Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Groan! Too many belly laughs

Much as I would have liked an early night tonight, I am forced to sit up a while to relieve the pressure upon my distended belly. I've just been out to dinner with a few young gorgeous bloggers (TJ, Foo, Zoe and Dean), celebrating Dean's 5th blogbirthday.

A small but jolly party, we made the walls of La Pasa in Canberra City ring with snarky laughter as we caught up on lots of stories that never get blogged and revisited quite a few that have. I highly recommend La Pasa as a restaurant. It served modern Singapore cuisine, and lots of it. We did the usual Aussie thing of ordering a dish each to share, and were gobsmacked at the size of the dishes when they arrived. The following photo really does no justice to the food, but it gives you an idea:

From left to right: Sesame chicken (with a sweet vinegary sauce); deep-fried prawns with peach (in a mustard sauce); tofu combination; Some kind of deep-fried curried chicken (actually nicer than it sounds); and some very nice duck. Yes, we went a bit overboard on the deep fried stuff, and we'll all suffer for it tomorrow, but it was all very delicious, and while we couldn't finish the dishes, we picked companionably at them after we'd finished until we were really finished, and then somehow had to wheel ourselves out onto the street. Oh, and I forgot to mention that we had entrees too, most notably duck pancakes. Oh, little piggies we!

TJ is looking better than her blog, which seems to be in malfunction land, Foo was quietly droll with some terrific jokes, Zoe was in fine form and Dean was very happy to have made 5 years. I didn't recognise Dean when he walked in, because he was dressed in a suit and a very smart grey wool coat, and I usually see him in t-shirts and jeans. He's Bumblebee's favorite new adult acquaintance at the moment, because I invited him to B's birthday party (they'd bonded really well at the piratey blogmeet last year) and he turned up with not one, but TWO lightsabres as a birthday present. That went down in the Annals of Birthday, I can tell you.

Groan! I have a sweet greasy after-taste lingering in my mouth, and want my belly rubbed soothingly by cats... time to lie down with a very easy-to-read book. I'm reading Liam Hearn's Otori trilogy at the moment. My lovely old nana asked my son what he wanted for Christmas last year and he said 'Deltora', meaning Emily Rodda's Deltora Quest series. She thought he said 'Otori', having just read the series and loved them. So she gave him the books, and they're way too old for him. Still, they're quick and easy. I've been using them as my lying-in-the-bath books, but they're perfect right now for a sore-bellied duck who doesn't want to think too hard and has to waddle off to bed.


Happy Blogbirthday to Dean, at Canberra's Elsewhere Today, who has today been blogging for the awesome time of FIVE YEARS.

I guess that makes him one of the grandaddies of blogosphere, and yet he's still young and pretty. May he continue externalizing memory for many moons yet.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Wunderkammer: 1. The Pencil

Wunderkammer: a series celebrating the almost lost…

Did you hear the one about the pencil?
Nah, it’s pointless.

These days lead pencils seem to be used mainly by school children and artists. Most writing by adults is done on computers, with a pen occasionally dragged out of the top drawer to sign the bottom of the page or make quick corrections before typing again.

But there’s a lot to be said for the humble pencil. Let’s stop to celebrate this small piece of basic technology:

-- Lead pencils aren’t actually made from lead, and haven’t been since the 16th century. They’re made from graphite.

-- The first mass-produced pencils were made in Nuremberg in Germany in 1662.

-- A pencil mark is archivally stable, and will last longer than the paper it is on.

-- A pencil can write in zero gravity, upside down and under water.

-- Your average pencil can write 45,000 words, or draw a line about 56 kms long.

-- You don’t need an instruction manual to use one.

Cheap, light, portable and easy to use… who could ask for more?

[Cross-posted at Sarsaparilla]

Postscript: Since posting this at Sars, I've been told of the most wonderful pencil sites: Pencil Revolution, Dave's Mechanical Pencils and Leadholder: The Drafting Pencil Museum. Worth visiting from time to time!

PPS: Yes, took the photo myself. Didn't want to sharpen it first because I like the smoothness of the virgin wood :)

Monday, May 29, 2006

Sunday, May 28, 2006

A small imposition

It's the 9th anniversary of Jeff Buckley's tragic death tomorrow, a close friend pointed out to me yesterday, so the soundtrack for my weekend has been Grace. That, combined with *finally* pasting together the mockups for my poetry volumes, has made the past two days very pleasant.

After that initial outburst of happiness back in February, the poetry books are progressing, but slowly. I'm in the process of applying for some funding to help me get them happening, and it seems that whomever I talk to in the Canberra arts community, they're applying too... and all I can say on that front is that Loadedog feels my pain.

But! The up side of filling out a grant application is that it's forcing me to really nut out the details of my project, and if I want to ask for money for paper, I have to work out exctly how much paper I need. And that has forced me to finally sit down and make the mock-ups.

A mock-up, for those who have no idea what I'm talking about, is the backbone of planning a book. You can't just plan it in a computer and do it; you have to make a real 3D model to see how it flows, with at least a sample of how the fonts look and the margins ruled up. Because I'll be printing the text four pages at a time, I've made a big rectangle of paper that is twice the height of my pages, and the width of a double-page spread, then folded the paper in half and in half again. That gives me a page section that looks like 8 pages without their tops cut through. Then I've pasted the poems (with a computer-generated layout to simulate the fonts I'm using) onto the pages in order, taking into account the inner folds.

Here's a diagram for those who are *really* confused:
mock-up diagram

Now that they're made, I can unfold the page and see which way to set up my type to print four pages at once... or where an image is to be inserted, etc.

As you can see, half your layout is right-side up, the other upside-down. If you get this wrong, the whole book fails. Each folded piece of 8 pages is a section, and this is what will be trimmed and sewn together during the binding process.

So there you are, a quick lesson in how to work out your page layout and type imposition. Bonus!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Yes, Virginia, it is

cartoon, originally uploaded by Ampersand Duck.

A cartoon I drew about ten years ago; gave the original to a friend and felt like having my own copy again, so I redid it. Probably not as good as the original, but hey, it's the thought that counts.

(I've been so goddam polite on this blog lately; thought I'd inject some humour again.)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Poem du jour

I know this is a few weeks too late, but I only found it today, and I think it has a Beaconsfield resonance (it's actually a Wollongong poem), so I thought I'd share:


The sunlight of a cloudless winter day
Shines on in this faint brown, the eye can change
Tree, fern, and palm to soft or glinting green
And distant sea to blue: all these we know,
But the huge gash in the slope, split rock, churned clay,
Wrecked timber round the entrance of the mine,
The ominous drift of smoke, the women and dogs
Gathered there waiting--these we have not seen.

The women do not smile or smooth their hair,
Their whole life narrowed to the watch they keep;
One face looks towards the lens, but turned to stone
Seeing death. The shutter clicks, they only hear
The blast that tore the mountain from its sleep
(Warm after the dawn chill, and the lyrebirds singing).
The others will hope on till in their sight
The bodies are brought out, or time has gone
Past all the hours a man could take to stumble
Through old forgotten workings to the day.
Even then the dogs will still come back to wait
With puzzled eyes. In her mind's cell alone
Some voice has spoken the last word, and fear
And hope alike have nothing more to say.

They lose the sun in winter here too soon,
Early and cold the shadow will slip down
The steep range, and glide eastward to the shore.
I see them standing through the afternoon
Fixed in that waiting group, one turned away
Watching the light go from them out to sea,
Warm on the white boat still, gold on the islands,
But here the shade darkening, the night begun
When she must wake, with the wind under the door,
Fire out in the black stove, and still so long,
So long to live, the earth turned from the sun.

Put it away then, and forget her face
For it is years now since the wild vines spread
On the raw slope, and veiled the broken stones.
Whether or not green leaves of blessing grew
From her scars also, her last tears are shed
And she has found herself a narrow place
In the small graveyard crammed with that day's dead.
Yet in autumn when the long grass on her grave
At morning is bowed down with hanging dew
I have heard the mine, out of the mist above,
Howl, sharp and desolate, and have known then
It crouches still in its black labyrinth
And hungers for the flesh and bones of men.
And sometimes if you stare too long, even now,
Where that ridge rises up in dark-blue pride
Above pale farms, with all its folded forest
Clear in the sun-bright air, though miles away,
(O never trust the fair face of the world)
The great wound opens in the mountainside,
The early shadow falls upon the day.

Nan McDonald, from Selected Poems (Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1969).

And humming under his breath while he moved across the dancefloor

I drove past an old man having his constitutional walk this morning. He was very tall and thin, wearing classic old man clothes in neutral greens and browns, with a jaunty hat on his head. He obviously found walking very difficult, but was determined not to shuffle, so he was swinging one leg in front of the other very deliberately, holding his arms out from either side of his body at an angle of about 45 degrees, maintaining a dignified, balanced gait.

Something about the rhythm of his movements in the short moment of watching him made me guess that he would have been a very good dancer in his day. You know, the kind of man who you'd pass onto at a country circular dance (I went to a few of these in my teenage years, going to a country boarding school). After dancing around the ring with sweaty-handed boys who clutched at you and tramped on your feet, you'd swing onto a neat, bryl-creamed father or uncle of one of your schoolmates, and suddenly they would take over, and for a few minutes you were dancing like Ginger Rogers, firmly but politely held and led through the correct steps with a fluid appreciation of the music.

I miss dancing like that. I felt a wave of affection for this suffering walker this morning, and gratitude for the reminder. I hope he has a nice day.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

My number just came up

As I explained to Pavlov's Cat the other day, a lot of my student art school work revolved around things being lost and found, or rediscovered, and a major preoccupation was my theory that we are heading into a dark age of technology. Not in the sense that it will be used for evil (although it may), but in the sense that we are losing 'real' data and relying more and more on virtual data, and future generations may well look at these mammoth floppy disks/huge reels of tape/bizarre silver disks and wonder what all the fuss was about, not able to read a thing, and all our wonderful knowledge and ponderings will be worse than cuniform.

And then I started a blog, and found myself sending my life out into blogosphere and beyond, and not keeping any records for myself. Ironic, isn't it? Since I've been blogging, I've written very little in my longhand journal except for lists of eccentric baby names on the weekends (and that's only because I can't be bothered getting out of bed to turn on the computer).

Only last week I woke up in the night and fretted gently about whether I'd be able to download 18 months of all this guff, and if so, how to keep it? On disk? Hah. As a book? I'd just never get around to it. Fret fret, zzzzzzzzzzzz.

Well, I'm gobsmacked to be informed (or requested, but who could refuse?) that the National Library is now archiving my blog. The nice people there have assured me that
the Library will take the necessary preservation action to keep your
publication accessible as hardware and software changes over time.

Gosh. I'm honoured. I never win lotteries. And now I can sleep deeply. And I love the fact that the NLA Web Archive is called PANDORA, because you know what was in the box she opened. Heh... I'm now one of those things ;)

Thanks, NLA!

Being at home with a sick kid is fun

Which of Henry VIII's wives are you?
this quiz was made by Lori Fury

Katherine Parr spent nearly her whole life married to crotchety old men: Henry was the THIRD old fart she was forced to marry. Is it any wonder she turned to books and religion to occupy her time?

Katherine wasn't just smart, she was a tiny bit uppity, too: she almost got herself thrown in jail for arguing with His Royal Fatness about some theological issues. After Henry croaked, Katherine dropped the prim and proper act and married Thomas Seymour, a handsome, dashing pirate kind of guy who was also as dumb as a post.

Which goes to show you that even bookworms know how to get it on.

Right on. With thanks to For Battle.

Blooming Roses

RobinsOn cruSoE

Another page from RobinsOn cruSoE: an old reject photo, scratched into with a needle. Someone last night said it looked like it was white thread sitting on the surface of the page.

The opening of 65 Roses was delightful. It is a rich and beautiful group show, full of many interpretations on the theme of Rose. I'll try to take my camera in next time I'm there and share with you.

I wish I'd taken my camera last night! One of the sterling features was the catering. There was the usual slabs of cheese and fresh bread (albeit really nice choices of cheese) but also trays of gorgeous sweet things... nests of pink meringue, fragrant of rosewater, with dobs of fresh cream, then a rose-like whirl of strands of pink fairy floss, topped with a succulent fresh raspberry. They were arranged on the trays atop dried rose petals. Glorious and delicious. I need a camera phone.

The guest speaker was the Head of Paediatrics from the Canberra Hospital. He spoke with charm and persuasion, and outlined for us the dedication and discipline needed to master Cystic Fibrosis by both the young victims and their parents. It was very moving, and I'm sure he pushed sales of works along a tad. I bought a piece by Waratah Lahy, a beer can made from a pink & blue blanket and painted to look very realistic, with a rose-related label. I've been wanting one of her pieces for years, and now I can die happy (well, not really, still a lot to do yet).

They also had bowls of lolly raspberries on the food table, and I've been reliably informed that while I was hobnobbing, my son was eating handfuls of them. Today he is sick in bed with bad tummy-ache. He's going to stay in bed all day and drink lots of water. I don't think it's related to the lollies, but he doesn't need to know that. At the moment he's balking at the thought of anything raspberry flavoured. Heh.

Postscript: I think that Waratah link (to a JJJ article on her) should be ok, can't see what's wrong with it, but if it doesn't, try the more boring one, or google her yourself :)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Shifting the load

Never believe a type tray that is marked '48pt Universe Light'. It is f**king heavy.

I spent a few hours rearranging the type area of the Bookstud on the weekend. Well, it started as an hour on Saturday, then I planned to spend two hours on Sunday, but it blew out to four because I got really obsessive about not only getting the cabinets in a more sensible configuration, but I wanted all the type trays to be in order and sorted by fonts, as they should be in any self-respecting print workshop.

I had to make room for two more cabinets, one of which I picked up in Melbourne on my epic ute trip and the other I inherited in a shady deal here in Canberra which I shall take to my grave.

I moved 194 trays of type! Out of cabinets then back into cabinets. Admittedly around 20 of which are empty, but the other 174 were most definitely loaded with metal (and wood) letters.


Before, I had one double-sided row of cabinets, which were ok, but messy looking. I don't seem to have any photos of this stage, except this one which could double up as an entry for Self-Portrait Tuesday if you look hard enough:

Now, I have a Type Alley! People can lose themselves in my little corner of type heaven:

I've been setting lines of poetry today, and it feels great to have a neat, tidy and organised type area (except for the trays of hell type, which are my next obsession).

And gawd, my neck hurts! I think I overdid the lifting a bit. But it was so worth it.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Lost artwork finds owner

papercut bird
Anyone remember my papercut post, back in February? Someone gave me these marvellous images, and neither of us had any idea who made them.

Well, the artskool librarian gave me a new book to look at, called More Paperwork by Nancy Williams (NY: Phaidon Press, 2005) and as I flipped through it... I found the artist!

His name is Peter Callesen, he's from Denmark, and yes, he has a website.

I love happy endings.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Taking a breath

I haven't been at my computer very much in the last five days, which has been a lovely experience. It's been a making for me sort of week, and unfortunately these are becoming quite rare. I'm always 'making' for others. Well, to tell the truth, the things I was making ARE for others, but they involved ME making the creative decisions, and that's the big difference.

First up, I was finishing on my backtack contribution. That's been a bit of a rollercoaster! Happy when I managed to letterpress some fabric, cranky when of course the glistening ink dried flat and dull; happy when I managed to cut the pieces out of said fabric without any huge problems, despairing when I sewed them together and it all looked lumpy and distorted. I'm NOT a good seamstress (I initially used the word 'sewer', but that looks disturbingly like I'm a blocked storm-water drain or something). I'm great with the finicky little stitching or cutting, but sewing neatly with a machine? Nuh. Still, I managed (I think!) to make something charmingly cute rather than awe-inspiringly crafty, like this little treasure. I guess it's the participation factor that counts. I'll mount some pictures (hur hur) when we're supposed to unveil them, June 1st, I think. I'm posting my parcel on Monday, which I think will make the arrival deadline. Phew. Time to jump off that particular rollercoaster and get back my equilibrium.

Secondly, I was making a contribution for an upcoming local exhibition about Cystic Fibrosis. The exhibition is called 65 Roses, which is now a trademarked CS phrase, after a little boy who mispronounced his sister's condition. Consequently the theme of the exhibition, which is raising money for CS research, is 'rose'.

For those that don't know, Cystic Fibrosis (according to the blurb on the exhibition brief) is the most common life-threatening recessive genetic condition affecting Australian children. It affects approximately 1 in 2500 children born in Australia. Symptoms of CS include poor weight gain, coughing, frequent lung infections, salty sweat and abnormal poos. It affects a number of organs, especially the lungs and pancreas. Frequent infections can cause irreversible lung damage. CS is caused by a fault in the gene that controls the movement of salt in and out of the cells. This causes mucous throughout the body to be much thicker and stickier than normal. There is currently no cure for CS, but doctors and scientists are working on ways to repair the faulty gene and are developing new and improved treatments.

Phew! Lots to think about when trying to make a something for the exhibition, and without much disposable time. I would have loved to set and print something letterpress, but there just wasn't the opportunity. So I ended up doing a bit every night and spare moment, at my 'making desk' in a corner of the loungeroom (which is at the moment submerged in a sea of cut-up and cast-off bits of paper, fabric, threads and other flotsam and jetsam, much to BB's teeth-gritting yet silent frustration), just making individual pages for a looseleaf artist's book.

I wanted to play with that idea of not knowing: not knowing whether your child is affected, not knowing how to cope, not knowing the cure. I started thinking about roses, how you get them in hospital, and how they smell, which then got me thinking about other types of roses. I stumbled upon a old map at one of the exhibitions I've seen in the last few months and saw a compass rose, which is the thing which looks like a star showing the radiating lines of direction, and I had a EUREKA! moment. Suddenly I was thinking of sea voyages of exploration, salt water, drowning, coughing, discovering, breathing.

For years now I've had an old but not valuable hardcover copy of Robinson Crusoe, so I ripped out the pages and used the cover to make a solander (clamshell) box which holds all the looseleaf pages. The pages are made from all sorts of materials: paper, old x-rays, rejected photographs, bits of the old tympan from the press at art school, and one page is cut from the faceshield given to me to use on the resuscitation dummy at my recent first aid course. On most pages I scored a latitude/longitude grid, and on many I played with the radiating lines from points of interest that you see on old maps. There is no solid narrative to the pages; they are meant to mix and match and make different readings.

It's a unique book, and I'm hoping to sell it at the exhibition, but I've started scanning the pages and many of it's combinations, and I thought I'd set it up as a virtual book after the exhibition is over. Here are a few images:

The spine, which I altered to make the title into R_O_S_E by oevrsewing with gold thread.

The front cover, obviously one that was used for every book in this series of children's books.

Face shield
The face shield page (scanned against a dark blue background; normally it's clear).

Setting out
This is the only page which gives any kind of narrative rationale to the book. The lines are cobbled together from words cut from the novel. It's a bad scan; it was hard to capture the scored grid lines in the page.

Remember to breathe
One example of mixing the pages to make an image. I call this one 'Remember to Breathe'. :) The under-page is an old graphic-design type layout page with letraset words; the upper page is an old x-ray with a negative-film compass rose sewn on with black linen thread.

One combination
Another mix and match image, made using three separate pages. The left strip is part of a piece of press tympan, the middle is monoprinted Zerkall paper with collage (from the novel pages) and carbon-paper drawing, and the right is Magnani paper cut and coloured with colour pencil.

I'll post more pages when I've got a chance.

The exhibition 65 Roses is on at the ANU School of Art Foyer Gallery in Canberra from Tuesday 23 May to Wednesday 31 May 2006, tying in with Cystic Fibrosis Day on 26 May. The opening is on the Tuesday night at 6pm. I've had a sneak preview - there are a lot of very good and prominent artists selling work very cheap for fundraising, so if you're local, come along and grab a bargain for a good cause!

Alright. Next job is rearranging the type cabinets at the BookStud. I'm flexing my puny muscles in anticipation...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Today I had a visit from

Generate Your Own Glitter Graphics @

Trooly. In the morning I reached into my backpack, looking for my mobile phone, and came out with a $10 note. In the afternoon I reached into my jacket pocket as I put it on to go home and my hand fell upon another $10 which I swear wasn't there when I arrived.


I wish she'd visit every day.

(Thanks, Coz, for the glittery fun tip. Good timing.)

Monday, May 15, 2006

Remember to breathe

Sunset street, originally uploaded by Ampersand Duck.

Drove home the other day and nearly pranged another car because of this view. Glorious setting sun, bouncing off the trees ahead of me in the street. I parked the car quickly in my driveway, then ran out onto the road to catch the light before it faded. I know it looks nice here, but you really had to be there. It was magic, truly.

There should be a law against attacks of nature when you're driving.

Backtack 3 update

I'm very conscious of the fact that my Backtack softie should be well under way, especially since I have to get it to Japan by June!

Yesterday I went into school and did some experimental fabric printing.

I decided that I'd try using the nipping press instead of the large electric cylinder press; after all, many good prints have been produced on such presses.

By the way, here's a wonderful image I stumbled upon... this is the entire printmaking studio of an Australian girls' school in the 1920s! (Makes me think it's the way we're heading, when so many printmaking facilities are downscaling their equipment in favour of digital printmaking. Hmmm. We'll see what survives longest.)

I decided to use 'hell-type' (a phrase helpfully passed on to me a few weeks ago), which is type that has been sitting in the dissing drawers for years waiting to be distributed by some generous typeslave technical assistant. Also some trays of fresh type, also undistributed.

So I pulled out a few drawers, made sure they were nice and clamped up, and rolled 'm up.

Here's some of the results:

I won't show all, because that would undermine the fun of this project! Of course, because I used naughty oil-based ink, this won't be a softie to pass on to babies. I'll have to make that clear to its imminent owner.

Tee hee. Fun. Now to start sewing.

POSTSCRIPT Here's the finished bunny, FYI!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mothers' Day is le berm beumbe

After a lovely dinner party at a friend's house last night (to which the background noise was that of my son giggling at A Shot in the Dark [which is far, far better than any half-arsed 'tribute' to the Pink Panther Steve Martin can come up with]), I awoke this morning to the gentle strains of IT'S MOTHERS' DAY! CAN I GIVE HER MY PRESENT NOW?

And what a present. A home-made piece of art, 2 DVDs, a poem and a book of 'vouchers', made at school:




and my personal favorite:


I was given a menu, to choose my breakfast:
- Horsehair sushi
- Snail Red Rice (beetroot and earwax options available)
- Pancakes (sweet or savoury)
- Baked Beans garnished with Dead Dogs
- Slug Souffle
- Eggs Benedict
- Stinging Nettle Salad
- Consume de Offal
- Dog Poo Stir Fry
- Water Pie
- Blowfly Icecream
- Puke Muffins
- Jellied Blood with Beef internal organs
- Spaghetti and Pingpong Balls

And a beverage menu:
- Anchovy milkshake
- Wee Cordial
- Tea
- Butterfly Snot
- Whipped Sweat
- Coffee
- Weasel Vomit
- Cowpat Slushy

Hmm. Choices, choices! Since bananas are exorbitant at the moment* I decided on the eggs, and since coffee is just as repugnant as butterfly snot to me, I went for the tea. BB is Master of the poached egg, and his Eggs Benedict is on par with anything I've ever been served in a restaurant. And he makes real tea with leaves in a pot. He and Bumblebee worked together on the breakfast, which I ate in bed with the paper.

I fully condone Mothers' Day, because unlike Valentine's Day, it has honorable provenance and by the goddess, don't we deserve it?

*The other wonderful thing BB has been known to do for breakfast is a fabulous banana pancake thingy where he cooks one side of the pancake, chops ripe banana straight onto the uncooked side, then flips the pancake and cooks the other side, banana and all. The banana melts and caramelises. Served with plain yoghurt, it is to die for. Cream would be nice too, if you're not into yoghurt.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

I see the moon, and the moon sees me...

Driving home from his school today, Bumblebee looked up at the big fullish moon hanging in the blue sky* and commented upon the face he could see there. We talked about it a while, and I remarked that it looked like there were some freckles above the moon's left eye. He thought about this for a second and then said:
You know how there's no gravity on the moon? I reckon that face is a sad face, and those spots above the eye are tears floating upwards. They wouldn't fall down, not without gravity.
Just thought I'd share that with you.

*I know this image of the moon isn't a clear view of it in a blue sky, but it's a nice shot of the moon nonetheless.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Fugly book ideas

This is fun. Keep refreshing his page.

Thanks to Anna Winter, who was commenting on Lucy Tartan's sterling anti-Dan Brown post. Yes, I have read the book, and a few others of his, just to make sure that yes, he really *is* shite. Press the link. It's the bomb. Ker-bloom!

A reason to hate working at an art school that has been swallowed up by a university

The university has buried the art school
in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying Beware of the Leopard.*

And they are hoping to leave it there.

I could say more, but I'm feeling too morose. The result of a staff/university management ra-ra meeting.


Reasons to love your job at an art school

1. you don't have to dress up.

2. you often get to meet people like this extraordinary man and sometimes help them make things.

3. the students have fundraising stalls that rock. Today's is Cake and Chai. The chai is wonderful and the carrot cake with yogurt icing is sensational.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Bored Tuesday is Back (with girl talk alert)

... but hopefully only for a week. I am being a temporary Technical Officer for printmaking students. There are LOTS of things on my personal To Do list, but here I am stuck in a small office waiting for students to come to me with requests for more newsprint or rags. But it's Tuesday, art theory day, and there's only about 3 students here. Blogs are keeping me alive. I could probably make work, but hell, I've got enough to do when I get home tonight. That's when I really start working.

Anyhoo, thanks to Barista, I found The Saddest Thing I Own, which is a beautifully sad place to browse, second only to Postsecrets, which I've mentioned before but is always worth a look when you're feeling wurty.*

I'm feeling wurty today. It's that time of the month again, and while I keep saying I'm only trying casually to procreate again, I am trying hard enough to care at least a little bit when I start bleeding. Most of my brain gives a big heave of relief, because pregnancy at my age and with my insides is a dodgy proceeding, and I have a lot of plans that involve me *not* being out of the loop, but a little part of my brain goes 'bugger' and gets wurty. I like to indulge that small part for about a day, then I think of all the up-sides and keep going. The indulgence seems to go hand-in-hand with the menstrual pain, and today I forgot my sodding painkillers.

So I'm bored, and hurting, but not in a big way. There's many people worse off than me. Time to go and change the newsprint rolls.

*Wurty = a word I made up when I was an adolescent. A cross between wistful and hurting. When you're wurty you want to eat chocolate and watch romantic comedies.

And now, over to our sponsor...

Absolutely delighted to wake up to the sounds of the Beaconsfield Miners walking out of their overtime shift. What an effort all round! Way to go guys.

But someone's got to say this: hell, if the mine didn't get them, the Trans Fatty Acids will. I've never heard such naked longing for pies and steak and chips and McDonalds. I'm sure the ambos and doctors are laughing on the surface and quietly writhing underneath.

So when the cacophany dies down, and all the stories are told, will there still be anything left? Probably a lifetime of Pie endorsements, if they get a lifetime out of their hearts.

Still, it must be amazing to see the sky again. And stretch your legs. And breathe fresh air. Hold that thought.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Loving a weekend (long post alert)

The responses to my last post were so lovely! BB really doesn't read my blog, but I do sometimes read bits of it out to him, and I read him this one when he got home from work on Friday. He went a bit red, muttered that he really had to look nice for a meeting, and as usual deflected any compliments into a joke. He did give me a very nice kiss later on, so I know he liked the sentiment.

And then I kidnapped him for his birthday. He knew he was being taken away for the weekend, but had no idea where. I decided that all either of us needed was a place to get some serious sleep with a few nice distractions in between rests. Down the coast is usually my preferred option, but I thought I'd be nice to the Albatross and go somewhere where we could deliver my son to him along the way. (The fact that this plan didn't work because he came into Canberra for an unavoidable medical appointment is regrettable -- and typical -- but c'est la vie.)

We went to Berrima, my lovelies, and stayed in a comfy little place called Robyn's at Berrima. Very reasonably priced, very comfortable and very white. All the furnishings are white, the manchester is white, the crockery was white and the bathroom is white. Initially nervous about the utter cleanliness and whiteness (I really am very comfortable in dusty clutter, being a crap housekeeper), we settled in, plugged in the DVD player we'd brought with us, hopped into the extremely comfy (white) bed and proceeded to work our way through the first series of West Wing (the White House, heh), only stopping to eat and sleep and browse through shops occasionally. Bliss.

Distractions came in two parts:


a: Bookshops, specifically second-hand bookshops. There is an excellent brochure for the Southern Highlands called The Book Trail, which list all the locals, including the great Berkelouw Book Barn, only a few minutes from our lodgings. The best value came from a temporary book store in Bowral raising money for charity, with every book $1. The shop smelled a bit, but not as bad as the legit bookshop down the road (no names), which stank of cigar smoke and mould. I found a few beauties, including the last 3 volumes of Leonard Woolfe's autobiography (I'm finding him much more informative about the Hogarth Press than Virginia) and Richard Kennedy's memoir A Boy at the Hogarth Press. Also Twyman's Printing 1770-1970 and Pickering's Compositor's Work: Printing Theory and Practice.

b: Jam shops. Berrima has many jam shops. It must be Jam Central for NSW. BB
trawled them along the Berrima main street, asking questions and looking at special copper preserving pans. In fact, on the second day, he was recognised on his return visits as 'the Jam man' in two separate shops...

This is a copper preserving pan -- cast, not spun, which is the crucial attribute -- and it is apparently the best thing to make jam with. The heavy base keeps the jam from burning, the metal keeps the heat even, and the wide sides allow maximum evaporation without losing jam colour. See how much information you can absorb even when you're looking at something else? Now BB has to save his pennies, 'cause they ain't cheap!

c: Bookbinding equipment. I forgot that Berrima has a bookbinding supply shop. So I was in heaven.

d: Restaurants. Friday night we scored. A fab little Indian restaurant in Mittagong that made excellent curry. Saturday we couldn't find anything as interesting, so settled on a classic Aust-Chinese feast ending with fried icecream and caramel sauce.

e: Peppergreen. Ahh. This is the highlight of a Berrima trip. My Melbourne friend M took me to Peppergreen Antiques a number of years ago. She'd saved her pennies and wanted to buy some vintage linen sheets. The moment I walked into that shop I was in love, but I haven't managed to get back to it until now. If you've never been to Peppergreen, it's in The Market Place, just up from the White Horse Inn. It just looks like a normal antique shop, but it's very special. The rooms go on and on, and they're full of the most amazing stuff. I want to share some of it with you, but I warn you, I just can't do full justice to it:

Vintage linen. Of all kinds. A wall of it, folded and piled like this.

Vintage quilts, masses of them.

Vintage lace... trims... tassels... drawers and drawers of it.

Vintage fabric, all sorts...

...walking sticks, looking for all the world like hungry ducks...

...vintage tins, games, equipment, tools, kitchen stuff... (note the mass of old bread mixing bowls in the background)

... a stand of the most gorgeous baby shoes, all exquisite...

...tea cup sets...

...cotton reels, drawers of them, both empty...

... and full.

belt buckles and other ephemera, arranged beautifully in... in... hey, it's a letterpress type case! Yes, they sell them too, all polished up and ready to hang on your wall with all your knickknacks arranged like this. Quite good price for the cases too, about $145 each.

This doesn't even scratch the surface. Cutlery: silver, pearl-handled, bone-handled, and of all shapes, sizes and purposes cover a whole wall. Masses of tools, kitchen and garden. Throughout the shop there are fre-standing chests of drawers, and you can open each drawer to a new delight: spectacles, religious cards, scissors, pen nibs (sold by the box), dolly pegs, windscreen scrapers, cigarette boxes, scout badges. My favorite category is Miscellaneous Tools, a drawer full of mystery things.

Peppergreen's isn't a furniture store; it sells pretty much everything else for the retro vintage home. We fantasized about buying a house and fitting it out solely from this store, but it would have to be the right house, not the boring little badly-designed shoebox we live in now. Maybe one day, when we sell up at Canberra prices and move to somewhere like Bathurst, Ballarat or Launceston and I set up my press.

Anyway, I bought an antique pattern tracer and a well-worn wooden spoon (to use for hand-rubbing prints). BB bought a marmalade cutter (a special jam spoon!) and a Balti cookbook. So much fun.

This is one of the most amusing yet frightening regional museums I have ever been to.

You pay the entry fee, then are escorted to a small room with a screen and shown a very bad and obviously Bicentennial-funded audio-visual display of locals dressed in period costume and back-to-front slides of local history reenactments. Between giggles I wished there was a 'skip intro' button.

Then you follow the signs through a few rooms to the actual courtroom. Here's where it gets scary. The whole display pivots around a case called museum_words
The trial of Lucretia Dunkley and Martin Beech.

I guess if you're named Lucretia you're destined to be a murderer, or at least accused of being one. Apparently she and her lover Martin were found guilty of killing her husband, and the courtroom display is a 'snapshot' of the moment the guilty verdict was announced.


I don't know how much of the above images you can see, but this whole room is a sorry example of what happens when the wind changes, and I recommend, if you say that to your children to stop them making slack-jawed or idiotic faces, to take them here as a cautionary tale.

Tell them they could look like this:

Or this:

This court official is so shocked, he's spewing!

The village witch snuck into the back row...

...and someone left her cake out in the rain.

Actually, I find that last one the scariest, because she looks very real apart from the decaying chin. She's got that cat's bum mouth you see in supermarket lines when your small child is having a tantrum.

I noticed from the signs that they spruced up the room in the last year or so, painting the walls etc.:

But they did nothing about the mannekins! Poor things.

The other spooky thing was the wall of photocopies full of jokes about lawyers and judges, smack bang next to a very graphic outline of torture through the ages. I know Berrima Gaol was a rough one, and they used the whip a lot, but is that any reason to have a visual display of medieval people being spiked and sawn in half and pulled apart? I think it's a bit unnecessary, and someone involved in that display is a sick puppy.

Anyway, suffice to say that we were excessively diverted by the whole weekend, gentle reader, BB enjoyed himself (he got home and before even unpacking his bag, started cutting up lemons for marmalade) and I have come back rested and refreshed, if only for a few days!