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The Astor Theatre

Yesterday we visited The Astor Theatre in Windsor for what is likely to be the last time. We saw Lawrence of Arabia and while it was a fabulous movie, with stunning scenery and great acting it’s not what’s really important to me today.

The Astor was first opened in April 1936. They did some absolutely beautiful work with the building and it became an institution, but all good things come to an end and it closes in a few days. You can read more on The Astor’s page about Friends of The Astor.

As it’s a heritage building the structure can’t be knocked down but the company that leases the building and provides us with movies in all sorts of formats will close. They have around 600 movies in their collection and with only one movie showing at a time attending a movie there is an event rather than just something to do.  They’ve shown old movies and new movies and you could even hire out the area to show a movie of your choice (so long as they have it in their collection), a friend did exactly that and showed us Casablanca for his birthday…it was wonderful.

Now come some photos I’ve taken and if you want more you need to visit their website as they have many more and better photos.


Some of the most beautiful cornices they have. I admire and love how they’ve taken the time to paint them so carefully, that’s hours and hours of work in there.

Foyer balcony

This is looking up from the foyer to the balcony. There are some stairs you need to climb to get to this before going through the inner foyer, past the food selling area (I’m sure there’s a name for it) before being ushered into the theatre itself. Everything is lush and gorgeous.


One of the lights they have. Just beautiful!

Rocky Horror

They have decorated some of the foyer with photos and posters. I really want this photo taken from Rocky Horror Picture Show, I suspect I’d have to queue or pay heaps to get it.


Friday Photos


I love this one. I’m sure they’re a really good dry cleaning business but their signwriter missed something.

Carrots or corn

I’ve been waiting for ages for one of these and then I take the worst photo. Are they corn or carrots?

Doctor Who

Found this little beauty at a market. It spins around to make The Silence dizzy, either them or me.


S is for Olaf Stapledon

I picked Olaf Stapledon a few weeks ago when I came across his name somewhere and now I can’t remember where. I was already familiar with the name but can’t find anything on my shelves to back that up, I suspect I read his books in my dim, dark past when I wasn’t necessarily remembering the books I was reading with books borrowed from somewhere. Anyway, enough about me let me share a little of my research with you.

Stapledon, born in Cheshire, England in 1886. He was a philosopher and science fiction author, two fields which have some synchronicity in my mind, I’ve seen many science fiction authors philosophise about some of the inventions in their books and how they’d affect humanity.

He was writing early enough to be an influence on several prominent science fiction authors notably Arthur C Clarke (I happened to have started reading some of his short stories last night), Brian Aldiss and Stanislaw Lem.

During the last few years of his life he travelled extensively on lecture tours becoming the only Briton allowed a visa for the USA to visit New York for the Conference for World Peace in 1949. Not long after WWII is a very apt time for a conference of this nature, I do wonder how those conferences went, especially as the US and Russia were involved in a cold war at that time.

Some of his most noted works are Last and First Men, Starmaker and Odd John, this last title’s rights were snapped up in the 1960s with David McCallum slated to play the title role, it’s a pity it never happened. I’ve mentioned McCallum before with his roles in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and N.C.I.S.

How’s Andy Going? – Alan Marshall

How's Andy Going? by Alan Marshall

How’s Andy Going? by Alan Marshall

Alan Marshall is one of our national treasures, and if he isn’t he should be. He’s one author everyone should read as he’s written so much about Australian life. Born in 1902 in country Victoria he contracted polio at the age of six. He was put through the wringer with treatment and ended up on crutches, something that didn’t seem to hold him back much. You can read more about him in his fictionalised account of his life I Can Jump Puddles, it’s an awesome book and some day I’ll read the two sequels.

His life was an inspiration and he seems to have the knack of writing about people the way they were not the way we think they should be written. This book illustrates that perfectly. It’s a series of short stories and each one shows us Australians as they were in that time.

I loved these stories. The first one is called Tell Us About the Turkey, Jo and is about a young boy and his older brother. They’re talking to the narrator and telling him about the young boys adventures, making every tiny event seem bigger and more important as happens with young children.

The title story, How’s Andy Going? is about the author as a young boy after he’s been put on crutches. He still wants to race and he has a young friend who also wants to race so they create a race specially for them and crawl 100 yards. Andy is the younger brother of the friend and ends up joining in. I love how they constantly ask ‘How’s Andy going?’ all through the race despite having tried to leave him at home. I shouldn’t spoil the story and tell you he won, pipped at the post. You should still read the story as it’s all in the telling and not in the condensing.

I’m giving you a couple of links to Booktopia for buying. I Can Jump Puddles is a really important fictionalised autobiography as it tells us what it was like to get polio and how he coped with it. And here’s the Complete Stories of Alan Marshall, not sure how complete it is but at 512 pages it should have a decent number. Very enjoyable writing.

Interwebs stuff

As a bit of change of pace I’ve browsed the web and found some interesting articles for you.

Bookseller YA book prize goes to feminist dystopia I was interested by this headline and even more intrigued by the article. The book is about girls in boarding school vying for the chance to be chosen by a boy for his bride to look after him and have his babies until such time as she’s not capable any more. I wondered what this has to do with feminism until I came to this sentence

But, in the final year, it all starts to unravel.

and I started to be interested. All very well, but the article gives no more details so I hope it really is feminist literature.

Harper Lee’s Abandoned True-Crime Novel

Anything Harper Lee is bound to catch my eye at the moment and I found this one rivetting, totally rivetting. Lee is approached to write a novel about a man who insures family members then kills them and gets away with it. Apparently she joins the family for some time, does lots of research, takes the files away with her, starts writing it and then strings the family along finally completely forgetting about them. It’s a wonderful story waiting for an author to write it.

Memphis Publisher Sues Salinger Estate

Another author who caught my eye. Having recently read Salinger’s most interesting novel The Catcher in the Rye it became a must read and I found it less salacious and a case of DRM.

Why Writing is So Hard

One writer’s view of how writing is challenging.

Matt Sumell’s novel-in-stories Making Nice is one of the funniest (and best) books of the year, featuring the self-destructive but well-meaning Alby–a “loser,” according to his sister. Here, Sumell talks about the agonizing process of writing, pushing through the pain, and why it still remains necessary.

Sumell talks, in part, about how autobiographical a book can be.

Asking whether Amazon is friend or foe is a simple question that is complicated to answer

Another fascinating article about Amazon. I thought I’d written enough about them but this one looks to be reasonably balanced. It talks about how Amazon made the ebook market. Certainly, it’s always taken a big company to start something new as you have to have the deep pockets necessary to take the plunge and start a brand new project no-one’s thought of before, or in this case, make it big.

The comments make interesting reading and kudos to you if you make it all the way through to the end of them.


Friday Photos

Includes outfit

What? You mean we buy the outfit and get the clothing as well?


I’m applauding this one. They have more than one staff member working there so they pluralled the word ‘staff’. Makes great sense if English isn’t your first language.

Craig & Seeley Office Building

Bit of sightseeing for you. I was in Brunswick having lunch with friends and happened on this building which has a information board outside. It’s a heritage building designed by Theodore Berman in 1962 and is considered to be advertising by design, it was designed to illustrate durability. The green panels were built onsite and I saw very little wear. I can’t send you to look at it as I forget exactly which little street I was in.


R is for E. F. Russell

I was thrilled to the back teeth when I found Eric Frank Russell last night, I’d never heard of him before but one of my favourite magazines was mentioned on his Wikipedia entry as Further Reading! They’re talking about an article by Jacob Edwards titled Overlooked: The Non-fiction of Eric Frank Russell. It’s a neat, little article talking about how Russell doesn’t give his viewpoint about anything in his science fiction but lets fly in his non-fiction books about such issues as mass hysteria, fear mongering and the like. They follow this up with a reprint of an article Russell wrote called Who’s That Knocking? talking about communication between different types of animals and would we actually recognise aliens talking to us if it happened?

Russell has been published in many pulp fiction magazines sometimes using different names so tracking all of his works down may be challenging.

He won the first annual Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 1955 and has received two hall of fame awards since his death in 1978. John L. Ingham wrote a thorough and detailed biography of Russell in 2010 but I’m struggling to find a copy to link to for you.

His book A Present From Joe is also listed in a Further Reading list with such luminaries as Arthur C. Clarke, H. G. Wells and John Wyndham in Aspects of Science Fiction edited by G. D. Doherty. This is where I first saw his name and I felt he must be worthwhile as his is the only name in this list I’d never heard of, the theory is that he must be worth reading.



Pulp Confidential

Very excited as I’m going to Sydney for the latest Discworld Convention but rather sad as there’s an awesome exhibition on and I probably won’t have time to get there. It’s about pulp fiction published in Australia and the State Library of NSW very kindly sent me the publication they put together for it.

Pulp Confidential

Pulp Confidential

Running in the Exhibition Galleries of the State Library of NSW, Macquarie Street, Sydney until 10th May 2015 it looks to be just up my alley. It’s curated by Peter Doyle who is a crime writer.

Now, a few words about the book as I can’t talk about an exhibition I haven’t seen. Although, there is a Behind the Scenes page so you get to see a little bit about how they put it all together…fascinating stuff!

The book

It’s a short book with only 53 pages so I was able to read the whole thing last night and not get to bed too late. As usual there isn’t enough detail for me but there is enough to tantalise and tease.

In 1965 the State Library of NSW bought a collection of papers from the estate of the late Frank Johnson, a Sydney publisher. Johnson published a lot of pulp fiction in the last two decades of his life and did his best to publish Australian authors and illustrators rather than those from overseas.

He showed his Australian bias fairly early on as he was publishing pieces about Jimmy Little and Chad Morgan alongside pieces on Elvis Presley and Tommy Steele.

Johnson was rather ahead of his time. We had superheroes with rather more modest powers than those in the USA but he would give artists a free hand to invent comic stories or even give them instructions regarding a story’s general direction and allowed them to fill in the story and dialogue, a system Stan Lee adopted in the 1950s. The inference is he saw Johnson using this system and thought it looked useful so he adopted it too.

This was not a small enterprise, “each week dozens of titles rolled off the presses.” As with international pulp fiction they were small enough to fit into a pocket and the paper was fairly cheap so copies are rare today. This meant having enough writers and artists who could churn out work fairly quickly, sometimes Johnson employed teenagers still at school for their art work.

Yes, the books and comics were racist and sexist but is that a product of the times or is that how Frank Johnson thought? I don’t know as this is not discussed in this book. I didn’t expect that here as it’s a much larger question. We did have the White Australia Policy which still informs much of what we do despite many people trying to change the system.

Anyway, this book is what I was trying to write on my blog a few years ago albeit from an Australian perspective. If it’s representative of the exhibition then I really wish I could have another day in Sydney in order to take the time to see it. If you get there please get in touch as it’d be awesome to publish someone’s perspective of this exhibition.

Star Trek Anthology

You’re probably looking at the title of this article and wondering what’s happening what’s happening in the Star Trek Universe and what exciting movie/book spin off/ merchandise is available now. This is not really official Trekkie stuff but some unofficial fan movie type stuff. They’re at the end of their Kickstarter campaign and would like more support.

They emailed me as their rewards are more for writers as you put in your money and then write up your story outline. This would be a fabulous chance for someone who has some ideas but don’t think they would be heard by the big studios. Have a look at their website to get some idea of what they’re about and then take a trip over to their Kickstarter campaign to put your money down.

I see this as being a great training ground for people to then springboard onto bigger things. Just like Channel 31 which has proved to be the springboard for some famous names such as Hamish and Andy I see Star Trek Anthology doing the same for other people in the future.

If you’ve got a Star Trek idea in your head get on over to Kickstarter and get the process started. You never know where it will lead.

Vale Sir Terry Pratchett

Today has been a very sad day with the announcement of the death of Sir Terry Pratchett. I won’t write about his life or his death as so much has been written about him in so many places already.

It’s hit me harder than I expected. Tears are very close to the surface and telling myself he’s no longer suffering the vagaries of his mind doesn’t really help today but will in the future.

All the Discworld communities are reeling and sharing their grief. It will be a very different Convention in a few weeks as we come together to share more tears and console each other.

As head of Discworld in Victoria my team and I will endeavour to provide a time when we can get together to mourn and celebrate.

I’m pinching a little of Penguin Random House’s email announcement.

We ask that the family are left undisturbed at this distressing time.

A Just Giving page donating to the Research Institute for the Care of Older People (RICE) has been set up in his

If you’d prefer you can make a donation to Alzheimer’s Australia.

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I want to thank the Koolin people for their thousands of years of guardianship and caretaking of the area where I live.