Friday, May 30, 2008

The end is the beginning

The aunties

The girl in the middle is me, somewhere in my twenties.
The woman on the right is my youngest auntie.
The woman on the left is my auntie's partner, also my auntie.

Whilst I worked out from an early age that books were entertaining, and my parents taught me that books were valuable, these two women taught me that you could live with books, out of books, and that poetry is not just for special occasions, but part of a balanced daily diet.

The auntie on the left died early this week, after a long battle with cancer. Today we are all heading deep into the NSW countryside to attend her funeral, chant a Buddhist prayer, and tell stories. I don't know as much about this auntie as I'd like, because, while I asked questions, I don't think I asked the RIGHT questions. Or listened as closely as I could have.

Today I'm going to listen to the stories. And mourn. And rejoice. And support the auntie who remains, who is like a life-mating bird that has found itself alone.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Just to let you know...

Crisco is known for helping millions prepare food. Crisco has been helping make food delicious for years. Crisco shortening is multi purpose and can be used for all your cooking and baking needs.

It certainly is multi-purpose. This is a bucket of solid hydrogenated fat, not the liquid oil. I use it for cleaning my press rollers, something I learned from the multi-talented and now non-blogging Girlprinter. It works a treat! I haven't had a full lungful of Kero in ages. If you're interested, you can find it here.

As you were.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Monday, May 26, 2008

Henson image rocks young world

Recently released Henson images have evoked scenes of outrage outside childcare centres around Australia.

"These images are deeply shocking," gasped the Prime Minister. "I can't believe no-one has thought of the children."

The images have been impounded, and inquiries have been made as to the circumstances under which the images have been photographed.

"We have been trying to track down the model, but so far it has been difficult. it is a matter of the highest imperative. They could have been scarred for life. Marks like that are very hard to wash off."

The media has gone crazy. Dinner parties around the country have been organised for high-level discussions.

Henson is unable to comment.

[Cross-posted at Sarsaparilla]

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Oh, to be a child again

OK, moving right along...
Something to cheer us all up:

Bumblebee's new obsession: raking.

raking 1

Raking it just so...

raking 2

..then jumping.


Then raking it all up again...

raking 3

...just so...

raking 4

...then jumping!

jumping again!


leaf angel

He can do this for HOURS.



I'm just basically feeling like crap today. Sometimes the gap between the me in my head and the me in the real world seems insurmountable. I love blogging because I get to be Head Me. But objects in the rear view mirror may appear closer than they are.

Bugger it. I'll just get on with my day, one breath at a time, and see where I end up.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

When wow becomes ewww

Thanks to Hoyden about Town, I have a fab new obsession: Photoshop Disasters.

Hil and I were talking only just the other day about the 'uncanny valley' concept of realism (particularly in reference to puppetry); I hadn't ever heard of it before. Of course, once you become aware of something, you see it everywhere. So when I saw it on PD, it jumped out at me.

There comes a certain point at which your photoshopping stops removing blemishes and begins an unsettling voyage into the uncanny valley.

Anyone got any good 'uncanny valley' examples? My favorite at the moment is Kylie Minogue.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Distracted drawing

Forgot to mention that last weekend I went to a life drawing class organised by one of my colleagues at the art school. She'd mentioned in the email that she'd booked 'C' as the model. Having not hung around life modelling circles for a while, and needing to know what materials to pack, I wanted to know what C looked like (it's a name that can apply to both sexes). You know, if C was a short, round woman, I would have packed the soft lush black charcoal. If tall, male and boney, it would have been the 2B pencil.

Her email replied: 'C is a tall lean/ muscular dude.'

So I went along with pencils, hard charcoal, and a biro.

C *is* a tall, very muscular young dude, with a back, sack and crack job, I suspect, because he's pretty hairless. Very wide shoulders, narrow hips, a bit like Michelangelo's David, but with very straight dark hair that hangs lankly on either side of his face. Like most people who take up life modelling, he's determined to have a distinct personality: he only seems to wear white, with purple crocs, and his poses are extremely energetic, which is fantastic for the short poses, but a bit much for the longer poses because his limbs start to droop out of place.

It was a mildly intimidating morning, because the room was full of artists who either teach at the art school, used to be teachers, or went there as students and now have fab arts-industry jobs. C would freeze himself into a pose that always seemed to leave me with intense foreshortening, and all I could think about as I drew was that any minute now, Jahteh would burst through the door, grab C, throw him over her shoulder and run out the door again, taking him home to do her washing up and promising to buy him some new white clothes if he was a very good boy.

Postscript: I got a chance to scan a drawing. This relates to the comments thread if you check it out (although this is NOT my first drawing for the session. It's my second-last, and took 15 minutes. I don't like his upper shoulder/chest bit, but I'm quite pleased with this from the waist down.):

15-min model

Apologies for the line down his middle. It's an A3 drawing and the scanner is only A4.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Lost Dog finds Glory


I knew that novel had to win something. And I love the delicious irony of it being a NSW prize, for something so absolutely tainted by Melbourne.

Yay for Michelle!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Remember to breathe

wistful green

Mr Padge, sitting in a corner of the loungeroom, sadly looking out at my tasteful but highly effective shadecloth awning, wishing he could be outside.

On the left, outside sitting on my swaddled compositor's stone, you can glimpse our newest friend, the Arse-Quacking Duck, whom I bought at the Tallong Apple Festival. She's a plastic alarm duck with a motion sensor, and the noise she makes comes out of a speaker under her tail. You should see the cats freaking out as they try to nonchalantly stroll past her and she starts up the arse-quacking. It's hilarious. She's outside and switched off at the moment, because she drives everyone else crazy. Sigh.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Off-path cycling

I fell off my bike.

There's nothing like falling off your bike to make you feel undignified.

In this case, it was the fault of a woman who let her dog run down a laneway off the leash. Her 'sweet' blue heeler lunged and barked angrily at Bumblebee as he rode around the corner into the laneway, I braked hard (to jump off and defend him) and my bike slipped on autumn leaves and I went arse over tit face down on the ground.

Lovely autumn leaves and grass broke my fall, thank goddess, but it didn't help my recovering neck, and my hands feel a bit tender. And my arse was high in the air, sprawled over the bike, which is not a good look really.

Snaps to the nice young man who stopped and made sure I was alright.

As I fell I screeched angrily at the woman, who was trying to grab her dog (leash in hand), and as we rode off again I couldn't help snapping at her that it would be helpful if she could keep her dog on leash until she got to a park. She looked as shocked as I felt, but I thought that might be a good thing.

I'm sorry, dog-lovers, I have little tolerance for unleashed dogs on shared paths. Once I came off my bike because someone was walking their three little fluffy things and had let them loose, but still tied them together, and they lurched across the path like some zany cartoon trap. As I was dusting myself off, the owner laughed as if it were a huge joke and I gave him a very big piece of my mind in return.

Best Beloved has been grabbed by dogs as he's ridden along, and he has no problems kicking at them in return.

I like dogs generally; I think it's irresponsible owners I have a problem with.

And, in case you hate cyclers on shared paths, I do try my best to be considerate when I ride past walkers. I ding my smiley bell, and I slow down around blind corners.

Anyway. I'm going to bed early to give my hands quality time to heal.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Ooh! A new meme!

Gawd, how long has it been? (I've been composing a things-your-cats-do meme in my head as I ride my bike; one day it'll get onscreen, unless anyone wants to start it first?)

Apparently these are the 106 books most often listed as 'unfinished' on LibraryThing. The rules are that you bold the ones you've read all the way to the end, underline the ones you read for "school" [I presume uni is included in this], and asterisk the ones you started but didn't finish.

I'm adding italic for those I've re-read. And gosh, I've surprised myself by what I haven't tackled yet. Still, I think I've done pretty well by the list.

Via Pavlov's Kitty, with admirable provenance before that.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
The [A] Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West [but do want to read this ASAP]
The Canterbury Tales
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man*
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead*
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible
1984 [I did my HSC in 1984. Say no more.]
Angels & Demons
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse*
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Misérables
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values*
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow*
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield

Sad Kitties, Happy Peoples

Checkin' the funnies at lunchtime. A couple of them are so eerily like my cats that it made me wistful:


Mr Padge used to look like this, but he's grounded at the moment.


Mr Pooter looks like this ALL the time. He just needs a dress to make him look like he's actually cranky about something. Dunno why he's always cranky, because he's the only one allowed to go outside at the moment. He's getting to roll in the warm sunny grass.

Padge came home about ten days ago with a huge scratch across the top of his head, from ear to ear, and a lot of hair pulled out, plus scratches all over his body. I spent a lot of the next week carefully washing the wounds with warm water and Pears soap (my vet's recommended remedy) and I think we're in the all-clear with abcesses. But he's not been outside since; we're too nervous to let him out.

So he sits sadly at the windows (if we remember to open the curtains) and watches. Or sleeps. And gets fatter. If making him fat keeps him from wandering and fighting, then that's our choice for his life.

Tonight I'll add a photo of the real Padge, sitting sadly.

In other news, Hil from Spirits Dancing came to have morning tea at the Bookstud this morning, to catch up with me and give sage puppetry/theatre set advice to one of my students. We also have a visiting artist from Thailand who is doing etchings about puppets, so we had a very jolly and extremely interesting morning swapping ideas, theories and showing images. I think networking morning teas are the bomb, and I will try my darndest to have another one sometime. Thanks for coming, Hil!

Letterpress: how to get a piece of the action

I have just discovered a place in Sydney that teaches letterpress classes, for all of you who email me asking after such things. I haven't managed to get any classes up at the Bookstud this year, because I'm editioning bigtime and it's hard to reset the press and get my head in the right space. So this is a good opportunity for anyone wanting to play with type... it's the Penrith Museum of Printing, and they look pretty friendly. Next time I'm up that way I'll pop in and have a look.

For Melbournites there also seems to be renewed activity at the Melbourne Museum of Printing.

If you're in Canberra and want to see a big of printing action from arm's length, try the Queanbeyan Printing Museum, usually open on sunday afternoons. For a taster on what they offer, we have a delightful collection of photos taken by moi on a Bookbinders' Guild excursion.

PS: I went to my osteopath yesterday and encountered a young woman I now think of as 'Elbows of Death'. She had the sharpest, hardest, most brutal deep tissue massage technique I have ever, in my twenty-five years of bad back and neck, experienced. When I got home I couldn't focus my eyes; this morning I have a mass of bruising in the area between my shoulder blades and below my neck. It'll settle down over the next few days, but until then I'm a bit stiff.

The fellow that swapped with her late in the massage (she got called out to help with another patient, and I wept with joy) laughed when I used my new nickname. 'That's perfect for her,' he said. 'She hasn't learned "medium" yet. She's still focussed on "hard".' Classic.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Monday, monday...

I feel the urge to repeat how much I like my Monday Book class.

Every week we do some task or another, then at about this time of semester their personal projects start to develop and emerge, and we do a lot of troubleshooting.

This morning one of the students chose Neko Case from my CDs to listen to whilst we finished our clamshell boxes, and then sat down and showed me his work-in-progress, a book/cassette edition about the wonders of Dolly Parton... which meant, of course, that Dolly had to go on the stereo (we got to choose between 60s, 70s or 80s Dolly from his boxed set -- 60s was the decade of choice today).

Which somehow led to Ricki Lee Jones, which led to Jimmy Webb. Such a good morning's listening, all top songsters.

Some of the ideas I get to troubleshoot are fantastic, and working out a structural solution is so much fun. One person is working with air-dried fruit, and whilst we were talking about the doll-book she's constructing (with inner organs of dried fruit), I was teaching the figure-of-eight stitch to other students, and suddenly I had a vision of a tunic-style dress of rings of oranges or lemons using this stitch, which made her very excited and spawned a few other ideas.

When they all leave I'm a strange mix of buggered and buzzing. Luckily Jimmy is still crooning across the room, which is very soothing.

LATER: and another good thing about Mondays is that I get a bit of lunchbreak to cruise the blogs without guilt (a morning of tootling deserves a concrete break) and I find good things: weddings! odd children! and sundry kooky things! (Dorian, the last link is for you, if you haven't seen it.)

I managed to tape Flight of the Conchords on channel 10 last night, and was hoping to see it tonight before or after South Park. But! My evening just got hijacked over the phone. So I'll have to watch both tomorrow night, after I've done my homework. Sigh.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

happy Mothers Day yourself

Happy Mothers Day to any of you that partake in such rituals, and an extra special hello to Jahteh and Lady Duck (and anyone else who has lost their children).

My MD treat was a cooked breakfast in bed then being allowed to have as long as I wanted to print book pages in the BookStud without guilt-inducing phonecalls or pleas to come home. As it turned out, I was horrendously hung-over from a wee dinner-party with my sister outlaw and her current moistie* plus Zoe and Owen and squillions of little boys here at Chez Duck (details of the food to be guested posted at Progrock Dinner Party when I pull my finger out), so I only managed to print 200 pages with many quick breaks to play Scramble and Scrabble and unscramble my braincells, and I was home by 5.30pm, ready for a hair of the dog. It was a pretty good printing day, but not to full capacity.

Best Beloved took Bumblebee to see the Duntroon Dixieland Band at Old Parliament House (I made up a song about it tonight to the tune of 'Spiderpig' (Spiderman) to amuse B and now I can't get it out of my head:

Dixieband, Dixieband
Does whatever a Dixieband does..
Does it swing? Yes it can,
It can swing, it's a Dixieband.
Look out! Duntroon Dixieband...)

and then they went to JB HiFi, BB's fav shop, to spend his birthday money. He came home with series 2 of Jonathon Creek and a couple of other things. Bumblebee, despite having been with BB when he bought it, asked him tonight why he'd bought series 2 and not series 1. We have a family policy of answering dumb questions with equally dumb answers, so I wasn't surprised at the start of this exchange, but I was most admiring by the rest of it:

BB: Well, the makers of Jonathon Creek decided that it was such a good concept that they wouldn't bother making a first series, just jump straight in with series two.

B (clicking): Oh yeah, right...

BB: BUMBLEBEE, do you think I'm making this up?

B: Yeah, of course!

BB: So the makers of Star Wars jumped right in at the first movie, did they?!

B: ...

[He started looking puzzled and scratched his head, until I completely lost it and started giggling.]

It was fun to watch it tonight; I'd forgotten how much I like Maddy as a character.

*I've always wanted to use that line, but now I feel guilty. He's a lovely man, and it was nice to meet him :)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Beware the ides of Calpurnia

Bad questions to ask a transsexual

This is 16 and a half minutes long, but worth it if you have the bandwidth. I'd been exploring the website Bad Plastic Surgery, and it was sitting there as something funny to watch. It is funny, but not for the reasons they meant. I found myself warming to this woman, especially in the tenth minute (fast forward if you want a quick sample). There's some odd moments, but some good shit buried in there.

I was asked for more cat action...

This is where you end up when you visit Lord Sedgwick and start clicking through his links (safe for work, unlike many other things on LS's blog).

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Remember to breathe

moon walker

The fully equipped traveller to the moon should have a pressure suit, an air tank, a walkie talkie set and a pistol.

From The Australian Wonder Book of Knowledge (Melbourne: Colorgravure Publications, n.d. (but well before 1969))

Monday, May 05, 2008

No rest for the wicked with a toy-boy

I've just spent the weekend in the Southern Highlands of NSW, checking out Bernice Balconey's new hidey-hole, which is small but gorgeous. The weekend away from my studio was a bit of a birthday present to Best Beloved, who turns 37 today (I love being married to someone younger than me). He loves the chance to talk politics with Bernice, and also to pop into a certain Berrima jam shop and swap cooking tips. I love the chance to talk art with her, and not averse to popping into Peppergreens and The Art of Bookbinding. So a good time was had by all. Funnily enough, we always stay in that area around this time of year.

Today's Book Design class was on box-making, and we got halfway through making a clamshell box, something I'm quite able to do on my own but am nervous to make with a group, because my maths is so bad and it shows as I'm calculating bases and sides and gaps etc. Luckily I'm quite able to expose the flaws in my personality and very open to being laughed at, so I don't try and bluff my way through these things; instead I confess all at the beginning of the class and we all have a good laugh and help each other get things right. It makes classes a lot of fun. I can prove my abilities in other ways later on, when I can show how to fold the little tuck in the corners of the bookcloth, or how to glue out a large swathe of cloth without getting glue on the neat side. In the meantime I get to hear a lot of student gossip, which is also enormous fun.

When I got home after doing all the shopping and pre-preparing a self-saucing chocolate pudding to follow the pizzas that I would pick up after my yoga class (the requested birthday meal), I found an email from artist book mistress Adele Outteridge, who shares a love of cats with me, especially cats who torture cardboard boxes. She sent me the link to a very funny cat video called An Engineer's Guide to Cats. Do yourself a favour.

As you were.

Thursday, May 01, 2008


"I am the feeling which became a daughter."

Armagnac'd led me to this website.

Besides being cute, the English and the photo captions are to die for:

1. You need to dress a cat. And you will say to a cat together with a family. "It has changed just for a moment". [ "it being very dear" or ] You will pass pleasant one time.

2. If a family and a cat become fortunate, you will take a commemorative photo! Therefore, please photo your cat lovelily with much trouble.

3. If it finishes taking a photograph, you will make it remove clothes from a cat immediately. You will say then, without forgetting the language of gratitude to a cat. "-- be flooded -- a way -- good -- having done one's best -- ! -- "

These goods are Tippett who was able to do for the warm boa material also in cold winter. A Dalmatian handle looks great. A cat will not be felt cold if the circumference of a head is warm. You will tie an attached ribbon gently.

The genius of dressing a cat in a dog fur print cannot be underestimated...

OF COURSE, the reason why this looked so familiar yet exotic to me is because it's on Miss Lucy Tartan's Treasured Collection of Stupid Cat Links, and has been for years. I only let myself visit Said List (on her sidebar) when I have been an extra-good girl or I'm sick at home needing diversion, because you can be caught in a kitty wonderland for hours. I haven't been either today; I just visited Sills Bend and had my eye caught by the word PRIN. Doh!

Living books

I've just been browsing through the various emails I get sent every day about book arts-related activities. There's a brand new exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London (one of my earmarked visiting spots if I ever get out of Canberra) with the unfortunate title of Blood on Paper: The Art of the Book. When I googled the title to get a direct link, it came up first, but the second link was regarding what it might mean if you found blood on your toilet paper after wiping your arse. Charming! Mind you, the exhibition involves a book by Jeff Koons so the two might not be such a coincidence.

The other email made me feel quite wistful. A real estate mogul in Minnesota tried, in collaboration with the town elders, to create a 'silicon alley' section of the city, and when it failed, transformed the project into a Book Arts utopia. Read about it here. Sigh. I wish Australia could do something similar.

Anyhoo, I'm printing pages for most of today, so that cheers me up.

Afterthought: if you've ever wanted to make a linoprint and have never felt brave enough, or haven't made one in ages and want inspiration, strange fruit is the place to be at the moment.