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The shell.

 Murder in the Wind. The Empty Trap. All These Condemned.  These and others - many others - covered the days. John D. McDonald. Trash fiction. Good trash fiction. Very good trash fiction. Not even trash, actually. He wrote The Executioners , but I read that a few years ago. Brought back the horrible face of Robert de Niro. Nobody knows The Executioners , but everyone knows Cape Fear , the movie they made of it. I can't get that bite out of my mind. John D. McDonald. Two hundred and sixty-two days of waiting. Not really waiting; just stopping. A moratorium of the kind my hippie sister never attended in 1970. A torment from nowhere, a Job imposition that Job never endured. Or maybe he did. I forget. Maybe I should read the Book of Job again.  A hell on earth, but he held up. Or did he? Seven thousand pages, thirty-seven novels, fifteen non-fiction books, innumerable Spectators , Economists , Classic and Thoroughbred Sportscars , five hundred and twenty-four newspapers. * Three days a
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Celluloid heroes. (A Shorter History of Cinema Part Three.)

Douglas Ling wasn’t the only one. There were two others. Jack Clancy lectured on Westerns and even looked like John Wayne (if Wayne had had a beard and were Irish). Clancy was a big man possessed of a rare intelligence in an academic world uninfected by wokeness. Clancy could discuss the significance of gunfights in 1940s outlaw films without triggering anyone. John O'Hara was similarly intelligent, a noteless lecturer who never stumbled, an unashamed academic who wrote prolific programme notes for several Melbourne International Film Festivals.  Essentially, in Top Gear terms, the big extrovert Clancy was the Jeremy Clarkson of cinema studies; John O’Hara the diffident intelligent James May - leaving the diminutive Douglas Ling as the smarter-than-anyone Richard Hammond. Were students of cinema in 1979-80 spoiled with an over-abundance of sheer unbridled cinematic knowledge and intelligence? Yes.  But in the posthumous best film lecturer awards, Douglas Ling wins. He knew everythi

Stagecoach, 1939.

A vast red oxide desert passed in front of my eyes. I'd seen it another time, but that was in another place. I'd once crossed a red plain in South Australia in a car, but that barren flatness looked the same as what I was looking at now, a movie set in another continent; an endless sky looming over a sea of hot red nothing, a widescreen alien landscape too big to comprehend. Later, about eleven that night, I stumbled out of the theatre onto a wet, cold, monochrome a'Beckett Street and walked up the hill through street-lit silver raindrops to where I'd parked my old Volvo. Single carb, manual transmission, choke. Home before midnight. Supper: a glass of red wine and a plate of pasta with the evening newspaper spread across the table, but my mind is still half-away in that hot red desert. The disconnection of cinema from life is the real addiction.  On those cold, wet, bleak  Tuesday nights in the winter of 1979, we travelled from the 1930s to the modern era, but it was n

A Shorter History of the Cinema, Part One.

The old Radio Theatre in Bowen Lane had heavy leather-faced seats that clunked up at the end of screenings as cinemagoers exited their seats, creating a kind of mechanical applause. The small cinema had been built in the 1940s to screen technical teaching films for science and engineering students. When I came along in 1975 the campus's technical functions had largely been supplanted by the new arts courses. Suddenly there was a thing called cinema studies. The first film screened that year was a master study in human nature made at the dreg-end of the 1960s by Sydney Pollack, its title being the rationalisation used by one character to murder another: They Shoot Horses, Don't They? Then the journey began. We went back to Lumiere and rolled into a new century with Méliès, D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation and Intolerance (18-year-old students were adults in 1975 and consequently able to deal with controversy); Lloyd and Chaplin; the Soviet Eisenstein and early Americ

Light summer reading.

The plot of Everyman by Philip Roth is literally that - a plot. The 2006 novel opens in a cemetery at which the main character is about to be buried. Relatives and friends are in attendance; a few grieving, some present from mere duty: and showing it. The rest of the short novel retraces his final years of regret, illness and vain attempts to retain health while regretting his life as a failed father and husband, a philanderer, and a jealous younger dying brotger of his older, healthy sibling. Then he dies. It was a clear hot cloudless morning, close to midday. Blairgowrie beach was a blue and white colourcard flecked with primary-colour sun umbrellas. Heads in the water, too far out to recognise, disappeared and resurfaced. The shelf is gradual here; you can wade out three hundred metres without getting your head wet. A dark blue line beyond that point is deeper water. Away to the right, houses on Mt Martha twinkled white in the midday sun. I opened the book. Is it autobiographical?

Spaghetti with mixed seafood.

It's commonly called pasta marinara, but marinara in Italy is a tomato sauce. The more correct name is pescatora, but I'm not getting into any arguments so let's just use English and call it spaghetti with mixed seafood. It still tastes the same. As long as you cook it well, which means not too long. You can buy 'marinara' mix at the supermarket but it is usually yesterday's seafood chopped, frozen and then thawed for sale. I usually buy fresh components: a fillet of salmon and some fresh prawns, calamari, scallops and mussels.  Cook spaghetti to al dente. While it's cooking, heat some oil in a pan, saute some onion and then garlic - don't hold back on the garlic; garlic and seafood is a match made in Atlantis - and take great care not to burn anything. Add wine and slosh it around.  Now add the seafood, some tomato passata and a handful of chopped parsley leaves and stalks. While being generous with everything else in this dish, add only enough passata

The playlist.

The fill-in announcer on RRR just now (The Cave, formerly the Skullcave) was discussing his relationship with disco, which was fractious.  Apart from some early tentative crossover hits, disco eventually veered far from its soul-funk roots and descended into a musical hellhole from which it never recovered, leading to desperate attempts at new musical directions, such as the robotic new romantics using drum machines and synthesisers instead of  'instruments'.  One year in the mid-1970s disco collided with Christmas, resulting in a disco-fied Joy To the World strung out into a zombie-like metronomic medley with everything from Silent Night to White Christmas. It was the era of prawn cocktails, avocado vinaigrette, vol au vents and Coolabah moselle at the table; with guests wearing flared suits and six-inch ties - so the whole shooting match had a kind of balanced bad taste flavour about it. Disco passed but some of the world’s worst music continues to be reserved especially for