Sunday, March 30, 2008

You're all beautiful. You are.

Forgive me; Best Beloved is away for a couple of days, I've had one too many wines to work efficiently (blame TV for that), my computer says it's an hour earlier than it is (I'll regret that in the morning) and Blogosphere is mine.

Actually, I'll ask forgiveness of a few people while I'm here:

-- Tim T. I really don't play Scrabble with anyone else like I play with him. Bingoes everywhere, all the best letters fall my way. Sometimes it happens with Lexicon Harlot, and Pavlov's Cat as well. But no one else, I swear. The rest of them thrash me in even shares, especially my sister outlaw, Naomi. She's a killer on the board. I've only won against her once, according to my memory, and we've played nearly every day for a year now.

-- Anyone who believed in Earth Hour. I didn't do it. I forgot.
But. I was talking to a colleague the other day, and was shocked to find out that she leaves every. light. on. in. her. large. house. every. night. She & her family 'don't like the dark'. She also drives home for lunch every day. A colleague of BB's does a full washing machine of washing every. day. And she lives by herself. Stories like that make me feel that in my household, every day is Earth Day.

-- Anyone whose blog I leave a comment on. I notice that quite often I leave a comment on someone's blog and it's the last comment they get on that post. I must be a conversation killer. Either that or I am just lucky enough to get the last word. Whatever.

[OMG I'm in love with Marshall & the Fro and Juzzie Smith: see the last post for the music I'm listening to]

-- My bathroom. Our Tastic light blew the other day and I replaced it with one of those long-life fluoro lights, but chose Daylight White rather than Warm White. Suddenly the room looks filthy. Before, we could ignore the soap scum and the light mould, but now... it's going to get the cleaning of it's life. Maybe.

Enough apologies. Let's move on.

No, let's go to bed. I have a vet to see and a class on coptic binding in the morning. And no matter what my computer says, it's still 10.30pm, and I need to make the bed before I sleep. There's nothing like clean, fresh linen when you're sleeping by yourself.*

See you in the soup.

* Plus a pus-y puss or two.

I have died and gone to heaven

Did I mention that I have given up live TV as a New Year's Resolution? I've kept it, too. Until now.

Normally I would scoff at Sunday Night TV drama like East of Everything, so obviously aimed at my age group and over, with its fancypants emphasis on the hollowness of New Age lifestyles in the coastal areas of northern NSW.

But! Bastards! They have found my weak spots.

1. Richard Roxborough! I saw the shorts after BB watched the news one day, and was sorely tempted. But it wasn't quite enough...

2. Gah! Bumblebee was watching Robin Hood tonight, and I left the TV on while I got him to bed, and then... MACHINE TRANSLATIONS. ON THE TV. AS THE THEME MUSIC.

I was hooked. And not only one of my favorite songs, A Most Peculiar Place, as the theme music (albeit sped up and jollied along a bit), but J. Walker composes and chooses all the incidental music, and has another song, Need a Miracle as the end music. I'm sunk. I'm sucked in.

At the moment I have the website up on another Firefox tab and I'm listening to the excellent music choices as I type.


[Jen Cloher and the Endless Sea. Good choice. I love that song.]

I have to provide context. Machine Translations are my constant printing companion. All my work for the last ten years or so has been made to a soundtrack of every album J. Walker has made, especially if I print when it's raining. I hope the rest of Australia enjoys it too.

And the show isn't half bad either.

[Oh! King Curly. Of course.]

Sorry. I'm just so happy.

Marlon Padgo

At the risk of sounding like a Blues song:

I woke up this morning

And found Padge looking like this:

Well, it was like this:


But you can't see his forehead and face that looked like someone had stomped on it as well as this:

Marlon Padgo

And that's AFTER the vet put an interim hole in his head.

Here's a better shot:

Marlon Padgo: profile

Note the Brando forehead. Everything from the bridge of the nose upwards is a mass of (avert thine eyes, weak-stomached peoples) pus.

Sigh. And on a Sunday, as well. Bastard. So I took him to the emergency animal hospital, where they charge $150 just to let you through the door, and the nice vet on duty did the bare minimum to make Padge comfortable until tomorrow when the credit card gets a lesser workout on an abcess drainage system.

We also discussed options to lessen the amount of damage this cat accrues. Even though we lock him indoors every evening for the whole night, so far he's managed a slashed-open side, a bitten-through tail (now permanently curly) and a Marlon Brando forehead. The vet suggested a dose of female hormones to break the fighting cycle and I think that's a pretty good solution.

In the meantime, Pooter's flinty little heart has been softened by Padge's misery, and he has been (avert thine eyes again, weak-stomached peoples) licking up the pus as it oozes out.

Now that's love.

Monday, March 24, 2008


Well, that was the weekend that was. Easter, the time for the National Folk Festival! We always get season tickets, because it's only ten minute's bike ride from our house, and has the added bonus of some of our lovely relatives working there (they run the stall that sells the official Festival t-shirts, along with other lovely things), so it's our chance to spend some (reasonably) quality time with them.

I don't actually do a lot at the Festival; I find that once I'm through the gates, I leave the rest of the world outside, and my poor overworked brain just goes into meltdown. I tend to sit quietly in corners and watch the other people getting excited about the gigs, and I also grasp the golden opportunity to spend hours doing nothing but reading -- so if you were there, and you saw a woman sitting in the corner of a concert reading a novel and tapping along absently, that was me. I read the whole of The Kite Runner yesterday.

The quiet starts to each day gave me a chance to whip into the BookStud and do some printing. Today I managed to print about 150 halves of a brochure before I rode up to the Festival. Feels good to flake out knowing that something's been done to lower the tideline of the in-tray.

Anyhoo. I did catch some good acts, mostly because each day I went to the Infinity Tribute session. Every year they choose a corny theme, and invite Festival acts to participate in a competition to play covers according to the theme. They started years ago, unimaginatively, with Led Zeppelin's 'Stairway to Heaven' (making it any Led song would have been Teh Bomb), and since have progressed through Bob Dylan (limiting it to the 'Blood on the Tracks' LP), ABBA, Queen, The Sound of Music, and this year they did Grease. It's a fabulous way to get a taste of a variety of acts, and I invariably discover someone/something that I later follow around the festival like a puppy dog.

This year my crush was on a group called The Fourth Realm, who used to be The Fellowship of the Strings. Imagine Anna and Agnetha, mix them up with Stevie and Christine, throw in some dulcimer and harp and some very 70s folk rock, and you have a heady mix of fabulousness. I saw all their gigs at the festival, including what turned out today to be their last. gig. eva. [sob]

Martin Pearson, one of my fav funny men, had quite a low-key but excellent contribution to the festival this year. He gave a book reading of Terry Pratchett's Reaper Man, divided into four sessions. I only missed the second part, thanks to a programming irriot who put the Grease heats on at the same time. Choices, choices! I knew Martin would give a precis of the previous episode each day, so I followed the action.


The readings were terrific; he's a very clear, expressive reader, and he does excellent voices. I'd be very happy to buy him narrating Pratchetts for audio books, and I hope he recorded this one for release. Unfortunately the crowd dwindled more each day -- but those who remained were quality crowd :)

Mal Webb, my other darling festival funnyman, did an excellent job with his Grease act. He did so well that he won the whole thing. He worked out that most of the songs in Grease use the same timing, and took advantage of this (and his magic recording pedal) to make a vertical medley. I recorded it -- but in one of my best DOH! moments, I've done it sideways on my camera (he looked so good in a portrait format!). If you have a bad neck, don't try to watch -- until the last minute or so -- but it's really, truly worth a listen. In the first few seconds his microphone is having problems, but then it kicks in. He's so frigging clever. And do hang about for the high kick at the end, lithe bugger.

I taped a few other acts, which I'll add later, because they're taking forever to download.

Other highlights:
-- Liz Frencham (as ever. That woman can do NO wrong)
-- Rory McLeod
-- Dr Stovepipe
-- King Curly
-- Martin Pearson's blackboard gig last night, when he sang his triumphant "Farewell John Howard" song (that's the polite way to describe it), to the crowd's utter delight.
-- Catching Zoe's choir performance. Zoe has joined a world music choir, delighting in the fact that with world music she only needs to learn bits of songs. Unfortunately she is too tall to hide amongst the other singers, pretending that she knows the words:

Zoe's choir
Zoe is not standing on a box.

Luckily she seemed to know the words and looked like she had a lot of fun.

Over the weekend I drank a hell of a lot of Troubadour mulled wine, and ate a lot of chocolate. Bumblebee ran wild all weekend, and is now sleeping like a log after being completely exhausted and in tears all evening. Tomorrow will seem weirdly mundane after all the colour and fun.

PS: I did forget to write last night (half asleep!) that if you want a really good low-down on the Festival, check out Enny-Pen's efforts. She did lots more than me, and has better photos. And I'm glad she covered the weirdest act in the Grease heatlap trials. BTW, Enny, I had a similar reaction to your mum re. David LaMotte, but I warmed to him eventually. I think it's the Michael Bolton hair and the accent. He'd look ever so much better with a short back and sides :)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

in which our heroes unleash the awesome power of maths

I was helping a student plan a project the other day. He wanted to make a set of nesting boxes that could be pulled up by a string to make a tower. My job was to show him the best way to make it so that it worked, how to cut a straight edge, how to glue it into proper right angles without drowning it in glue, and how to construct the boxes in such a way that they fitted together after covering with collage. Like all making, it takes a bit of planning.

Me: How's your high school maths?

Him: Pretty shonky, like most art students.

Me: Tell me about it. If my maths teacher could see me now, he'd drop off his perch in shock.* Who was to know book-making and letterpress uses so much maths?

Him: Yeah (laughs nervously).

Me: Seriously, to make this work, we need to plan it. You can't just whip up a few boxes and expect them to interact. The simplest outcome sometimes takes a lot of thinking and calculation and practicing. Don't expect this set of boxes to be the final outcome; this is where the problems will rear their ugly heads, and we will tame them as they arise.

Him: OK!

Me: We need a formula!

Him: o..k..a..y....

Me: Watch this: you've made the first (smallest) box, right? Now:

(base of box) + (space between boxes x 2) + (thickness of boxboard x 2) = base of next box

The only variable is the space between the boxes, because your collage might be thicker on some of them. You have to measure each one as you make it.

Him: Oh my god, that's...

Me: That's algebra!

Him: You mean...

Me: Yes! Amazingly, that shit is actually applicable! Don't you wish they'd told us that at school?

Him: YEAH!

We stand and gaze at the formula lovingly for a minute.

*My maths teacher told me I'd be useless in the real world. "Duckie",** he'd say, slapping his forehead in despair, "what is your problem?" Numerically dyslexic, I'd tell him. It was just all too abstract. I got 27% for my HSC maths, and a lot of that was writing the formulas down randomly through the paper and not applying them. I must have hit a few spots. Still, I'm starting to feel better about numbers the older I get, but only about the ones that behave themselves.

**Names have been changed to hide my awful high school nickname protect the innocent.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Note to self

Oh, oh oh!

Fabulous thing to do: questionaut. Must show it to Bumblebee this evening...

Postscript: now that I've had a quiet moment (catching my breath after class) and looked at this properly, I HIGHLY recommend you go in and have a play. It takes about 20 minutes (as an adult, anyway), it's a lovely quiz on all sorts of subjects that needs attention and intelligence and it has gorgeous animation. I'm looking forward to sitting beside B while he tries to work out what's going on; I think he'll be fine with the little playful intro bits for each section but I'll have to help him with the quiz questions. I was a bit slow with the maths and science questions, but the language questions are ace.

Go on-- have a go, it's very beautiful.

Post-postscript: Din put me on to more by this design[er? team?]: Samarost. These things are the most magnificent and seductive brain teasers.

(thanks to Ample Sanity for this)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Balloon days are here again

When I woke up yesterday, I had my full complement of braincells. Today, sadly, not so, thanks to the cocktail party I attended last night. Flung by one of BB's public service mates, there was a bench covered in jugs of exotic and potent liquids of all colours. It made me think of Snape's potions class.

Since I knew no-one, and couldn't partake of much of the acronym-laden conversations about how busy everyone has been since January, I resolved to have one of each cocktail and enjoy myself. I did so, and now can't remember much of the convoluted bus ride home from the outer reaches of Gunghalin to our humble abode in Downer, and I'm amazed at how well I feel today, apart from the urge to drink water every ten minutes and a slight fuzziness which I'm sure is my brain trying to pull its tatty bits together.

I do remember cats. She has four cats, none of whom are related to each other. They were very hot, poor dears, and spent a lot of time flopping just out of arm's reach. We were very hot too, but a lot of crushed ice and alcohol can do wonders for that. I wasn't as bad as the mob who ended up lying on a mat on the front lawn slobbering and moaning as they reeled under the stars, but I was pretty jolly.

And I remember seeing balloons in the sky yesterday morning on the way back from the Farmer's Market. Hot air balloons in the sky in Canberra are a wonderful sign of autumn (although they're usually accompanied by frosty mornings), and always mean that I'm going to have a good day, probably because I feel so uplifted by the sight of them. Maybe I feel good today because the Balloon Day magic worked, and I was protected by all the hot air around me last night :)

Still batching my books, a bit slower today, but getting a respectable pile together. Must put some images up to show you. [Makes mental note to do so, and it goes skipping through the lacy holes in my brain patterns.]

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Rapture

Readers, at one point, we were only 2 metres away from him.

I went, tonight, to the grand opening of the National Gallery of Australia's latest blockbuster, Turner to Monet: The Triumph of Landscape. It was packed, even though it was out in the sculpture garden, and the chilled wine and beer was being quaffed in large quantities because the weather was very hot. The nibblies were very good, much better than they have been for ages, not leaving you with a handful of detritus after you'd had your bite.

I've been to lots of NGA openings over the last 5 to 10 years; I stand as far away from the speeches as possible and watch the crowd, who are very entertaining. Lots of glitzy summer frocks tonight, and the shoe du jour was very high, very strappy and of either a solid bright shade or totally black. Hattie was there, which is always a good thing. Hattie is a woman that BB and I have admired at many openings. She is an elderly lady who dresses beautifully, and is never seen without an elaborate headpiece. I've never seen her wear the same hat twice. One day we felt brave, and introduced ourselves to her; her name is Beryl, and she has 40-something hats, and she is a great supporter of the arts, but isn't an artist herself. Oh Hattie (Beryl isn't quite right), I beg to differ.

ANYHOO, at every single one of the previouos openings, there is always a jaded, cool bunch who hang around the back, standing equidistant from the catering entrance and the bar, and keep chatting through the speeches. One opening (the Bill Viola one), they were so shockingly loud that the speeches were badly disrupted.

Not this time. Because He was there. Kevin. Kevin Rudd.

I have never seen an NGA crowd so utterly rapt. They were silent, they huddled around the podium, they strained to hear, they stretched upwards to catch a glimpse of him. It was quite amazing. And I don't think he disappointed, even though he did get a bit dry in parts, especially when he waxed on about Australia 2020 and Cate Blanchett (gah). I wish I'd had my camera on hand, to capture the earnest, listening faces.

When will this awe subside? At which point will he become an ordinary man?

Don't ask me, I shamelessly fought through the crowd afterwards to catch a glimpse of him. Past the Whitlams in their matching wheelchair scooters (cute!), past James Gleeson in his real wheelchair, through the sea of admirers watching him work the sculpture garden. I watched a senior colleague from the art school, normally proud of her ability to poke politicians in the chest with a nana finger (even though she's much younger than nana age) turn to mush and gush when she shook his hand. He could do no wrong all evening.

We are so desperate for change, so keen for the fairy tale. Is it really happening? When does it start to go wrong?

The paintings were pretty good too, although they're not really my cup of tea. There were two Van Goghs, and they made my evening, maybe more so than being close to Kev. You just can't beat a bit of Vincent. Rapt!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Wunderkammer 6: Dictionaries

Wunderkammer: a series celebrating the almost lost


When I first met my Best Beloved, he'd just spent a large sum of money buying a dictionary. All 20 volumes of The Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition, to be precise. They take up two full shelves of our home office bookcase, and look fantastic. And that's what they do most of the time, sit there and look fantastic. Of course, when Bernice Balconey drops in for a glass or three of wine and she and he start haggling over obscure points of grammar and the difference between 'miniscule' and 'minuscule' (thank you, Jonathon and Pav), the M volume is run for, and lovingly stroked as it is gazed at. I, on the other hand, am usually running for a nice novel to sink into as they sink deeper into Baloney.

I, too, have a beloved dictionary, but it is only the size of a small house brick, a little hardback Pocket Oxford Dictionary that I've carted through the years, through endless house moves and seemingly unceasing study. It has my name written in the front in my high-school hand. It's always within arms reach if I'm working at home, and it's married to my equally battered paperback Roget's Thesaurus.

So tell me, do you still use a hard-copy dictionary? Or do you own the CD-roms of some reputable dictionary publishing house? Or are you a subscriber to something similar? Or do you just use the plethora of free on-line dictionaries? Or do you just rely on the spell-checker built into whichever program you're using at the time? Or do you not care at all, as long as ur grlfrd ns wt ur tlkg abt?

When I'm away from my married couple, I'll go on-line for my spelling requirements, but I'm blessed with an ability to sense if something's not spelled correctly, probably because I read a lot. In fact, most of the times I misspell things, it's because I haven't taken the time to properly re-read whatever I've written. Like blog posts/comments: dash them down, and hit send. Then say 'Doh'!

The sense of nostalgia I feel about printed dictionaries is not a sense of their impending obsolescence (to the contrary! They are becoming more collectible with every on-line year), but about the way looking through a dictionary leads you to other words, and other worlds.

Many are the times I've gone to look up a word, and become distracted by other words near by, and before I know it, I'm turning the page, or writing down something that ends up being something quite different after a bit of thinking, like a page of an artist's book.

This is akin to the way library catalogues are now virtual, and looking up a book tends to take you straight to that book, and nowhere else. My university library catalogue has a function that shows you the books on either side of the one you're seeking, but it's just not the same as standing at the shelf, running your finger along the other book spines, and happening upon the perfect book that you never knew existed.

You can still do this, of course, by stopping occasionally as you walk through the library shelves, rather than just grabbing the book you need and running out again. You can also go to bed and browse through the dictionary to learn a new word every day, as well. I just thought I'd point that out, in case anyone has forgotten. But I know I'm writing this for an audience of dictionary lovers, am I not? SHARE.

Before I stop, here's a short list of weird and wonderful dictionary-type thingies in no particular order:

Urban Dictionary
The Visual Dictionary
A dictionary of one-letter words
The Superhero Dictionary
Language Log
The Apostrophe Protection Society
sex-lexis, the dictionary of sexual terms
a very long list of on-line dictionaries

[cross-posted at Sarsaparilla]

Credo du jour*

*Stuck at home with sick child and cat with claw hole in head is my only excuse. Padge thought this was very funny.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Remember to breathe

self portrait with hail

This was taken just over a year ago, when Canberra centre was hit by a freak hailstorm. The consequences weren't fun, but it's the memory of the hot sun and the freezing hail drifts that I wish to evoke, especially for comrades in South Australia at the moment. We're baking here in Canberra, but we're not as badly off as you.

So here's some hail in your glass -- bring on winter!

Happy birthday, Canberra

It feels like Monday today, because yesterday Canberra had a day off to celebrate its 95th birthday. I took some of the day off to have a bike ride with B and BB. We didn't join The Big Canberra Bike Ride, because we stayed in bed and had pancakes with yogurt and maple syrup. But we did a ride around the lake, popping in on the Albert Hall's birthday celebrations, cruising past the Navy Day activities, pausing to watch the dragon boat races, and gaze at the very weird Navy divers floating in a mobile tank (extra weird for me, having seen The Diving Bell and the Butterfly the day before), and having a major break at the budding Celebrate Canberra Concert in Commonwealth Park, alas too early for any good music.

It was a gorgeous day. I left the boys in the park haggling over carnival rides and rode over to the art school where I spent the afternoon batching book covers. Batching means that I don't go through the whole binding process; I'll cut 20 spines, 20 spine strips, 2 sets of boards, and do each stage 20 times. It's laborious, but eventually time-saving, as any time-and-motion study will tell you. The problem is that you have to concentrate at the beginning of any batching stage, because if you make a mistake then, you'll make it 20 times.

I've become a devotee of a digital radio station called Gimme Noise, with a tagline that says 'New and Classic Indie and Punk Rock'. It's like the hits and memories station for the 30- to 40-somethings who used to hang out in the uni bar next to the juke box, playing pool. You know who you are. I wasn't one of you, but I lived with a few of you, and I'm enjoying the chance to catch up on the music without having to be trashed. And you can make requests, which is a lot of fun. The only downside of the station is that it's American, and the only Australians I can find on their playlist are the Go-Betweens (not a bad thing), but that's their problem, and the rest of the music is excellent.

Damn, my whole week is going to be out now. I keep thinking my students should be showing right now, but instead I have a long quiet day of batching ahead of me. Not as sexy as printing, but all part of the book editioning process.

I didn't go nuts at Lifeline this time; I think my total expenditure was about $60, and only two bags of books all up. Probably a good thing for our poor overloaded house, which is groaning under the weight of book piles. One of my students did show up this morning, to show me the big bag of books he found at the Fair (his first, and by the gleam in his eye, not to be his last). He's working with fairy tales from a boy's perpective, and his desk is now groaning with old Boys' Own Annuals and other such lovely jolly tomes. O wot fun!

Friday, March 07, 2008

good grief, my eyes!

Picked up Bumblebee from school at 3.05 and within ten minutes we were trawling the stands at the Lifeline Book Fair. Bliss! Friday afternoon is really quiet, and a lovely time to browse and find things that you'd want to pay full price for (full price being, at most, $10), just in case it's gone by the bargain bin special time on Sunday.

I have a little routine, shamelessly deviated from if something catches the corner of my eye: I leave B at the children's books, cruise up past the collectibles, meander past Linguistics, Dictionaries & Printing (very little about printing), spend a bit of time in Literary Biography & Criticism on the way to Poetry. Then I go over to Australian Lit. (There are two Aust Lit sections, one near collectibles (1) and the other near General Fiction (2). This is the former.) I check on B, who by this time has an armful of revolting Bionicle -- ugh, I can't bring myself to say it. Be brave -- novels, and then I cruise past Art & Architecture, slow down and look carefully in Design, and head for the other Aust Lit, both hardback and paperback.

I've joked before about the plague of Bryce Courtenay books in the Australian Fiction section. Well, here's proof:







By that last shot my hands were shaking from laughing.

And that's just the hardback section!

You could construct a canon of Austlit from what is and isn't on those trestle tables. This year there are lots of copies of Roger McDonald's The Ballad of Desmond Kale, but no copies of Kate Grenville's The Secret River, a signifier if nothing else of what people hold on to and what they read and cast away. Support for this theory comes in the fact that I NEVER find Helen Garner novels there, apart from the odd tatty Monkey Grip, which has been studied at high schools for so many years I'd say every household in Australia has one.

Anyhoo, the haul today was modest but meaningful:

Janette Turner Hospital: Due Preparations for the Plague (NB! if you find a copy of something you like at the Fair, and see a duplicate copy nearby, always check both copies for the price. Pricing is NOT standard. The first copy I found of this was $7, and the one next to it (the one I bought!) was $5.) [found at Autlit2 section]

Anne Chisholm: Rumer Godden: A Storyteller's Life [Lit. Biography section]

Primo Levi: Selected Poems [Poetry section]

Anna Akhmatova: Selected Poems (translated by D.M. Thomas) [Poetry section]

William Morris: The Wood Beyond the World (facsimile copy) [Design section]

Stephen Spender: World Within World (1953 hardback with vgc dustjacket) [Lit. Biog Section]

Daisy & Angela Ashford: Love and Marriage (illustrated by Ralph Steadman) [Art section]

Roald Dahl: Boy (nice hardback version) [Lit. Biog section]

Ivor Brown: Say the Word [Linguistics & Dictionaries section]

Michael Twyman: The British Library Guide to Printing [very happy with this one, found in the Design section]

John R. Biggs: Basic Typography [Design section]

a Thames & Hudson catalogue: Art as Activist: Revolutionary Posters from Central and Eastern Europe [Art & Architecture section]

...and a little book abnout Scrimshaw and how to make it. [craft & sewing section]

Hooray! And I've sussed out the places I'll revisit with a big open green bag on Sunday. Huzzar!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

annual spring clean

I just couldn't help myself. I've gone Beta. Now I've got a very hungry son waiting for me to stop tweaking so that I can make him dinner.

Dinner plans have devolved from stir fry to meat pies & salad.

But I'm happy with the de-clutter. I need to do the same with the room I'm sitting in, but this is a good start.

I'm also randomly going through my old posts and adding labels/tags/whatever (this will last until I stop procrastinating and get back to work). The lack of comments in those early posts is due to my pathological template changing, not because nobody commented. I still have all the old comments backed up on a disk somewhere, because some of them -- most of them -- are classic and better to read through than old letters.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


There is an intersection of two roads near the university. Not the one that leads into the university, but down the road a bit, closer to the art school. I ride my bicycle across it twice a day, to and fro.

An ex-lover moved back to Canberra a couple of years ago. We had loved each other dearly once, but we were very young. The first time I saw him, almost twenty years ago, he was walking past me and my friends at the university. He had a gracefulness about him, a tall, lithe frame, a quiet, young dignity. I orchestrated a meeting with him, I liked him a lot, and I worked hard to woo him out of his determination to not fall into another serious relationship, having just come out of an intense school-sweetheart engagement. I can be charming and persuasive when I want to be. He fell, and so did I.

A few short years later we fell apart, for a variety of silly reasons that periodically through my adulthood I would weep in frustration over. I used to wonder if he'd been the one, if I'd pushed him away, or if he'd pushed me. Not having seen him for years, I would fantasise about meeting him again, and finding out if we were right for each other, now that we'd worked through our issues, dropped a bit of baggage, picked a few other pieces up. Now that we were older.

When he moved back to Canberra, he got in touch. I was newly married, he was following his heart north and moving in with her as she started a post in the Public Service. We met. The earth didn't move, of course, and by that time I didn't want it to. We both look different, but not so different that we don't recognise each other. There's a different kind of recognition between us now that is like a sad undercurrent, a mutual nostalgia, a shared history, a glimpse of an alternate universe.

We told each other that we should meet occasionally, have coffee or something. We haven't. But we both travel along the same path towards the university. We travel it often, he on foot and me on my bike. But the only place we ever cross paths is at that intersection, always with him going in and me heading out.

We face each other across the lights, and smile. The last few times I have held my hand out in a high five motion and we clasp hands briefly as we pass. And we keep going, in opposite directions along the same path.

Today I got to the lights just as they were changing. He had just crossed to my side. We stopped, and talked. One of the things I'd forgotten about him is how hard it is to have a conversation with him, as he is self-contained, shy, a still, deep pool of water. We shared news, a fact each, for a while, and then he told me that he's suddenly become an uncle, many times over, as all his siblings have had multiple babies. I asked if he planned to join them. He winced, and shook his head, looking at his feet. No, he was glad the pressure was off. I understand that pressure, and nodded, looking at my feet.

We were almost parents, once upon a time. We chose not to be. I don't regret it; I can't speak for him. But the undercurrent ran deeper all of a sudden. The lights changed, and we kissed each other hurriedly on the cheek and moved apart, travelling again, in different directions along the same path.

Lifeline to the world




Old books, scrappy books, fun books, weird books, big books, small books, children's books, magazines, vinyl records, weird pamphlets... even rare books.

You name it, they've got it, as long as decent, book-loving Canberrans have chucked it their way in the last couple of years.

7, 8, 9 MARCH 2008
Friday 10am-6pm
Saturday 10am-5pm
Sunday 10am-4pm

More fun than just about anything else I know. If you love books.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Q: When is a house a home?

A: when it's listed in the Real Estate section of the Canberra Times.

Over the last ten or so years, I have watched the RE section of the CT grow from half of a broadsheet section (shared with Employment, probably) to its own half-sheet full-colour, saddle-stitched (i.e., stapled) 104-page(!) magazine. At least it's not glossy, but I dare say that's only a matter of time, really.

Last weekend and today, I searched this 'section', called Domain (highly original, I know) for images to cut & paste the old-fashioned way, with -- gasp -- scissors and glue, to make a master page for a photocopy zine exercise I'm doing with my Book Design students. I wanted large lush house and interior images, and lines of text to collage about houses and the things they contain. I specifically wanted the word HOUSE.

There is, in 104 pages, only a few, maybe only four, uses of the word HOUSE, in all instances followed very quickly by the word HOME.

There is a gross overuse of the word HOME, and medium use of the word PROPERTY.

In the private advertisements, listed by suckers who are Not In The Know, 'HSE' is occasionally used, but not the full word because it would cost too much.

The home is two minutes walk from...

Aficionados of this suburb will recognise this glamorous home as one of Kaleen's finest...

Number of homes sold in the suburb in 2007...

This stunning family home was designed from the ground up to take advantage of the spectacular views...
[I should hope so! Hard to design a building from the side across, or from the top down]

This dual-occupancy property features a 4 bedroom home ... at the back of the block is a three bedroom home...

Constructed less than 4 years ago ... you will discover this substantial and well presented 4 bedroom plus ensuite home.

Looking for a separate title home without the hassle of a body corporate?
[oh noes!]

This 3 bedroom home has been extensively modernized to ensure you enjoy coming home every day. [GAH]

If you have been searching for a home and love to entertain, this light filled three/four bedroom home may be just too tempting.
[tears hair out by the roots]

Whether you are looking for your first home or even your first investment property, this home could be the one for y---- OK, THAT'S ENOUGH!

Your Honour, I object! Apart from the shocking lack of hyphens, I object to the overuse of such a delicate and intangible term as HOME.

I would like to write more, much more, about the ways that a house becomes a home: by the people in it, by the amount of time you spend in it, by the length of time you've lived in it; about the fact that millions of people around the world have good, valid homes without the tonnage of bricks and stainless steel that we seem to think we need; about the execrable use of language in the RE industry; and about the fact that my students probably think that making a photocopy book is impossibly retro of me...

...but I've run out of time. Sorry, it's a busy day (yes, I know it's Sunday), and I just had to quickly vent my spleen.

Things to be done, pages to be folded, aged photocopier to be gently warmed up.

When opportunity knocks, grab it!

Reading Domain and writing this post totally changed what I made for the student group project. It's now a double-sided photocopied A4, with the reverse a page of blue & white clouds (our ancient and beloved workshop photocopier has blue and black toner) and the main side a series of houses and interiors with snippets of text pasted over them (many the same that I quoted above).

It's folded in half and then halves again and slitted down the middle in a classic one-page zine fold (which, if you don't know or want downloadable instructions on how to do it, click here), and then I've cut out bits of the details (windows, fridge doors, pool decorations) to reveal the blue sky and clouds underneath.

The title is 'HOME NOT HOUSE'. The last page is a townhouse, with the words 'townhouse not home', because my trawling post-post revealed that only houses with a chance of families living in them were dubbed 'homes'. Flats, apartments, townhouses, were all given their real names or were called 'properties'. Tuh, talk about fairy-tales!