Monday, December 19, 2005


Over the years I have compiled a list of my top ten books. So far I have only found three that made the grade.

To qualify, a book needs to appeal to certain unspecified criteria. Unspecified because I, myself, am not sure what they are. All I know is that a book has "IT" - or at least had "IT" at the time when it was read.

The thing about this top ten (three), is that a book doesn't necessarily have to appeal to me now. My tastes have probably changed and what once appealed may no longer interest me in the slightest.

Well, after that preamble - the books.

1)Dune by Frank Herbert.
I read this some time around 1976 and immediately after I'd finished it, I started reading it again. I was thrilled to find there were sequels and looked forward to continuing the story through the subsequent volumes. However, despite several attempts I never was able to get all the way through the second, Dune Messiah - despite it being the smallest of the series.

2) That Eye The Sky by Tim Winton.
I read this some time in the 80s. I enjoyed its Australianness and the use of Australianesque narrative voice. I've tried to read this again, but have never managed to stick with it. Maybe it's like that first cup of coffee. It's always better than the second.

3) Dracula by Bram Stoker.
A relatively late entry, read some time in the early 90s. I'm not sure whether I saw the Coppola film first and that led me to stick with the book after several failed attempts in earlier years. However, I finally succeeded and felt the book was worthy of addition to this list.

What do these three different novels have in common? The only thing I can see is a type of spiritual content. Each deals with spirituality in a different way, yet it's a dominant feature of all three. They don't necessarily contain spiritual ideals worthy of aspiration - but they spoke to a hunger for that "something more" that we all experience at some times in our lives. Even if they were fictionalised explorations - they at least gave that vicarious satisfaction that great fiction can give us during the time we immerse ourselves in it.

Maybe others don't see them as great fiction - that's fine. You can all compile your own top ten books, and maybe you'll be able to include more than the three that made my list.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


I'm now a little over halfway through Sean Dooley's book, "The Big Twitch"; his account of the year in which he set a new birdwatching record in Australia, by observing over 700 different bird species in a calendar year.

Inspired by his effort, yet feeling little of the obsession that saw him travel extensively around the nation, spending his inheritance in the process, I made an effort to note as many bird species as possible during my drive to work.

Firstly I was hindered by the weather. Wet.
Then the road was quite busy, and travelling along a narrow three lane, busy main highway doesn't leave much attention left over for bird watching. This is the quite disappointing tally:

1) Two adult and one juvenile Currawongs on the front lawn of Concord Hospital
2) Two Kookaburras sitting on electric wires (resist temptation to include childish rhyme about their pants being on fire)
3) Two more adult Currawongs in someone's front yard

Others not included in official tally due to poor viewing conditions.
1) A small group of flying parrots seen only in silhouette, but probably rainbow lorikeets
2) possible pigeon under the Victoria Road bridge.
3) Suspected Indian Mynah also under Victoria Rd bridge.
4) Several unidentified doves (or maybe one taking a short cut to keep ahead of me on the road - also sitting on power lines).

Maybe the drive home will be more productive.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Changing Tastes

What factors determine our sense of artistic taste?
Why do we prefer one style of music and not another? What makes an art work appealing to one person and not to someone else?

Why are some people more rigid than others in their appreciation (or not) of certain art forms?

I can see through my own life that tastes can change and develop significantly over the years. Musical styles that I once disliked have grown on me, and others that I once liked now make me cringe.

For example, I no longer consider that the Partridge Family are the pinnacle of musical excellence.

No matter how much my taste has changed, nostalgia remains. I still have some affection for 70s glam rock - but not for the same reason that attracted me to it back then. In fact I'm not sure WHY it appealed to me in my teens. I guess that brings things back to my original question - what determines what we like?

Are our tastes developed gradually? Do we progress along a particular route a small step at a time? Are they formed like stalagmites and stalactites in a limestone cave - where exposure to something, an addition to our experience, slowly builds up until it becomes a newly developed obsession?

Or is there a right place, a right time and a right mood - where several factors all swing together in alignment to make something become suddenly relevant and meaningful?

My own musical "progression" (as far as I can remember)

Pre-teens (60s pop)
The Beatles
The Dave Clark Five

Early Teens (the quantum leap)
The Partridge Family
Deep Purple

Mid - Late Teens (Glam Rock)
Suzi Quatro
The Sweet
Kate Bush

Late Teens - Late Twenties (First Christian era)
Larry Norman
Barry McGuire

Late Twenties -Late Thirties (The Irish and folk-punk, traditional period)
The Pogues
Roaring Jack
The Men They Couldn't Hang
The Levellers
Eliza Carthy
Kate Rusby
Nancy Kerr

Late Thirties to Late Forties (Country music)
Chely Wright
Lorrie Morgan
Suzi Bogguss
Lee Kernaghan
Adam Brand
Melinda Schneider
Sara Storer

Late Forties -part 2 (Second Christian era)
Matt Redman
Rebbeca St James
Soul Survivor