Saturday, June 30, 2007

Yay for Mika

She deserves a medal, the men either side of her deserve to be clubbed to death with their own genitals.

And as for Paris... meh.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Saturday, June 23, 2007


Some of you may get the feeling that I am losing my blogging urge. Not so, my lovelies. I get the urge to blog all the time, but somehow I'm never near a computer when it hits the strongest. Mind you, over the last few weeks (months, years...) I've been a complete space cadet.

When I have a spare moment, do I rush to the computer to partake of blogosphere? No, I've been flaking in front of the telly, or picking up Bumblebee's Gameboy to whack a few odd creatures in the Forbidden Forest of the GBA version of Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire. Some may call this N O R M A L I T Y.

I think it's because I'm in-between books. I'm dipping into a few things, like The Tears of Things: Melancholy and Physical Objects by Peter Schwenger, and the unintentionally interrelated A Book of Luminous Things: an International Anthology of Poetry edited by Czeslaw Milosz, and the wonderous catalogue essay by Helen Ennis for the NPG's exhibition Reveries: Photography and Mortality. All completely fascinating in a non-fictional sort of way, but not as completely absorbing as a damn good novel. I'm surrounded by piles of books, but nothing I feel like reading NOW. This is the bookaholic's version of standing in front of a bursting wardrobe wailing 'But I've got nothing to wear!!!'

[Reading this through the day after, I feel I should expand upon this slightly. Dipping in and out of a few non-fiction books seems to make me a bit scatty. Reading an absorbing novel actually gives me focus, and I can move through the world held together by its narrative stream. Actually, the quantity means nothing. I can keep my head together with up to three long fictional pieces, whereas adding facts or choppy writings to my mosh of daily thoughts is difficult. And this includes blogposts. I prefer blogs that move through an individual's life like a narrative path than newsy/topical blogs that squabble and compete for your attention. They add to this sense of daily scattiness. Does any of this make sense? Hmmm...]

In other news, I have finally finished all of my making commitments in at the Bookstud and can finally place my energies into my own book project. I am the official visiting artist this coming semester, but also teaching three mornings a week (book design and typography) so I am trying to get myself moving now that the uni holidays have started.

On Wednesday I spent the whole day sifting through hell type trying to gather enough of the font I want to use to be able to handset one of my books. Hell type is metal letterpress type that has not been put away after use, and is usually mixed up or has fallen apart and heaped into a pile. The Bookstud has at least 15 years of trays of hell type, and very little of it is labelled. So I've been going through, trying to identify the font and size, and leaving little notes for either myself or whomever is brave enough to tackle the job for/after me.

For those who don't know, I'm trying to produce two separate fine-press books of poetry and images. The first is by Rosemary Dobson, with wood engravings by Rosalind Atkins, and the other is by Nan McDonald, with embossed drawings by Jan Brown. The production of each will be quite different, but the results will be companionable. Both will be the same dimension, because they will form the start of a series. Because the Dobson has 40 poems and the McDonald only 14, the former will be printed from photopolymer plates and the latter will be handset with what type I have managed to gather.

Luckily I managed to gather enough nice Bodoni 12pt to be able to set Nan's poetry, but we only have enough to set two pages at a time (i.e., one side of a section, because I'm using very thick art paper to allow it to be embossed). This is one of the curses of loving letterpress in a country that undervalues its historical resources, has too small a population to allow odd pursuits to thrive, and is too far from other resources to be able to replace type without exhorbitant expense. So I turn to polymer plate and computer setting to allow the printing of the longer book.

On Thursday afternoon and Friday morning I played nicely with Bernice, sliding around on the steep learning curve that was me trying to to remember how to print intaglio, much to the amusement of the graduate printmakers resident in the Bookstud at the moment, Katharine and Marina. They were invaluable help in reminding me how to set a press, wipe a plate, and eat humble pie. We got a bit further with our joint project (also involving poetry), but the biggest lesson learned was that it will take time to get what we want. And a mangle. Our very long printing plate was very frustrating in a press, so we turned to Bernice's trusty mangle.

mangle printing

We worked out that a mangle needs a board sandwich, not just one underneath. Plus good amounts of foam mat or felt. So Bernice is hunter-gathering for our next session (hopefully in a fortnight), and I spent the rest of Friday sitting quietly in front of a typecase setting a poem. Bliss.

Today we saw Pirates of the Caribbean 3 -- Yeee HAAAA! O wot fun. And now I'm about to guzzle a repeat performance of that fish curry to the last episode of Sideshow. I hope you're as happy as I am. Have a good one.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

In future, we shalt...

I am about to launch into another bout of collaboration with Bernice Balconey to pull our dreamy art idea into the cold hard light of reality, and stumbled upon the following this morning:

10 Commandments of Collaboration

Thou shalt trust thy collaborator's art with thy whole heart.
Thou shalt trust thy collaborator's judgment with thy whole mind.
Thou shalt trust thy collaborator's integrity with thy whole spirit.
Honor thy own voice.
Honor thy collaborator's spouse.
Thou shalt not be an egotistical asshole.
Thou shalt not covet all the glory.
Thou shalt love the same foods as your collaborator.
Thou shalt eat and tire at the same time.
Above all, honor the muse.

From Denise Duhamel & Maureen Seaton via ample sanity.

This is not a pointing finger at Bernice, gawd forbid, just a timely happening that applies to all the (artistic) collaborations in my life at the moment!

I am taking it on board the good ship Amperduck as she sails through time and space.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A reading from the gospel of John

That's right, you're looking at the cover of John Denver's album, Rocky Mountain High (1972).

Either you're astonished that someone as hip and with it as me could be listening to such retrograde pap [snort], or you're shaking your head at my complete and irrevocable descent into dagginess and moving to wipe me off your Bloglines/Google subscription list. OR, you could be shaking your fist in the air, saying YES! A PART OF EVERYTHING IS IN ME! And that means you know.

[O god, the cat curled up next to the heater behind me just farted, and that is something I never want in my nose, ever again. Ahem. What has that cat been eating? It's Padge, BTW.]

While side 1 of this album is great (but with supremely cheesy moments), it's side 2 that I really want to talk about today, and specifically 'The Season Suite'. If you've never heard it before, you may be able to hear it here if you have the right software. I don't, but I have the vinyl.

I used to wake up in the mid-to-late 70s to the sound of my father playing this as he did things around the house and singing along gustily. Yesterday I found myself doing the same thing. Co-incidentally, it's the same record. I slipped it into my gear about 15 years ago as I left the parental house. Yes, I know you read the blog, dad. Keep reading.

I'd got home from a freezingly early morning visit to the Farmer's markets and as usual put on a record, as I can get breakfast made during the listening of one side and can then wander off to eat it in bed without having to touch the stereo again.

As I spread dijonnaise on our lightly toasted bagels in preparation for the smoked lamb and fresh rocket, I found myself not only warbling gustily, but thinking about John Denver's active role in my (and possibly my father's) spiritual development.

Forgive me father, I know what I'm about to do will possibly make you embarrassed and grumpy, but... meh.

And oh I love the life within me
I feel a part of everything I see
And oh I love the life around me
A part of everything is here in me...

I started thinking about this celebration of the landscape and the seasons. It's not our landscape or our seasons that John Denver sings about, but Canberra and its surrounds are close enough. My father grew up in the heat and dust of inner Western Australia, and I don't think that area has any distinct seasonal variation. When he came over east to hang out with the military, he encountered all the glory of Canberra's four seasons, and also fell in love with its proximity to trout streams and beaches. He's still a keen fisherman, as the image in the last post attests. It was around the time that he came back from Vietnam that this album came out, and it was when we were living in Canberra again around 1975 that I remember this song suite being played a lot.

It's not preachy, it's extremely whimsical and it's got a touch of the humbles that makes me smile wryly every time:

It seems a shame to see September swallowed by the wind
And more than that it's oh so sad to see the summer end
And though the changing colors are a lovely thing to see
If it were mine to make the change I think I'd let it be...

...But I don't remember hearing anybody asking me.

And there's a little instrumental bit called 'Late Winter, Early Spring (when everybody goes to Mexico)' that really evokes sitting around watching snow melt. Not that we get much snow in Canberra anymore. There seemed to be a lot more 20 years ago, but John Howard is now the expert on that these days (you don't fool me, Mr H. I'm sending you down).

Anyway, another of the things I was thinking is that my dad gave up being a churchgoer when he met my pragmatic atheist (or agnostic? haven't discussed it lately) mother, but I reckon he worships something in the chapel of nature. Not sure if it's an organised god, but I feel closest to happiness and peace when I'm looking at the sea or a fantastically indigo sunset like tonight's, and I think so does dad, and so did Denver. And he found the words for it five times out of ten. I can forgive him all the cheesy bits* for those little sparkles.

Do you care what's happening around you
Do your senses know the changes when they come
Can you see yourself reflected in the seasons
Can you understand the need to carry on?


Are you still my friends?

* This is cheeky:

This is cheesy:

I got a bit sick of his music once he started taking it seriously. He was like the folk Croc Hunter.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Curry yum bum

Yesterday I had THE most delicious leftover curry lunch. Best Beloved has been indulging his curry urges and is improving wildly with every meal. So I've been taking lunches like these with me into the uni.

I know most of you would think a book-making and letterpress studio would smell like... paper, glue, kero, ink and other paperly (and dusty!) things, and usually it does, but at the moment anyone who walks in comments on how much it smells like an Indian restaurant... a good Indian restaurant!

Check it out. They're all so easy:

curry yum

On the left, Madhur Jaffrey's Carrots with Dill:

450g carrots, peeled
0.5cm cube ginger, peeled
60ml vegetable oil
1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
1/8 tsp asafetida (optional)
1-2 fresh hot, green chillies, finely chopped
1 tsp ground coriander seeds
1/4 tsp ground tumeric
2/3 cup clean, chopped fresh dill
1/2 tsp salt

Cut the carrots crosswise, in 0.25 thick slices.
Cut the ginger, crosswise, into very thin slices. Stacking the slices over each other, cut them, first into very thin strips, and then cut the strips into minute dice.
Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium flame. When hot, put in the cumin seeds. A few seconds later, put in the asafetida. A second later, put in the ginger and green chillies. When the ginger starts to brown, put in the carrots, coriander and tumeric. Stir for 2 mins. Add the dill and the salt. Stir. Cover. lower heat and simmer for 1-2 minutes or until the carrots are just done. Lift the carrots out of the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving as much oil behind as possible.

In the middle, Ambul Thiyal, sour curry of fish, a-la Charmaine Solomon:

500g firm fish fillets or steaks
1 rounded tblspn tamarind pulp
1/4 cup vinegar
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tspn finely grated fresh ginger
1 tspn salt
6-8 curry leaves [fresh is best]
1 stalk lemon grass or 2 strips lemon rind
2.5cm piece of cinnamon stick
1/4 tspn fenugreek seeds
1/4 tspn black pepper
1/4 tspn chilli powder (optional)
1 1/2 cups water
2 tblspns water

Wash and dry fish, cut into serving pieces. Soak the tamarind in the vinegar until it is soft. If tamarind is very dry, heat the vinegar and tamarind in an enamel saucepan for a few minutes, adding some of the water. When cool enough to handle, squeeze the tamarind in the liquid to dissolve pulp, strain through a fine nylon sieve and discard seeds and fibres [or save yourself all that trouble and use a tamarind concentrate!]

Put all the ingredients into a pan (preferably enamel or stainless steel) and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until fish is cooked and gravy is thick. Shake pan or turn fish pieces carefully once or twice during cooking. Serve with white rice.

...And on the right, something Madhur Jaffrey quaintly calls 'Very Spicy, Delicious Chickpeas'. And they are!

5 tbspns vegetable oil [*most of these recipes can be made without these vast quantities of oil, truly]
2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
8 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 tbspn ground coriander seeds
2 tbspns ground cumin seeds
1/4 to 1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground turmeric
6 tbspns skinned or tinned ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
2 1/2 450g tins of chickpeas, or 675g of home-cooked, drained chickpeas
2 tsp ground roasted cumin seeds
1 tbspn ground amchoor [mango powder]
2 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp garam masala
1/2-1 tsp salt (to taste)
1 tbspn or more lemon juice
1 fresh hot green chilli, finely chopped
2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger

Heat oil in a wide pot over medium flame. When hot, put in the onions and garlic. Stir and fry until the mixture is a rich medium-brown shade. Turn heat to med-low and add the coriander, cumin (NOT the roast cumin), cayenne, and turmeric. Stir for a few seconds. Now put in the tomatoes, stir and fry until well amalgamated with the spice mixture and brown lightly. Add the chickpeas and 250g water. Stir. Add the ground roast cumin, amchoor, paprika, garam masala, salt and lemon juice. Stir again, cover, turn heat to low, and simmer for ten minutes. Remove cover and add the chilli and ginger. Stir and cook, uncovered, for another 30 seconds. Serve.

Mmmm... enjoy. Great on the night, fabulous the next day.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Duck types

Mindless Munkey sent me a nice email today alerting me to the following clip and hoping I liked it:

Via: VideoSift

I do, MM, I do. It's very cute.

Actually, it was mucking around with letters like this (but in the more static form of prints) that led me to the creation of the Ampersand Duck:

ducks in formation

I was designing a children's book for the Noma Concours Book Illustration competition, something we were encouraged to do every two years as students in the Graphic Investigations Workshop.

Here's another duck, this time with a balloon:

balloon duck

I printed these (and other things like birds and fish and aliens and circus performers) onto very bright monoprinted backgrounds, so no two prints were the same. Monoprinting is something I love to do, because it makes each print unique. One day I'll have time to play with it again.

Anyhoo, those little ducks stuck in my head, flapping about a bit for a few years until I had to make up a blog name, and then they quacked as loud as they could to be remembered. And here we are.

Thanks for thinking of me, MM. Much appreciated.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Remember to breathe, Fluffy

Fluffy is under her doona and has turned her comments off because she feels bad about feeling bad. So I'm posting a flower for her, and for anyone else having any kind of tough time at the moment.


I know it's a bit withered around the edges, but it's a real flower, still planted in the ground when I took the photo, and obviously only just past its prime. Don't you think the colours are gorgeous and cheery?

I'm not making a connection here about being past your prime; I'm sorry if this reads that way. This flower is from a friend's garden, someone who suffers from a major depression. He tends to hide himself away when he's down, which happens to be most of the time. He's one of those people whom you can't ring to arrange to see -- he won't come to the rendezvous point. You have to just drop in on him at the house. If he's low he won't answer the door; if he's ok he'll open the door, lead you through his incredibly dirty and cluttered house (piles and piles of the most interesting things you've ever seen: old tools, books, crockery, antique toys, hats, spoons, machinery, with only narrow paths to walk through) into the garden. No; into HIS garden.

He has a green thumb, and that man can grow anything. He has transformed a bare block into the most amazing space full of colour, movement, prickles, fruit, frogs, fish, ferns, herbs and most anything else you can think of. He has a water-recycling plant made of pipes and blow-up baby pools and certain water-plants, so that he doesn't use a lot of town water. Unable to bear working for the Man, he now sells potted-up plants at markets to supplement his government hand-out.

I don't think he's wasting his time with his plants, and if he didn't have them, he'd probably be certifiably mad by now. They keep him alive as he keeps them alive, and they fulfil him as the creative person his family always had hopes of him being. And he's cheery in his garden. It's his own private universe, and the rest of the world can sod themselves.

Fluffy, you are an extremely resourceful, creative and generous person. I don't know about your resilience, but I'm hoping that it can be bolstered by rest. Stay under the doona as long as it takes. Tiny Man will cope with a mum who lets him under the doona too and reads with him, or just flops on the couch and watches tv for days. He'll just do his own thing for a while, and he'll eat baked beans on toast forever. The down times need downtimes. Eventually you get so bored with the smell of stale doona air that you get up, have a shower and go and do something for a break from having a break. And then hopefully the fun starts again. Or not. Maybe you just get a slightly more even keel.

Anyhoo, just wanted really to say hang in there, kiddo. And this goes for all of youse.