Wednesday, August 30, 2006

In which our heroine has worked herself to the bone and is in danger of expiring, until a mysterious package arrives and lifts her spirits greatly

By 11pm last night I knew I wasn't going to meet the deadline of handing over this catalogue to the printers at 9.30am today. There were at least 200 images to scale and crop, and somewhere in there I had to sleep.

I chose to sleep for 5 hours, going to bed at 1am and setting my alarm for 6am, but then my dratted bladder woke me up at 5am and it took me another 15 minutes to calm my brain down to sleep again, so I guess I had 4 3/4 hours. The last couple of nights I've been getting to bed after midnight too, so the lack of sleep is beginning to show in the doona-sized bags under my eyes.

So there I was this morning, flat out at the computer, dressed in fluffy dressing-gown*, sheepy slippers and pilled and laddered jersey-type things that roughly pass for pyjamas, with hair like a chook's dirty bum, sucking back a strong cup of tea and urging my son to get his school gear together in preparation for a quick dash to school, when the doorbell rang. I'd just got off the phone to the artist to push the meeting back to 12pm (yes, bought more time, but gosh I'd need it), when Bumblebee came in with a large postage box from the US.

After wondering what I'd put on my credit card in a sugar rush this time, I opened the box carefully to find...

backtack fun box

IT'S MY BACKTACK BOX! Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow! What great timing!

To recap: ages ago I took part in the Back Tack 3 project, and managed to create an odd little bunny and sent it off to Floating World Views in Japan with a few other treats in the parcel.

All good and well, except... I didn't get anything myself. My backtack buddy in the chain sort of faded into the ether, and I'm not the sort of person to write nagging emails (I typed 'emauls', which works really well, don't you think) asking that classic Aussie question WHAT ABOUT ME?

So I waited, and watched said blogger move higher on the naughty list, until finally she was on the blacklist. Oh well, I thought, I had fun, anyway.

But! All hail the Backtack organizers! Such good women. They organized Backtack Angels to make contributions to those who missed out. I had the good luck to score Jennifer from the most excellent caffe crafty blog. I was expecting a simple consolation bunny when they told me it was happening... I didn't expect THIS!

What you can see above in the picture:

-- 3 rolls of very pretty paper, which shall probably be used as endpapers when I get a spare moment

-- a very potentially useful (and yummy) tin of lemonhead lollies (suitcase tin! Yay!)


-- cafe craft card sets! 2 of them! This one, and the one you can see in the box (and on Jennifer's blog banner).

art choc!

-- art chocolate! I'm dying to see what the reproduction is (and eat the chocolate), but I don't want to wreck the packaging! Quandry!


-- fabric! orange! spotty! floral! perky! jaunty! Makes me want to revive my plans for making my own bookcloth. Watch this space.

And I haven't even got to the main event yet. Working down through the layers, exclaiming (and trying to stop Bumblebee from ripping open the sweeties), I discover:



Oh. oh. and again, oh. I can't begin to describe how lovely this softie is. Orange felt, removable dress, the most gorgous red shoes.

bunny from behind

Oh. I'm so pathetically grateful. I've gone from mild disappointment to mild resignation to mild hope to wildly happy. Or is that the effect of chronic fatigue? NO, this is a thing of beauty, and will be treasured in this household. It's going in my Blogging Bounty Collection along with the knitted cats and the vintage posters.

Just to give you an idea of scale, here's the Bunny Beauty as modelled by my barely-awake, bed-headed son:


He looks better than I did behind the camera. We're both suffering from the lack of Best Beloved, who is in Launceston for the week, attending a conference on something to do with regional affairs. He gets back tomorrow night, and then it's back to normal, including getting the hairy eyeball and heavy sighs when I stay up later than 10.30pm. But maybe, she thinks, rubbing her eyes for the fiftieth time today, that's not a bad thing.

Thanks, Jennifer, you're an angel.

And yes, the catalogue design is now at the printers, and I can relax for a couple days until the next huge urgent batch of work arrives, which is a scholarly edition of Mary Gilmore's poetry (vol 2). Sigh.

* I finally gave up on my lovely old customized dressing gown; it now belongs to BB. I went to Target and bought myself the biggest softest wurtiest gown I could find in a nice pale browny-pink and it is now my bestest friend.

Monday, August 28, 2006

'ello, 'ello... wot's all this then?

Still struggling under the weight of catalogue deadline, but I just thought I'd quickly share some booky stuff that I've been up to during my daytime working hours (as opposed to my night-time working hours, separated only by a slight car trip).

AFP book, standing

Ta daaa!

I know, it's a plain blue book standing on its tail. But no! It is more than that. It is a collaborative venture between the Australian Federal Police, Old Parliament House, the ANU Inkjet Research Facility and me (the bookbinder (or more formally, the BookStud)(but really, just me, 'cause there's no one else)). Yairs.

title page

Can you read that? This book was created in a mad flappy rush over the last week because it has to be put on display on Wednesday as part of a big exhibition at Old Parliament House, and then will tour Australia for ever and a day and then finish up as part of the OPH and AFP archives. le puff! Oh, and did I mention a very small budget? Sigh, as always.

So J of the Inkjet RF came to me and asked me if I'd bind this book. The people requesting it wanted 3 copies, digitally printed double sided, with hard covers, gold blocking, the lot. We did a quote, gave it to them, watched them freak, and then offered to give them a 45% discount. And then they told us the deadline, and watched us freak.

The thing is, with these sorts of projects, if you aren't just a little bit generous, they just don't get off the ground. Luckily for them I've just learned how to bind hardback books Teh Right Way, and am keen to practice. Luckily for them J is experimenting with printing double-sided sheets and is keen to practice. So we merged our empires and made a police book baby.

open pages with documents

The pages are printed on double-sided cotton inkjet paper, and we printed them 4-up, so I also had to be the consultant as to book imposition. It was a steep learning curve for J, but now he's got the hang of it, he's keen to do more.

There have been a few hiccups along the way, and the first copy is always the bodgy one (and will hopefully be the only one without a gold-blocked title), but we were so proud of ourselves when I brought the volume in to be admired. I managed (a miracle!) to find the right blue bookcloth in our meagre stash, and I used a good serviceable brown for the endpapers, and my little touch of charm is the black&white striped headbands.

headband goodness

Check out the perky headband goodness. It's the little details like that that no-one else will notice, but I'll know are there. And now you know too, so pass the word on. Don't look at the bodgy bits, because no one else will, apparently, as I was told by all and sundry. There are some bits of it I'm ashamed to let out in the big wide world, but I'll learn to live with that pain.

Sigh. Only two more books to make, and I'm hoping to learn how to use the gold blocking thingy at my bookbinding class to make them look even more special.

another page view

All the documents in the book relate to the police involvement in the opening of Old Parliament House. Most of them are carbon copies, and today we were talking about the irony of such humble copies being elevated to acid-free paper and public exhibition.

Apparently you'll be able to see this book as you walk into the OPH exhibition. It will have a hole drilled into its newborn back so that it can be chained to the podium like a medieval bible. All my care to keep it pristine and clean will be undone as the white gloves provided are smeared with sweat and icecream stickiness. But at least it will be seen, which is more than I can say for a lot of the books I make, doomed to a gallery archive and pulled out twice a century for survey shows.

One more headband shot, and it's time for bed:


Aww. So cute.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Somebody stop me

This is ridiculous. I am supposed to be working on a survey catalogue for a textiles artist and I have suddenly been sucked into LibraryThing. An idle click of someone's library tagcloud on their sidebar led me down the rabbithole and I thought maybe I could just enter a few of the books sitting around me while I resize these images.

40-odd books later and very late into the night, I have to force myself to go to bed. Granted, I did resize those 120 images, but then I woke up extra early and just had to run to the computer to enter some more books. Then I rode to the BookStud and looked up at my shelves here as I opened the door, and... fired up the computer to get into LibraryThing.

I'M ADDICTED! Help! I just can't stop. I'm so curious: how many books do I own? And the big one: will there be more fiction or non-fiction? I resisted getting into LibraryThing last year or earlier this year (goodness time flies) when Laura did her library, and obviously for a good reason! But now that I've started,

I. Just. Can't. Stop!


I'm discovering all sorts of new things about books I've owned for quite a while. Like this author. Is there really somewhere out there called ROBIN BAGILHOLE? Published by Brian Trodd??!! Hmmm.


I got home and got Bumblebee into a hot bath (we rode home in heavy rain, both sopping), switched on the computer and... LibraryThing is offline for an hour or so, doing some roadwork. Wow. I never thought about that possibility. I guess I'll HAVE to do some work. Phew.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Gotta love a parade

a static printing press!

The Australian Colonies Bill granting independent colonial status to Port Phillip passed through the British House of Commons on 1 August 1850. When word reached the District some ten weeks later there was great public rejoicing--even more than when [it became the] colony of Victoria ... on 1 July the following year.


Four days of festivities in the city followed, culminating in a huge street procession ... in which the printers and newspaper men of Melbourne played a prominent part. They were jubilant at the outcome, which the press had been urging for a decade.

Led by John Fawkner and displaying a silk banner with a portrait of the founder of printing, Johann Gutenberg, the group accompanied a horse-drawn wagon bearing a printing press that was being put to work producing a celebratory leaflet ('sheets worked off and sent flying').

[Elizabeth Morrison: Engines of Influence: Newspapers of Country Victoria, 1840-1890 (Melbourne: MUP, 2005), p.68]

Found this this morning and it just sparked my imagination. I tried to find a more suitable image of a moving press, but I don't think people did this sort of stunt very often. I have no idea what kind of printing press they were using, but the thought of printing leaflets whilst on the back of a horse-drawn wagon without losing your fingertips makes my spine tingle! Australians sure know how to party.

Cross-posted at Sarsaparilla

Postscript: thanks to the marvellous work of Russ at Sarsaparilla, we have this image of the marvellous occasion:

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Oops, my bad

I've been working very hard lately. Everything seems to have come up at once: design deadlines, printing commitments, and of course, to top it all off, the annual rush to get things together for the art school's Open Day. This last bit is totally voluntary, but always fun, because it gives me a chance to play.

I've been printing serviettes for the print workshop's traditional sausage sizzle. You know: $2 for a sausage in bread, $5 with an original printed napkin (cut with pinking shears from good serviceable white cotton drill).

fynger gunne

All going well, lots of different designs, then I get the bright idea of printing on t-shirts. Downstairs the first years are screenprinting a whole stack of them, so a colleague and I set a couple of designs and print some t-shirts and singlets, successfully. Hooray! Then I'm passed a pair of undies, and I think, why not?

Well, I found out why not. Here is the word MESSY, before. It's a nice little bit of concrete poetry, taking advantage of the nicks and dents in the old type:

MESSY before

and here it is, after:

MESSY after

Ahem. Cotton undies are flat in the middle, sure. But the elastic is rather raised, and the pressure of the press rolling over the wood type caused the poor letters to compress, leaving a beautiful clear elastic print on the wood:

MESSY wood

OOPS. My bad. All I can think is that it looks like someone with a lovely curvy size 12 arse who weighs a ton sat on the type. And it will never recover.

The result? A pair of printed undies. The only such pair in the world. And not even that well printed, although I guess it was the right word to mess up.

MESSY undies

I hope whoever buys the undies will appreciate their provenance. But I doubt it.

Mind you, the marks will only show this clearly if you put the word MESSY together. At other times, the grooves will become part of the general history of marks on the letters, albeit a bit obvious. Sigh. Even if I could fit into the undies (which I couldn't, not since I was about 13) I don't think I could bear to own them. It's going to be bad enough looking at the letters periodically.

Anyhoo, get thee down to the Art School on Saturday between 9 and 4, if you're in the general vicinity (Canberra). Open Day is a hoot. And again, I'll be there, playing with my press. Come up and say hello.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Time Out

Sorry. I went away for three days. We threw the cats into their catbox and took off to my parental prickle farm on thursday straight after my bookbinding class. Bumblebee had been sick all week, so we thought he might as well be sick at the farm in the sun, and gave ourselves a day off too.

It was warm, relaxed and quiet. My parents are in New Zealand for two weeks, frittering my inheritance away in a cottage by the Bay of Islands, so we'd agreed to keep their two hounds company on the weekend in between. Bliss! No computers; no need to get out of bed until the bedsores made me move; no need to drive anywhere so cocktail hour started when the shadows started to look vaguely long.

We did get to the seaside, to catch up with a friend and her lovely daughter, but it was a bit too chill and cool there to really relax. Much better lying in the sun inland a bit.

Pooter and Padge found a few lizards, which kept them amused during the afternoons. At one point BB came out and sat beside Pooter in the grass, then realised that P was eyeballing quite a large lizard. Pooter, thinking he had it in the bag, rolled over to show off to his human, and the feisty lizard ran off, but not before leaping forward and biting P on the head for good measure! Oh, how we roared.

My old nana had left me a pile of Woman's Days, so I've really had my brain switched off. Now I'm struggling to come back to earth. Best Beloved's still struggling to come to terms with my hair, but he'll get there. So thanks to all of you who have left comments over the last few days! I'm very grateful, and will respond accordingly as soon as I've made a homecoming cup of tea and got my brain back into gear.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Cloudbusting (aka timewasting)

Ooh! I've been tagged! And since I'm having a day at home thanks to a sick Bumblebee (he's not THAT sick, he has pharyngitis, but he can't go to school. But he can watch tv. And eat. And play gameboy. And I can blog.), I'll give it an instant response. Thanks, Kate!

1. One book you have read more than once

I Claudius. My grandfather lent me his Eye Clavdivs books when I was a teenager and I never gave them back, and the covers call me over every now and again. If I had a newer edition I probably wouldn't look twice at them.

2. One book you would want on a desert island

Hmm. Something about building a boat out of sand would be good, but I reckon a dictionary would also be quite fun good value. Once you finished reading it, the pages would be useful for other things.

3. One book that made you laugh

Spike Milligan's Adolf Hitler: My Part in his Downfall has made me laugh loud and rudely for many years now.

4. One book that made you cry

From frustration or sadness? I guess sadness. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold made me cry sitting in the middle of a crowd at an outdoor sitar concert. Maybe it was the sitars. Nah, it was definitely the book. I was trying not to let anyone see the tears and snot, but all I wanted to do was howl. Next time I read it will be in my own house. Frustration? Voss, but I was quite young.

5. One book you wish you had written

Anything by Angela Carter.

6. One book you wish had never been written

Now there's a list. I like Kate's take on this question. That's a cop-out, isn't it? Um, Yellow Dog by Martin Amis was a bit of a space-waster, but never been written? That'd probably be the Bible. Nothing much against Teh Big Man, just wish the book didn't cause so much trouble.

7. One book you are currently reading

I'm re-reading Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, trying to keep my inner vision of William of Baskerville true to Sean Connery, not the tall thin sandy freckled bent-nosed picture Eco paints.

8. One book you have been meaning to read

Hmm. Tough one. I think Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair. I don't go seeking, as a rule though. It has to find me. (Exceptions are times like when I happen upon the first two John Birmingham alternate histories in a secondhand bookshop, and then the third happens to be published two weeks later. I ran to the Co-op bookshop like the wind.)

9. One book that changed your life

Kate mentions Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, which is spookily similar for me. So I'll add another: Nevil Shute's On the Beach, read when I was very young from my family bookshelf, and it scared me witless. Reading it whilst lying on my bedroom floor listening to the EP of the 'annihiliation mix' of Two Tribes by Frankie Goes to Hollywood was one of the scariest afternoons of my life, and sealed my disapproval of nuclear power.

10. Now tag five people

This is always hard, because you could be tagging the same people as other memers.
I'll give it a go, but don't feel obliged:

Crazybrave, anyone from For Battle (I'd love to tag Fuschia, but I think she's abandoned blogosphere for the real world), Pavlov's Cat (if you can spare the time, I'd love to know), Ennypen, and... let's address the gender imbalance by inviting Barista to share.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

No more Nana

My dears, I have taken Teh Plunge. I have gone from this:

to something between this:

very weird hair model

and this:

except not boned

(sorry, I searched the net for a long time, but could find nothing more dignified!)





OK, caps off. (heh.)

It was just such a buzz when all the hair came off. I waited 7 weeks for this particular hairdresser, because I trust her, and it was so worth it. I wanted to keep my ponytail for my Box of Old Hair Colours (which sits next to the Box of Baby Teeth), and when it came off I got a rush of adrenalin which hasn't died down yet.

The only down side is that Best Beloved was very resistant to the idea of my long hair going away. He seems to think that long hair = feminine, fertile, and girly. I don't know which universe he's been living in for the last three years! Well, bad luck. It's my hair, my head and my life. I needed a change, and apart from leaving him (which I'm NOT going to do), a haircut is the next best thing.

He came home today, and peered around the corner at me. WELL? I asked (it's a uppercase sort of day today). Give me a couple of days, he said. It almost dampened my good mood. But he is a very conservative chappie, despite his anarchic moments, so I suppose it's a good response.

Bumblebee loves it. And so do I. Hooray!

A day in the life of the Biennale

Dateline: Friday 11 August, 2006.

0530 Fattest cat sits on chest, purring like a tractor. Can't go back to sleep. Lie in dark restlessly.

0600 Alarm goes off. Get up hastily, dress in clothes gathered the night before, sneak out of the house.

0625 Ride into the university on my bicycle. The clockometer outside the ABC Studios says -1 degree. My fingertips feel frozen.

0645 Arrive at art school. Colleague is practising driving the minibus around the carpark as she hasn't driven a manual car in years. She runs over the kerb with the back left wheel. Tempted to go home.

0700 The first student arrives, takes back seat of bus. Deadline for leaving was 0700. We discuss a quorum, which will be six students.

We have 7 students. The roll lists 9 names. One sends a message that he can't make it.

0720 We decide to go. We need petrol, but can only use Caltex or Ampol. We discuss options. we think the last petrol station on the way out is a Caltex.

It isn't. Go back 2 squares to Dickson, Do Not Pass Go.

0745 Petrol tank filled, colleague does first driving shift (along long, straight highway). Bus only plays tapes. Colleague brought Sting, EBTG and Eric Clapton.

0930ish Arrive at Pheasant's Nest. Swap drivers. I put on hastily made tape of Arty Fufkin/DJ Moule mashups. Conversations start to revolve around topics like At Which Point of his Career did Michael Jackson Go Wrong.

1100 Drop students and colleague at Museum of Contemporary Art. Parked car up Argyle Street near Lower Fort Street. Lovely walk back to MCA. Rediscovered bits of Biennale that I missed on last visit. MCA top pick: Calin Dan and Mona Hotoum.

Lunch: fish & chips on the grass outside the MCA, listening to the tuba busker play My Sharona at least three times, surrounded by private school teens. LOTS of Jaime lookalikes.

1300 Walk back to the bus to refresh the parking meter. Discover a long line of FEDEX vans stretched out behind the bus and what looks like a courier convention in the strip of parkland next to the vehicles. People in uniform sitting on the grass and on upturned milkcrates, eating lunch. As I walk closer the group broke up and started returning to the vans. I ask a jolly-looking younger man what was happening. 'Just eating lunch' was the reply. When I asked if they did that every day, the answer was yes. How delightful!

Sydney putting on her winter finery

1305 Walked down Lower Fort Street and the Stairs to Wharf 2/3 and met up with the others who had walked under the Bridge. Sydney is a complete attention hoor on a sunny winter's day.

1315 Wharf 2/3 full of fabbo things. Best major venue for the Biennale, I think. Refreshing to see lots of REAL things, not just video. Gormley's Field spooky, empirialist yet endearing. Adrian Paci's Noise of Light bringing home the smelliness of beauty. Top pick: Hamra Abaas.

Hamra Abbas: floor
Part of the Hamra Abbas installation: strips of paper printed with 'DO NOT STEP' arranged in an Islamic pattern on the floor. The walls had illuminated manuscripts and texts in Latin, Arabic and English. Just gorgeous.

1415 Back to the bus and a quick drive over to the State Gallery. I dropped the students at outside to start walking down to the Gunnery Artspace at Wolloomooloo, then drove down towards Mrs Macquarie's chair to find a park. Saw two spaces in a row, which was perfect for someone who had never done a reverse park in a minibus. Took the front space of the two. Another person tried to park behind me, and as I got out to pay for a ticket, I saw that I'd parked overhanging about a foot into that space. Of course I got back in the bus and moved it forward. At the parking meter, the woman who had parked behind me thanked me for moving the bus so nicely and in such a heartfelt manner that I realised that Sydney parkers must generally be a pack of curs.

1430 Artspace is a great venue too. Fell in love all over again with Elina Brotherus's photos, but was really taken by Ujino Muneteru's The Rotators, which wasn't working the last time I visited about a month ago. It's a room of sounds, rhythms -- music -- made from customised machines like tools and home appliances interacting with customised turntables and vinyl records with pencil stubs attached to them to play like old-style musicbox chimes. Funky and innovative. Nice video here too, by Tacita Dean.

1530 Back up to the State Gallery. While everyone else went straight down to the Biennale, I took a quick detour down to the Research Library to see the display of Noreen Grahame's personal collection of Artists' Books. That's a hidden little thing worth visiting. Unfortunately you can't touch the books, but there's enough variety in the pages shown to admire the fact that Noreen had an prescient appreciation of art in a book form long before it became popular in Australia. Many international books that I've read about but never seen for myself. Then I revisited the Biennale, especially Kei Takemura, who combines drawing and sewing to reflect her world, and Biljana Djurdevic, whose paintings are disturbing in the best way, getting under your skin and making you think about human behaviour.

1700 Time to go home... a busload of weary students and equally weary minders heading through peak hour traffic. One of the students, M, had been chatting to people on the streets all day through the windows of the bus (and at one point had got a man to take a photo of her) and on the way out had everyone making faces at the cars and trucks. We got into a discussion about the art and... I missed the turnoff at the airport. Argh! We ended up in Rockdale, and decided to drive towards the M5 via King Georges Road, but then we got into a discussion about what to call the Printmaking Workshop's upcoming group blog and missed that turnoff! Double Argh! Of course, no place to do a U-turn, so we ended up in Sylvania Waters.

1745 After finding a place to turn around, and then finding a place we could fill up the petrol tank with our obscure university purchase card, we finally rejoined the M5 to find it so choked up with people fleeing Sydney that we calculated that the detour probably didn't take any more time than if we'd stayed on the right road. Much joy all around.

driving back in the dark
Looking back at the busdwellers in the dark

2100 Arrived back at the artschool, totally arted out and dying for a glass of wine. Oh bugger, still have to ride my bike home. Thank god for phones with radios in them. Triple J playing The Black Keys! Yay, pedal energy. Rock on. The clockometer outside the ABC says 5 degrees.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Remember to Breathe (this IS a meme)

Today is the 19th anniversary of my brother's suicide. I've mentioned his death before (usually on other people's blogs), and I'll keep mentioning it periodically because it is a big part of who I am and what I do. If he hadn't died I'd probably be a research librarian or a high school teacher, both of which are Good Jobs, but I spent a lot of time after his death wondering why I should have to do what everyone else expected me to do, and eventually finding the nerve to do something I liked passionately. I'd like to think that if he'd lived he would have been the Arty One at first, but that I would have got there eventually. I'll just take this moment to add that suicide SUCKS. Don't do it.

Anyhoo, around this time of year I like to think about why I still want to be on the face of the Earth, and it usually boils down to some very simple things. So I'm starting a meme, because I'd like to know what keeps all of you alive too.

The Remember to Breathe Meme (or: 12 simple things that keep me going from year to year)

In no particular order:

1. the smell of Jonquils (or Daphne)

2. a deep blue sky

3. swing jazz

autumn leaves

4. a drift of bright-coloured autumn leaves

cat purrs

5. cat purrs

6. the wonder that humans can still come up with fresh ways to be creative

7. bird song

8. risotto, fresh off the stove

9. sunshine on my face on a wintery day

10. a book that can take me away from it all

cloud streaks

11. Worn paint

12. Looking out over the sea from a cliff

That's today's list, anyway. I could probably make up a new one every day. I haven't included any of the thrills I get from the work I do or from my loved ones, because that's an added bonus. This is what would keep me alive even if I was single, childless and working in an office. But do add that sort of stuff if it's what keeps you going.

I'm not making a list of participants... feel free to take it up or leave it be, but do drop a line in the comments if you do this meme direct from reading this post, because I'm genuinely interested.

So, what about you?

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Five nice things about today (not a meme)

This morning the fishmonger's wife at the grower's market looked like someone from a medieval painting. She had a marvellous polarfleece hat that came off her head in a long rectangle.

I filled the house with flowers I'd bought at the market: jonquils, daffodils, poppies; added some small lilies growing untended in the garden -- and then a friend popped around with more (native) flowers! I'm living in full technicolour this week.

We did fitball outside, on the astroturf soccer courts. It was fantastic -- no wind, gentle sun, mild breeze. Everyone was so happy we want to do it every week in Spring, weather permitting. We all came away worked out and covered in thin green fibres, which are better than wrestlers' leg hairs.

An old friend is coming around soon to go together to the Canberra Craft and Quilters Fair, which should be fun for an hour or so before I get Craft Fatigue.

UPDATE: The Craft and Quilters Fair was a slight disappointment. I really enjoyed the display of Japanese quilts, but the market part of the fair was almost totally devoted to beads, scrapbooking and textiles-related crafts. I guess they're the money-makers. I had to take this photo of a wheelybin, tastefully draped in cloth for the fair! No nasty plastics here, thank you, we're quilters ;)

Crafty bin

Bollywood tonight! At Belconnon Hoyts! I was going to catch up on my sleep, but it's Shahrukh Khan! Be still my beating heart!

POSTSCRIPT: Argh! That was the LONGEST Bollywood I have ever seen... Three and a half hours for what was fundamentally a simple chick flick. It has more plot twists than a packet of Twisties, and most of them doing nothing but extending the length of the movie. Even Shahrukh got a bit grating after a while. The lead female, Rani Mukherjee has impossibly beautiful eyes which frequently overflow with endless tears on demand (whilst not affecting her immaculate makeup). By the end, the actors -- and the audience -- were imitating the flood scene from Alice in Wonderland. It was exhausting.

The theatre was packed, which bodes well for future screenings of (hopefully better) Indian films. Some good previews, including one titled Don, starring Shahrukh again in an all-action heart-throbby thing a-la James Bond/Matrix/Austin Powers (with at least 3 hours up your sleeve, you can pack in a lot of references!). Lots of lustful sighs all around me as the trailer rolled.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Learning how to get knocked up (the right way)

Last Thursday Neil walked up behind me and said, Now that's what I call a bad knock-up job.
I replied, He's actually a lovely kid, now he's grown up a little. BOOM TISH!

Actually, it was a bad knock-up job. This is what it looked like:

I'm talking about bookbinding. I've decided to take myself back to TAFE and learn Teh Traditional Way of binding books. And it's a humbling experience. I'm being taught by someone who works as a conservation bookbinder at the National Library by day, and has been teaching adult education by night for years. He really knows his stuff.

When I explained what I did for a living he wanted to start me doing something quite complex, but I talked him into starting me from the very beginning, because I want to see things that I've just read in books. No one has ever shown me simple things like how to apply glue properly, so it's time to find out.

I don't know about you, but this photo makes my mouth water. Look at all that book cloth! We have about three rolls at the Book Studio, and a smattering of implements, but here they have everything you need: bookcloth, endpapers, paperstock, thread, headbands, embossing machines, and all the proper tools.

Follow the photo link back to flickr to see this image with explanatory notes!

So far I've done a Quarter Binding (I seem to have lost my photo of this), which is the old way they used to do school exercise books: simply sewn, cloth spine, and pasted paper covers with the raw cardboard edges after it is trimmed.

The Bad Knockup Job above is my first attempt to sew a 'proper' spine with tapes. My tension isn't steady and I didn't hold the book-block spine firmly after knocking it against the bench to make it straight before glueing. So when I put it on its side and weighted it, the spine was crooked. And the cardboard I was using between the weight and the table flaked off onto the paper from my wayward glueing. And therefore it was a bad job. And thus Neil told me so, quite bluntly.

I like Neil tremendously, because he's very encouraging, highly knowledgable and able to tell me easily when I'm wrong, why I'm wrong, and what I can do about it. People like that are worth the hefty course fee.

As well as learning to make books, he's also teaching me to restore old books. I cast around my bookshelves to find a worthy first contender, something fun but not overly precious, and decided upon Georgette Heyer's Regency Buck. Fantastic title, and a ripping read. Originally bound in a jaunty pink, it had fallen apart over years of someone's avid reading, and faded badly on the spine.

I ripped off her bodice, and started teasing at the layers... when you pull off an old spine, there's a lot of hard, crusty adhesive matter, and no matter how gently you tease it, some of it just will not move without tearing the paper sections. Neil's solution was a paste 'poultice', slathered on and left for anything from half an hour to a number of hours.

I thought this might wet the bookblock too much, but we carefully avoided the actual paper, and only covered the crusty stuff. I only had an hour to leave it on, but when we cleaned off the spine after that hour, removing the crust was a lot easier, and I now have a relatively clean spine to work with:

There's still a bit of yellow goop to prise out, but most of the really hard stuff is gone. Those black dots are what gives the binder the order of the book sections without having to look at the page numbers. Book restoration, I'm finding, is akin to archaeology. This is a machine-stitched book, and the stitches are still pretty firm, so I'm not unpicking it. I'm going to make a brand new hard cover for it -- again in a jaunty pink -- and emboss some gold lettering on the spine. Then Georgette will be a thing of beauty on my shelf.

This week I have to miss a class because of a prior commitment, and so I have to wait another week for my fix of wheat paste and bookcloth. Still, I've been printing a lot, and next time I can steal a few moments (far and few between right now) I'll tell you about that.

Postscript: to see the second part of this bookbinding adventure, go here:

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

I've been counted

As I mentioned over at Pavlov's Cat, the census form nearly started a brawl as BB and I bickered over who had done how much housework in the last week. He's a bit resentful, but I'm proud to mark on my form that much more was done by the male of the house than the female. I'll make up for it next week, when no one cares again.

And yes, Bumblebee's religion is JEDI.

And I resisted adding the cats, no matter how much a part of the household they feel.

We saw Porgy and Bess tonight. It was superb. Thumbs down to all those in the audience wearing jeans and ratty sneakers. It deserved a dress-up.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Well and truly tired out

I'm not hiding under a stone; I've just been incredibly busy. I've started learning bookbinding (the real traditional type) at TAFE one afternoon a week, I worked an extra day at school under an extreme hangover and today I taught an 8-hour letterpress workshop to a group of very keen adults. I am determined to write a full account of the interesting bits, but not tonight. I'm a very tired duckie. Too tired to fix up my comments, even.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Oh please...

A selection of past winners of Australian Father of the Year:

1959 The Hon J. J. Cahill, M.L.A. Premier of New South Wales

1964 The Right Hon. Sir Robert Menzies, K.T.CH.,Q.C.,M.P., Prime Minister of Australia

1968 His Excellency The Right Honourable Lord Casey, P.C.,GC.M.G,C.H.,D.S.O.,M.C., K.SU., Governor General of Australia

His Excellency The Honourable Sir John Kerr, K.C.M.G.,K.St.J., Governor-General of Australia

1976 The Right Honourable Malcolm Fraser, M.P., Prime Minister of Australia

1997 The Honourable (!) John Howard MP, Prime Minister of Australia

So how is nominating Terry Hicks politicising the award?

I think Ruddock is just jealous. After all, he's such a good political father figure, isn't he?

Happy Byrday


I hope you did something just for you, like a bit of spraying around Brisvegas.

P.S. Canberrans -- if you're driving up Limestone Ave, towards the War Memorial, you're likely to see this on the left:

Treasure it, it's a lingering (because it's an 'official') bit of Byrd. Canberra graffiti is a lot less interesting now.

*for yesterday! sorry, I've been a bit offline.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Dear Helen

'I have the impression that you judge the whole tenor of your life by whether or not you're laughing enough.'
'You could say that.'
'I don’t know if that's a good criterion.'
'Know any better ones?'
'Why is it so important, laughing?'
'Look, I've got this sign stuck on my bedroom wall. It's by Cocteau. It says, what would become of me without laughter? It purges me of my disgust.'
'What disgusts you?'
'Oh, my whole life, sometimes. Things I've done. Things I haven't done. My big mouth, My tone of voice. The gap between theory and practice. The fact that I can't stand to read the paper.'

Helen Garner, 'Honour' in My Hard Heart (Ringwood: Penguin Books Australia, 1998) pp. 79-80.

I've had that quote written where I can easily find it for years now. I originally read it in Honour and Other People's Children, but I've never owned that incarnation of book, only borrowed it from the library. I've always thought borrowing books from the local library is a very Helen thing to do. I was delighted to find it inside My Hard Heart when I happened upon it at a book fair.

If I sound like a fan, it's because I am. Helen Garner has provided personal and literary milestone markers on my journey through life since I discovered Monkey Grip in high school. I don't own a lot of her books, and I don't actively seek them out, because I come across them at pertinent times, and they always make me sit, and think, and rediscover the whats and whys of where I am at that particular time. If I see her name in a magazine or paper, I'll buy it just to read what she has to say, and she never fails me.

I'm thinking about her a lot today because Laura today posted her account of a panel at Mildura involving HG; Kerryn told us more about her in the comments (number 3 comment in L's post), and I came home today and found my August issue of The Monthly in the mailbox, with Helen's name splashed on the cover (and Kerryn's!). It seemed like the right time to share the love. I'm particularly happy about The Monthly. I'd heard that HG had given up writing film reviews for The Monthly, which I'd thought a shame because she always picks films that engage with her own interests, and writes about them in a way that sets her apart from other film reviewers. Maybe she's only going to write reviews when there's a film worthy of writing about. Fine by me.

Today's review (which I read, rapt, on the doorstep before I opened the front door, while my son busied himself with the cats in the garden) was on United 93, a film I had no intention of seeing, but now probably will, on the strength of Helen’s words:

I have a rule of thumb for judging the value of a piece of art. Does it give me energy, or take energy away? When I staggered out of United 93 this rule had lost traction . . . an excruciating pity for all material things overwhelmed me. This flayed sensation lasted about two days, then gradually dissipated.

That's the sort of quote that gives my relatively inarticulate heart a voice. We all walk through the world feeling, but few can articulate the sensation. Helen often writes words that connect with me and my experience of the world, and quite often she'll shape my response. I trust her to do that, because it feels right. The Feel of Steel was a book that made me feel brave about ageing. Joe Cinque’s Consolation and The First Stone (I’ve put them in that order because that's the order they came into my life) made me angry, indignant and made me look at society – and, with JCC, my own city -- with fresh eyes. No one else writes about the junkies in Civic. Truth and honesty (two very different things) seem to underpin so much of her work.

There seems to be a recognition in Australian literature that Helen is one of our major voices, but she doesn't get that recognition cheaply. Her very personal writing voice makes any criticism seem to fall directly upon her, rather than on her actual writing. But it's that involvement of the self that works so well for me. Her body of writing has been almost a proto-blog in that everything she engages with is passed through her own emotional sensibility, and then laid out for the reader to relate to or reject, rather than filtered and distanced into 'characters'.

I'm not trying to write a critical response to her writing -- I haven't had that capability for years now, since I stopped devoting my head to literary theory and starting filling it with more three-dimensional concerns -- but she is one writer whom I feel very strongly about in a personal way. Because of the way she writes, I think about her as a character in her own right, in a series that continues for years. Maybe, again, I can compare her to a blog. I want to read all her posts.

In a sense I have more contact with her than just through her writing. Helen and the AP have written to each other for many years, and sometimes I am told snippets of her 'other' life. Every now and again I am asked to sort out AP's piles of letters into boxes, one for each correspondent. I don't read HG's letters – I would never presume – but I am always thrilled to hold her bold handwriting in my hand. At times she has made her own postcards, tearing images out of newspapers and magazines and gluing them to index cards, and I fantasize about making a book (Postcards from Helen!) of these often poignant and always considered images, with quotes from her letters or writings to accompany them. Maybe one day. It would make a nice artist's book, but of course the artist would be Helen herself.

I would like to write my own letters to Helen, but I find myself too shy. And I don't know what I'd be able to say to her that hasn't probably been gushed at her at every writers' festival she's ever been to. This post is probably the closest I'll ever get to doing it. And so here it is.