Friday, March 31, 2006

This makes more sense than it seems

You're Catch-22!

by Joseph Heller

Incredibly witty and funny, you have a taste for irony in all that you
see. It seems that life has put you in perpetually untenable situations, and your sense
of humor is all that gets you through them. These experiences have also made you an
ardent pacifist, though you present your message with tongue sewn into cheek. You
could coin a phrase that replaces the word "paradox" for millions of

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

I found this at Pavlov's Cat. I think it sums me ands my life up pretty damn nicely.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Remember to breathe

6am kitties, originally uploaded by Ampersand Duck.

The more I looked at LaToya, the less I wanted to see her, so here's something nicer. These are my 6am kitties, watching me eat muesli.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Caution Strangers

Indian sign, originally uploaded by Ampersand Duck.

I've been meaning to post this for a while, and was pipped by Pip. (sorry) It's a great site, Pip!

This has been on our bedroom door for ages now. Best Beloved snaffled it from his lodgings in Madras.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Cat tales

Hooray! Visual again. Unfortunately, even though I spent the whole of Bumblebee's swimming lesson yesterday looking like a geek and reading the User's Manual, I'm not wholly familiar with my new camera's workings and have not a lot of time to experiment. I'm supposed to be studying for my First Aid certificate, and while the test is next week, I have to have my workbook in by Friday. I'm just no good at self-directed education. I like the Thrill of the Night Before Adrenalin Rush. Still, I'll give it my best shot.

So. Some quick snaps, of the cats of course, because I know that's what is important to many of you.

Mr Pooter and Mr Padge are now about 16 months old. Padge has taken after his father, Best Beloved. He likes to peruse dictionaries and write letters to the paper and whichever companies and institutions have upset him during the week. His latest letter is to the ACT government about unleashed dogs on cycling paths. A very important issue for prowling cats.

Of course, he ties his own bowties. Anyone who doesn't is just not worth knowing.

Mr Pooter, on the other hand, takes after Mother. He likes to curl up with a novel, or sit at the computer and see what's happening in blogosphere.


If he reads something he likes, he'll comment.


He doesn't like commenters who insinuate that he's an arsehole.


Now then, that's not funny.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Excitement abounds around here

My camera has arrived! It is a thing of beauty. I am bursting with antici...


But the dratted battery needs to be charged and the manual says it takes 150 minutes but it's been longer than that and the little red light keeps flashing at me and I think I'm going to go mad from checking on it... arggggh!

Maybe I should just let it sit overnight. Patience, my young padawan, patience.

Which reminds me...

Young Bumblebee (my young padawan [ta, Fyodor]) came home on Friday afternoon with his school uniform t-shirt ripped all up the side and a nasty graze under his nose. When asked how it happened he told us a thrilling story about a fight on the oval between some 6th graders and some 3rd graders in which he has played a vital role in helping his friends ex-cape the baddies. We were all very concerned and pressed him for more details, which he happily gave us, concluding that the 6th graders had got in trouble at the end, and because he and his friends had done the right thing, none of them had got into trouble and the teachers would keep a special eye out for the bullies during the next week to make sure there were no further incidents.

He went away for the weekend with his dad, and in our New Climate of Niceness (have I blogged this? Note to self to check), the Albatross and I chatted on the phone about it and we both came to the conclusion that maybe I should just check with his teacher on Monday to make sure all really was ok in the aftermath of the kerfuffle.

Can you guess what happened? Bumblebee and I rode to school this morning, and just before we got there I mentioned that I would come in for a moment to chat to his teacher, and...

The Truth Came Out. No fight, just a simple tale of climbing a tree before school with his friends and snagging his shirt as he jumped out when the bell rang. The shirt snagged, he twisted, the branch slapped him in the face, and then snapped. He felt so guilty about the tree branch and the ruined shirt that he made up the more exciting story!

I didn't want to make too big a fuss about it, so we went and had a milkshake and I had the usual Trust and Cry Wolf issues conversation with him, but then as punishment I made him ring both Best Beloved and the Albatross to confess. That was hard for him, and luckily both men rallied to the occasion. How could you not? Apart from anything else, it was such an old-fashioned boyish jape that we almost wept with relief. So nice to find out that boys still climb trees! And got skinned noses as a result!

Still flashing. Bugger. Watch this space.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Rang De Basanti

Belconnen Hoyts has started showing Bollywood movies again! (They seem to think for some bizarre reason that no one wants to watch Bollywood during summer.)

Last night we saw Rang De Basanti. Here's the online review at Hoyts (obviously written by the same junior that showed the ads off to one side of the screen last night):
A young idealistic English filmmaker Sue (Alice Patten) comes to India to make a documentary drama on Bhagat Singh and his contemporaries during the freedom struggle. After failing to gather funds for the film, she decides to recruit students from the Delhi University.

She finds DJ (Aamir Khan), an ex-student who passed out five years back but still wants to be a part of the University because he doesn't think there's too much out there in the world out there to look forward to. Aslam (Kunal Kapoor) is a middle class Muslim boy who lives in the bylanes near Jama Masjid and is poet, philosopher and guide to his friends. Sukhi (Sharman Joshi) is the group's baby, vulnerable and has a weakness for only women. Laxman Pandey (Atul Kulkarni) is the fundamentalist in the group and Sonia (Soha Ali Khan) who is a tomboy and vivacious is engaged to Ajay (Madhavan) - a pilot.

Sue's film makes DJ and his friends stop and stare at themselves for being the actual descendants of these great men and never recognizing and celebrating their courage and spirit. That is where the story of Rang De Basanti begins.

Indeed. This is a terrific film, and I *highly* recommend it. The central concern is India's future, her politics, how corrupt her system is, the tensions between the various religious groups, and how young people feel doomed to continue the process because they think nothing can be changed.

I don't want to give away anything, but it is a coming-of-age film designed to make young Indians think but avoiding didactic lecturing. It's bright, funky, but not trite. And of course, it's 3 hours long (with an intermission, thankfully, which is something Peter Jackson and his ilk should consider including). The soundtrack is contemporary, and there are no manufactured dance scenes. I wish Hollywood could produce something this appealing and meaningful for young people. I should add that there are some violent scenes, so it's not something to take pre-teens to.

The man in red is DJ, played by Aamir Khan, who seems to have eclipsed Sharukh Khan in Bollywood popularity. He looked very familiar to me, and when I got home and looked at our home Bollywood collection (cheap as chips in your local Asian supermarket), he is probably in every second Hindu movie I own! Lately we've seen him in Mangal Pandeyand Lagaan, both historical films about resisting British rule. He seems to be a bit of a political animal, which is why this latest script would have appealed to him.

This is a recent release, so it should be showing right around the country, wherever you can find a cinema that supports Bollywood screenings. Ask your local cinema is they can have maybe a session a week, because there's some choice stuff being made at the moment, and it's really worth seeing, especially this movie. I think the distributors would be more than keen to find new venues.

Lifeline Book Fair goodies

I didn't manage to get to the Lifeline Book fair until about 4.30 yesterday, so it was lean pickings, and I probably won't get another chance to go again, unfortunately. Still, I found enough to keep me going until the next one. A couple of finds I'll leave until my camera arrives, so that I can do justice to them.

I bought a lot of books that I've been meaning to read/own for ages, the sort of collection-fillers that only a cheap sale can provide. Such as Solzhenitsyn's August 1914 and Dostoyevsky's The Idiot, both under $2. I also found a copy of Helen Garner's The First Stone, which I originally borrowed from the local library and so now I own my own copy. It's funny how few Garner books appear at the Fair. I'd say most Australian authors are there in triplicate, at least in paperback, but the only Garner book I've seen in multiple is Cosmo Cosmolino. Does this mean people hold on to their copies? Is she well loved? Or have the generation who have bought her not ready to spring-clean their libraries yet? Hmm.

Anyway, other buys:

Old hardcovers: Nevil Shute, No Highway; Elisabeth Dored, I loved Tiberius; Georgette Heyer, The Spanish Bride.

A few interesting reads: Eugenia Ginzberg, Into the Whirlwind; Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist; Georges Perec, Things: A Story of the Sixties; Kate Grenville, The Idea of Perfection.

Poetry: David Campbell's Collected Poems and Margaret Atwood, The Journals of Susanna Moodie (among others to be divulged later)

Biog: Pamela Stephenson, Bravemouth, and William Cook, Tragically I was an Only Twin: the Complete Peter Cook.

The only art book I bought was an old Sotheby's sale catalogue featuring Old Master drawings. Great images, and probably better than an exhibition catalogue because most of the images go to private buyers, and are rarely seen in public.

Still plenty out there, and they do replenish the shelves every few hours, so if you get the chance, it's a good cause as well as a great bookfest.

Open 10-6 today, and 10-4 tomorrow (plus there's a coffee shop so you can sit and sip while you decide what to take and what to leave behind).

Friday, March 24, 2006

Playing Games

A Wild Young Under-Whimsy has noticed a lot of fun happening at the Melbourne Weekly. I wish the Canberra Times would get jiggy wiv it like that!

PS First day of the Lifeline Book Fair today... it's usually an official public holiday in our household, which BB takes very seriously. He has two days off a year to buy books. Unfortunately I have printing commitments, so I couldn't be there at the initial stampede for the Military History section(!). I trust BB had a good time, haven't spoken to him yet. I'll be getting on the treadly at about 3pm and puffing up Northbourne Avenue to scour the dregs of the first day. Hopefully there will be some interesting old poetry volumes and weird catalogs to take home. No photos, of course, this time, but if I find anything spectacular I'll borrow Zoe's camera again. If you're from Canberra, head on down! Tip: Sunday afternoon is usually the $10-a-shopping-bag-full deal, so if you're broke, head on down to EPIC around 1pm on Sunday.

Snap happy

Hooray! Very happy. Have accumulated enough dosh to replace my digicam!

I was a good girl, did my homework, read the Choice reports, and decided on a shortlist, and then discovered that the Choice Best Buy was on sale. Double hooray! So I'm getting this, which I figure is a pretty good deal for the amount I'm allowed able to spend. I'm not terribly good at the technical stuff, just want something that lets me snap at things reasonably well. This one also has text recognition software, which won me over on the spot.

And I'm getting it in red, for obvious reasons. Love the idea of a red camera. (I'm such a girl sometimes.) Actually the name is 'Noble Wine', which sounds like a whinging queen. Or a dig at the fact that I'm not drinking (sob). Only downside is that I have to wait until next week to get the coloured version. Not much of a downside, really.

So only a few more sleeps before I'm able to get visual again!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Taking the fall...


Questacon is cool. I guess each major city these days has a science centre of sorts, where kids and adults can go and learn about science in a hands-on, funky and appealing sort of way. I think, though, that Questacon was the first of these centres, and it started when I was in my first Canberra incarnation around 1975 or so. It used to be in the old Ainslie Primary School, and was very rudimentary but heaps of fun. I never got the science of the exhibits though. I still don't. I just go and admire the pretty colours and shapes.

My favorite exhibit from my childhood is still with them -- but it's in the foyer. I tried to find an image of it, but they don't have one clear enough. It's a huge contraption of wire tracks that twist and turn throughout a clear perspex case, and snooker balls roll down through it and are transported back to the top by a myriad of mechanical contraptions. It always reminds me of that old Sesame Street clip where the same sort of thing is happening to a soundtrack of funky bass riffs and voices chanting '1 2 3 4... 5... 6 7 8 9 10... 11 12!' in absolute glee. I can stand in front of that case for ages listening to the chant in my head, long after whatever kids I've taken have got bored and are running wild in the Gift Shop.

We are Questacon members, which means that we are privy to special events like the chance to run wild in a couple of the galleries tonight with very few other people. Since BB is up north (unscathed and SMS-savvy, in Townsville now, Brisbane tomorrow), I took Bumblebee and his two cousins, Tooth and Rim. They had a ball running around and trying things without huge queues, while I managed to find an acquaintance who is not only mad about printing woodtype but plans to carve his own! Be still my beating heart.

The three cousins decided to go on the FreeFall, a daring adventure that you can just see on the right hand side of the picture above: you have to don a pair of overalls, climb up the stairs, sit on a ledge, hold on to a bar, hang off an edge, tuck your chin in, let go and... freefall! You actually only fall about a foot, then the slick stainless steel surface catches you gently and you slide the rest of the way. Stomach-lurching, however, and while you're hanging from the bar, it looks like you have a long way to fall.

They climbed the stairs and proceeded to scare each other and try to dare each other to do the fall. Bumblebee had done it before, but only with Best Beloved egging him on. The others had wanted to do it for ages, but had never made it all the way. I was very supportive, told them I'd be proud if they did it, but there was no shame in not doing it. I stood and looked patient, but they hummed and hawed and sat on the edge and pulled back, and wiped their hands, and go the attendant to wipe the bar and sat and looked and pulled back and conferred and tried and then gave up. Tooth actually got to the hanging stage, and I could see her trying her best to cope, but she also looked terrified, and she just couldn't bring herself to let go of the bar. They had to haul her up again (this is quite a common occurrence).

Lucky there wasn't a crowd! The poor attendants did their best, but nothing happened, and eventually I encouraged them to come down and do something else for a while. The two boys blustered about 'going back when the bar had dried off from all the sweat' (!) but I knew they wouldn't go back. Tooth, who is an interesting girl, and has deeper qualities than I think her parents give her credit for, spent a thoughtful hour playing with other things, and then murmured to me that she was going to try again.

We left the boys doing something boyish (trying to drive the virtual car off the path into the wilderness, but the computer programme wasn't having a bar of it and kept putting them back on track) and went back to the FreeFall. She donned the overalls, went up, sat on the edge, hung, closed her eyes... and as I crossed my fingers, she let go. And slid to the end. Both attendants and I gave her a hearty clap. She was so delighted with herself that she did it again.

As she came down the second time, the boys caught up to us. They were shocked to find her succeeding, and of course wanted to try too. But they'd left it too late, and it was closing time. They were so grumpy. And when I pointed that out to Tooth, she was delighted. It's not often she gets to be the hero. I was so proud of her. She'd discovered the secret to being brave is to surrender yourself to the unknown, and cope with whatever happens. it's a valuable life-lesson, and I hope it stays with her.

As we left we were each given a bag containing a milo bar and some fancy lolly-water called a Thorpedo. So the kids got sugared up and delivered back to their parents in a energetic state of bliss... heh. Good old Questacon. Never fails to entertain.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Larry pops in for a visit

Meet Cyclone Larry. Hitting Cairns and region as I type. [later: ooh, how cool! I just noticed that the image is being updated everytime the BoM updates. So this is the passing of Larry.)

Best Beloved is in Cairns right now, on a work junket. He's supposed to be sitting on a light plane today, visiting indigenous communities right up the coast to the tip of Australia. Instead he's bunkering down in his hotel room, wondering whether he'll need to drag the mattress off the bed. When he rang this morning to assure me that he wasn't going flying, he mentioned that the hotel hadn't given any kind of warning to the hotel occupants, and that there were still tables and chairs on the balconies outside, even though the winds were rapidly speeding up.

Sounds like the locals don't seem too concerned, so I'm not too worried. BB errs on the anxious side, so I'd say he's thinking about building himself a little shelter and stocking up the barfridge. Still, its a bit more interesting than sitting in an office in Canberra, and I'm sure he'll dine off the story for weeks.

Here's another image, taken last night:

Isn't it wonderful? Nothing on the left, then a wave of cloud from the right. You can see Larry swirling away up north. I love these images.

Meanwhile, Bumblebee and I are enjoying our public holiday (Canberra Day) with a bit of lolling around and scoffing pancakes. Maybe even a movie, but there's not a lot of choice for kids at the moment. Only a few weeks until the Easter surge of kids films, but right now there's only (erg) The Pink Panther remake. We might just rent something and watch it at home.

Postscript: Apparently the worst that is happening to BB is that he is dying of boredom and has run out of smoked salmon. He is so bored he has finally learned how to use the work mobile and is SMSing me madly. I too, nearly died of boredom this morning, as Bumblebee begged me to take him to see The Pink Panther and I was stupid enough to think I could handle it. God, my brain nearly atrophied. DO. NOT. GO. It is AWFUL.

But on the way home B asked me if BB was in any danger of getting sent to Oz and if so would he find his way back. You see, I kept saying 'Cairns' and he was hearing 'Kansas'. Cute.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Silly sorrows

This is an utterly silly post, but hey, that's what blogs are for.

I've got the beginnings of a list. It's a list of musicians I feel sorry for when I listen to their music. And all for really trivial reasons. This has been prompted by the recent excavation of my old vinyl records.

Here I go (in no particular order):

1. Robert Palmer.
Looking for Clues and Johnny and Mary are such good songs that I'm sorry he's dead when I hear them. This doesn't apply to any of his other songs.

2. Michael Jackson.
Anything up to and including Thriller makes me sad for his nose. and skin. and general cuteness. Watching The Wiz can reduce me to tears, as can Ben. I got teary watching his pre-weird cuteness on Spicks&Specks last week.

3. Don Walker.
I feel sorry for him every time I listen to any of his songs mangled by Jimmy Barnes, especially Sing to Me on the Twentieth Century album. It must have hurt.

I'm sure I'll add to this list over time. Anyone else want to add to it? Feel free.

Friday, March 17, 2006

A key to a room of your own and a mind without end*

Shall I say "nothing happened today" as we used to do in our diaries when they were beginning to die? It wouldn't be true. The day is rather like a leafless tree: there are all sorts of colours in it, if you look closely. But the outline is bare enough.

I've started reading The Diary of Virginia Woolf, and I've started at the beginning. My Aged Poet friend is reading them too, but she started with Volume 4. We're both motivated by Leonard and his press; AP had a dear husband who made wonderful books with his press at one end of the house, printing while she wrote poems at the other end of the house, so she probably relates more to the Woolfs than I do. I have a dear husband who watches The League of Gentlemen on DVD while I plan my printing; but he's a lot more literate than any other of my lovers, so I guess I'm heading in the right direction.

AP hasn't found much about the printing side of Hogarth; I, however, was thrilled to read VW's brief mention of herself and Leonard sitting at tea on the 25th of January 1915:
we decided three things: in the first place to take Hogarth, if we can get it; in the second, to buy a printing press; in the third to buy a Bull dog, probably called John. I am very much excited at the idea of all three -- particularly the press.

(Cor, imagination the size of a planet and she wants to call the dog John.) I love the thought of them sitting and making those plans, both grand and mundane. Then life intervenes with another bout of VW's madness, and the press is put on hold for a few years.

Those life interventions are hard to reconcile. I remember a teacher at art school taking me down to the library when I was pregnant and depressed about being sidetracked yet again, and showing me a stack of catalogues on famous artists. She opened each one to the biography section, and made me read down the list. She pointed out the gaps between exhibitions, between major achievements. "See those?" she said, "They're called LIFE. Nothing happens as you plan it. Just stay as focussed as you can." Well, it's taken about 9 years, but I reckon I'm back on track.

The Hogarth Press plans were made, as I said, in January 1915. They didn't buy the press until Spring 1917. It must have been very frustrating for Leonard. In those two years it wasn't certain whether Virginia would recover, let alone write again. And if she didn't recover, he would have had a hard time starting a press. Of course, she did, and he did, and while you can't say there was a happy ending, at least they both got a lot done.

I love and loathe Virginia herself. She's a strange mix of genius and utter prat. It's mesmerising. So I'm slogging through Volume one (1915–19) Only four more volumes to go! Only 7 days until the next Lifeline Book Fair -- I'm hoping to pick up some more Diary volumes there. Among other things. Heh.

P.S. Re. the phone-camera shot a few posts down -- I was emailed this link today. Check out the nice phone camera nature shots! Steev, take note!

* Indigo girls, of course.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Droolworthy link

Snaps to Kate, who put me on to this awesome site: GIGPOSTERS. If you like design, typography, printmaking, illustration, or just cool band posters, this is your nirvana too... (and extra snaps to the Dirty Three for liking woodtype and being a generally cool band.)

Let's talk about me, yada yada

Short Ducky, originally uploaded by Ampersand Duck.

This is me at an opening at the art school last night. I am surrounded by tall men (the third is taking this odd photo with his camera). I feel like a Munchkin when I look at this. Petite, even. I like that feeling.

The only other photo I have ever seen like this is from my first wedding. (I always inadvertently use the word 'funeral' in my head, and occasionally it pops out when I talk to people about weddings, which gets me a few odd looks.) My bridal party were all taller than me, even my bridesmaid. And I was wearing heels.

Believe me, I am not a short woman. Not as tall as Zoe or TJ, but I usually hold my own in a photo. My best friends at uni were both very short and could wear each other's clothes. They could borrow mine, but I couldn't begin to squeeze myself into theirs. Very frustrating, because they always got to mix and match all the coolest clothes. My mum also had cool clothes from the 70s, but I grew out of her size at about age 13. And kept growing. Especially my feet.

So I'm posting this, in order to have something to click onto whenever I feel too large. My hand is void of wine glass because we're spending as much of this year as we can without drinking. I'm STILL waiting to feel better for it, and it's been 2 months. Frig.

Photo credit to Steev, who decided that since his camera takes shitty pictures, he'll just take deliberately distorted images. Onya Steevie.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Getting our jollies

Bumblebee's having a great day today. The ACT has a Teachers' Stop Work meeting for most of the day, so he's having the day off school. Sleeping in, watching a bit of tv with his brekkie, playing with his Star Wars toys, and then taking his change collection to the bank to be converted to paper money! Ah, life's good when you're almost 9.

What this translates to in terms of mummy time is:

-- I can have a day off work (bonus!)
-- trails of banana and weetbix en route to the television
-- treading on little bits of mini lightsabres and robots up the hallway
-- standing in the frigging bank sorting five cent pieces into plastic bags for half an hour.

Whatever happened to coin-sorting machines? I used to love taking my savings into the bank and watching them get poured into the machines to be sorted. Now we have to do the sorting and the teller gets to weigh each bag. Next time I'll be more organised. He ended up with $47, which astounded me. It just looked like a pile of 5c pieces.

So he bought lunch (at McDonalds, his choice).

In other earth-shattering news, in the last week I've found two great new books about letterpress printing:

1. Letterpress: New applications for traditional skills, by David Jury (Switzerland: Rotovision SA, 2006). Approx. Aus$50 (paperback).

I haven't read a lot of the text yet, but the images are just glorious. It's not a technical manual, more a survey of how printing has changed as technology has shifted away from hand-set type. It's a very well-designed book, with plenty of inspirational examples. I had my visiting artists over for dinner last night, and the Korean was very jealous of this book. I'll be using it a lot, especially to get the printmaking students thinking about using type for image-making. (Heh, I also note I'm not the only person who likes to take photos of type all inked up on the press, amongst other things.)

2. Letterpress Printing: A manual for modern fine press printers, by Paul Maravelas (Delaware, USA: Oak Knoll Press, 2005). Approx. Aus$60 (hardback, also available in paperback).

This arrived in the post today, ordered a few weeks ago. I ordered the hardback version, thinking that it would be hardier. It probably will be, but it seems to be laid-out to be a paperback, with a clumsy amount of white space added to the outside margins. Maybe it's meant to be there, for the owner to scrawl notes in (which I will be doing), but it does look a tad gratuitous. Regardless of this, I think it's a great addition to letterpress knowledge. I've read a bit of criticism in hard-core printing circles like the letpress listserver, but I think those are remarks made by people who have been printing for years and have been able to have knowledge passed down to them by older printers while they were still around. This book probably seems too basic to them.

Here in Australia, at least, there aren't many people left who can pass on letterpress knowledge, and there's a new generation of students and print enthusiasts who think that they can just carry a line of type from a workbench to a press, lay it on the bed and have their way with it, without knowing the first thing about locking it up, adjusting the pressure (sexy terminology, eh?) or checking the rollers. Believe me, I've seen them do it.

This manual is a great starting point for anyone wanting to learn letterpress printing without prior knowledge. It covers platen, cylinder and hand presses, setting type, printing it, and restoring old machines. Simple instructions, clear diagrams, useful hints, and easy to read. I'm going to recommend it to the art school library.

The best thing is that these are new books. Obviously letterpress is having a resurgence! I'm so used to scrounging through second-hand bookshops and Abebooks for printing books that it feels like a real treat to have new books on the subject... I'm a very happy duck.

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Sunday, March 12, 2006

Sneaking in a bit of making

Boy, am I glad this weekend's over! Waking up at dawn's crack to make sandwiches and nibblies, carting it in to the art school, fighting with the lone young Security Guard to get the front door open for the masterclass (two emails and numerous phone calls through the week couldn't do it. ANU Security really do live up to their acronym), running around cutting up board and paper and smoothing last minute problems...

But in between all that, I managed to make this:

wrap-around hard-cover case
This is a hard-cover wrap-around book case, using Chinese silk bookcloth. The grain of the main cloth runs one way, and on the small rectangle it runs another, so they shimmer in lovely fluid ways in the light as you handle the case. Dimensions are 26 x 14.5 cm.

wrap-around hard-cover case
Check out the toggles!

wrap-around hard-cover case
This is where the slow raunchy stripping music comes into play... da da dahh... da da da dahhhh... (I had to use the stuff that everyone else didn't want, so that's how I ended up with the clarsy brown vinyl inner) ... revealing ...

five-hole binding in variegated thread
A traditional Asian five-hole binding in variegated thread! The cover paper is Japanese, with sparkly silver ink among other colours, the spine is Chinese silk paper (a really sparkly silver) and the inner paper is a very thin Chinese drawing paper, each page made up of a larger page folded in two, with the fold on the outside (ie, you bind the edges of the paper, not the fold, in opposition to how westerners do it). But that's not all!

hemp-leaf binding
I also made another book, with a 'hemp-leaf' stitched binding. This one has the same materials as above (just different colours), except that the inside pages are of Magnani Vergella. This has more stitches than everyone else in the class, because I had a moment of complete brain meltdown, trying to catch up to everyone after running around and drilled too many holes. But there's always a solution, and in fact, my book was much admired for its extra stitches. Phew!

two Asian bindings in a wrap-around case
So this is the boxed set.

two Asian bindings in a wrap-around case
And here's a bit of detail. Purty, don't you think? I'm very happy. worth all that running around. Everyone else seemed to enjoy themselves too.

Time for bed!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

La la, la la la la la, la la la la la, la la la la laaaa, la laaaa

I love old men whistling while they concentrate. It makes me think of days when men were happy to do hard, honest, hands-on work, and wear a hat and tie all the time.

This bookarts class is stuffed with old men, and they're having a ball. I'll post more about the class later, but I just thought I'd share this...

Last night, while I was cooking up a storm to cater for the class, I was watching 12 Monkeys on DVD. I was telling BB that I prefer it out of Terry Gillam's other movies, because it's a lot tighter, and manages to convey TG's interests (madness, dystopia, plumbing) better than his other films. We talked a bit about Brazil, my second favorite TG movie, and I mentioned that I'm always haunted by the music, that little jazz-latin piece of the same name.

Today, one of the lovely old men was concentrating hard on folding his bookcloth just so, and in the midst changed his whistle tune from some obscure jolly little number to... Brazil!


Friday, March 10, 2006


Oh, great idea. [slow clap]

I think I'll drug all my son's classmates just for the sheer pleasure of seeing him come first at the weekly spelling test.

People are strange.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Social Capital

Went to a terrific opening at the Canberra Contemporary Art Space tonight, for an exhibition called Social Capital. The theme was an exploration of Canberra's public housing history.

This image is by Bernie Slater, who is currently hanging out at the BookStud and whom I featured in my second or third post ever back in the golden days of '04. It's possibly the weakest of all his images; I have no idea why CCAS decided to place that one on their website. The show is terrific. Ellis Hutch has made small replicas of old fibro houses out of wax, lit from within across the floor, looking like little haunted houses. Martyn Jolly has large-format photos that remind us of the days when the 8-storey flats ringing Civic were considered cutting-edge architecture. eX de medici portrays the seamier side of public housing, and Cathy Lauderbach delves into the Canberra Public Housing community with great affection and insight. There are other artists and works, but the place was crammed with the Canberra art scene and I was doing my best to introduce my American guest to as many people as possible so that I could go home and eat Zefferelli pizza and he could carry on into the evening with new friends (hopefully that worked! I'll find out tomorrow).

So I didn't get to look closely at everything. But I will. I'll go back and have a really good look. And you should go too. There's a lot of good art to see in Canberra at the moment. My favorite du jour is the Otto Dix war etchings at the National Gallery. I'm hanging out to see Crescent Moon: Islamic art and civilisation in Southeast Asia, but I won't be able to do so until after my visitors have flown out. Constable will also be lush, but I'll see that when the crowds die down.

I'm not gettng a weekend because of the bookarts masterclass I'm hosting. I'll be busy baking and making for the next few days, probably with no time to post. But I'm looking forward to next week because it's balloon festival time! Hooray! I'll find a camera, by hook or by crook. It's the only time of year I like to wake early. Crisp mornings with skies full of hot air balloons. Mmmmm.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Art-Seoul (say it out loud)

The Studio I work in (I'm going to start calling it the BookStud, heh) is hosting two visiting international artists at the moment. Both of them were invited to Australia for the Mackay Artist Book Forum and had these residencies arranged for them as part of the Mackay festivities. I didn't get to go to Mackay this year, and I'm very sorry about that. It sounded terrific. If anyone reading this went, let me know all about it.

I had met both of these artists when I was in Korea for the International Bookarts Fair in 2004, and since I have no camera I'm going to punctuate this post with images from that trip. It was a great experience, and I'm sorry I saw no more than the city itself. If I ever go back I want to travel around the countryside.

Seoul Paper Shop
This is a paper shop at one of Seoul's fantastic markets. We went at night because our days were so full of other commitments. Picking out paper like fabric is a wonderful experience. Unfortunately I had very little money, so my colleague in the picture had all the fun.

Anyhoo, the first visiting artist is a bookarts artist from Korea, whom I met when we went to the Bookarts Fair -- in fact, she organised the whole thing. She is very sweet, keen to promote book arts wherever she goes. She is teaching a masterclass this weekend with some Canberra bookbinders: I'm going to be technical helper, which means I get to learn by watching but not do, mostly because I'll be preparing food and running around cutting up paper etc.

Seoul brush shop
A Seoul brush shop in Insadong (sp?), the arts quarter of Seoul. Such a great area, full of galleries, restaurants and art supplies. These brushes are made from all sorts of bristles and furs (sorry, vegans) and they will advise you on the best kind of brush for particular purposes. My colleague had a great lecture from them on the difference between Korean weasel fur and Vietnamese weasel fur.

I introduced her to the concept of polymer plate printing this week, and she's trying desperately to complete a huge book printing project based on the Chinese zodiac, combining wood engraving, letterpress and polymer plate... I'm trying to help her finish it, but as her schedule fills up the likelihood of completion gets smaller. She's leaving on Friday week, and people keep doing horrendous things to her like taking her to markets, down the coast, and out to dinner. I guess she's going to have to finish some of it at home.

Tree recovering from something awful
Koreans love trees. Ages ago I blogged a photo showing a very ancient Korean tree with only one living branch, which was lovingly propped up with an amazing scaffold. (No time to find it now, you can trawl through my archives at your leisure.) This tree was at a Buddhist temple, and as you can see, it's getting some extreme TLC. Yes, that is an intravenous drip going into its limb on the left!

The other artist visiting is a New Yorker who was also a guest artist at the Seoul Book Fair. He is part of the Booklyn Artists Alliance, who try to flog their art as a collective, cutting out the middle dealer types. MW is a ball of energy, and he describes himself as an activist artist. A lot of his work (and of course he's a mult-i media artist) revolves around ish-ews of linguistics, human rights, the environment, and peace. His pet subject is the rights of indigenous peoples around the world. He has been raising some hackles in the art school because, while he says some very interesting things, he does so in such a didactic and superior way that he sort of undoes all the political goodness in his words.

Entree mushroom arrangement, Seoul
This was a great restaurant that had traditional Korean dancers, and while you were admiring their fabulous costumes and graceful moves you were brought fabulous little courses with graceful compositions. This, of course, is a mushroom. It was superb.

I found that aspect of him very interesting today. He gave a short introduction to himself to the printing students and then a couple of hours later gave a more formal lecture to the school and the public. He was talking a lot about his present project, which is doing frottage, or rubbings, of war memorials and commemorative plaques in both small country towns and major Australian cities, and rearranging the wording to invert the messages and make clear liberal political statements. For example, he prefaces a lot of the works with the statement WE FORGET (dropping the LEST) and then mixes the usual messages. So a work might read like this:
the sacrifice
to the war effort
made by the Aboriginal people
for an ungrateful nation
and a fearful Empire

Something like that, anyway. All rubbed in red and black wax crayon on Mylar or handmade paper.

Huge quantities of ginseng in a market in Seoul
Huge quantities of ginseng in jars at a market shop in Seoul. The shop was called Seoul Food. Noice.

All good and well. I like this work. But then he got up and started talking to us about the Civil War in Australia and how we've ignored the role that the Aboriginal military resistance has played in our history. And that's when I noticed all the arms and legs in the room begin to cross. And the air chilled a bit. I don't think that it was a resistance to the idea that the Aboriginal people have been suppressed and this needs to be redressed -- it was innate Australian umbrage that an American was standing up in front of us telling us something that he obviously didn't really know a lot about. He was treating it like another card in his Oppressed Indigenous Peoples of the World Pack, and he was proud that he'd collected the whole set. He was taking a moral high ground, and everyone in the room didn't accept that from an American. Even someone who professes to be as leftie and anti-establishment as he did.

Kim Chi Chocolate
This is something hard to swallow. It's kim chi chocolate. For those who don't know what kim chi is: extremely salty pickled vegetables. Not tangy like saurkraut, just salty. They also have kim chi icecream. I suspect both items exist to tease tourists.

Anyway, I feel a bit sorry for these two artists, because they came to the BookStud expecting it to be like last year, when we played with people who didn't have printmaking skills and helped them produce something new in their artistic practice. But the person who enforceddeveloped that program has now retired, and we are in a new era of providing a facility, not a service. So they only get 2 full days of me a week, and the rest of the time they have to work on their own.

Market umbrellas, Seoul
Umbrellas on a street stall, Seoul

Actually, it hasn't worked like that precisely because I do feel sorry for them. Even on my days off I try to pop in and make sure they're ok, which usually spins out alarmingly and I end up running around for them for hours. But I don't like the idea of them going home disappointed. Doesn't help the stress levels, but it's only for two weeks. After that the BookStud gets much groovier, and I'm looking forward to reporting some of the funky stuff we've got planned. I'm hoping we'll publish a zine sometime this year, using letterpress. Can't wait.

Angel duck
Breaking a personal rule here, but I love this photo. I'm kicking myself for not posing with the accompanying devil's bits (you can see them on the left). Yes, this is Ducky Angel (still in Seoul!). Doing my best to keep everyone happy...

PS Just went on a lovely picnic by the Lake to celebrate International Women's Day. 6 women of varying ages, sitting on the little island which holds the Carillion. The carillion played (we joked about asking the keyboard player to give us a rousing rendition of 'I am Woman', but we chickened out), someone did an art performance which we videoed for her PhD, and we ate scrummy things while the sun set. Canberra is lovely this time of year.

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Crash landing

My lovelies, we tried to watch the Oscars last night. BB and I were quite intrigued by the whole Crash/Capote/Brokeback Mtn tussle, and decided to watch the outcome on tv. So every time the radio tried to tell us who won, we literally plugged our ears and went LALALALALALLALALALALAALLAAAAAA until that bit was over.

All started well. I enjoyed the Cowboy montage, managed to smile through Nicole, then we turned over to South Park for a bit of sanity. When we switched back things just got sillier and sillier, until they had Someone introducing Someone Else who introduced Someone Else who introduced yet another Someone Else who announced the winner for that category. I wandered off in sheer frustration, and after a while so did BB. I didn't find out who won until today when I checked the internet. I haven't experienced something so boringly frustrating since Kerrie Ann Kennerley massacred the Charles & Camilla wedding broadcast. Is it any wonder we avoid commercial television?!

Much more fun to experience the Oscars this way.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Pin the verpa on the privatus*

Amongst the amazingly many things I've managed to do this weekend was take another look at some of the fun posters I was sent by Lucy Tartan. Last time I looked, I pulled out all the obviously fun ones and put the others aside for a rainy day. It didn't rain today, but I was cleaning up, and I managed to stop cleaning up on the pretext of needing to look at the images again.

I'd overlooked a beaut little number, which I will display here in the spirit of the impending Commonwealth Games. It is an educational portrayal of athletes preparing for the Olympic Games, circa some time before clothes were invented. Printed by Macmillan & Co Ltd, there is no date, only verification that it belongs to Macmillan's History Pictures: Introductory Set. This is obviously an introduction to either sport ("right, outside kids, and get your gear off") or 1950s sex education.

The Glory of the Olympics, as seen by MacMillan & Co.
The Glory of the Olympics, as seen by MacMillan & Co.

I've cleaned this one up, to allow you to appreciate the unsullied beauty of an image that manages to avoid the ish-ew of genetalia completely. Now look at what years on the wall of a classroom can do:

The Glory of the Olympics, as seen by school students
The Glory of the Olympics, as seen by school students

I didn't want to make the images too big, knowing that many of you are still stuck in dial-up hell, so I'm not sure how much you can see. I've stuck the picture up on the window and let the sun shine help you out: every "rudie" point has a pinhole.

I love it. I've spent all the boring parts of today (riding the bike into the studio, moving prints around, riding home, doing the washing up, sweeping etc etc) wondering whether the pins were used to provide subtle little orifices for classmates to snigger at, or whether they left the pins hanging out to make little metal substitutes, or whether the pinholes are the remainder of a wonderful orgy of additional cut-out extras for the characters...

genital piercing in ancient civilisations
Genital piercing in ancient civilizations

Can't you just see something stuck on the front of this fellow? Something to show how much he's enjoying the thought of grasping his playmate to the accompaniment of his latest ipod selection? And the game of chasies in the background is just crying out for a phallus! The togate fellow on the left has a pierced nipple -- I think he'd like to join in the grappling before too long.

genital piercing in ancient civilisations
Flippin' out in front of the fan dance

School kids like bums. They obviously loved poking holes in these bums. The poor fellow in front has three bumholes! The only thing stopping the flipper from having a hole like his unfortunate flippee is that Macmillan left no possible space for one. I have no idea which Olympic sport involved naked starjumps with fans, but it obviously didn't survive to modern times, more's the pity.

Discussing whether Gary Glitter should have got 3 years
Engrossed in debating whether Gary Glitter should have got 3 years

Here's nipple man again, standing behind a fellow scraping the olive oil off a young man who doesn't look very comfortable. I think the scraper has reached that part of his leg where he's not sure if the man is being friendly or friendly. Discus Man wants Javelin Man to throw it straight at whoever is holding the pins.

Because the pin holes are fairly clean and not ragged with overuse, I can only assume that of my three guesses, the first two are probably most likely. Doesn't stop me having a play with some pin-ons though; I've got a nice book of graphic Pompeian murals that might provide some additional imagery...

*Yes, I know this is Latin and the picture is Greek. I don't know any Greek. And the Romans liked posing nude scraping the oil off each other too.

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Friday, March 03, 2006

Warning: messy women's stuff and product placement

I'm not a friend of the tampon. I hate wearing (and reading trivia on) pads. I used to like using my diaphragm (the rubber type, not my torso) to catch blood, but since we've been trying to make babies I've let the rubber perish. Sponges just seem a bit too messy. So when I'm told about a feasible alternative, I'm intrigued.

Regardez the menstrual cup. It's not a new concept; menstrual cups have been around for ages, and that's the way I used my diaphragm for years. This one is very pretty, and looks like a solid challenge to conventional period management. It's called a Mooncup. Not fussed on the name, but it's nicer than something like Bloodcup or Wimmincup. You can read about it here.

The Mooncup people give you handy tips about how to use it in public (and pubic) places. They seem to want to stay with the time-honoured tradition of talking about women's bleeding ish-ews in gentle terms and colouring everything on their website a nice sanitary white and blue (brownie points for the daring touches of red). I guess they're competing with big guns like Libra and Tampax, and I'm constantly surprised (after reading the FAQs and the testimonials) how squeamish some women can be about their own blood. One woman fretted about seeing her blood through the transparent plastic. The response from the company was, in very gentle terms, 'get over it'. So maybe there's a few women out there who would feel ill looking at promotional material that didn't hint of minty freshness.

The downside of the Mooncup is that it's made in England and you have to order it on-line if you live anywhere else, so it isn't cheap, but considering that you only need one every few years it probably compares very favourably to the money we fork out to probably male-dominated sanitary product companies.

I wonder whether I can get a discount for giving them a free plug? (sorry.)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Remember to breathe

ashes to porcelain 2, originally uploaded by Ampersand Duck.

I went to the opening of the third in a series of four graduation exhibitions tonight. The series is called Omniscience, and it is the Graduate Season of the ANU ART School. It's been a great season so far, and this exhibition is no less wonderful.

I'm really missing my camera! I know I can borrow other cameras, but it never seems to be when I see what I want to photograph. I would have loved to show you the final incarnation of this piece in the photo.

I took the photo at the end of October. I thought I'd blogged it, but I can't find the post. It's called Death of the Author, and it's by Rachel Kingston, who was studying photography and ceramics. It was on display in the School foyer for a few weeks, as a work in progress.

It looks like a pile of screwed-up sheets of paper, but it's actually sheets of bone porcelain, screwed up and fired. The porcelain is literally 'bone' because it also contains donated human cremains.* That's why it caught my eye, and imagination. It works on so many levels.

In the final piece displayed tonight, Rachel has remade the pile, but on the floor in a private corner, with a light source underneath the pile so that it glows from the centre. She has shifted the title (and to my shame my memory has lost it... and I didn't even have a drink at the opening! Capote boasted 94% recall, I have zilch.), but it still works as a poignant piece about loss, frustration, waste, life, death... and so forth.

She had another piece, also an installation, of a perspex writing desk and chair. The desk is covered with paper and envelopes. Some of the papers talk of family history, others have sketches and lists. The envelopes are extremely realistic. All, again, made from bone porcelain containing cremains. I do remember the title this time: Untitled (1917-2004).

There are other beautiful pieces in this group show, like Lucette Aubort's gorgeous column of glass jellyfish of various sizes, suspended up to the ceiling amongst strings of clear glass beads. Think Finding Nemo and then experience it in glass. There's also other ceramicists and a gold & silversmith on show. Really lovely work.

If you're in Canberra at the moment, pop into the art school gallery. This show goes until 10 March, and is followed by another on 16 March. It's well worth a look. I'm sorry I didn't mention the earlier shows, because it's been a quality year for postgraduates.

*I wasn't sure 'cremains' was a word; it's not in the OED, but when I googled it I got heaps of entries. It is, of course, a contraction of cremated remains.

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