the Asian minnows and the margin could’ve been greater were it not for defiant goalkeeper Farah Ayuni Yahya.

Jodie Kenny opened the scoring after seven minutes off a penalty corner, the only set piece of the game to yield a Hockeyroos goal.

Kellie White doubled the lead in the 20th minute before Georgina Parker found the back of the net in the 30th and 49th minutes to complete the emphatic triumph.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net. Read More …

Who buys duty free on board a plane? You do

Korean Air’s A380 features a duty free shop on board.Shopping can apparently solve all manner of problems… including boredom on long flights.
Nanjing Night Net

I’ve just seen figures showing Qantas international passengers are spending millions of dollars a year on inflight shopping purchases.

The airline is recording nearly 350,000 duty free shopping transactions a year, with purchases ranging from sunglasses to tech gadgets.

That’s just one airline and doesn’t take into account purchases made through duty free outlets in airports; yikes, how much are people spending??

I’m not really into shopping – I think I was born without retail therapy receptors – but I know I’m in the minority.

Duty free shopping is a big part of the holiday experience for many travellers, along with the shopping they do at their destination.

Duty free prices do not necessarily represent big savings over discount stores and online sales these days, but there are still bargains to be had if you know what you’re looking for.

I guess it is also hard to beat the convenience and novelty factor of having something delivered to you in your seat (although that takes away one of the few options for passing time in an airport).

You can even go online and pre-order what you want these days; Qantas says thousands of passengers per month take up this option, with pre-ordering available at least three days prior to departure.

The most popular item sold by Qantas is polarised wireframe sunglasses, followed by global power adaptors and vodka.

Making up the top ten are various other forms of alcohol, a travel photo lens set, lip balm and macadamia chocolates.

(Okay, so the macadamia chocolates and vodka I can understand.)

On the subject of alcohol, it seems that when we’re not shopping during flights, we’re very committed to drinking.

A company specialising in onboard sales technology for airlines, GuestLogix, analysed more than eight million transactions across five North American airlines and found passengers spend more money on alcohol than any other inflight purchase.

The figures relate to onboard consumption rather than duty-free shopping, on airlines where passengers purchase their own food and drinks.

Spirits accounted for just over a third of all sales, followed by wine at 13 per cent and beer at 10 per cent.

This equated to more than $40 million in alcohol sales in just four months – that’s a lot of drinks, my friends.

Non-alcoholic drinks were just one per cent of sales, with fresh food items making up most of the remaining purchases.

Very few people shelled out for comfort items such as pillows and blankets, but headsets and inflight entertainment together accounted for four per cent of total sales.

GuestLogix found some passengers were spending more than $100 per flight on beverages alone, with flights to holiday destinations such as Las Vegas, Mexico and Hawaii not surprisingly recording the highest average sales.

The data also showed that Sundays were consistently the highest-revenue days for inflight sales across all categories.

There’s a lot of talk about avoiding alcohol during flights – it can certainly affect you more at altitude and doesn’t help with hydration levels, which are a big part of avoiding jet lag – but it does provide a distraction and help pass the time.

British Airways recently used hi-tech blankets to track passengers’ emotions during various stages of flight and found eating and drinking made passengers a lot happier.

The fibre-optic blankets were linked to headsets that measured emotions with neuro-sensor technology, turning the blankets red when passengers were stressed or anxious and blue when they were calm and relaxed.

‘Here’s what we discovered: Initially, there are fluctuations as the passengers settle in, but there is a noticeable lift in a passenger’s mood whilst enjoying food and drink,” British Airways said.

While the blankets have proved a clever marketing tool for British Airways, they do serve a purpose: They are being used to help the airline analyse aspects of its onboard service, such as the timing of meals and entertainment options.

The colour-changing blankets can also help flight attendants identify passengers who are feeling anxious or stressed about the journey.

Maybe the standard response should be to take them a stiff drink and an inflight shopping catalogue.

Do you ever purchase duty free on board flights? What other items have your purchased on board? Post your comments below.

NOTE: This will be my last “Travel Insider” column. After nearly 20 years as a travel writer I have decided to pursue a new and very different career as a paramedic. Thank you to my loyal readers for all your feedback and comments over the years. Safe travels!

jane.fraser@fairfaxmedia南京夜网.au

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net. Read More …

Clerk of Senate should resign if she can’t be neutral: Palmer

“None of you need have any contact with the member in question if you feel at all threatened or intimidated by him”: Clerk of the Senate Rosemary Laing wrote in the internal email. Photo: Alex EllinghausenClive Palmer has called for the Clerk of the Senate to resign unless she is able to maintain impartiality, following a staff email she wrote implying Mr Palmer was a bully.
Nanjing Night Net

A leaked internal email sent to Senate staff on Thursday, and obtained by Fairfax Media, reveals the Clerk of the Senate, Rosemary Laing, warning staff not to tolerate ”unacceptable behaviour” and makes reference to ”conduct of a Member of the House of Representatives”.

While the email does not name the MP, it was widely reported two weeks ago there was an altercation between Dr Laing and Mr Palmer, the Member for Fairfax, over amendments to the Carbon Tax repeal bill.

Mr Palmer, leader of the Palmer United Party, was annoyed that the clerk would not distribute amendments put up by one of his senators, Glenn Lazarus.

The clerk argued that the amendments were effectively a monetary bill and constitutionally could not originate in the Senate.

In her staff bulletin issued on Thursday, Dr Laing warned against what she described as workplace bullying.

”You all have the right to a safe workplace and that includes the right to step away from – and report – bullies, whatever their status,” she wrote. ”None of you need have any contact with the member in question if you feel at all threatened or intimidated by him.”

Mr Palmer said he did not raise his voice during the exchange, telling the clerk: ”If you do not circulate this amendment by Senator Lazarus I will challenge [your] position in the High Court.”

But on Thursday Mr Palmer took that position further: ”Australian democracy is far more important than this issue. The clerk is supposed to be impartial – if she is not up to the job, resign,” he said.

Fairfax Media approached Dr Laing’s office for comment but was told she was on leave. The Deputy Clerk of the Senate refused to comment on the matter.

In the email Dr Laing also took a swipe at press gallery behaviour during the past two weeks of parliamentary sitting, describing reporting of the carbon tax repeal negotiations as ”unethical”.

”In all of my years here, I do not believe I have seen anything so unethical from the press as this … [including a] disgraceful episode of press gallery members eavesdropping on private negotiations in the corridors over the carbon tax repeal legislation and writing stories on that basis,” she wrote.

Last week all the major parties and the crossbench in the Senate – except the Palmer United Party and Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party senator Ricky Muir – spoke in praise of the clerk.

The president of the Senate, Stephen Parry, said: ”I have full confidence in the Clerk of the Senate and her officers. All Senate staff serve the Senate in an entirely professional and impartial way and I reject any claims to the contrary.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net. Read More …

Members of the family of former Labor Party kingpin Eddie Obeid hit with $9 million tax bill

Eddie and Judith Obeid leave an ICAC hearing. Photo: Nic Walker
Nanjing Night Net

The Tax Office has hit the family of corrupt former Labor kingpin Eddie Obeid with a $9 million bill after it audited his tax affairs and family trusts spanning half a decade.

Documents filed by the Tax Commissioner in the Federal Court reveal that more than 30 members of the Obeid family, including family matriarch Judith, most of their children and dozens of grandchildren, have been drawn into a dispute over unpaid tax and penalties.

The Tax Office kicked off an audit of Mr Obeid and a complex web of family trusts and companies in February last year, according to the documents, covering the five years from July 2007 to June 2012.

It is targeting his family for a slice of a $30 million coal deal at the centre of a historic corruption inquiry, as well as a smaller deal involving a separate mining venture.

It was revealed last month that Mrs Obeid and most of the couple’s sons and their wives, along with two of their four daughters, had simultaneously launched court challenges to decisions of the Tax Commissioner on May 30.

The new documents, filed in reply by the Tax Office, reveal it sent bills for unpaid tax and penalties totalling $8.6 million to 11 members of the family and a corporate trustee in August last year.

The individual bills range from about $55,000 to $1.57 million. The corporate trustee, Calvin Holdings, is challenging its bill on behalf of 24 grandchildren who are aged under 18.

Mrs Obeid and the wives of four of the couple’s five sons – Damian, Paul, Gerard and Eddie junior – received the largest bills, totalling more than $1.5 million each in tax and penalties. The sons received smaller bills of about $55,000 each.

Daughters Rebecca Joumma and Gemma Vrana were hit with bills totalling $396,132 and $187,782 respectively.

The grandchildren, as beneficiaries of one of the Obeid family’s trusts, were hit with a combined bill of $53,500 in tax and penalties.

But Mr Obeid snr and his entrepreneurial middle son Moses are not involved in the court dispute, which covers the 2010-11 and 2011-12 income years.

In a report released in July last year, the Independent Commission Against Corruption found that the two men had corruptly agreed with former Labor mining minister Ian Macdonald to create a coal tenement over the family’s Bylong Valley farm.

The Obeids entered into a mining joint venture with private company Cascade Coal, which later agreed to pay the family $60 million to extract them from the venture.

The money started flowing into family coffers in late 2010 and to date $30 million has been paid.

At the conclusion of the inquiry, dubbed Operation Jasper, the ICAC referred information about the operation of the Obeid family trusts to the Tax Office ”for such action as it considers appropriate”.

At the heart of the dispute between the family and the Tax Commissioner is whether the $30 million was ordinary income – and taxed at the full tax rate – or was on capital account, which would entitle the family to a 50 per cent discount on their tax bill.

“This is a not uncommon question that arises when valuable properties are sold,” a tax lawyer said.

“In many cases the answer is clear one way or another but there are cases where the application of the law is more complex. The ATO has been very focused on this question in recent years when conducting audits and looking at property sales.”

The Obeids say in court documents that the money from the coal deals is not ”ordinary income”.

They also argue they are not liable to penalties for any shortfall on the amount of tax paid ”as there was no statement made to the [Tax Office] which was false or misleading in a material particular”.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net. Read More …

Expert says painting looked ‘odd’

Lauraine Diggins, an expert in the work of the late Albert Tucker, said she ‘”did not like” Faun and Parrot, an allegedly fake painting by the artist, when she saw it before an auction by Christie’s in May 2000 and had thought “there was something odd about it”.
Nanjing Night Net

“Intuitively the look of the painting did not sit well with me,” Ms Diggins told the NSW Supreme Court on Thursday.

For the first time, the allegedly fake painting was unwrapped in court and shown to Justice Patricia Bergin, who is hearing the case brought by barrister Louise McBride against Christie’s, art dealer Alex Holland and her own art adviser, Vivienne Sharpe.

Ms Diggins, who dealt in Mr Tucker’s later works and was executor of his will, said when she viewed the painting before its sale to Ms McBride, she was immediately suspicious. But she did not raise her concerns with Christie’s until after the auction, even though she was present at the sale.

“You don’t go to Christie’s unless you have proof,” she said.

“I advised another auction house that a picture was not right around the same time, and they still sold it.”

Pressed by Justice Bergin, she said the auction house was Deutscher Menzies and that the matter was subject to litigation.

After the Christie’s auction, Ms Diggins was approached by Fiona Heywood of Christie’s, who said she was worried about paintings coming from a single source. Ms Diggins said these occurred soon after the May auction and before the August auction, when another suspect Tucker painting was sold.

A meeting was convened at the Ian Potter conservation centre in Melbourne. Experts including Ms Diggins and Tucker’s widow, Barbara, viewed five works; these included Ms McBride’s Faun and Parrot and another that was due to be auctioned by Christie’s in August. Ms McBride was not told of this meeting.

Christie’s has since recompensed the buyer of the Tucker at the August sale.

Ms Diggins said she made her views known to Ms Heywood after the meeting. “It was our view that both pictures were suspect,” Ms Diggins said. ”I made it clear that neither of the works were correct and were suspect.”

For Christie’s, Ed Muston said: ”You said the pictures could not be supported.”

”That says that they are suspect pictures,” Ms Diggins replied.

Mr Muston asked whether it was Ms Diggins’ opinion that dealers should check the provenance independently because it was unsafe to assume that auction houses had done so.

”Yes,” she said.

Ms Diggins also gave evidence that Ms McBride’s adviser, Ms Sharpe, should have done more to check the provenance of a Tucker bought after auction for $75,000. Ms Sharpe’s counsel asked her how Ms Sharpe could have suspected it was a forgery if Ms Diggins, an expert, was initially unsure.

❏ In Thursday’s report of the case, the Herald stated that Ms Sharpe had received $42,000 commission for the sale of a Jeffrey Smart painting owned by Ms McBride. She has not yet been paid the commission, which is being held in trust until the case now before the court is resolved.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net. Read More …

Melody Pool and Marlon Williams: No country for old folk and blues

Name that tune: Melody Pool and Marlon Williams are forging their own sound. Photo: Nick MoirSee, there’s this thing happening in Australia. It’s a genre producing consistently good music, strong songwriters and the kind of characters all too often neutered as they are scrubbed down in pop, buffed up in rock and glammed up in country.
Nanjing Night Net

It’s a genre which can’t get on mainstream radio anywhere but has fervent support in not just the usual markets of the US and Britain, but also Germany, Spain, Scandinavia and France. What’s more it could be the next international springboard for a lot of young, and some not so young, locals, too, who are  appearing in regional centres, cities and even the suburbs.

Yet it is the genre which dare not speak its name.

This is essentially because it doesn’t have one. And as we know, these days if you can’t name it, it doesn’t really exist.

It may be that the best way to describe what the genre is about, is by telling you what it’s not. It’s not quite country, though many of its practitioners grew up playing it and retain a love for its storytelling and sense of open skies. It’s not quite folk, though the genre’s occasional looseness in melody, fondness for acoustic instrumentation and sense of history suggests connections there.

Nor is it rock (no one is trying to blast you out of your seat or solo you into heaven) or even strictly speaking country rock (though that crossover is a rich mine to source, from the Eagles and Jackson Browne to the Dingoes and Ryan Adams). And while there are tunes to be had and no fear of songs that you’re going to want to sing along with, you couldn’t really call it anything like pop.

In the US, where a sister style was once labelled alt.country, it might get called Americana; but there’s more to it than roots American music. Meanwhile, you can forget about the alternative of Australiana, which is both inaccurate and loaded with wince-inducing memories of lagerphones, comedy accents and bad damper.

Whatever the genre may be called, it’s out there. Take Melody Pool, a songwriter and singer from Kurri Kurri who sounds something like Laura Marling and something like Patty Griffin – folkish, countryish, something else-ish – and is already seen as one of the most exciting, young writers we have via her debut album, The Hurting Scene.

“When I was playing country music when I was younger, I loved the traditions of the music but when I was trying to write songs it never really came out,” says Pool, who likes open tunings and wordiness. “I had this thing in my head about how a song was meant to be and when I started writing without platform I found that I had no boundaries to what I could write. I felt more free. As long as they sound like they flow together, well I don’t try to think about it too much.”

She’s touring with another 23-year-old, Christchurch’s Marlon Williams, who grew up in rock and country rock bands, but now, with a debut album coming this year, is a traditionalist, right down to his neat, slicked back hair, boldly patterned body shirt and denim.

“I just think that the more normal you keep things, the more room there is for feeling and emotion,” says Williams, explaining why he likes to work within traditional structures. “You can’t eke tragedy out of chaos; you have to use these signposts to show where the standard is, where things are normally, to show the difference.

“Sometimes I’ll just write a song that’s not within the form, and it’s consciously so. But generally when I write a country song it uses the standard tropes and you chuck in bits of the unfamiliar to balance it out. And that becomes so much starker.”

If the duo are a strict formalist (Williams) and free-spirited (Pool) in the writing room, on stage they reverse roles.

“I’m a pretty organised performer and I don’t like change,” Pool admits, while Williams happily confesses that “I’m a pretty disorganised performer”.

“I like to throw a curve ball in. I almost think of songwriters and singers as different people and that is probably coming from the folk tradition, too,” he says. “It doesn’t [matter] where the song came from, you just have to be the vessel for it in this brief time.”

Which, when you think about it, is something from not just folk and blues but also country, successive performers and successive generations building on a well known story or characters and adapting it for each generation. It’s happening again, just without a name.

Melody Pool and Marlon Williams

Gig Saturday, August 2, 8pm, Newtown Social Club, Newtown

Tickets $10 plus booking fee, newtownsocialclub南京夜网

Live Both kinds of music, country and … not country

Best trackHenry (Melody Pool) and Trouble I’m In (Marlon Williams)

Melody Pool and Marlon Williams play

                               It’s not rock’n’roll but you’ll like it

Caitlin Harnett 

From the northern fringes of Sydney, a Jackson Browne devotee with a folk singer’s voice, a country singer’s heartaches and a songwriter’s talent. Debut album, The River Runs North, due in September.

Harry Hookey 

Out of country Victoria with some of Van Morrison and Bob Dylan, a bit of country rock and a slice of soul. The album, Misdiagnosed, is out now.

Emma Swift 

Sydney and Nashville, country and sadcore, ballads and even slower songs. A beautiful voice already sounds like something from the old days. Self-titled EP out now.

Steve Smyth 

Originally from the south coast of NSW, he looks part biblical figure, part hobo and sounds part raw folk blues, part country folk. He also sounds part soul rock and part just raw and untamed. Debut album, Exits, due September.

Tracy McNeil 

Relocated from Canada to Melbourne – must have been for the footy – and brought along a punchy sound, strong on guitars and drums, and songs with elements of both west coast country rock and classy British pop rock.

Jenny Queen 

Used to be Ohio, now is Sydney. Used to be sad girl singing quietly, now can kick shins and rock harder. Even has a couple of songs not a million miles from pop. Third album, Small Town Misfits, out now.

Lachlan Bryan 

Melbourne’s more traditionally country gentleman is liked in conservative Tamworth but he’s better than being tarred with that brush. There are bits of bluegrass, some rock moves and a country/alt.country edge. Third album, Black Coffee, out now.

Ruby Boots 

In Perth she is Bex Chilcott, outside it she’s the band Ruby Boots, spicing up old style country with rock guitars, bringing some airiness to late night bar songs. Debut due in 2015, self-titled EP out now.

The Yearlings 

This Adelaide duo are as comfortable with Gillian Welch-like starkness and Band-like country lurch as relaxed country ballads. Been doing this for a while and are good at it. Fifth album, All The Wandering, out now.

Adam Eckersley 

He is from the same NSW town as the country music trio the McClymonts (Grafton) – and married to one of the sisters to boot – but where they are pop country, he is more Eagles, facial hair and Led Zeppelin posters in the film clips. Major label debut not yet scheduled.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net. Read More …

Jackson fades to fifth in triathlon

Full coverage: Commonwealth GamesMedal tallyDay-by-day schedule
Nanjing Night Net

Australia’s Emma Jackson felt achingly short of claiming a medal on the opening event of the opening day of the Commonwealth Games.

The world under-23 champion finished fifth as Australia claimed three places in the top 10 of the triathlon.

Jackson was fifth, 38 seconds behind gold medallist Jodie Stimpson as England took a commanding gold and bronze on the opening event of the games. Emma Moffatt was seventh and Ashleigh Gentle ninth.

Stimpson won gold in 1 hour 58.56 minutes, ahead of Canada’s Kirsten Sweetland in second and England Vicky Holland picking up bronze.

Jackson was with the leaders until the last three kilometres of the run when the winning trio lifted the pace and she had nothing left to go with them. She said she was “wrecked” by the first swim leg when she gave everything to cling to the lead pack.

“That was such a tough day out there today. The swim was just so fast I was seriously trailing that group the whole swim. I just tried my hardest to keep up with the pack. That first lap of the bike seriously was the hardest first lap I have ever done so I was pretty wrecked from that or the rest of the race,” Jackson said. “I was very happy I was in the front back but it was some hard work.”

When the lead group of 10 climbed off the bike for the run Jackson and Moffatt were among the number. Jackson was unfairly criticised by on-course commentators for sitting at the back of the lead cycling group suggesting she was allowing others to do the bulk of the work.

When five runners pushed hard to break away Jackson, who came eighth at the London Olympics as a 20-year-old, was able to hang on while Moffatt slid slightly adrift into the next lead group.

Jackson found a rhythm to stay with that group for the first two of the three running leg laps and was fourth at the bell for the final lap, but was unable to stay with them when the eventual winning trio attacked.

“I just did not have that next gear to go with the girls so if it stayed that pace I would have liked it but the girls attacked and I could only hang on for fifth today. “I knew the pace would increase some time soon and I was hoping my legs could respond to it but it was not the case.”

Jackson said she now needed to work on her swim leg so that she does not expend as much energy next time to keep up with the main group and thus be able to push hard on her strongest running leg. “I definitely gave it my all. I seriously gave it everything,” she said.

Moffatt, a two time world champion, quickly peeled off the lead group once the run leg began.

Having spent last week washing cuts on her legs in egg white and rubbing her bruised ribs in onion she was unable to hang on for the run and finished seventh in 2:01.31 (2.35 minutes after the leader)

Gentle dropped off the main group through the cycling leg and was forced to do a lot of work in a small trio of cyclists, and battled hard through the run leg to still finish in the top 10 in ninth in 2:03.24 (+4.28mins).

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net. Read More …