Friday, December 28, 2012

A German Church in the Garden of God: Melbourne's Trinity Lutheran Church, 1853-2003, edited by Herbert D. Mees.

A German Church in the Garden of God: Melbourne's Trinity Lutheran Church, 1853-2003, edited by Herbert D. Mees.  Hardcover book with pictorial boards (no dust jacket) published by Historical Society for Trinity German Lutheran Church 2004, 724 pages with black and white photographs, some colour photographs and a few black and white illustrations.

“The definitive history of the German Lutheran Trinity Church, East Melbourne. This book provides an insight into the life of German-speaking immigrants to Victoria and Australia. This 700 page book is profusely illustrated with over 350 photographs, lithographs, maps and other documents, including lists of early Church members. Also included is a 25 page section on the Thomastown (Westgarthtown) Lutheran Church.”

Germans have been here in Australia for a long time and I guess when people go to a new country such as Australia, they like to bring along some luggage (or baggage).  In this instance they brought along Lutheranism for which I guess they probably exceeded their baggage allowance.  No doubt they also brought along a fondness for bratwurst, sauerkraut, potato dumplings, red cabbage etc etc.  Unfortunately there is no history that I’m aware of, that looks at the history of sauerkraut in Australia... but there is this book that has nothing to do with sauerkraut.

1853 was the founding year of the Trinity Lutheran Church in Melbourne, Victoria.  1853 was also a significant time for Victoria as it was only a few years before this that the Victorian gold rush began to entice people from all over the world, including Germany, to try their luck here… especially here in Clunes and it’s surrounding gold rich land (…this includes Ballarat and Bendigo, but out of patriotism for my place of abode, I’ll put Clunes at it’s centre).  Melbourne grew at an accelerated pace as the gold began pouring in and there were plenty of Germans looking for gold and this is why those early Lutherans built a church at this particular time. 

I was born in Melbourne a long time after the founding of the Trinity Church.  Despite being from a German background (both my parents were German), I have never visited this historic place of my ancestors countrymen’s baggage deposit.  There are various reasons for this which I won’t go into here in this blog, but lets just say that it wasn’t on my, or my families, radar.  This book on the other hand is on my radar as despite not having any first hand experience of the church, I am aware of its existence and importance to the Lutheran community here in Victoria.  At 724 pages, it’s not a casual look at this subject matter.  Geoffrey Blainey writes in his introduction, “This is one of the most comprehensive histories to be written on an Australian church” and lets face it, Geoffrey would be aware of any books that would be more comprehensive.  As an important part of Melbourne’s historic landscape, this history should be of interest to more than those with a penchant for sauerkraut or their descendents.  Anyone interested in Victoria’s history and society should find this book of interest.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Xmas 2012

Photograph of unknown people (and puppy) dated 11-1-77.  Lost / forgotten bookmark.  Rediscovered during 2012.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

They Dined on Eland: The Story of the Acclimatisation Societies by Christopher Lever.

They Dined on Eland: The Story of the Acclimatisation Societies by Christopher Lever.  Hardcover book published by Quiller Press 1992, 224 pages with a few black and white illustrations.

Acclimatisation.  Now there’s a thing.  Here in sunny Clunes we have a number of constant reminders regarding Acclimatisation.  Not only do we have an ample amount of rabbits and hares (…causing environmental damage on a massive scale), but we also have the foxes that eat the rabbits and hares (… and our native fauna*).  What is less obvious unless you sit back and think about it, is the large number of elm and poplar trees that grow in this small town.  That’s not to say that they aren’t obvious.  They are certainly large enough to be noticed and admired (… and scorned)… and they have spread their insidious suckers throughout the town… and my back yard.  I mention these as someone here in town commented to me once that the poplars and elms were introduced as part of an acclimatisation program in the 1800s.  This is of course completely unverified but worth a mention.

 Large Elm tree in my backyard.

You’ve probably already gathered that I’m not a fan of the cute bunny, the sly fox or the majestic elm.  For some strange reason I like the stuff that was here before the imports arrived. Give me a Wallaby and a gum tree any day (both are within easy walking distance from where I now sit but are not within view).  Of course, one could argue that humans are imports as well… but somehow I think that efforts to remove humans may prove as difficult as the attempts to remove the fox and hare.

This book looks at the Societies that helped propagate these disastrous imports (not the humans).  Founded in the mid 1800s, these societies were trying to bring some of home to here and some of here to home, here being wherever you are in the world and home being Europe.  They were also looking at the economic benefits of importing various animals across the globe.  I guess farm livestock is an understandable economic import but the rabbit is something that in hindsight is a little hard for most of us 21st century humans to comprehend.  I guess times have changed and not all of us are hunters… although there are enough rabbits and hares around here to feed a lot of people for a long time.  

I’ve had this book for sale on ebay for a while now, with no takers.  Maybe it’s just me that finds this subject of interest.  As with many of the books I try to sell, I still have confidence that it will sell despite not selling at this point in time.  It’s not rare and it’s not expensive.  It is interesting and it is relevant particularly to us here in Australia.  I often mention books that I would read if there was the time to read all the books that I want to read and this book is another one I could add to the imaginary pile of books that I would like to get around to reading some day.  If it doesn’t sell I think I will put it into the real pile and watch it Acclimatise with the others.  

… and by the way an “Eland” is a type of African antelope and as far as I’m aware it was never acclimatised here in Australia and was never dined upon in Clunes.

* Causing environmental damage on a massive scale.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Green Porno: A Book and Short Films by Isabella Rossellini.

Green Porno: A Book and Short Films by Isabella Rossellini.  Paperback book with DVD published by Harperstudio 2009, unpaginated with colour photographs throughout.

I recently watched a few vintage David Lynch DVDs, most notably Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart, both of which have Isabella Rossellini in them to varying degrees.  I like Isabella as an actress and i guess i like Isabella as Isabella, although  I can’t say what she’s like in real life as unfortunately I have never had the pleasure of meeting her (…and probably never will).  A number of years ago a friend pointed out this youtube video (if explicit whale sex bothers you, DON’T click on the video below... and yes those pink things are penises):

Wow.  This clip is part of a series of short films that she made with the assistance of Sundance Channel.  The idea was to present scientifically accurate representations of animal sex and deliver a message about our fragile world… and maybe have some fun on the way through.  Isabella was involved in the whole process and not just in front of the camera, which makes me wonder what a feature film made by Isabella would be like. The mind boggles.  

This book contains stills from some of the films (fish and marine animals only) with a small amount of text, all of which is quite stunning as is the DVD that accompanies it.  The DVD contains the whale film above, as well as many more wonderful and enlightening representations of fish and insect sex all of which star Isabella Rossellini, who in case you didn’t know, isn’t a fish or an insect.  This makes for great entertainment.  

Until recently my only experience of Green Porno was the short youtube clip above and not of the book.  When I ventured upon the book I recognised it immediately… which is interesting, as I was not aware that it even existed until that moment of discovery.  With my youtube Green Porno knowledge firmly under my cap and then finding this book (with DVD), well it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out a connection between the book and strange Isabella Rossellini short films.  Having a penchant for Isabella and her strange short films means that picking this book up was a must.  Selling it is also a must, but is proving harder than picking it up.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Trotsky: Downfall of a Revolutionary by Bertrand M. Patenaude.

Trotsky: Downfall of a Revolutionary by Bertrand M. Patenaude.  Hardcover book published by Harper 2009, 370 pages with a few black and white photographs.

“Whatever happened to Leon Trotsky?
He got an ice pick
That made his ears burn”

“No more heroes” by the Stranglers.

I’m not sure if the ice pick actually did make Trotsky’s ears burn, but it certainly killed him.  To be honest, I don’t know that much about Trotsky.  I do know he was a Marxist revolutionary hero and theorist who fell out of favour with Joe Stalin and ended up in Mexico where someone in the employ of the NKVD stuck an ice pick in his head. This is of course not a very good thing and Leon died.  Stalin as we all know, was a difficult man to get along with and even if you went to the other side of the world, he didn’t forget a grudge and being the man of steel that he was… well let’s just say that Trotsky didn’t get far enough away from this bloke… particularly Joes ice pick wielding friend.   

This book looks at a lot more than the murder of Mr Trotsky, but does mainly look at his time of exile in Mexico.  There’s only references to his earlier revolutionary career and I guess there’s lots of other books about the early years which does make this book stand out as being a bit unique in that it has a definite focus on a particular period of Trotsky’s life.  

A number of years ago I read a biography of Stalin which I found to be very unsatisfying.  I kept on thinking that the author hadn’t gone into the subject hard enough and had skirted around some of the more controversial issues, and lets face it, when reading a biography of Stalin, you sort of expect there to be a bit of blood and guts.  At the end of reading this unsatisfying work, all I could think of was that I would like to read a more comprehensive biography of the man.  This book would probably not be a great place to start for a Trotsky novice such as myself, whereas Trotskyites would probably find this book most enlightening.  I’m interested in reading a good biography on the guy but once again I want all of the dirt, not just the later dirt.  I must mention this book to the next knowledgeable Trotskyite I bump into and see if they’re interested.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Dr. Space: The Life of Wernher Von Braun by Bob Ward.

Dr. Space: The Life of Wernher Von Braun by Bob Ward.  Hardcover book published by Naval Institute Press 2005, 282 pages with some black and white photographs and a few black and white illustrations.

Rather than writing about Wernher, I’ll let the words of Tom Lehrer’s excellent song give you a little bit of the background:

This book has nothing to do with Tom Lehrer and everything to do with Wernher Von Braun.  Without Wernher we* possibly wouldn’t have made it to the Moon or Mars.  There’d probably be no GPS or advanced communication satellites.  There’d be no Star Wars (Strategic Defense Initiative) or maybe even no Star Wars (movie franchise… yes, you can blame Wernher for this as well).  So this guys influence is everywhere from kids toy boxes to Mars.  The book doesn’t go into the Star Wars stuff (both) or even much of the other stuff that happened after his death.  It does look at his time working with the Nazis and the development of the American Space Program afterwards... as well as the many questions that arose regarding these activities.

So who remembers Wernher now?  Well, I get the feeling not a lot of people.  I’ve had the book on ebay for a while now and there have been no takers as of yet.  I think it’s a pretty impressive book and, in some ways, an important story about an important guy… He must be important, even the great Tom Lehrer sang about him. 

*That's the royal "we".

Thursday, December 6, 2012

How to Teach According to Temperament and Mental Development; On Phrenology in the School-Room and the Family by Nelson Sizer.

How to Teach According to Temperament and Mental Development; On Phrenology in the School-Room and the Family by Nelson Sizer.  Hardcover book with decorative boards (no dust jacket) published by S.R. Wells 1877, 331 pages with some black and white illustrations.

“An attempt is made, in this work, to aid parents aid teachers to understand the talents and dispositions, as well as the constitutional temperaments of those committed to their care, and to point out a more successful way to guide, control, and educate them. The author feels certain that his purpose will be approved, and entertains the hope that those whom he addresses will find something which they may profitably learn and apply. During more than thirty years, he has labored by means of public lectures, by the pen, and in more than a hundred thousand personal consultations, to set forth the principles of mental development, culture and training, and to show how the bodily conditions may be so regulated as to secure health, happiness, success, and long life; in short, how to make the most of each human being, both in body and mind. The aim of this work, therefore, is to give the reader the results of a long course of observation, study, and practice, with the hope that its teachings may become a perpetual benefit to all generations.”

Nelson Sizer was a someone in the world of Phrenology, but that Phrenological world is now long gone.  Phrenology… mmmm… Fortunately when I found this title hiding away on a shelf full of antiquated education texts, I had a fair idea what Phrenology was and sure enough, a quick interwebs search back home at Huc & Gabet headquarters, confirms that it is a dodgy science (pseudoscience) relating to something to do with the shape of your head, although according to this website,  it is a “science”.    

Phrenology is a true science, which is there to benefit humanity.”  

 I’m sure Nelson would agree with this, but I’m a little more skeptical and seriously doubt that the shape of my head, or anyone elses head, is going to benefit humanity.  

So who would be interested in this book?  That’s a good question, for which I’ll quickly make up a few answers: 
  1. Anyone interested in Pseudoscience.
  2. Anyone who still believes in the theories of Franz Joseph Gall (a bigwig in the world of Phrenology).
  3. Anyone interested in antiquated teaching methods... or the maltreatment of small children. 
  4. Anyone with a head.
  5. … that’s about it… can’t think of anymore.
I don’t want to get bigheaded about finding this book, but it is sort of interesting and obscure enough for me get excited about… and to write about here.  Other book dealers often ask me if I’ve found anything special recently and for a week or so, this was the book I told them about.  Not one of them laughed, all of them (including the lumpy headed ones) agreed, that it is special.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Poems of War and Peace by Jas H. Duke.

Poems of War and Peace by Jas H. Duke.  Paperback book published by Collective Effort Press (no date), 268 pages.

Ballarat born Jas H. Duke passed away in 1992 after having “a massive heart attack brought on by a broken bone that shattered when he slipped and fell over a concrete step”*.  He is probably the most well known Ballarat born Anarchist poet the world has even known, yet sadly there are no memorials to the man other than a few bits on the interwebs and of course a few books with this particular title being one of those books.  Interestingly Jas doesn’t get mentioned in the Ballarat Wikipedia entry in the section of Notable Persons, whereas some dodgy people do (politicians, clergy, sports people).  Reading through a few of the other “bits” on the interwebs, I particularly like this:

“He was initially influenced by R. Hausmann and K. Schwitters, but found Letraset (and similar products) to be a liberating force, one of anarchic dynamism.”*

I first encountered Jas’s oeuvre a few years ago at a friends house.  This particular friend is a massive fan and has amassed a comprehensive collection of Jas Duke’s works… which isn’t much… I think he has 2 books.  He often enjoys entertaining guests with readings from these works, which is how I know of Jas H. Duke.  A few weeks ago on the way to a book sale, I commented to this friend/Jas Duke fan/Huc & Gabet book finding assistant, that rather strangely I hadn’t found any Ballarat Anarchist poetry over the last few years.  Half an hour later he walks up to me and hands me this book.  I’m not sure why I thought of Jas as we were driving to this sale, it’s not something I normally think of… or want to think of.  Maybe it’s the beginning of my own “anarchic dynamism”. 

*Jas H. Duke: A Biographical Sketch by thalia