Friday, June 25, 2010

An Historic Day

I try to keep this blog a-political but I will make an exception for this event.
Yesterday, for the first time in our country's history, a woman became the Prime Minister of Australia.
Julia Gillard took over from the incumbent Kevin Rudd who stood aside (for reasons we won't go into here).
I have 'lifted' her bio from the Australian Labor Party's web site.
Julia was born in Wales, migrating to Australia with her family in 1966. She studied arts and law at university in Adelaide before being elected as national education vice president of the Australian Union of Students in 1983. In 1983, Julia was national president of the AUS.
She began work as a solicitor with the law firm Slater and Gordon and became a partner in 1990. In May 1996, Julia was appointed chief of staff of the then Victorian Opposition leader, John Brumby. She worked with Mr Brumby until her election to Federal Parliament in 1998.
Following her election, she was a member of a number of parliamentary committees including the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Workplace Relations prior to entering Labor's Shadow Ministry in 2001.

She subsequently served in a number of Shadow Ministerial portfolios including Population and Immigration, Reconciliation and Indigenous Affairs, Health, Employment and Industrial Relations, and Social Inclusion.
Julia was Labor's Manager of Opposition Business for three years prior to being elected as Labor's Deputy Leader in December 2006.
Following the Federal Election on the 24th of November 2007, Julia was sworn in as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, and Minister for Social Inclusion.
She became Prime Minister on 24th June 2010.
A federal election must take place sometime between now and 16th April, 2011.
Whether Ms Gillard will hold her position after that is of course up to the voters.
Interesting times in Australian politics.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Shortest Day of the Year

Today, 21st of June, is the shortest day of the year in the southern hemisphere.
Sunrise is at 7:00 am.
Sunset is at 4:53 pm.
Day length will be 9h 53m 36s.
The meteorological winter has been with us for three weeks however. In Australia the seasons are taken to start at the beginning of the month so winter begins on 1st June and spans June, July and August. Supposedly, this is because in the early days of the Colony the NSW Corps changed from their summer to their winter uniforms at the beginning of the month.
There is often some confusion about the seasons as there is also an astronomical winter. That is from the winter solstice, 21st June, until the spring equinox, 23 September. This astronomical definition comes about as the winter solstice is the day when the Sun is at its furthest north, is at its lowest in the sky and the length of daylight is the shortest in the year.
In some countries the astronomical definition of winter is more prominent than in Australia but US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also prefers to use the meteorological definition of the seasons so winter the USA is from the beginning of December through January to the end of February.

So what is winter to us? Average maximum temperatures are around 17deg C (64 deg F) and minimum 9 deg C (48 deg F) so it's not really cold and rainfall is usually at its annual lows. So we still get to go down the beach for a sit in the sun and a read on our favourite bench most days. There are some hardy souls still swimming and the surfers are wearing wetsuits. We start fires around the middle of May and finish with them sometime in September. We may have them going 24/7 for a few weeks in July. This is a time when the south westerly winds blow off the snow on the mountains around 200km from us as the crow flies and the wind chill factor comes into play. We can also have half a dozen frosty mornings.
Firewood is easy to come by either by cutting up fallen trees on the property (there are always a few every year ) or easier by getting a delivery from one of our neighbours who trades in this commodity. The local hardwood eucalyptus burns slow and hot.
One downside of winter is that our native pasture stops growing so the cows need feeding with supplemental hay for a few months. Luckily this year I was able to do a good deal for the 40 bales I will need.
We really enjoy our winter. Plenty of sunshine, very few tourists around and a time to get plenty of farm work done in reasonable comfort.

Friday, June 04, 2010

The Creek is Flowing!

This may not be very exciting for those who live outside our valley but here goes.
Ok, it's not exactly the Mississippi, but finally after two weeks of steady rain and around 150mm in total, the water table has filled up and our creek is again flowing!
General opinion is it's been 18 months to 2 years since this has last happened.

And there is more rain on the way. We may even see some flooding!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Wine Movies

The wet and very stormy weather of the last week has kept us indoors for quite a few days. It's a time to catch up with pesky paperwork and postponed interior household jobs as well as a little reading and, of course, to watch a few movies.
I caught "Bottle Shock" (2008) on satellite which was an interesting tale of how the Californians in the Napa Valley 'beat' the French in a blind Cabernet and Chardonnay tasting competition in France in 1976. Based on fact (with a little bit of Hollywood fantasy thrown in), it was an entertaining couple of hours. California’s 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon were the actual winners. From a wine man's point of view, the vineyard and wine activities going on in the background were quite convincing. Even the laboratory analysis equipment in one scene was spot on.
For an accurate account of the event, the book by George Tabor, Judgment of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionized Wine (2006) is suggested reading.
This got me to wondering how many wine based movies have actually been produced.
I can remember seeing a couple.
"A Good Year" (2006) is an adaptation of Peter Mayle’s novel of the same name. Russell Crowe plays a workaholic, British investment broker who unexpectedly inherits a chateau and vineyard in Provence. This was a funny romantic comedy which had great scenes of the beautiful French countryside, as well as great food and wine sequences.

"Sideways" (2004), adapted from Rex Pickett’s novel is all about wine. The plot has two friends going on a week-long road trip/bachelor party before Jack (Thomas Haden Church) gets married. Miles (Paul Giamatti) is a wine writer who loves wine, but Jack is into sex and partying. The movie is also about relationships and can be a bit confronting at times. Lots of interesting discussions about Merlot and Pinot Noir too. Rumour has it that Merlot sales dropped considerably for a while after the release. Supposedly the best wine movie ever made, it's on my favourites list.

"A Walk in the Clouds" (1995) is a romantic drama set in the 1940's in California.
It's a bit soap operaish but has beautiful scenery, great vineyard shots and lots of wine drinking throughout. Some of the technical references are cringe worthy but I like this one also.

There are a few others going back over the years which my research turned up.
"Year of the Comet" (1992) with Penelope Ann Miller and Tim Daly.
"Secret of Vittoria" (1969) with Anthony Quinn and Giancarlo Giannini.
"This Earth Is Mine."(1959) with Rock Hudson, Jean Simmons and Claude Rains.
"The Unholy Wife" (1957) with Diana Dors and Rod Steiger.
"They Knew What They Wanted" (1940) with Charles Laughton and Carole Lombard
I vaguely remember seeing " Secret of Vittoria" (1969) where an Italian town hides a million bottles of wine from the German army during World War II. This story is very similar to a book I read about the French hiding wine from the Germans called Wine & War: The French, the Nazis & the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure by Donald and Petie Kladstrup.

I would be interested to hear of any more from my readers.
Of course there have been a few documentaries including "Mondovino" (2004), "From Ground to Glass "(2006) and "Corked" (2008) but I am more interested in Hollywood's slant on the industry.