Monday, 22 December 2014

Dog Attack - You're Doing It Wrong

To the woman having coffee outside at Bean Thief in East Kew between 0915 and 0945 this morning:

Your statement that 'he never attacks anyone' is patently false, as we both saw.

Your further claim that 'he only ever attacks your dog, so I think that says something about you' is also incorrect.

It may be the case that your dog only ever attacks Emily. I am not in a position to know. But if walking sedately past him, on lead and at heel, is considered by your dog sufficient provocation for an attack, I should think it unlikely.

When your unrestrained dog attacks another dog, there are certain social conventions that govern your response, which should include the following elements:

1. I'm sorry. (or other form of apology).

2. Is your dog okay? (or other expression of concern for whether actual damage has occurred).

Once these conditions have been satisfied, you may of course then go on to make the usual spurious claims about how he has never done it before, etc. 

Do you know, woman who doesn't bother to hold the other end of the lead when you're having your coffee, what happens when a motor vehicle travelling at speed collides with a dog? It is not pretty. However, as you choose to leave your dog unrestrained while you sit on the edge of a main thoroughfare sipping your latte, you will doubtless find out one of these days. Perhaps next time someone with a dog passes you on the other side of the road.

Assuming your dog doesn't die horribly in this way, do you know what happens when a person makes a complaint to Boroondara Council about your dog attacking a person or another dog, or rushing at a person? No, I thought not. You will face having your dog declared a Dangerous Dog. If that happens, your dog can only legally be outside your property leashed and muzzled. For the rest of his life. If you ignore that restriction, the council can seize and destroy your dog. Destroying a dog means killing it. 

Do you know that on receiving a complaint the council has the legal right to seize and kill your dog anyway?

Do you also know that it qualifies as a 'rush' if the dog approaches within three metres of any human? No, I thought not.

Did you know that there is a fine of several hundred dollars consequent on letting your dog run around off lead in public? No, having a lead trailing from his collar does not mean that he is 'on lead'. You have to be holding the other end.

Do you realise that you came perilously close to having your dog reported today, by me, for an attack/rush? Do you realise that the only reason I didn't do so was that it is three days before Christmas, and I decided to give you a break? Do you realise that that won't happen a second time? Do you even know who I am?

Well, Miss It Says Something About You If My Dog Attacks Your Dog, just let anything like that happen again and you will find out.

I'll see you in court, if that happy day happens. Oh, did I mention? I'm a lawyer. So it won't cost me anything to sue you. Just the filing fees.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Music Review - Bernie Manning's Greatest Hits, Volume 4

In this, Manning's fourth album, the emphasis has shifted yet again, focussing on the particular over the general in its exploration of the variety of human experience. The changes have not been limited to the album's focus, though; Manning's work is always developing, and VOL 4 brings us a number of departures in technique.

Unlike previous albums, where the majority of vocals were sung by Jeff Burstin, this one has Bruce Haymes singing all but one of the sung tracks. His softer, lighter voice gives the album a very different feeling. It is a gentler, slower take on life, and I, personally, prefer his soothing tones to the raw, slightly gravelly energy of Burstin. It seems to me a better fit with the gentle voice of Bernie Manning as he reads his poetry. The two in fact combine in Girl On A Tram, an engaging vignette of a phone conversation eavesdropped on public transport, and the combination of spoken verse and sung refrain works very well.

In another departure from established habit, Song X was the first purely instrumental track I've seen in Manning's albums. I loved its easy, loose-jointed sound, and hope there will be more like it.

Great use has also been made of special effects: beach sounds, thunderstorms, birdsong have been used to great effect, not just shoved in as background but weaving in and through the music and enhancing it. Whoever put this together is very gifted indeed. The special effects were used to particular effect in Tweed Heads 2001.

Worthy of special mention were also  Baby Boomers Rap - another delightful piece of social comment, lightened by Manning's wit, which is dry, but never unkind, A Winter's Day, a sorrowful spoken poem at the end of which a beam of hope shines through the clouds, and Smilin', in which the feeling of summer was almost palpable.

Although in general I loved all of the new developments, on a personal level I must say I was sad to see that there were no comic monologues in this album. It is the first time that these have been absent, the previous albums following a course started with the hilarious Secret Men's Business in Volume 1. I'm a great fan of these and I do hope that we may see more of them in Volume 5.

Bernie Manning's Greatest Hits, Volumes One, Two and Three and Four, are available from  Bernie's own website.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Book review - Feels Like The First Time, by Shawn Inmon

A touching story of young love lost and regained, Feels Like The First Time reminded me rather of Romeo and Juliet, with a happy ending instead of the traditional stage littered with corpses.

I am tempted to say the characters were well constructed and believable, but this would be a nonsense in a book that is not really fiction, but rather a novelised account of true events. The people in the book are real, but it still takes good writing for the reader to be able to see their reality, and in this Inmon has done a sterling job.

Right from the start the story caught my interest and I enjoyed reading it very much. I salute the author's courage in sharing his personal life like this.

The only thing that did detract a little from my enjoyment was that the author uses 'lay' intransitively throughout the book. Perhaps this will be remedied in a later edition.

Feels Like The First Time, and its companion volume, Both Sides Now, are both available from Amazon.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Book review - Student Body, by Rafeeq McGiveron

In this first novel by career academic Rafeeq McGiveron, we are shown the anatomy of an extramarital affair. Little by little, McGiveron dissects the affair like a rat on a laboratory table, laying bare all of its hidden mechanics and unexpected effects.

The main part of the book traces the development of the affair, a typical enough affair, with all of its terrible consequences, some of which Rick O’Donnell, the bumbling, well-meaning protagonist, manages to avoid, and others of which he must bear the pain. Towards the end, a shocking development places the whole situation in a darker, more sinister light. The young woman is brutally murdered, and O’Donnell is implicated in the crime.

It is left to the reader to decide whether O’Donnell, already in a precarious mental state, has killed his lover in a dissociative state or whether the sleazy professor has done away with her, and whether the one witness in O’Donnell’s favour will be sufficient for him to avoid conviction for the crime. The book closes, with beautiful symmetry, just as it opened, with O’Donnell facing the possible, even the probable, ruin of his whole life as a result of his ill-judged affair.

The characters are beautifully drawn out. It’s not easy when writing in a limited third person point of view to give the reader information the protagonist doesn’t have, and in this McGiveron excels, giving us a portrait of a nasty, self-centred, possibly sociopathic young woman determined to have what she wants no matter the cost to anyone else, while poor, trusting O’Donnell retains his belief in her purity and innocence.  I found O’Donnell himself eminently believable; a clever young man who has found life easy, and when presented with his first major challenge, fails dismally because nothing in his life has prepared him to encounter difficulty.

Although I’m not, in general, a fan of graphic sex in a book, the various sexual episodes were beautifully excecuted, to the point where, despite an activity being described which I, personally, consider beyond disgusting, I found myself carried along and, for those few minutes, sympathising completely with O’Donnell as he wallowed in the warm, gushing milkiness. Now to be able to achieve this, with a reader who is actively repulsed by the activity being described and whose ears in any case go back at the very suggestion of explicitly described sex, is a very considerable achievement, and I applaud it. The ability to carry the reader from his world into your own, whether he will or no, is the quintessence of the writer’s art.

So we have a nicely symmetrical plot about a very human situation that’s familiar to everyone – after all, who hasn’t known someone whose life was ruined by adultery, or who was badly taken in by an unscrupulous person – we have very substantial character development, and wonderfully evocative sex scenes. But all this would not make Student Body the fine piece of work it is without the author’s wonderful use of language. A writer’s writer through and through, McGiveron wields the language like a Bach or a Corelli, winding it around and back on itself in layer after layer of baroque curlicues, producing an exquisite tapestry of imagery that delights both mind and senses. I enjoyed it more than I can say, and confidently expect to see it winning awards.

Student Body is available from AMAZON.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Book review - The Slave Auction, by Ray Anselmo

In a magnificent leap across genres, The Slave Auction combines elements of romance, post-apocalyptic science fiction, Christian fiction and crime thriller. I read it in a single day, staying up late to finish it, and I love my sleep.

The theme of Christian faith is woven throughout the book, but is so subtle that readers unsympathetic with a Christian worldview will not be put off by it. There's no in-your-face preaching. In fact, nothing about the book is in-your-face, and the whole work is characterised by a lovely subtlety and restraint which many of today's writers would do well to emulate.

The characters are well drawn and believable and the post-apocalyptic world is realistic and grainy. As a treatment of our world after global nuclear war, it seemed to me very realistic. I was particularly pleased to see the treatment of slavery, not as a creepy sexual titillation, as sadly is often the case in modern fiction, but as an understandable economic development.

With regard to presentation, the book is well written and edited, and there was nothing to interfere with the reader's enjoyment.

All in all, a thoroughly good read.

The Slave Auction is available from AMAZON.

Monday, 1 December 2014

On Writer's Block

The repairman looked sadly at my inert washing machine, shaking his head slowly.

"Can't you fix it?" I asked, thinking with alarm about the cost of a replacement.

"Sorry. I can't."

"What's wrong with it," I asked. "Has the motor burned out?"

"Well, see, I've got Repairman's Block. So I just can't, you know, fix anything at the moment."

At this point I lost my temper.

"You fucking retard," I shouted. "You're charging me $75 per fifteen minutes for a service call and you won't fix it? You fix my washing machine RIGHT NOW or I'm calling your boss."

I went to work, but sitting at my desk I found any desire to work had left me. "Where are the Johnstone contracts," my boss asked me. "Sorry, Mr Finkelstein," I told him. I haven't drafted them yet. I've got Lawyer's Block."

"Oh, you poor thing," he sympathised. "You'd better take the rest of the week off and go to the beach. Perhaps the sights and sounds of nature will inspire you."

When I returned from the city, I found my house had been broken into and all my jewellery stolen. I rang up the police.

"Sorry, Ma'am," said the desk sergeant. "I can't help you today. I've got Policeman's Block."

Of course, the above conversations never really happened. But they ought to illustrate the amazing fatuity of so-called 'Writer's Block'.

Writing, if you choose to make it your job, is a job. It's work. An activity that you do, day after day, in order to obtain some reward. You do not get to sit in a corner and whine that your 'muse' has deserted you or that you are 'blocked'. What you need to do is get over yourself and get on with your work.

If you haven't chosen to make writing your job, then it is a hobby, and you've no business whining if you don't feel like playing with your hobby that day. No one cares if you don't fancy playing golf or tennis on any particular day, and no one cares if you don't feel like writing. Again, you need to get over yourself.