Monday, May 30, 2011


I've had a crappy half a day. Once I realised it was going to be craptacular and I was going to be miserable, I decided to put a stop to the normal day's plan and sook at home with a fire and the cats. I didn't feel well, and then I got a couple of bad news emails. So, as I have already stated on Facebook, I took Paul or John's advice: I lit a fire. It wasn't good Norwegian wood, it was quite hard-to-burn farm wood, but it cheered me up and in the end I got quite a lot done, between marshmallows. The cats had never seen open flames before, and were quite backwards in coming forwards to lie with me on the floor. They snuggled up behind me on a chair, and I rejoiced in the joy of portable laptops and cushions.

In honour of cheering up and stumbling upon it again in my archives, I am revisiting one of my all-time favorite personal posts. Here it is, titled Pride and Piracy, from waaay back in 2005:

It's been an entertaining day, but only on-line. Laura posted her excellent critique of the P&P movie, Pirates of Pemberley which has sparked all sorts of conversations. I thought I'd add another element to the fun: a visual one. Here then, are my P&P vignettes, whipped up with a dash of photoshoppery. All credit for the original images goes to the wonderful pirate image archive.









Oh la!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Initiation rights

I'm having a weirdness with Blogger, so apologies if I post even less frequently than I have been. It's something to do with the login, they're playing hard to get. But I can get in from the art skool, so I'm taking a break to slip this in.

Two days ago Bumblebee went on a camp to Wee Jasper with his Outdoor Ed class. They'd split into groups of three, worked out a menu (sausages, steak and BBQ chicken for their dinner!) and equipment, were given a list of clothes & things to pack, and I spent most of Tuesday night wrangling him to follow the lists and argued for something besides meat to go into the food bag. I pressed a tin of baked beans into his hands, saying that if the stove didn't work, if an animal broke in & ate their supplies, if they lost their utensils, this one perfect can would save him, since it could be opened by hand & eaten cold with his fingers if necessary.

He took the can, and it came back intact, as did most of the sausages. None of the clothes were touched, as he slept in his clothes overnight (including boots!) and just got up & kept going in the same clothes. He drank the 600ml carton of milk with his dinner, which was lucky because everyone else's milk froze overnight and one person's was completely off, they discovered as they swigged and spat a mouthful. B awoke the next morning with his braces frozen to his lips, and had to get a sympathetic friend to swish some unfreezing water onto his mouth to free them. That's how cold it had been.

But this is by the by. They had a marvellous time caving, abseiling and other fun things, and came home sore and desperate for a hot bath. The main reason I brought this all up is the shock I got when I dropped him off at the school early on Wed morning for the camp.

As we parked, I could see two groups: girls, standing together with their mothers, and boys, standing around without parents. I helped B carry his bags and tent up to the Boyz group, cheerily said hello into the air and felt my greeting hit a sullen wall of WTF. B, to my utter surprise, had curled downwards from the head into a similarly surly slouch and he muttered 'see you later, Mum', almost under his breath. I pretended I didn't hear him, and gazed around at the group, only to find myself being glared at by males of various heights who didn't seem to want to utter another word until the female had left them to their Business.

It was quite powerful; I didn't want to submit to this Wall of Testoterone, but I could see Bumblebee was getting more curled with every second. OK, have fun, I chirped, stopping myself from leaning in to give him a hug, and walked with a very forced air of jauntiness past the smug mothers of girls (who may have been holding a sweep to see how long I'd last) and back to the car. I decided to sit in the car until the bus arrived & they were safely loaded, and then it dawned on me that most of the cars around me also had what I presume were parents of sons, sitting and watching wistfully, like exiles, like people sent to Coventry.

I walked like a ghost for a few hours until my soul warmed up. Of course, when I picked him up yesterday afternoon, he was really happy to see me, and we nattered on for ages, but it really brought home to me that I am now a guilty pleasure for him; he is not allowed to show affection for me in public anymore, according to the conventions of his peers. One part of me wants to shout POPPYCOCK to the world, but the other part acknowledges that this is part of him becoming a separate individual in the world.

The one thing that really pleased me is that instead of sitting around the campfire with his mates all night, he was so engrossed with the book he's reading that he lay in his tent with a torch and kept reading. The book? Up to now, he's been obsessed with Alex Rider teen fiction books. When I went dumpster diving at the Lifeline Book Fair depot recently, I found a Matthew Reilly book (Contest) and gave it to him. He's completely obsessed with it. I console myself that it *is* reading, and that I'm constructing a slow and careful pathway for him, up through various genres, the same way I've been guiding him, Beatrice-like, through music and movies. The true test of his broadening knowledge is that he can now watch things like The Simpsons and South Park and actually get lots of the cultural references.

So, sigh. Many more milestones to go, and most of them in the face of these stony young men who don't want to look adults in the eye. At least we have fun at home, where, to quote B's latest friend, things are really Ninja.

Friday, May 20, 2011


I've been thinking a lot about books lately. I know you all think that I think about books all the time, and maybe I do, but as I keep telling anyone who will listen, the world of books is a very large one, with a lot of various crinkly little islands to explore.

I realise at this point that I've been WELL this week, which is why I'm thinking about something besides feeling unwell. You only feel well in hindsight, don't you? Takes something like a beach or a sunset or a smile to make you realise, but there you are, caught out, feeling well.

Anyhoo, books. I've been thinking about artist's books, but that's another post in draft form because I've been looking at the Megalo BOOK members' show.

I've also been thinking about 'real' books, the books people have in their houses, only 'real' in the disrespectful sense that 'normal' works in most circumstances. What the hell does 'real' mean? What the hell is 'normal'? Why do people always want simple answers from me about books? What the hell is 'simple'?

Rick Gekoski (I keep spelling his name wrong, but that's ok because today he spelled mine wrong) is one of those people who can seemingly pull out simple statements about books and book-buying and reading and his distaste for the internet, but often simple (or trite) statements come from unshared deeper thinking. I saw him this afternoon at the National Library, in 'conversation' with Colin Steele, and the most lasting impression I got is that he entertains the masses with the tritely amusing, and saves all the best bits for over a glass of something in front of a fire, maybe with a cat on his lap. He'd be a much more entertaining person one-on-one, unlike myself, as I'm vastly entertaining en masse and quite dull in person.

I love the National Library as an institution, and am a Friend of it, but when I go to events there I get quite smothered by the thick fug of Smug in the air. You know the stuff: an entire theatre of people who Know They Read The Right Stuff. It's probably gathering about Sydney Harbour as I type, as the various venues prepare for the writers festival. I'm not complaining about ALL readers, or even people at festivals, but of people who don't like Genre Writers (although a thriller/murder mystery every now and again is perfectly fine, darling).

There were two moments of audible crowd reaction this afternoon. The first was when RG -- no, three! three moments of audible crowd reaction. Nobody expects the Spanish -- was giving us the red hot dirt on the International Booker Prize judging: "Carmen said she would ferret out some Chinese writers, came back with twenty novels. A ferret on speed, more like it." {{Titter}} went the happily scandalised audience. ("Bet someone's going to tweet that, damn them." No, just blog it, Rick.)

The second moment was when he said that reading good books didn't make you a better person, it just made you a better reader. That got a shockwave of disapproval; he obviously says that at every gig to get a reaction. He rationalised it beautifully, spoke of Leavis and the canon, but for me it was a DUH moment. I always mix my oats with some fruit. Last week I was reading Jackie Collins, this week Ruth Park, next week, who knows?

The third was when he stated that the internet had killed the antiquarian book industry, and got a sympathetic tutting and nodding of heads. Well, yes, because it meant a sharing of information that killed the inflated prices that suppressed information allows. But, as I pointed out in question time and afterwards in private, you won't totally lose secondhand booksellers and dealers because people need to see and feel what they're buying, and while people are buying more new books online, or secondhand books for basic reading, the need to inspect and feel will always be there for collectors.

Now that you can easily buy e-books for reading, publishers are falling over themselves to make collectable editions of both new and reprint books. They are setting up the future book collecting industry, where you will be able to collect all the various chicklit editions of Jane Austen, or only books with 'American' bindings (the ones that keep or manufacture a deckled edge on the pages). Books are shifting in the same way that all obsolete technologies go: to the scrapheap, or to the collections. Some survive, many don't. If they all survived, how boring! The hunt, the thrill of the chase, continues, and will continue on into the so-called paperless society everyone keeps banging on about. When/if there is no more paper, paper products will be fetishized, even more than they are now.

So there. That's another two cents from me.

Later I also asked RG, as he signed my sketchbook (my copy of his book is in the garage waiting for the bookshelves. He signed it 'For Karen, and Karen's book in the garage. Liberate the Books!') about the difference between the Fine Press book trade and the Rare Book trade, and we nattered on happily while the person in line behind me scowled and sent hate waves into the back of my neck. RG said, 'I always know when I meet someone who prints fine press books that I'm going to dislike them; they're always softly spoken with weird little beards, sandals, and fishy handshakes.' I laughed and shook his hand firmly and said goodbye, resolving to make fewer absolute statements in the future.

I've failed already, haven't I? Oh well.

One thing I do know -- I'm painting our bookshelves this weekend, and by the end of it, I'll be wishing I could never see a bloody book again.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Ergh. Am emotionally exhausted.

We finally got to have a Friday-night-movie date night last night, to see Source Code (which I highly recommend, am in now officially in lerv with Duncan Jones), and then when we got home we had a big fight about something stupid, so that bedtime was late and terse until we snuggled up against the cold and said sorry. Fights don't last long, but the shockwaves linger a while. We're not fighting types, and certainly don't find them invigorating like some couples do.

Then I woke up and went to the local farmers' market and bought nice things, including two big yummy slabs of Amore cakes (Autumn Spice and Lemon Buttermilk & Raspberry, for enquiring minds). I ran into a family friend and was told a distressing thing about the health of ff's spouse, even closer family friend, then walked around in a daze for a while. When I got home I discovered that I'd left the cake box somewhere at the markets, Ceiling Cat knows where. Tracking the memory of what my hands were holding, I think I put the box down either at the fish stall or the herb stall. In either case, no-one yelled or ran after me to pass on the box. I hope whoever finds it enjoys the excellence of Sam's cooking.

So breakfast was still nice, but cake-free, which left me feeling not only wobbly but bereft. Now I'm going to the studio for a while to distract myself, and Colonel Duck is kindly coming up from Bega to do some chainsaw gardening for me. By the end of the weekend I'm hoping to have finished bookshelves to paint, and new bits of the garden to work over. That will solve the shakies, fingers crossed.

Oh, forgot to say that Bernice is back in town. Go and say hello. Play nice, childrens.
PS: Her post seems to have disappeared. I will hassle her. Maybe it's Blogger's fault, they've been half-arsed all week.

Monday, May 09, 2011


Having not been in any exhibitions yet this year, I'm now in two in the same week.


The first is a group show of ANCA tenants celebrating the kickass fact that we now have a wonderful roof of solar panels powering our gallery and office and feeding back into the ACT grid in a way that will pay them off within five years and then will generate a lovely bit of income for us, so that hopefully we can keep having hired help to run the gallery etc instead of having to do it ourselves.

I've been helping to hang the show after work and I must say that it's a really, really cool show, full of strong, diverse and engaging work.

The opening is on Wednesday at 6pm, 1 Rosevear Place, Dickson, and we're having some interesting people speaking: Dr Richard Denniss from the Australia Institute, Anne Clark from local organisation See-Change, plus there will be lots of information available for anyone interested in knowing more about solar installation and rebates. To add a bit of zing, we have wine and food sponsors (Casella Win, the ANU Food Co-Op, Homeleigh Olives and Choku Bai Jo) to help you relax and enjoy the art, darlings.

We're also having a few open studios at ANCA Dickson and Mitchell from 12 to 5 on Saturday (14 May) if you want to have peeks at working artists and see the show.


This is one of Megalo's excellent Members' Shows, and the theme is artist's books, so of course I had to make sure I was in it, it would have been shameful to let it slip. There are a few things happening within the show, besides books made by the members -- there's also the first leg of one of my side-projects, a group rolling show called Flipping Books (able to be entered by anyone, contact me for details!), and a big group concertina Exquisite Corpse book. Lots to see!

The opening of BOOK is Thursday at 6pm, at Megalo, Canberra Technology Park
49 Phillip Ave, Watson.

So, that's Wednesday and Thursday nights sorted! Hope you can make it.

Friday, May 06, 2011


Yes, still itching and peeling, which makes it tricky when I work with PVA glue like all day yesterday, because at the end of the session I don't know if I'm rubbing off dry glue or skin... but getting much better, no doubt. Skin-wise, anyway.

I discovered that if you do a boring repetitive task (like glueing 50 pieces of paper to other pieces of paper, putting them in the nipping press then out and under light boards) you should listen to Mike Oldfield. His formula of making music is to start slow and gentle and then gradually build up momentum until you get to a Big Ending. It makes each small task seem very exciting, like you're working towards something that will eventually sit up and yell EUREKA! When, of course, the music finishes and you're still beavering away with the gluepot, it's a bit of an anti-climax, but it was fun while it lasted.

I was listening to Mike Oldfield because the CD laser in my studio stereo is borked, and when we were moving I found a few boxes of old cassettes, so I'm working my way through them, falling in love again with my weird music loves of twenty-odd years ago, like Mike Oldfield, Robert Cray, early Billy Joel (before Christie Brinkley messed with his brain) and Ruby among other strange mixes.

Mr Mark, who built the bookshelves and kitchen in our last house, is building us bookshelves as I type - big tall beasties, because the ceiling is very high in this house. They're quite imposing, and I can't wait to see if we have room left over once I unpack the books. Mind you, as much as I'd love to spend this weekend getting the books out, I have to wait. We have to paint the bookshelves and let them cure before the books get to them. Mr M says to leave them a month. A MONTH! Others say at least three weeks. I think last time I waited a week until I lost patience & shelved them, but I will try my best for the sake of the books themselves. The problem is that I can't start preparing and moving my studio until the books are out & up. Sigh.

Happy birthday to Best Beloved, who turned 40 yesterday. We decided that he would do something big for his birthday in the fullness of time (Conversation ranged from buying a piece of art he liked to getting some panniers for his bike. I think he's finally decided upon doing a pizza oven workshop later in the year.) so in the meantime I bought him a few little token presents... and then forgot where they all were! Dammit, senior brain already. So I contented myself with cooking him a nice meal and then bringing out a homemade self-saucing chocolate pudding with a candle in it, only to have (of course!) the candle melt from the pudding end and subside into the pudding as I was putting it in front of him. Sigh. Oh, how we roared.

Bumblebee is mumbling and cranky because on Tuesday he had braces plonked (carefully) on his teeth. Here's the photoessay:



After. Poor lovey, look at his eyes. He'd just been through an hour of hell.

Natty dentist, sorry, orthodontist who wears funny bow ties and vests to amuse teh childrens and then gives you huge heart-stopping bills.

This is the weird bit about the experience. It was like an episode of a reality tv show, with foundation-caked bottle-blonde chickybabes at the Ortho's beck & call. It's the only time I've ever felt that 'Reality' in tv terms merged with 'real life' as I know it. He obviously like to feel that he's in that universe, with these women at his beck & call. Mind you, all the people who actually did the work prepping B's teeth were very nice middle-aged women whom I'm sure would have fixed Mr O with a withering gaze if he'd dared to suggest that they went a bit blonder. Heh.

So, it's been a week of sore teeth and lips and lots of cool Greek yoghurt and soups. Poor thing, the pain will subside, and two years down the track he'll hopefully look even more gorgeous.

byrd and I have been hanging out together a bit lately, with us feeding him and his lovely new ladylove on Monday night and then him helping me to move a letterpress cabinet on Wednesday. Jolly times, except that he has a raging headcold and now I have it. Ta, luv. While we were bringing the cabinet in from Hume, we dropped into the tipshop at the Mugga Lane Tip. It's the most revolting tip shop I've ever been to, no organisation, everything exposed to the weather, and most things completely trashed. I bought a dead remote with a thought for making it into something else, and they charged me $3 for it! Cranky-making.

I'm ignoring the world at large. There's many things to say but I don't want to say them while my braincells are being suffocated by snot.

I'd like to welcome Leonard Elvis Jones into the world, the new resident at Sorrow at Sills Bend. Great name, great parents, most excellent cat uncle, all a child needs for a good start in the world.

Bugger it, I have to get out of bed to go to work. I'm going to skulk in a corner and write my new typography course and try not to snot on anyone. Then hopefully I can come home and paint bookshelves while I can't smell the fumes.