Three Key Themes in Summer of The Seventeenth Doll by Ray Lawler

Summer of the Seventeenth doll is an iconic Australian play, with some deep themes. Here are three of the key ones.

1. Nostalgia and the Passage of Time: The play is set in the 1950s and centers around a group of characters who reunite annually for the summer season. The doll in the title represents a ritualistic gift exchanged between two of the characters, symbolizing their romanticized view of their youth. Throughout the play, Lawler explores the tension between the characters’ longing for the past and the harsh reality of the present. The theme of nostalgia highlights the characters’ struggle to come to terms with the passing of time and the changing dynamics of their relationships.

2. Gender Roles and Expectations: Another important theme in the play is the exploration of gender roles and expectations in 1950s Australian society. Lawler portrays the traditional gender roles that were prevalent during that time, with women expected to be caretakers and homemakers while men are seen as the breadwinners. The female characters, Olive and Pearl, challenge these expectations by working in the city and seeking independence, which creates tension and disrupts the established dynamics within the group. The play raises questions about the limitations placed on women and the struggle for autonomy and fulfillment within societal expectations.

3. Illusion versus Reality: The characters engage in a yearly performance of recreating their youthful summer romance, but as the play unfolds, the cracks in their idealized vision become apparent. The harsh realities of aging, disappointment, and unmet expectations begin to shatter the illusions they have built. Lawler examines the consequences of clinging to illusions and the challenges of facing reality, highlighting the characters’ struggles to reconcile their desires and dreams with the truths of their lives.

These themes intertwine to create a complex exploration of personal and societal dynamics. The play offers a snapshot of a particular era in Australian society while delving into universal themes of time, gender, and the human condition. Through its compelling characters and evocative storytelling, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll prompts audiences to reflect on the passage of time, the limitations imposed by societal norms, and the delicate balance between illusion and reality.


A Short Analysis of Philip Larkin’s Aubade

Philip Larkin’s poem “Aubade” is a poignant exploration of the fear and existential dread that can accompany the contemplation of death and the awareness of one’s own mortality. The poem takes the form of a morning song, traditionally associated with celebration and hope, but Larkin subverts this expectation by delving into the darker aspects of human existence.

The poem opens with the speaker awakening in the early hours of the morning, confronted by the looming presence of death. Larkin presents death as an inescapable reality, something that cannot be rationalized or evaded. He writes:

“I work all day, and get half-drunk at night. Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare. In time the curtain-edges will grow light.”

These lines capture the speaker’s sense of isolation and dread, as he grapples with the weight of mortality in the silent darkness of the early morning hours.

Throughout the poem, Larkin explores the futile attempts humans make to distract themselves from the inevitability of death. He acknowledges the fleeting pleasures of life and the various distractions people indulge in, whether it be work, alcohol, or the company of others. However, these distractions ultimately prove inadequate in the face of death’s certainty. Larkin writes:

“Being brave Lets no one off the grave. Death is no different whined at than withstood.”

These lines emphasize the futility of denial and the universality of death, regardless of how one confronts it.

One of the central themes in “Aubade” is the contrast between the finite nature of human existence and the infinite expanse of time and the universe. Larkin contemplates the vastness of the cosmos and the insignificance of human life within it. He writes:

“Unresting death, a whole day nearer now, Making all thought impossible but how And where and when I shall myself die.”

These lines capture the sense of insignificance and helplessness that can arise when confronted with the immensity of the universe and the impending nature of one’s mortality.

Ultimately, “Aubade” serves as a meditation on the human condition and the existential questions that arise when contemplating the inevitability of death. Larkin acknowledges the darkness and despair that can accompany these thoughts, but he also suggests that finding solace and meaning in the face of mortality is a deeply personal and individual journey.

Philip Larkin’s “Aubade” is a powerful and introspective poem that invites readers to confront their own mortality. Through vivid imagery and contemplative language, Larkin captures the fear, despair, and attempts at distraction that often accompany the awareness of death. The poem serves as a reminder of the fleeting nature of life and the need to confront the existential questions that arise from our mortality.

Five 1970s Science Fiction Books You May Not Know

We’re addicted to old sci-fi, and thought we’d start trawling round for some lesser known reads from the golden age in this genre. Here’s five worth a look at from the 1970s:

  1. “Roadside Picnic” by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky (1972) – This Soviet-era science fiction novel explores the aftermath of an alien visitation known as the Visitation Zone. It delves into themes of human nature, existentialism, and the consequences of contact with advanced civilizations.
  2. “The Stars My Destination” by Alfred Bester (1956) – Although not from the 1970s, this science fiction novel gained recognition during that era. It follows the story of Gully Foyle, a man seeking revenge in a future where individuals can teleport. The book delves into themes of transformation, identity, and human potential.
  3. “The Female Man” by Joanna Russ (1975) – Russ’s novel is a groundbreaking work of feminist science fiction. It explores parallel universes and features four women from different realities who meet and confront societal expectations, gender roles, and patriarchal structures.
  4. “Engine Summer” by John Crowley (1979) – Set in a post-apocalyptic world, “Engine Summer” tells the story of Rush That Speaks, a member of a nomadic society, as he embarks on a quest for knowledge and meaning. It explores themes of memory, storytelling, and the nature of truth.
  5. “The Iron Dream” by Norman Spinrad (1972) – In this alternative history novel, Spinrad presents a metafictional work that imagines Adolf Hitler as a science fiction author. Through Hitler’s imagined novel, “The Lord of the Swastika,” Spinrad critiques fascism, totalitarianism, and the power of propaganda.

These lesser-known science fiction books offer unique perspectives, exploring themes such as social commentary, gender, identity, post-apocalyptic settings, and alternative history. While they may not have achieved the same level of mainstream recognition as other works from the era, they are worth exploring for their distinct ideas and storytelling.

The Man in the Maze by Robert Silverberg: Synopsis

The Man in the Maze is set in a future where humanity has expanded its reach to other planets in the galaxy. Richard Muller, a brilliant scientist and former diplomat, has become a recluse on the planet Lemnos, which is known for its complex and impenetrable maze created by an advanced alien race called the Quill.

Muller’s seclusion stems from a tragic incident in his past. Haunted by guilt and remorse, he has withdrawn from society and lives a solitary existence within the maze. He is surrounded only by machines and automated systems that provide for his basic needs.

However, Muller’s expertise and knowledge are highly sought after by a consortium of scientists and diplomats who believe that he holds the key to understanding the mysteries of the alien maze and establishing contact with the enigmatic Quill. They recognize that his insights could potentially transform humanity’s understanding of the universe.

Reluctantly, Muller agrees to collaborate but sets his own conditions. He assembles a small team to accompany him into the maze, including a psychologist named Dr. Barris and a diplomat named Eason. Together, they embark on a perilous journey through the intricate corridors and shifting paths of the maze.

As they navigate the maze, Muller’s past is revealed through poignant flashbacks. These glimpses into his history shed light on the personal tragedies and traumatic events that led to his self-imposed isolation. Muller’s journey through the maze becomes an introspective exploration of his own guilt, redemption, and the complexities of human relationships.

Throughout their expedition, the team encounters various challenges, including dangerous traps, alien lifeforms, and enigmatic symbols left behind by the Quill. Muller’s encounters with the alien race force him to confront his own inner demons and the choices he has made, ultimately leading to a reckoning with his past and a quest for personal transformation.

The Man in the Maze combines elements of psychological introspection, mystery, and adventure within the context of a unique and enigmatic alien environment. Robert Silverberg’s evocative prose and masterful character development make the story an immersive exploration of human nature, the complexities of guilt and redemption, and the quest for understanding in the face of the unknown.

As Muller and his team venture deeper into the maze, they uncover secrets about the Quill and the purpose behind the creation of the labyrinthine structure. The novel poses thought-provoking questions about the nature of identity, the impact of past actions, and the potential for growth and change in the face of personal tragedy.

The Man in the Maze invites readers to reflect on the depths of human psychology, the transformative power of introspection, and the eternal search for meaning in a vast and mysterious universe.

Aussie Let’s Sing Books Index

If you grew up in Australia in the 1950s through to the early 2000s, you may remember the ‘Let’s Sing’ books that primary school kids would get.

Each week, the teacher would switch on the radio and along the class would sing. I was recently thinking on the range of songs I heard for the first time in those books. Well thanks to the ABC, there’s a file that lists all the songs alphabetically, with the years they appeared in the ‘Sing’ books.

You can check it out for yourself by either:

  1. Downloading the file from the ABC
  2. Downloading it from here if the ABC link stops working.




Apple Mail: Where is my Junk Mail folder?

If like me you get lots of emails each day, you will also have an ever-growing Junk Mail folder that you want to check every now and then to ensure nothing important has been flagged by mistake.

With the advent of MAC OS Big Sur, Apple Mail had some changes made, which means that your Junk Mail folder will not necessarily appear by default. Thankfully it’s an easy fix:

  1. Open Apple Mail
  2. Look over to the top left of the window and you’ll see All Inboxes:

3. Run your mouse over the word Favourites

4. You will now see a small circle with a plus-sign in it to the right:

5. Click on the plus-sign and a small window will open:

6. Click on the drop-down menu and select All Junk Mail and then Ok.

7. You will now see the All Junk folder appear in your list on the left:

It seems a non-intuitive and cumbersome process to me, but at least you know how to get back your junk mail. I never thought I’d say that sentence 😉

My Grandma’s Toilet Sign

On the back of the toilet door:

Call a spade a spade,

And don’t be funny,

Our Toilet’s a Lav,

And Sometime a Dunny.

Don’t waste the paper,

Don’t stay too long,

Or somebody’s ‘works’,

will go all wrong.

The Best Eighties Music Mashups Ever

What a discovery I made thanks to a friend on Facebook. The Hood Internet have created what are nothing short of masterpieces as far as music mashups. The level of work that has gone into these are incredible. Each year showcases 50 songs in around 3 minutes, and as you’ll hear, it’s a long way off cramming those songs in where you can.

Have a listen for yourself, and ideally use headphones to appreciate what these folks have pulled off. We’ll update this post as new ones are added.

Featuring: ABBA, AC/DC, Anita Ward, Billy Joel, Blondie, Boomtown Rats, The Buggles, The Cars, Charlie Daniels Band, Cheap Trick, Chic, The Clash, The Cure, Donna Summer, Doobie Brothers, Earth Wind & Fire, Electric Light Orchestra, Fleetwood Mac, The Flying Lizards, Gang of Four, The Gap Band, Gary Numan, Joy Division, Kiss, The Knack, Kool & The Gang, Lipps Inc, M, Michael Jackson, Pat Benatar, Pink Floyd, The Police, The Pretenders, Prince, Queen, Rainbow, Rupert Holmes, Sister Sledge, The Specials, Squeeze, The Sugarhill Gang, Supertramp, Talking Heads, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Van Halen, The Whispers, Wire

Featuring: A Taste Of Honey, AC/DC, The B-52s, Billy Joel, Billy Squier, Blondie, Bob Marley & The Wailers, Bruce Springsteen, The Clash, The Cure, Dead Kennedys, Devo, Diana Ross, Dolly Parton, Elvis Costello, The English Beat, Frankie Smith, Generation X & Billy Idol, George Benson, Hall & Oates, J. Geils Band, The Jam, John Lennon, Journey, Joy Division, Kool & The Gang, Kurtis Blow, Lakeside, Martha & The Muffins, Orchestral Manoeuvres In the Dark, Ozzy Osbourne, Pat Benatar, Pete Townshend, The Police, Queen, The Ramones, The Romantics, Rush, The S.O.S. Band, Steely Dan, Stephanie Mills, Talking Heads, U2, Ultravox, The Vapors, Yarbrough & Peoples, Zapp

Featuring: .38 Special, AC/DC, Afrika Bambaataa, Billy Idol, Billy Squier, Blue Oyster Cult, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, Foreigner, Funky Four Plus One, Go-Gos, Hall & Oates, Human League, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, Journey, Juice Newton, Kim Wilde, Kool & The Gang, Laurie Anderson, Loverboy, Men At Work, Neil Diamond, New Order, Olivia Newton-John, Phil Collins, The Pointer Sisters, The Police, The Psychedelic Furs, Queen & David Bowie, Rick James, Rick Springfield, Rod Stewart, Rush, Soft Cell, Squeeze, Stevie Nicks, Taana Gardner, Teena Marie, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Tom Tom Club, Toni Basil, Treacherous Three, Trio, Vangelis, Yoko Ono

Featuring: A Flock of Seagulls, Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force, After The Fire, Alan Parsons Project, Asia, Billy Idol, Bow Wow Wow, Chicago, The Clash, Culture Club, Dazz Band, The Descendents, Dexys Midnight Runners, Duran Duran, Eddy Grant, The Fearless Four, Fleetwood Mac, Frida, Gang Of Four, Genesis, George Clinton, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5, Hall & Oates, Indeep, INXS, Iron Maiden, John Cougar Mellencamp, Kate Bush, Madness, Malcolm McLaren, Marvin Gaye, Men Without Hats, Michael Jackson, Michael McDonald, Modern English, Naked Eyes, New Order, Orange Juice, Peech Boys, The Pretenders, Prince, R.E.M., Shalamar, Sister Nancy, Survivor, Taco, Thomas Dolby, Toto, Yaz

Featuring: Billy Joel, Bonnie Tyler, Corey Hart, Cyndi Lauper, David Bowie, Def Leppard, Dio, Eurythmics, The Fixx, Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel, Greg Kihn Band, Herbie Hancock, Huey Lewis & The News, Irene Cara, Journey, Kraftwerk, Lionel Richie, Madonna, Mtume, Nena, New Order, Night Ranger, Pat Benatar, The Pointer Sisters, The Police, Quiet Riot, R.E.M., Rick James, Rockwell, The Romantics, Run-DMC, Shannon, The Smiths, Spandau Ballet, Styx, Suicidal Tendencies, Talking Heads, The Tubes, U2, Van Halen, Yes, ZZ Top

Featuring: A-Ha, Animotion, Art of Noise, Billy Ocean, Billy Squier, Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, Bryan Adams, Cabaret Voltaire, Chaka Khan, Cherrelle, Chicago, Dead or Alive, Deniece Williams, Depeche Mode, Don Henley, Echo & The Bunnymen, General Public, Glenn Frey, Harold Faltermeyer, Husker Du, INXS, Kenny Loggins, Laura Branigan, Madonna, Metallica, New Edition, Newcleus, Ollie & Jerry, Pat Benatar, Paul Hardcastle, Philip Bailey with Phil Collins, Prince, Ray Parker Jr., Rebbie Jackson, REO Speedwagon, Run-D.M.C., Sade, Scandal (featuring Patty Smyth), Scorpions, Sheila E., Strafe, Talk Talk, Tears for Fears, The Cars, The Fleshtones, The Go-Gos, The Minutemen, The Ramones, The Replacements, The Sisters Of Mercy, The Smiths, Thompson Twins, Twisted Sister, U2, Van Halen, Wham!

Featuring: Aretha Franklin, Billy Ocean, Cameo, Commodores, The Cult, The Cure, DeBarge, Dire Straits, Doug E. Fresh & The Get Fresh Crew, Dream Academy, Duran Duran, Echo And The Bunnymen, Eddie Murphy, Faith No More, Grace Jones, Huey Lewis & The News, INXS, Jesus & Mary Chain, Kate Bush, Katrina & The Waves, Killing Joke, LL Cool J, Madonna, Miami Sound Machine, Mike + The Mechanics, Minor Threat, Motley Crue, Mr. Mister, New Order, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, The Outfield, Pat Benatar, Pet Shop Boys, Phil Collins, Prince & The Revolution, The Replacements, Robert Palmer, Run-D.M.C., Schoolly D, Simple Minds, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Stacey Q, Starship, Talking Heads, Tears For Fears, Tom Waits, Whitney Houston, Yello

Featuring: The Bangles, Beastie Boys, Berlin, Billy Bragg, Billy Joel, Bon Jovi, Boogie Down Productions, Book Of Love, Bruce Hornsby & The Range, Cutting Crew, Cyndi Lauper, Duran Duran, Eric B. & Rakim, Europe, Fingers Inc., Genesis, Gwen Guthrie, Howard Jones, Human League, Janet Jackson, Lionel Richie, Loose Ends, Madonna, Metallica, Midnight Star, New Order, Nu Shooz, Oran Juice Jones, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel, Robbie Nevil, Run-D.M.C., Run-D.M.C. & Aerosmith, Samantha Fox, Slayer, Smithereens, Stan Bush, Steve Winwood, Whistle

Featuring: Aerosmith, Audio Two, Belinda Carlisle, Boogie Down Productions, The Cure, Def Leppard, Depeche Mode, Eazy-E, EPMD, Eric B. & Rakim, Eurythmics, George Michael, Guns N Roses, Heart, INXS, Jody Watley, Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, LL Cool J, Love And Rockets, Madonna, MARRS, Michael Jackson, Midnight Oil, New Order, Pebbles, Prince, Public Enemy, R.E.M., Rick Astley, Salt N Pepa, Sonic Youth, Starship, T’Pau, Taylor Dayne, Tiffany, U2, Was (Not Was), When In Rome, Whitesnake, Whitney Houston

Review: Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee

After the ride that was Ninefox Gambit, a reader could be asked how to top that. It’s a question of sequels, and one that often has a disappointing answer. In Raven Stratagem, Yoon Ha Lee shows that they can work. Taking place shortly after the events of the previous volume – one I suggest people go to – the action moves as a ghost of infamous general, the fleet he hijacks, the empire that rules them all , and the belief that goes with the imperial calendar. Much of this universe seems based around the concept of the calendar, with conflict often based on the view of a calendar. 

That’s not to say this is a boring novel. It moves along at a cracking pace, and even after reading the first, still has surprises in it. With empires, large scale battles, military protocols, it ticks all the neccessary ticks for a classic space opera. The writing style is easy to read, yet the concepts are twisted enough to require very careful reading.

Review: The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

One of the tropes of modern science fiction is the large interplantary empire. From Asimov’s Foundation, to Lucas’s Star Wars, the Empire and its machinations is one of the cogs that have helped keep the genre going. It is also one of the reasons why the large Empire falling has become a bit of a cliche as well. With a name like The Collapsing Empire, you might be inclined to be a little disappointed with John Scalzi. After reading this novel, you won’t be.

The biggest problem that the large space empire always faces is distance. Scalzi puts forward the idea of the flow, which appear to be a one way worm hole. Power in the empire is at the nexus of these “Flows”. 

It is from here that Scalzi begins a fast paced story of unexpected leaders, disasterous events, and political intrigues. Each chapter is told from one character’s point of view, with all told with a distinctive voice and attitude.  This is clearly the open salvo in a series that promises many surprises, fast paced action, and a few laugh out loud moments. 

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