Thursday, July 28, 2005

Kingdom of Heavenly delights

worldpeace_and_aspeedboat [can't do trackback on For Battle! for some bizarre reason --- scroll down to June 16th] made me want to see Kingdom of Heaven (I was a bit burnt by Troy, so have been avoiding the big historical films), so I went to the holy sanctum of the ANU Film Group and got my fill. Tomorrow I'm wearing khol. Lots of it, nicely smudged to show off my piercing green eyes. And a scarf or two. Since it's Canberra and July, they'll probably be thick woolley ones, not nice floaty ones, but never mind.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The oops factor

I'm very, very glad that the latest evil genius invention from Miss Fits has never been realised, because I'd be in deep doggy do, worse than my usual foot-in-mouth moments (and I have a lot of those, me).

Monday, July 25, 2005

... and now I need a glass of wine.

Exterminated, originally uploaded by Ampersand Duck.

I'm having a marvellous day! This comes as a complete surprise, as I was dreading it when I woke up this morning. But I actually achieved a hell of a lot.

Granted, the morning wasn't so hot, but I did managed among the morass to send off my entry forms to the Noosa Books 05 exhibition, and send my artist's books to the Sydney Art on Paper Fair. Hooray!

Then at lunchtime I got to notch a few more bloggers on my belt as I had lunch with those intrepid toddler-wranglers of the blog world, crazybrave and Mindy and Dave of For Battle!. Rubbing elbows indeed, with the addition of the owner of the saddest little face in the world. Charlie and Sage waged mini-testosterone wars and Charlie lost out most often, Sage being on home turf and C being quite travel-weary. Next time we will include more partners and some alcohol, I hope. Hooray!

Then I had fun taking all my hand-made books into town and to their new distributor: Pepe's Paperie! Soon I will start my own selling point on-line, but for now I have a Canberra sales-point, and that makes me very happy. They are called Ampersand Duck Books (surprise!) and I have a few 'ranges', with such names as Bombay Duck, Puddleduck, Wood Duck and Wild Duck, the latter being my free-range one-off styles. I am also making nice archival black-page albums. Here's what the album and an example of the label look like (the labels have been letterpress-printed):
Watch this space for more about all this book fun. Of course, feel free to get in touch if you have a specific book or album you'd like me to make. Someone suggested guestbooks for weddings today.

The next fun thingie today was popping into the ANU School of Art (formerly Canberra School of Art, and the National Institute of the Arts) to do some chores and stumbling upon a fun new exhibition being installed in the Foyer Gallery. Hence the opening photo for the post... I saw a dalek! I dashed to Bumblebee's school at 3 and brought him back just to see the look on his face. It was a beauty. I didn't realise until we were on our way home again that he'd been scared. I thought he could see, like I could, that it was made of cardboard. But his imagination is much better than mine!

Besides the dalek and lots of other cool space-junk type thingies, there was this gorgeous robot.
He stands very tall, looking quite cool and spacey, but when you walk up close, he's covered in delicate pink flowers and agressively brandishing a... teddy bear.

I think that helped BB out of his dalek trembles. The artist in question was there setting up, and I asked his name. It was Simon [something hard for my wee brain to remember]. I will insert his surname when the labels are on the walls.

In the meantime I seriously recommend anyone in the Canberra region who likes Dr Who and science fiction to get into the Art School for a look. It's all up now, opens on Thursday, and I think finishes on Monday or Wednesday.

And get thee to the Paperie if you want a nice handmade sketchbook.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Statuary meme: woolly porn

Ok, I know Laura is busy writing her dissertation, but the meme must go on, 'cause there's lots of bad/cool/mystifying sculpture out there. This one falls into the latter category. Chocolate frog to anyone who can give me a better explanation of this public piece than the official explanation.

Now, I know this looks like it's set up in somewhere quite obscure, but this is Civic (the central hub of Canberra) on a Saturday morning. Ok, a wintermorning, but it is after shop opening hours, and it is also Harry Potter publication day. And there is still nobody around. Canberra is the only place where you can ride your bike through the inner city suburbs in the middle of the night very drunk, riding on the dotted white line in the middle of the road so you don't fall off, and encounter NOBODY. Not even a taxi.

But I digress.

as you walk through the centre of Civic, clutching the balloon you have just been given by someone in a bad Hagrid costume, and a paper bag containing the latest Harry Potter book, you will encounter these two sheep. One is lounging on a chair with his arse in the air, the other is staring bemusedly up the other's arse.


Well, you can encounter them no matter what you're holding, really.

This is the official explanation, found in the Civic Public Art Walking Tour PDF, downloadable from the internet:


The national capital has ironically been described as 'a good sheep paddock spoiled' and this sculpture is a satirical salute to one of Canberra's early pastoralists—James Ainslie. In 1825, Ainslie arrived with 700 sheep to establish Duntroon Station which originally encompassed Reid, Campbell, Mount Ainslie, Glebe Park, and the Royal Military College. Ainslie returned to Scotland in 1835, leaving a flock of 20,000. The embroidered waistcoat on the chair arm refers to Ainslie's flamboyant dress sense, and to an incident when his clothes were stolen by bushrangers. According to the story, Ainslie pursued and caught the bushrangers and retrieved his favourite waistcoat.


I guess this is the waistcoat.

Note the people walking in the background of this shot, clutching their harry Potters...

There is no plaque, no sign, nothing near this sculpture to explain any of this, and I must admit that after years of pondering about mulesing etc, I am deeply disappointed that there is such a boring explanation. I'm sure passers-by don't think it has any local historical relevance! Maybe it's better to be left mysterious, because I love watching parents struggling to explain it to their kids.

However... if anyone can make up a better story, bugger the chocolate frog, I'll make up a fake plaque and paste it to the ground nearby.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


I've finished reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Would it be a spoiler to say that I cried a lot at the end? Mind you, I cried at the end of the last one, too. I know a lot of people bag her, but I think Joanne does a nice job of her characters, and she's also doing a good job of changing her writing style to suit the age-group she's depicting, so the books grow with the characters. Harry, Ron and Hermione are now 16, and it shows.

Now I get a blissful time -- maybe even a year -- between reading the book and ever having to see or hear it again, as we won't be buying the audiobook until (a) it's released, and (b) we can afford it. After hearing the first five books every bloodywaking moment, it's at the moment only something to look forward to in the distant future. I did manage to distract my loved ones from Stephen Fry's dulcet tones for a while, by purchasing the audiobook of Yann Martel's Life of Pi. It won the Booker Prize a few years ago, and is a novel about a young Indian boy shipwrecked on a lifeboat with a full-grown Bengal Tiger. Absolutely brilliant, and kept two adults and an eight-year-old enthralled for days. I've also started getting Bumblebee the audios of Deltora Quest. Anything to keep HP at bay.

Mind you, I also had a look at the trailer for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Looks stunning.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

This is a recorded message

Duckie isn't with you right now. She'll be back once she works her way through Harry Potter 6. Feel free to leave a message after the beep and she promises to get back to you when she's finished.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Waiting for Harry

Overwhelmed by the Sorrow at Sills Bend, I have been wandering through blogosphere via the magic roundabout that is the next blog button. I think this site takes the cake for lack of personality. This one totally hates school cos it sucks cos they can't understand anything... but hey, they can spell school so they're one step ahead of most of the texting teens I know. This one has a thing for malls and shoes and this one? is just scary.

I wish Best Beloved would hurry up and finish Harry Potter 6. I'm sick of waiting. It's taking so long...........................

Friday, July 15, 2005

And the winner is...

... absolutely deserving of his award. The winner of the National Sculpture Award is quite literally the bomb. I can't find a picture of it yet, but here's the press release. I'm sure it will be published in all the weekend paper glossy bits.

Glen Clarke's American Crater near Hanoi #2 is just stunning. Hard to explain, but I'll do my best. He's created a 3-d grid from thin wooden rods and red string (wood on top and bottom, red string running between in vertical lines) and tied to the string creating the horizontal lines are very small origami cheong sams made from Vietnamese money. They make a visual block, but at the centre they have been spaced to leave a shape like a bomb crater. So you are looking at square sides and a concave centre, but with the straight strings and the precise placement, it feels and looks like a graphic made by computer modelling. Wonderful to walk around. A very complex, well thought-out piece using the simplest of materials -- string, wood, paper -- which, combined with the title, makes it extremely effective and beautiful.

I was surprised by my reaction to some of the entries as I pushed my way through the (huge) crowd to actually look at the pieces rather than stand around and network like everyone else. Some I loved. Some I just thought were crap. I had quite physical reactions to them. Perfectly innocuous sculptures, noting offensive in their themes, just couldn't believe that stuff like that was still being made and shown. I won't mention names, but if that room was the best of Australian sculpture, there must be some shite out there in the rejection pile. I'd say 2/3 was excellent. The rest I have suspicions about the judge's motivation in choosing them. I guess there'll be a lot of debate while the show runs. I highly recommend a visit if you're in the area.

Thursday, July 14, 2005


I went and saw Bewitched last night.

I went because I have a weakness for Nora Ephron films the way I have a weakness for reading Jacqueline Susann when I'm really sick or distressed. If Nora does it well, I can watch it on video after I've had a REALLY BAD DAY. So this was a bit of a reconnaissance mission.

It all went well until I noticed Nicole/Isabelle's personal assistant Nina. 'Where have I seen her before?' I thought. I let it mull away in the back of my brain until I remembered that she was Heather Burns, who also played the quirky and supportive sidekick in You've Got Mail, another Nora Ephron chick-flick. And then the film just lost it for me. It wasn't that I hate Heather or anything, far from it. I think she deserves much better than standing behind the main character raising an eyebrow occasionally. No, I lost my suspended disbelief, the thing that gets me through so many shit movies, because I got distracted by the part of my brain that has been trained to compare and contrast in sundry English Lit and Art History essays.

I started noticing how much Nora had got Nicole to look and act like Meg Ryan (cute little cardigans and full skirts, flat ballet pumps, same accents, same girlie laugh). The only difference was the fact that Nicole doesn't walk like a duck. I noticed how much Will Ferrell (beside having his eyes too close together to be a really good romantic lead) was encouraged to be like Tom Hanks. The music was better, but as usual the film finished with a Louis Armstrong number. There are lots of other similarities with her other movies, but it's been almost 24 hours since I saw bewitched, and I don't retain small details for long.

The other big whinge for me was that there wasn't enough background fun. There was something happening with fake-Endora and Isabella's father, but they obviously cut out whatever scene resolved the subplot to save time. So much time was taken up with the attempt to have parallel dimensions in the plot that all the interesting chances were lost or never even thought about.

So what, you say. Nora is just sticking with a formula that works. I shouldn't expect anything more from her. One step up from Mills and Boon, ten steps down from Arthouse, and not very far from Woody Allen these days, now that he just changes the faces occasionally, and not too many of them at a time. Serves me right for watching crap. But sometimes you just need something really vacuous to switch your brain away from more trying matters. Well, I do, anyway. But it can't be crap tv. That just gets me throwing bricks at the screen, and stresses out the cats.

OK, I've spent too much time thinking about this B-grade blah. I'm going to the opening of the National Sculpture Prize tonight at the National Gallery of Australia, so I'd better go and tart myself up a tad. I'm going to The Yes Men movie tomorrow night, so that'll lift my celluloid spirits, I hope.

A casual knit for evenings

This isn't funny either, originally uploaded by Ampersand Duck.

Mr Pooter has finally regained the use of one of his ears, and is basking on my mother's doona wearing a snug chunky knit perfect for the modern male pussy on a cold winter's night. As a self-proclaimed metrofeline he finds the colours a bit startling, but he looks forward to them fading after a few washes.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Statuary meme: Ben Boyd's Tower, Eden, NSW


BEN BOYD'S Tower is watching —
    Watching o'er the sea;
Ben Boyd's Tower is waiting
    For her and me.

        We do not know the day,
        We do not know the hour,
        But we know that we shall meet
        By Ben Boyd's Tower.

Moonlight peoples Boyd Tower,
    Mystic are its walls;
Lightly dance the lovers
    In its haunted halls.

        Ben Boyd's Tower is watching—
        Watching o'er the foam;
        Ben Boyd's Tower is waiting
        Till the 'Wanderer' comes home.

O! he lay above us —
    High above the surf —
Finger-nails and toe-caps
    Digging in the turf.

        We do not know the day,
        We do not know the hour,
        But Two and Two shall meet again
        By Ben Boyd's Tower.

(excerpt from 'Ben Boyd's Tower' by Henry Lawson).

I've been to the Bega Valley many times in the twelve years or so since my parents retired there, but I'd never been to Ben Boyd's Tower. It's one of those things you always mean to do. I've been to the Killer Whale Museum a few times, and there's (only) one spot in that museum from which you can see the Tower, and I always manage to stand there. So this time I made the effort and drove around Twofold Bay for a closer look.

Ben Boyd must be the hero of the Eden district. It's a conjecture I make from driving through the town and region. Every second thing is named after him. There's (at a quick glance) Ben Boyd Road, Ben Boyd Street, Ben Boyd National Park, Ben Boyd Mall, Boydtown, and of course, Ben Boyd Tower. Now, some may say that this is not about statuary but architecture; I beg to differ. And once I've finished, you'll understand why. Oh, BTW, I've been told the other Boyds (the artistic ones) are no relation. Dunno if that's true or not. I'd love to claim this man as a relative.

Ben Boyd was arguably Eden's most eccentric historical character. My mother, who is an Eden-Monaro history buff and holds high rank at the Bega museum, looked at me over her bifocals and corrected me when I expressed this view. 'He was an en-tre-pen-uer', she said. Yes, but a mad one. Aren't they all? According to the history books, he put Eden on the map. He was originally a wealthy stockbroker from England. He arrived in 1842 and established a coastal steamship service. He thought there was a lot of potential for Twofold Bay, and tried to build a town there: Boydtown. Like Governor Macquarie and numerous other colonial dignitaries, he thought that everything should be named after himself. Lots of vision, no imagination. Funnily enough, people down in Eden seemed to agree with him, since most of the things named after him have been done so since his demise.

When I look at the actual dates involved, I'm amazed at how much that man achieved. Within two years of his arrival Boyd had become one of the largest landholders in the colony, with nearly two and a half million acres in the Riverina and Monaro regions upon which were 158,000 sheep and 21,000 cattle. Whaling was already big in the area, and he bought into that. Apparently he was a big believer in unfairly low wages for a fair day's work, and surprisingly had a hard time finding labourers for his enterprises.

The Tower was what convinced me of his stupidity. It wasn't a bad idea, and one that incorporated a lot of his shipping and whaling interests. He decided to build a lighthouse for Twofold Bay. He didn't ask permission, he just did it. It's a rather gothic creation, and I loved walking towards it through the bush, imagining wild winds and craggy lighthouse-keepers. I can see what inspired Henry Lawson's imagination (mind you, I don't know if he actually clapped eyes on the place; it hasn't actually got 'halls'!). It would be a fabulous place to come on a moonlit night...

It is a beautiful thing. It's got four storeys, nicely-formed windows (no glass), and made from gorgeous sandstone blocks. The inside is a series of platforms but with no ladders.
Admittedly, that's a modern omission to prevent weekend oiks from climbing up with cartons of beer, shagging on the platforms and falling through the holes, but I can't imagine anyone trying to carry drums of oil or other such fuel up such a shonky arrangement. It's an odd sort of lighthouse.

It would look great with a long yellow plait of hair falling from the top floor.

I do have a soft spot for sandstone and the markings that are left by stoneworking tools. I used to live in a beautiful sandstone house in Sydney and it delighted me every day.



Then I read the signs. Boyd's lighthouse was never approved. It was never used as a lighthouse, and the most useful purpose it provided was as a shelter for some of the whaling teams. I thought, while walking towards the tower, that he would have at least have used the glorious red rock that graces that coastline for the building material.


But no, he had all the blocks cut in Sydney and brought down by boat and painstakingly levered into place at the bottom-most tip of Twofold Bay.

What a wally.

Of course, he ran out of money. So Ben Boyd arrived in 1842, spent all his money on wild ideas like this and Boydtown, then one of his best ships sank and he ran out of money. He then did what was natural. He scarpered. He left for the California goldfields in 1849. He disappeared at Guadalcanal in 1851. He did it all in 9 years. What a man. I like to think he found a huge amount of gold, ran away to some other needy deserving rural district and did it all again, under a different name. Or maybe he just found a nice pub and stayed there a while, reflecting on his mistakes. I doubt it. That man sounded like he needed to keep busy.

The Tower is a great, useless, beautiful piece of sculpture. There are other remnants of Ben Boyd's short but enthusiastic visit to the Far South Coast, but nothing as poignant as this. We popped into Boydtown on the way back, expecting to find more sandstone ruins or some nice old houses. Boydtown has a big sign on the highway. Instead we found a huge caravan park and a pub. And a tribute to BB in the form of a smaller version of the Tower. This one is about 15 feet high and not quite accurate, having only three stories and a door and glass windows, but you get the general idea.


It also had a very nice ant colony running up and down the side of it, which was the only sign of life we could find in the area. No chance of buying a beer at this time of year. Ben would have been disappointed.

Postscript: please do press the Eden Killer Whale Museum link. Read about Old Tom, and definitely press on the FAQ button.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

A Rude Shock in Eden

Best Beloved and I did a daytrip to Eden today. Since I'm borrowing precious parental dial-up net time, I'll save the long story for my return to Canberra. Suffice to say that Eden is so cool that Rodney Rude is playing tonight at the local pub. I thought he'd died (of shame, hopefully) years ago.

PS The cats are having a WILD time. Apart from those big cow thingys, which are really scary, the place is just one big playground. It'll be hard to get them back in the box on Sunday.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Four stars followed by two

The Edukators is a ripper of a movie, apart from the fact that I guessed the end because of the looping use of Jeff Buckley's spine-tingling rendition of Hallelujah in Dolby stereo. It involves a love triangle between two left-wing politically active and very good-looking German youths and an equally gorgeous and informed young woman, some cool furniture-rearranging, the kidnapping of a sold-out fat-cat, stunning scenery of Germanic alps and a lot of revolutionary idealism. Highly recommended. It's nice to know such ideas are still moving around (and hopefully achieving something!).

And A Good Woman, whilst using every skerrick of Wildean wit they could find, and whilst stuffed full of fantastic scenery and costumes, just made me want to go back and see The Edukators again. I think I would have enjoyed it more if my senses had't been politically heightened less than 12 hours before. Too much money! Too much leisure! Such bad acting! Americans just can't do Wilde, no matter how much they love him. Poo bah. The Venerable Poet enjoyed it, but I think she'd enjoy anything that got her out of the house.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

The Cardboard Club

He looks yummy..., originally uploaded by Ampersand Duck.

[apologies for the bad photography... dark cats are hard to catch at high speed in a dimly-lit room!]

Many cats seem to like cardboard boxes. A friend sent me photos of her gorgeous cat methodically demolishing a series of cardboard archive boxes. a true deconstructionist. Baz prefers to use his to bask under a warm lightbulb. I leave various boxes around the house with classy vintage jumpers and cut-up sheepskin coats in them for the utmost comfort and pleasure, but nothing beats a box with a purpose. Mr Padge and Mr Pooter have discovered the joys of my paper recycling box in the midst of my amazingly messy study. It has windows, you see, and they like to alternate who is in and who is out,

he was here a moment ago

Do you want the arched window or the round window today?

until they reach such a frenzy of excitement that they have to jump out altogether and bite each other madly.

who needs the box?

They do this at odd times during the night as well as the day, which can be a tad annoying. Apparently boxes are cool. And they taste good.
This doesn't taste as good as bro's tail

But brothers taste better.
take that, you cad

One more sleep until they meet chooks and ducks for the first time...

Friday, July 01, 2005


Oooh, almost forgot -- went to the opening of this last night. Very trippy work.

Holiday... celebrate...

How lucky am I? The start of the school holidays, and Bumblebee is spending this weekend with the Albatross. Child-free! Best Beloved and I are going to do some movie-watching. and it's going to be a nice cold rainy weekend to do so.

Tonight we'll see The Edukators, which our local independent movie temple, Electric Shadows, has dubbed "THE BIGGEST ADRENALINE RUSH SINCE RUN LOLA RUN! A sexy, intelligent and adrenaline-fuelled thriller about three young Berliners who take the law into their own hands." Gawd.

Tomorrow we're taking my Venerable Poet (as opposed to BB's Irascible Writer, both lovely old ladies we do fun Secretary-type things for) to see A Good Woman, lured by the promise of Oscar Wildean dialogue. I may be bitterly disappointed, but I'm sure the 85-yo VP will enjoy herself immensely.

On Sunday, if we don't cook Eggs Benedict for anyone except ourselves, we may go to Batman Begins. But I may find that packing issues overcome that particular urge... for on Sunday evening, we're going rural for a week! Hooray, lashings of red wine and mother's cooking down at the farm near Bega. A chance to let Bumblebee run wild with his grandparents while we get to watch. And my dog gets to sniff the real me instead of my old socks.* I'm looking forward to lots of sleep, crap magazines, and a week away from my computer, although I may sneak onto Dad's occasionally to check my ebay snipes and read all the blogosphere fun. I will be concentrating on getting my sketchbooks and their price-tags organised, because a local businessman is going to stock them in his shop! More details on that when it actually happens.

We're taking the cats for their first rural adventure. My dearly departed pussy was a veteran traveller, yowling all the way down Brown Mountain and then quite contentedly stepping out of her box on arrival and padding off to greet the ducks. I'll be interested in seeing how Podge and Poofter enjoy the change of scene... I'm sure they'll investigate everything that moves and a few things that don't. They'll be locked inside at night so that they don't get mistaken for ferals and be shot by the neighbour.

Time to open a bottle of red and get my head into movie-watching mode.

*My mother visited recently and forgot to pack socks. I gave her a few pairs of mine, and when she returned to the farm, she put a pair on in front of Lucky, our ex-pet who moved up a generation. He took one sniff and apparently spent the rest of the day alternating between snuffling her feet and searching the house for me. Talk about feeling guilty! I do miss him, just a little bit, but I'd rather just visit him occasionally than live with him.