Thursday, March 31, 2005
Ang Lee's Sense and Sensibility was a shrewd and reasonably sedate look at English manners from the perspective of Chinese manners (albeit written by a quintessential Englishwoman, Emma Thompson). Bride and Prejudice was just a Bollywood hoot. Thackaray's Vanity Fair directed by Mira Nair, is England through the eyes of India. I saw this movie last year for my birthday in October (yes, Libran, me) and re-read the book avidly afterwards, and was amazed at how well they'd drawn the story together into two hours, and how much India you could cram into a movie from just one paragraph in a huge novel.
My second viewing was spent judging how pregnant Reece Witherspoon was in each scene and mentally calculating the order of filming from her head/body shots, and admiring the amount of India (and other cultures) Mira crammed into London. She constantly draws parallels between Indian street scenes (hawkers, beggars, live animals, thick crowds) with early 19th-century London streets. All the entertainments are Indian, and she even manages a whack of gorgeous Bollywood dancing. The fashions are to die for, all those stunning silk scarves (cunningly hiding pregnant swells) and woven borders, not to mention the hairstyles and headdresses. Oh! I was in heaven.
Speaking of historical drama fun, I highly recommend The Republic of Pemberley for all your Jane Austen needs. Apparently it sprang forth from a group of Jane Austen fans who were card-carrying members of the Jane Austen fan club but were constantly chastised for wanting to admire Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice. So they split off and formed a group that could openly and wantonly admire Colin Firth and others such as Greg Wise who have decorated various adaptations of Jane Austen masterpieces. There are many great features of Pemberley, not in the least Lady Catherine & Co, a fictional advice column of JA characters dealing with literary quandaries (anyone can be either querying or answering. It's a hoot). Another fab feature is one I stumbled upon in the FAQ section. In answer to 'What is The Look?', obviously asked A LOT, this is the answer. Go on, press the link. You know you want to. Enjoy.
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
'You know,' bragged the Greek, 'we invented sex.'
The Italian thought about this for a while then answered
'Yes, but we were the first to involve women'.
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Kristina Olsen. I'm in love with her. She is funny as hell and just as dark when she wants to be. A very earthy, sexy singer. I bought her latest cd, In Your Darkened Room, which she calls 'the one I made for me', a much more sombre production than her usual efforts. She might as well have made it for me as well, because it struck so many chords (sorry) and I've been playing it non-stop for days. The title track is one of those songs that sticks in your head. I ran into her in the NFF streets and told her as much, which was a nice moment (for me, anyway). She did seem chuffed, as she seems a bit uncertain of the album's reception.
Fred Smith's movie Bougainville Sky. It is about to be released. Do yourself a favour. It is excellent. Best Beloved thinks it has too much Fred Smith in it, but I say that is the whole point. The filmmaker wanted to make a film about Fred and his work in Bougainville. Therefore, lots of Fred. And since Fred is not ugly, it doesn't hurt. And it is a very good documentary about the peace process. I came away feeling like stuff CAN happen. People CAN negotiate. Things CAN get done. And I don't feel like that very often.
The ABBA covers competition. Every year they have a competition around some band or song. One year it was Stairway to Heaven, highly unoriginal but lots of fun. Last year it was any song from Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks. This year it was any ABBA song. My main complaint is that when you choose a cult band to have fun with, you shouldn't provide eensie-weensie venues for the heats. Each heat was well overflowing, with many turning away in disappointment. I like the heats because they're a sort of sampler for the festival talent, but I had no hope of seeing anything without being there an hour in advance, and life's too short. So I contented myself with the finals, which were held in a nice big venue (still standing room only though). Of the finalists, the Spooky Men's Choir did an excellent job of Dancing Queen, and Sophie Raymond turned Mamma Mia into a grouse country & western number; I thought the Spooky Men won on the audience meter, but Sophie apparently had the X factor and won. She said (and I agree) that the prize, a bag of ABBA stuff bought over time on E-bay, was easier to give to one person than sixteen people.
Balloon-moulding. Best Beloved has a friend who has recently retired from the Public Service who is a Master balloon-thingy-maker. I use the term advisedly because he makes incredible things. I happened upon him last night in mid-making and watched him generate an adjustable hat of gold teddybear 'headlights' (his term) with silver embellishments. I do have a photo which I'll mount later on (can't get to the camera at this moment, have cat on lap).
The Festival Western Swing Band. Lucky Oceans went nuts with some mates to produce some excellent music which blurred the boundaries between blues, C&W and jazz. One of the best things about it was watching the couple who could really dance go nuts to the music, over in the corner of the Budawang.
The odd people. This is always the best thing about any public occasion, but especially one involving folkies. The fashions (hem hem)! The hairstyles! The bloke who was a spitting image of the ex-junkie counsellor on Little Britain! The excess of rainbow colours! The overdose of felt! I spent a lot of time on the streets, sitting at my brother-in-law's stall (Never Give Up) and sitting at the back of concerts looking around rather than forward. No end of things and people to see. Totally worth the entry price.
Thursday, March 24, 2005
Taken aback, I had a quick sniff and thought yes you do, but thought I'd be polite at first then break the news to her gently a bit further along in our relationship, like after she'd packed my stuff.
So I said 'why do you ask, Rose?' (I'm not making this up, her name was Rose) and she replied that she could smell herself, and was feeling a bit paranoid that others could smell it too.
Then I swiped my card and punched in my pin etc. She let it twitter away for a second and then said 'your card was denied. ONLY JOKING!! ha ha ha'.
That was the point where I decided not to tell her that she stank. Let someone else have that pleasure.
This anecdote was brought to you with the encouragement of crazybrave.
As a result I have made my partner look me in the eye while I told him to switch me off if I was ever in that position. I have done the same with my son, my parents and many of my friends and colleagues. The most important people to tell next are my in-laws, who are coming up for Easter and are of the Christian persuasion. All good and well, but I want to make sure they are very clear on family plug-pulling permissions.
Don't get me wrong, I have no plans to die in the near future (who does?). But I do want to go with a bit of dignity and a bit of medical responsibility. I couldn't think of anything worse than being hooked up to a machine for over fourteen years [if I could think]and taking up space for someone who had a chance of recovering [if I couldn't think]. So now I'm telling the ether. Switch. off. that. machine. Respect their wishes, whoever they are.
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Bumblebee and I decided to escape the seriousness of Best Beloved's law assignment and to take advantage of the extra day of holiday granted to all loyal Canberrans. We headed down to our favorite beach for the night (Sunday). It seems others had the same idea, but the camping ground wasn't as crowded as it will be next weekend. I think some people did a sensible thing and took the three days off between Canberra Day and Easter, because when we packed up yesterday afternoon, there were a number of tents that weren't going anywhere, thank you very much. Lucky, lucky bastards.
I have never been camping with my son by myself before. I've been with friends and with my partner, which is always fun, but this was a really special trip. Bumblebee is eight in 2 weeks, and it is a fantastic age to chill out with, especially if you like games involving world domination (which I don't, but I managed to pretend I did for the right amount of time).
Bumblebee is also a very imaginative boy, able (as an only child on my side) to amuse himself for hours, and also able (as the youngest of three older siblings on his dad's side) to keep adults engaged in his activities. We set up the tent -- very proud of myself for achieving that on my own, as our tent is the size of the Taj Mahal -- and headed to the beach, where we managed to stay happy until dark quite easily.
B spent the whole two days attempting to rearrange the coastline of southeast Australia. Digging holes, filling holes, throwing rocks into the water, piling rocks; he built a lot of things for the water to destroy. It was boy heaven. I took a good book (currently reading a biography of Spike Milligan), a few bits of the newspaper (including the Australian Cryptic from the Canberra Times) and a sketchbook (homemade, more about them later) and pencils. Mummy heaven.
rearranging the shoreline
On Sunday night, after a hearty meal around the gas stove, we rugged up and went to the beach armed with torches and read James and the Giant Peach on the sanddunes while the moon rose over the water. It's a fabulous place to read it, because it starts on a beach and spends most of the story over the ocean.
We spent all of yesterday on the beach repeating the above activities. We saw a couple of Hercules planes flying low along the coastline, which delighted B and gave me a chill as it evoked so well John Marsden's Tomorrow when the War Began, a feeling reinforced by a military helicopter following the same flight path about half an hour later. Well, once I went camping with no radio or newspapers, only to emerge from the bush to find that the Berlin Wall had been knocked down while we were in there. Anything can happen when you're camping, non?
After a last, gorgeous swim (really flat surf) we packed up really reluctantly and headed home. It was beautiful weather the whole two days, and as we drove out of Depot Beach and turned onto the highway, it started to rain, and rained all the way home. How perfect could an experience be? The worst part of driving home from the coast to Canberra is the sunset in your eyes. This wasn't much better, with wet slippery roads, but I prefer rain to sun in these drought days.
We were both exhausted last night, and slept like logs. I'm still pretty weary, but ever so happy. It was a great mother-son bonding experience, and I think B liked a chance to have me to himself for a while. He loves his stepdad, but 6 years of single parenting doesn't fade away quickly.
It's quite weird to look out of my office window and see only grey and rain today, but the tight red ache on my sunburnt face is a reminder that only 24 hours ago I was in the surf. And I can also remind myself that it's only a few more days until I can immerse myself in the weirdness that is the National Folk Festival, only minutes up the road from home.
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Just because I can, anothor use of the name Ugg Boot that hasn't been killed by the Americans (yet) is Stephen Spurrier's Ugg Boot Press. I'm very sorry he doesn't have a better website, to show off his witty, silly and very Australian artist's books. They'd cheer me up in a flash. Meanwhile, back to some fugging.
Postscript Couldn't resist including this one too.
Monday, March 14, 2005
I saw trees like this all over Seoul when I visited last year. Green things are very precious in a city with so much pollution and very few birds.
This tree was so old, and mostly dead, except for one little shoot springing out of one little end part, which had been lovingly propped up and nurtured.
This 'bouquet' is for Dave Allen, for all the laughter he gave me through my childhood.
First came the ANU film group, where we saw Garden State. I was quite curious about it, having missed it when it first came out, but also having caught a bit of the kerfuffle about Zach Braff and Margaret Pomeranz (you have to scroll down this link a bit). It was good, but I came out thinking merely 'good first try', rather than 'wow'.
Especially when I compared it to Vera Drake, which we saw on Saturday at Electric Shadows. Now that was a beautifully written, well-crafted movie. I found myself really enjoying Mike Leigh's subtlety. He'd bring in a theme, echo it a bit, but not labour the point so that he revealed a lot with just a little bit of information. I loved the point at which he stopped the narrative, resisting the temptation to show Vera's release, really bringing it across that nothing in this woman's life or family would ever truly be the same again, for better or worse. I felt quite solemn for the rest of the day.
Sunday, by complete contrast, was spent jumping and twitching in front of Constantine. Now there's a weird one. We were intrigued by the shorts, as both of us like a bit of religious conspiracy theory (I'm more of a fiction-fan, having read a few Dan Brown 'thrillers', to Best Beloved's scorn. He's into the real-life versions, like cults & gurus etc). I really liked Constantine, mainly because I like graphic novels, and had read very similar sort of things. BB hasn't much experience of this genre, and found it highly entertaining. we both came out a bit shell-shocked and a touch confused by bits of the plot that had been wizzed past us so fast that we never got back to them. I loved the artwork, and of course I adored Tilda Swinton, whom I had a crush on for many years. I must say it's also a great 2-hour anti-smoking campaign. I don't think I'll ever have ever a party smoke again. We saw a morning session, and came out of the cinema to Belconnen Mall in full Easter-shopping-on-a-Sunday mode, which was just as weird as the movie, to be honest.
Then today, to cap off a good movie-fest, I got a letter from the Australian Film Institute containing two complimentary passes to preview Enduring Love, which is based on the Ian McEwen novel of the same name. We'd seen the shorts over the weekend, and earmarked it as something we'd wanted to see, and I'd totally forgotten that the AFI had offered these tickets to their members last week by email. I always say yes, whether I know what the film is or not, so now we're very happy. Something good (and cheap!) to do next weekend! Hooray!
Friday, March 11, 2005
Did I ever mention that I have a painted car? I think I mentioned it a few months ago. It's not just a painted car, no no no! It's a moving part of the ACT graffiti scene. It's a travelling wall, with no chance of being scrubbed clean or repainted...
We asked a friend of ours to paint it; I painted my last-car-but-one, and found it a fun but gruelling experience. Now this dude (trade-name byrd)does large-scale spraying as a daily practice (well, frequent if not daily), so we bought him some paint from a fun little place in Garema Place called Shifty's and let him go wild.
We chose the colours, and a bit of the text (which is actually Punjabi, as Best Beloved is an Indian language nut). The text is quite hard to read, as it's in brown. One word says 'poem', another says 'prose', and a big line along the side reads something like 'can sleep having read the book'. The rest all belongs to BYRD. I love the green bullbar, and the way the colours move from very light (incorporating the original white) at the front through to heavy, dense and dark at the back.
This car feels different to my last painted car. It was a VW Type 3 stationwagon, painted with metallic purple and red flowers (similar shape to flannel-flowers), and I got a lot of friendly waving and good-humoured responses to it. This car has a slightly edgy response. I'm not sure if it's the colour combination or the use of foreign language on it. Punjabi, to a very untrained eye, can look like a crude form of arabic -- but surely we're not that paranoid a country?
Anyway, we're treating the car like a work in progress, and are getting byrd to add some more to it in the near future; some Aristophanean Frogs, I think.
There's a couple of byrd trademarks on the car -- this one, and
this one. If you see either of these stencilled on a wall next to some shit-hot graffiti, that's byrd. It's a Canberra treasure hunt, worth doing some time when you're driving past an interesting bit of colour.
If you want to see more of his work, or some clues as to where to find some (this is maybe something for The A to Y of Canberra), then check out his own website, fresh in the ether: nibbling at the architecture: byrdsong. I had his URL wrong on my sidebar for the last week, so this whole entry is a bit of compensation.
So if you see any of us driving around, wave. Or just nod your head in a cool sort of way to acknowledge the excellent work of byrd.
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
I just saw it at the ANU Film Group -- which, if you live in Canberra, is the cheapest and most comfortable way to movie overdose, if you don't mind seeing all the latest movies 6 months after their release. Dolby sound, full-size screen, friendly crowd, only $50 a year for about 3 screenings a week.
Geez, I feel in love with that film. I need to see it again, but only on the big screen. It has so much I want to look at, from a different angle. All my favorite contemporary British comedians, plus a few more. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
S-OIL is the name of a very popular petrol station in Seoul. They don't call them petrol stations -- they call them 'oil banks'. After seeing my first S-OIL bank from a taxi I spent all my commuting time looking for another one with my camera in hand...
And there's plenty more where that came from, believe me!
Anyway, I just got an email today about the 2005 Seoul International Book Arts Competition. Very good, and I heartily recommend entering if you're a book artist, because the display facilities at the book fair are great, and they get at least 6000 people passing through the fair every day.
But! Be warned. They need the work sent to them by the end of March so that they can 'Defeat [the] Work' in the first two weeks of May. I don't know what the hell they are talking about. The 'Selected Work' is then displayed between June 9 and 23. Presumably the selected works are those that have made it through the tournament to see who is the champion gladiator or something!
Their selection criteria is that "the contents of the work should be unprecedented and an idea attractive to a Book Arts work", so obviously my work needs to look and fight like Xena to survive. It goes on to say "The work should have function and format which you can open and close regular book than object installation." So obviously it will need stealthy weapons rather than huge spiky maces in order to defeat the others and win.
What if my book is a pacifist?
This is what it says about "Carrying out" (which I guess is what happens to those who are defeated): "Carrying out: visits directly( An identification card or receipt require ) and send to local and aborad. (free postal charge)" [sic all punctuation and spelling].
It sounds too rough for my poor little productions. Maybe I will make an armour-plated work especially for the occasion.
Monday, March 07, 2005
-- Hey, that was alright for a chick-flick.
-- Yeah, I didn't mind it at all.
-- It really only had one thing wrong with it, eh?
-- What's that?
-- No Wombles. I thought they'd get at least one in there somewhere.
Friday, March 04, 2005
This next anecdote has a NAUGHTY LANGUAGE ALERT. Just in case you decide to walk out on me in disgust, don't say I didn't warn you.
My first night in Mackay happened to be a Tuesday night. By a stroke of last-minute luck, I got to travel by myself, and had a whole two days before my boss arrived in her usual flurry. I decided to catch some air-conditioning, and where better than Cheap Tuesday at the movies?
I got to the cinema, and had two choices for that particular moment in time: Sideways, and Closer. I'd seen all the shorts for Sideways, knew that everyone thought it was great, etc., etc. But I didn't know much about Closer apart from the poster in front of me, which showed Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Clive Owen. It could have been anything from a romantic comedy to a thriller. So I did the obvious thing. I asked the prepubescent girl working behind the ticket desk what she knew of it. Now this is the same girl I asked if there was a supermarket nearby, to which she said, 'ohhh, dunno, there could be one at Canelands' (a huge mall on the other side of town, obviously the only place a girl that age would go), and the next day I found out there was a Coles straight across the road, slightly hidden by a sign.
Anyway, Miss Mackay looked at me and said, leaning in confidentially, 'well, it's an adult sort of movie. They do use the 'C' word a fair bit...', raised her eyebrow and leaned back again. This lack of anything substantial intrigued me into buying a ticket, and since it was only $5, who cared if it was a crap movie?
The short story is that I really liked Closer. It is a great tale of lies, deception, facades, willpower and trust. I'm not really sure which 'C' word Miss Mackay was referring to; 'cunt' and 'cum' were used constantly within the first half hour.
Now, being Cheap Tuesday, the cinema had a fairly mixed audience, none of whom I think had a clue what they were in for. There were middle-aged women in pairs, who tittered throughout; there were a few quite young women, also in pairs and gasping with every rude word, and there were two clumps of elderly pensioners, obviously seduced into the whole 'Julia Roberts does nice movies' thing. And there was me, a habitually-solo movie viewer who sits up the back to watch the audience as much as the movie. The pensioners coped quite well until about halfway, when Julia is discussing the taste of her lover's cum with her husband ('it's sweeter'). One clump of oldies stood up and walked out. Noice, I thought. That's rocked their universe. Then a bit later, Natalie Portman does a pretty ok strip for Clive Owen, who says 'you have the face of an angel -- what does your cunt taste like?' 'Heaven', she replies.
Well, that was it. All the remaining oldies got up and left, no doubt to accost the girl behind the counter who obviously didn't warn them about the 'adult' content.
And that was when I knew I was really in Mackay, bless their hollywood-lovin' little souls.
I really do recommend Closer. I get a bit freaked out by deception and how easily it can become part of a normal life. I think that's why I married a man who couldn't tell a fib to save his life (well, so far...). I walked away from the movie, through the dark hot streets of Mackay with a load of thoughts to think between air-conditioners. Definitely not a feel-good movie, but highly entertaining, especially with added audience participation.
Oh the food I ate in Mackay! I expected it to be a city of sugar cane and cane toads. I didn't see a single toad, although I saw a cabbie who came pretty damn close. Instead I found a pretty laid-back town (with the slowest traffic lights in the universe) which is famous for coal (excellent port facilities, although they're starting to make their coast access a bit like the Gold Coast, lots of very new high-rises), sugar cane, but also for beef and seafood.
This lovely picture is the remains of a fabulous meal at a restaurant next to the river that runs through the town. I ordered the Bug Platter, and my neighbour ordered a dish which in restrospect I wish I'd had, because it was a fantastic symbol of Mackay's beef and reef attributes. She had an enormous slab of steak, cooked to perfection, topped with half a bug and a whopping prawn, lazily slipped onto a mound of mashed potato. Mind you, the bugs were spectacular, and kept me busy for the time that it took for the tide to properly rise.
This restaurant is famous for having a balcony that hangs over the water, and the tides rise and fall very dramatically in this area. When you start your meal, there are mud-flats under your chair. By the time you've finished (and the very slow chef tends to aid this process), the river has filled and there are many fish and bugs splashing underneath for your viewing pleasure. A bit like a very life-affirming version of the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.
Damn, I was going to write more, but an urgent email has beeped onto my screen asking me to do a very time-consuming task by yesterday. Back soon.
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
The best time I had in Mackay was a workshop run by Adele Outteridge called 'Books as Sculpture'.
I spend so much time thinking about what to put in books that I devote very little time to the structure. And that attitude stems from the fact that very little was taught about structure during my visual arts degree. I went through a workshop which specialised in Artist Books, but most of the stress was on content, not form. Our teacher was European, and did not like bound books. In France in the early 20th century, artist books were unbound, and if the collector wanted a binding, they did so after purchasing the book, which made for terrific personal libraries. My teacher produces work of this vein. So we were encouraged to use binding techniques and experiment with them, but were only really taught a quick and basic stitch to hold book sections together. Anything else had to be self-researched.
A bit like art schools today. This year at the school I work at, the students have less staff, less hours, less resources, but they do get a library and a studio space. And they are paying more! It's basically a correspondence course on site. The attitude seems to be 'we'll show you a few pictures, show you how not to hurt yourself on the equipment, give you a space for a few hours a day, and you can spend three years working out a few things and at the end we'll tell you where you went wrong.' Whatever happened to skills-based training? No wonder more people are turning to the TAFE system.
Oh, there's my rant for the day. Back to books.
Adele showed us how to do a concertina binding, how to 'rust' paper, and how to do a coptic stitch binding. I had a ball. I'd brought up some of my old typeset offcuts, and made a fun piece that looks at first glance like a normal little book, but can shuck off its cover and turn into a sculptural piece.
This is one way of looking at a book...
and this is another way of looking at a book
but wait! there's more...
The best thing was learning how to bind using hard covers without a drop of glue. I made a great little sketchbook, and started a few more during the rest of the trip. I'm making books for all presents this year. I figure even my old great-aunt can use a little notebook, even if only for shopping lists.
Coptic stitching rocks. I haven't taken a photo of my stitched book, but I'll put one up soon. It produces a hard-backed book without a hard spine; instead there are four plaited bands across the spine which allow the book to open flat, something I love a book to do. I'm going to making a lot of stuff this year. I'd forgotten how much I like this sort of thing!
Adele is one of those people who is constantly busy with her hands. She makes endless variations on a theme, pushing the book shapes and the binding techniques all over the place. She has an exhibition of her more substantial productions on at Artspace Mackay at the moment, in conjunction with our exhibition, and it's very impressive.
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
I've just returned from a week in sunny Mackay after attending the 2nd Australian Artists Books Forum at Artspace Mackay. All that work on exhibition labels and room brochures etc. paid off, as you can see from a small sliver of the exhibition in the accompanying photo. The table on the right has a lot of my work on it, which includes the dark image on the wall on the right above the table. How proud am I!
The only disappointment on opening night was that despite all of my work, my name wasn't mentioned once. I was optimistically titled 'the team', as in 'DF and her team'. Yeah, all one of me, split into various incarnations and working seamlessly towards the ultimate goal of fame and fortune. Hah! But I got over that with a champagne or four. I had a fabulous time in Mackay. The Artspace staff are wonderful, especially Nick and Leon who are the Batman and Robin of exhibition installation.
Stay tuned, in the next day or so I shall blog my way through a few Mackay moments. Unfortunately I can't do them all at once because I have an in-tray from hell staring me in the face. Suffice to say that I'm now due for a bit of liver cleansing, and the lack of moisture in the autumn Canberra air is wonderful.