Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Getting to somewhere nice

When the art school is all cleaned up at the end of each year, students leave stuff behind. Sometimes it's confusingly useful stuff, sometimes absolutely useless. One year, a girl left behind a whole box of simple art materials: textas, ink pads, stamps, the sort of thing you'd leave behind when you're returning home by plane a very long distance.

I took home one of the stamps because I didn't understand why it had been bought in the first place. It's very twee, very odd, and very un-PC, using as it does a gollywog straight from the archives of Enid Blyton. I thought maybe I could use it somehow, some day.

Well, I decided to make it a kind of Xmas card for 2009:

Not too jolly, but (I hope) you know what I mean. The proper message is here: I hope everyone out there enjoys being home for Xmas, or at least gets the chance to go to a safe place that will look after them. And even if it's not Xmas for everyone, I hope the suppos-ed Xmas spirit pervades all the glum & sticky corners of our nation.*

We're off up north today, en route to the Woodford Folk Festival (all starting on Boxing Day), and I'm sure I'll keep in touch via iPhone and various loaned computers, although I won't be able to cruise the neighbourhood much...

So have a lovely whatever you want it to be. See you properly in the New Year!

*For any overseas readers: this is a very Australian message, and relates to our way of dealing with international visitors. Just google "Christmas Island" if you want to find out more...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

product displacement

As a decidedly secular human, and married to someone who is consciously atheistic after a very Christian childhood, I always have problems with the notion of Christmas. I can understand it as a day of rest, a day of celebration, maybe even a day of reflection, but I just don't get the relentless pressure to perform, the extended and prolonged lead-up to the event, and the overburdened and under-thought media beat-up of one single day that only leads to a huge sigh of relief on Boxing Day (the day that we really should be thinking about charity) that it's all over for another six months (depending upon when your local shops start displaying tinsel). And that ridiculous rush around the shops, followed a few days later with another rush around the sales. Bah humbug, to infinity.

So when I was offered the chance to read The Atheist's Guide to Christmas in return for a mention, I jumped at it (that was back when I thought I'd have ample time to blog!). I knew BB would have a squizz, and I was quite interested myself. So it duly came, I read some, passed it on to BB, who read some and then lost it somewhere around the house until I had my memory jogged by a couple of emails, and I found it again. Classic. In the meantime, NZ jumped on the campaign bus. I'm very aware that by doing this review, I've become very 2009. Why not? It's almost 2010!

Anyhoo, here's my mention: this is a jolly good read. Apart from the fact that it's very British, and has multiple moments when the text is very Anglocentric (not in terms of skin but in culture -- can you say Britocentric?), there are some really good essays and writers. BB was a bit sad that Ricky Gervais wasn't in it (didn't surprise me), but was consoled by Robin Ince, who is the subject of Ricky's annoying cry of OOOOHHHHHHHHHH ROBIN! that all of the extended members of my family know so well, thanks to BB (who, I despair, is a real catch-phrase man in the way that other men obsess about sport or beer).

There are big drawcards like Richard Dawkins and little deterrents like Simon le Bon, whom I wasn't aware carried any weight at all in any arena (again, must be a British thing), but for my money this book is worth getting for one piece alone: the essay by comedian Josie Long, entitled Things to Make and Do at Christmas. She has wonderful ideas for Christmas preparations and Christmas games, and her idea about Christmas Crackers will inspire me in years to come.

Another essay I really enjoyed was by David Baddiel and Arvind Ethan David, who conducted a serious survey of the mainsream film industry (focussing primarily on Hollywood) and asked: three movies with explicitly atheist protagonists or themes. Not documentaries or TV programmes, but proper, popcorn-eating, multiplex-playing movies.

BB and I played this on the way to Colonel Duck's farm last night (where I type now). We couldn't do it. In fact, according to these two filmmakers,

...even the Atheist Film Festival, after running an internet-wide competition for suggestions, has only been able to settle on three titles: The Root of All Evil, Deliver Us from All Evil ... and The Life of Brian...

(And they admit the latter title isn't really atheistic, just a naughty boy.) The rest of the essay is a great discussion about how some movies start with atheistic themes or from an atheistic book (like The Golden Compass) and then are sabotaged by a nervous industry, and why. I highly recommend it.

I have to admit that I haven't read the entire book, but I think that's a plus. I've read over half, and it's a bit like a volume of poetry: so diverse that you can't actually read it from front to back; you have to dip in and out, read something, think about it, and then try something else. Simon Price wrote an amusing piece about ways of enjoying Christmas music, Mitch Benn made a salient point that allows us to use the term 'Christmas' (I still prefer 'Xmas'):

if only practising Christians can use the word Christmas, then only Vikings can use the word Thursday.

BB and I had fun trying to work out who most of the writers were -- again, the British thing -- but it suited both of us, as he knows who Derren Brown is (Magician) while I know who Ed Byrne is (stand-up comic).

So, we're having Xmas today. It's ironic, I don't want to have any bloddy Xmases, but every year I have two: an early one with the Duck family, and then one on the actual day wherever we happen to be travelling. This year we'll be with the lovely Sacha and her family again on the eve before the Woodford Folk Festival. That Xmas will be very laid-back, but today we have a tree, lots of presents, my dear little Nana, the first of BB's Xmas puddings, and lashings of bubbly. We're all dressed up, but not going anywhere. Maybe we'll play Scrabble. Maybe we'll fall asleep in front of the tv with full tummies. Whatever we do, this is the last year I'll do Xmas this way. Next year, with a bit of planning, I want to do it Josie's way, with lots of fun and laughter. She's been dog-eared, and her essay will be loved by me for a long time.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cranky & Humbuggish

Sorry for the silence
All I wish for Christmas is three extra hours in the day.
Until someone grants that wish, I'll just have to keep talking to you in my head.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


This thursday: 10 December

Canberra Bookbinders Guild Christmas Meeting.
If you've always wanted to join but felt shy, this is the perfect first time experience. it's a Show, Tell & Sell session: people are encouraged to bring their work to show and they are also encouraged to bring things for sale, whether it's books or excess materials or tools. There'll be a glass of wine or three and it's also bring a plate of nibblies. 7.30, Woden Community Centre (behind the big discount chemist, opposite Woollies -- the door is self-locking, which is sometimes off-putting: you have to ring the doorbell and one of the nice binders will rush out & open it).

Megalo are having their annual Member's Show opening, even though they haven't put it up on their website. I think that starts at 6pm, so you can do like I'm doing, and rush between the two events.

Next week: Wednesday, 16 December, 6pm

Gifted image

Gifted reverse

ANCA Gallery & Studios (where I have my studio) is having their Christmas show, with lots of goodies up & about. We're also having a lucky dip, fondly referred to as '20:20', because the dip items will be priced between 20c and $20, and all proceeds go to the Fred Hollows Foundation (chosen because we're visual artists, vision is very important to us). So far we have all sorts of things in the dip, including these:


I call them 'mouthpieces'; they're origami mouths, and when you pull the side tabs back & forth, the mouths open and shut. If you hold them in front of your face the effect can be quite freaky! (I know that by sewing them they sully the idea of fold-only origami, but I found they hold together much better as an object with a bit of a stitch.)

I'm sure I can add other things to this list of events, but between those and all of Bumblebee's primary school graduation hoo-haas, they're quite enough to be doing for now.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Cinematic LOLcattery

With big snaps to For Battle, who between them have many fingers on many pulses, and also many things without pulses, may I please recommend to you

Pop Suede, and especially their post of a LOLcat version of Twilight: New Moon.

Now I don't have to see the movie. Or, I think, read the book. They also did a LOLcat version of the first Twilight movie. And Sex and the City: the movie.

I'm just waiting for LOLcat crib texts for the HSC and other important exams. These cats are defining our times, and I'm loving the ride.

duck up

Yay, website fixed. Thanks for the kind offer, Tigtog, but all it needed was a bit of nagging after a slack weekend.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

broad sides & hyphens

O hai

I've not been around, I've been off socialising with my non-social-network network. How quaint, to sit face to face with people and catch up on news that is older than five minutes.

In the meantime, I've been accruing dotpoints:

-- firstly, go here and have a damn good chortle.

-- back? Wasn't that funny?

-- When I mentioned the other day that I was selecting future Duckettes, what I meant was: I've established a little residency for a couple of graduating students (from my art skool) to come to Studio Duck and print an edition of letterpress broadsides each. Broadsides are essentially posters, usually incorporating text and imagery, most often poetry, but not always.

So I got the chance to walk around the school and get a preview of the grad show to find potential people. I had one pretty much chosen beforehand, but I have had so many good students come through the Book Studio and play with the letterpress facilities, that choosing the second was tricky.

Eventually I made my choice, and then on Friday I went along to the prize-giving ceremony and gave out my residencies, doing the whole shake-and-kiss thingy for good measure. So stay tuned for the adventures of Peter and Natalie and their broadsides, which will hopefully be produced in a couple of months or so! I've bought all the paper, so now I just have to get them into the studio and get planning with them.

presenting 09
Bumblebee's photo -- from afar and above -- of me presenting my award to one of the two. The poles are tricksy things :)

Peter graduated from Printmedia & Drawing, and he does the most beautiful wood engravings from found wood that he prints in really interesting ways and also produces books from them that are like slow motion animations. Natalie is a Photography student, but her bookwork is very separate from her photography: very text-based and quirky. I think the two of them will make very different broadsides, which is what I want -- I'm planning to keep a small part of the edition aside to form a limited edition folio in five or ten years time, and it should be a really diverse bunch of broadsides.

-- After the award ceremony I took Bumblebee out to see a local outfit called Mr Fibby. The frontman used to be/is B's drama teacher, and they are very good. Have a listen for yourself. B was alternately in stitches and enthralled, and now he thinks he knows what he wants to do when he grows up.

-- This morning I had breakfast with an old friend who has been busy producing her own music for many years in the background of a busy money-poor love-rich creative-community life and is now hovering on the brink of her first album release. I'd love you to also have a listen to her music (especially Jack and Angel, the latter being a song I first fell in love with yonks ago sitting on a beach under the stars when we were in a very small band together) because if you like it, please support her by buying one of the albums in a few weeks and telling all your friends about it. I'll remind you again when it's released.

-- This afternoon I'm going to a get-together of members of my old art school workshop, the now-extinct-in-all-but-our-hearts Graphic Investigation Workshop. If you're an ex-student of GIW, and didn't know that there was a GIW Facebook group, come and join it now.

-- I got Bumblebee into the studio yesterday to help me print a Xmas card for this year. To my relief, he liked using the printing press, although he needed to use both arms to work it, and he had to take regular breaks. I haven't mentioned that B is not feeling the best at the moment -- he has permanently swollen glands in his neck and low energy, and we're undergoing various tests to identify the problem. He hasn't got Glandular Fever -- although he's HAD it, the tests reveal -- but it could be post-viral, or something else altogether. He's not terribly ill or anything, just not firing on all cylinders. And he's proved himself to be a very good Printer's Devil, which bodes well for the future!

(More photos of his printing at flickr)

We also had a bit of a visitor in the studio the day before:

spider visit

Discovered (thankfully) just before I actually put my hand on the water bottle, as I was reaching for it. Byrd was passing by, and he's very good at moving spiders, to Bumblebee's relief.

Have to go! Running late for re-onion.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

duck down

Apologies to anyone trying to access my formal website. I got an email telling me that it would be down for a day for some hosting software enema or some such thing, and two days later it is still down, although my dashboardy thing looks ok and everything is still intact behind the scenes. Frustratingly, I seem to have trashed the email, and I didn't get a chance to sit and contact my hosting service today (too busy going to the art school to pick out two future duckettes -- but more on that this weekend) so it's still down.


Let's all take this moment to breathe. In, out. In, out. Try not to think about Australian politics, and especially not about swimming costumes. In, out.