Thursday, 30 October 2008


I don't do drop ins. There I've said it.

I know they're a part of living in a small community in the country, but I really haven't got the hang of them yet. People coming over, dropping in, swinging by.

I grew up on a main road in the city so we never had friends just stopping in. And now I work from home and honour the distinction between my private and public self.

There are however people who I love dropping in. My sister who lives nearby and a handful of friends who won't be alarmed if I hang out the washing while we chat, if the house is untidy or if I am still in my walking gear from that morning.

Our delightful friend, O is one such person. When he drops round he makes our day all that much better, even when it's not going badly. He recently sent me some of his latest poems that make me feel like he's just come by when I read them.

More here.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

A Toast

The other morning PJ and I came into the living room to see Z drawing a treasure map with permanent markers. The paper was too thin and his islands and palm trees are now inscribed on our floor.

This morning when we woke and heard Z making noise outside our door, we were quick to call out to see what he was doing. He asked us to close our eyes and the next moment he burst in with breakfast in bed for us. It was the first time he had done this. We applauded while we ate.

It has been a week of competent firsts for Z. Yesterday he yelled to me, "Look what the bunny rabbits did!" I thought he meant the chooks and had his words muddled up. I went over to see what he was talking about. A few days ago I had taught him to tie his shoelaces the way I first learnt: you make two looped bunny rabbit ears then cross them. He'd been practicing and had tied them by himself.

I once read that kids grow faster in springtime and I visualised it in stop motion animation. I never for one minute imagined that you could see it right before your eyes.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Brave Day, Tuesdays

I don't remember what difficult task started it. I was in high school at the time, so it was most likely about standing up to a friend. I brought it up with my mum who, in her wisdom came up with the idea of Brave Day, Tuesdays.

She suggested that whatever I found onerous or too hard, I should save up to do on Tuesdays. And then after a while I should do brave things on Wednesdays too, then Thursdays etc until I was being brave every day.

It's been over two decades since then and I still haven't made it the whole week. It appeals to me to have a single day a week to take off my glasses and put on my cape.

Monday is by its very nature a day of confrontations, but Tuesdays always seem to need a little nudge.

Monday, 27 October 2008

A Year of Perfect Days

My older sister K has three kids. My younger sister E is a musician who has released three CDs. In a trifecta of beautiful coincidences, the three albums were born at the same time as the babies.

My youngest niece has just celebrated her first birthday, which means it has been a year since the launch of E's most recent musical creation, A Year of Perfect Days. Isn't that a great title? The CD liner notes are set out like a calendar and there are 12 tracks, one for every month.

Just after the album was launched E was interviewed in dozens of papers and magazines. It was so exciting! I like what she told the interviewer of Beat Magazine:
The album is called A Year of Perfect Days, the songs are about a particular time or a particular moment in your life, and that gets captured in the melody and the rhythm and all of those things. It's not like they're all happy, uplifting numbers, it's just a collection of 12 songs that hopefully capture different moments, and they're perfect because they are what they are.
I often think about this definition of perfection. It's not about golden eggs or things turning out just so. That's not perfection, that's just good news. Perfection is when life happens; the good and the bad of it, the quiet and the vulgar. And you are there, alive and awake for all of it.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Ghost Nets

A few days ago I read Donovan Hohn's wonderful essay, Moby-Duck: Or, the Synthetic Wilderness of Childhood.

In it, he talks about high-sea drift nets that were banned by the UN in 1992.
They were nets with a mesh size of about four inches, but they were, like, fifty miles long. The Japanese would sit there and interweave these for fifty miles. There were something like a thousand drift nets being used every night in the 1980s, and if you do the math they were filtering all the water in the upper fifty feet every year. Well, they were catching all the large animals, and it clearly could not go on.
Despite the UN's moratorium on the them, nearly half of these ghost nets are still out there, abandoned.
What happens is, the nets keep catching animals, and then the animals die, and then after a while, the nets get old, and they roll up on a coral reef, and the waves roll it along like a big avalanche ball, killing everything in its path.

I read the article three days ago on the morning I visited my grandmother, who has Alzheimer's. Occasionally she makes sense, but for the most part she talks as though she's reciting a Gertrude Stein poem.

When she does make sense, she doesn't really make sense. Her mouth forms words that remind me of things she used to say, might have said, could have said, would have said. I imagine her consciousness like a ghost net, bobbing willy nilly on forgotten seas.

I charter a little row boat and paddle out into her depths until I reach such an expanse of netting. Amongst all the flotsam debris I find solid remembrances. 

On closer inspection, once I have returned to shore, I am unable to determine if what I have netted are my memories of her, weathered by months of deterioration, or her memories of me, suffocated by the barnacles of her illness.

Saturday, 25 October 2008


From Arbroath in the UK:
Atheist adverts declaring "there's probably no God" could be placed on buses across the country after a fundraising drive made five times the target amount in just one day. 
Even religious groups donated money to the cause in the belief that the campaign would encourage people to think more about faith and could actually enhance support for Christianity. 

Organisers needed to raise just £2,750 from supporters in order to pay for adverts doubting the existence of God to be plastered across 30 London bendy-buses for a month, after the prominent atheist Professor Richard Dawkins agreed to match all donations. Previous attempts to raise the money had failed. 

But the £5,500 target was met within minutes of a page being launched on the fundraising website Justgiving on Tuesday, and after a few hours more than £31,000 had been given to the Atheist Bus Campaign – over five times the amount required. 

Now there are plans to get the message – "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life" – put on buses across Britain as well as on Tube trains in the capital. 

Tuesday, 21 October 2008


That's me on the left when I had short hair. I'm holding a dish of cookies, as drawn by Loobylu.

Today on her blog she has a competition for her readers. She is asking for people's favourite Internet recipes. Hers, she says, is for Princess Meg’s Birthday Celebration Cookies, which she blogged about just after she and I worked together.

My entry: 
Oh how things change in seven and a half years!

I used to love anything with dried apricots in them, but now I love anything with ginger.

This is currently my favourite recipe:

My stepson is 6 and is learning to read. We like to make this recipe together and use our alphabet cookie cutters to spell out our happiness we then eat.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Double Fudge

Z's garage saleI guess that's what happens when you have older siblings – you inevitably get their hand me downs. In my case: toys, clothes, books and sometimes even boyfriends. 

I remember reading my older sister K's Judy Blume books. Are You There God? It's Me Margaret, Forever, Superfudge, Then Again, Maybe I Won't; I read and enjoyed them all with a dictionary on hand.

This morning on my walk I listened to a great podcasted interview with Blume, now 70. She was talking, among other things, about her writing process and her inspiration. One of her grandchildren loved Superfudge so much she decided to write Double Fudge 22 years later.

Yesterday we spent the morning with my parents who were visiting for a few days. My dad sat on the corner of our street with Z, who had an impromptu garage sale with some of his old toys as he has no younger siblings to hand them down to. (My dad blogged about it today. The above photo is taken from his post.)

I might not have been ready for Blume's books, but they spoke the right words to me at the right time. I might have thought I wasn't ready for a child, but my whole world has swollen to make room.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Great Walls of Fire

From Boing Boing:
Australia's Great Firewall: Just Like China, Syria and Other "Free" Countries
In a move that seems to be happening without comment from the Australian media, the Australian government is introducing a censorship regime ostensibly targeted at stopping teenagers accessing online porn.

But rather than being an opt-in system, it's "opt-out." I use the scare quotes because, and this is the most insidious part, you can't actually opt out - you can merely be placed on an alternative blacklist which, instead of blocking "content inappropriate for children," block any material deemed to be illegal.

The fact that it will likely reduce everyone's internet performance is secondary; It will most likely incorrectly block 1% of sites, and now what you are allowed to view online is determined and controlled by the state (although most likely quite inaccurately).

The rationale is that since they're setting it up anyway, they're morally obliged to block traffic deemed illegal:

"Illegal is illegal and if there is infrastructure in place to block it, then it will be required to be blocked — end of story."

I don't think I need to go into too much detail about the potential threat to our civil liberties.

People of Australia, please write to your MPs to voice your opposition to this.
More here.

Bed Head

While You Were Sleeping - Elvis Perkins

This post is dedicated to my sister E who recommended I take Melatonin to help me sleep, and to her friend P who recommended it to her. 

Thank you and thank you!

Thursday, 16 October 2008

The Shock Doctrine

Reading a book like Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine, at a point like this in economic history is enough to make anyone want to run back to the safe pages of fictional books.

Several weeks ago, when PJ and I had finished watching the final episodes of Underbelly, it was exciting to read in the paper about all the unsavoury underworld characters we had come to know and even like.

Not so with Klein's chronicle of greed. To read her descriptions of so many militant capitalists, such as the Chicago School's Milton Friedman, and what they were prepared to do to get their economic policies into place in other countries as well as in the US, is frightening to say the least. But to open up the paper and read the extent to which the world economy has been affected because of such greed is simply horrifying.

Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs took home $74 million in salary, bonuses and other awards last year. Richard Fuld, chief executive of the now bankrupt Lehman Brothers received $71.9 million.

Over the past five years, Fuld made $354 million leading his company on a wild ride that ultimately ended in bankruptcy. He was Lehman's biggest individual shareholder.
Let's hope Rudd's crackdown on "extreme capitalism" and bank executive salaries is received as the blow we wish we could deliver ourselves, personally. 

In the US, it looks like someone beat us to it:

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

The Garden of Self Defence

On the opening night of TINA, PJ was invited to be on a panel called 2020: Arbitrary Figures & Advocating Real Cultural Change. The panel was made up of people who run festivals or write books or host radio programs about the arts; people whose opinions influence change, but who were not invited to take part in Mr Rudd's 2020 Summit.

Many of the questions were about how young artists can find alternative sources of funding.

"Do we have any Climate Change or Peak Oil deniers in the audience?" PJ wanted to know.

"Is there anyone here who thinks the Government is going to save us from environmental catastrophe?"

He asked: "Why not take responsibility for ourselves and not rely on Government for funding or survival?" He asked: "To have more time to make our art, why not grow our own organic food?"

I am thinking about this because of two great articles my Mum sent me. One is Dirt cheap – Step one in the battle against soaring food prices: Start your own recession garden and the other is Sweat Equity Put to Use Within Sight of Wall Street, and also because PJ launched his blog yesterday, from where the above picture of our broad beans comes.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Having Time

Three years ago I phoned my sister K and asked what I could give J, her second eldest daughter, for her birthday. She told me time, and suggested I come up and spend a few hours with her as my gift.

K's answer jarred me; I wanted my nieces to take spending time with me for granted. And so I decided to leave Melbourne and move up here to be closer to them.

Today J celebrated her 5th birthday with a gorgeous prince and princesses party. 

Afterwards, Z and I went for a bush walk to burn off the effects of the party food. It was hot and we were keen to walk the loop road quickly. But for Z that meant climbing retaining walls, trees and embankments to find a good stick, an old can, some newspaper and what he thought looked like a wallaby bone.

There's a line in Capote's In Cold Blood that kept coming to mind: "Nancy Clutter is always in a hurry, but she always has time."

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Review: To See Again

Flip the book over and:

A fantastic review of PJ and Mr O's book has just been published:
How to Do Words With Things is a beautiful book object. The front cover is the back cover, and the back the front: each a beginning and an end. The two works that comprise the one object–A Free-Dragging Manifesto by Patrick Jones and subtext by Peter O’Mara–face each other in a reverse doubling, like the opening and closing punctuation of quotation marks, or the snug in-folding of two kippers, top-to-tail in a can. The book is made from the chlorine-free pulp of sustainable plantation trees and is printed using vegetable oil-based inks. It is, as Jones said in an email exchange, “practically edible!”
You can read the rest here.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Friday Night Rule

Whenever we go to Melbourne, the Friday Night Rule applies regardless of what day it is.

PJ implemented the rule several months ago after I had a fight with a guy on a street corner. The guy finished his cigarette and dropped it on the ground just as I walked past him. Taken aback, I asked if he was going to pick it up. He told me he wasn't and a fight ensued.

The rule relates not just to smokers but to people doing anything offensive and pertains to my not accosting them on the street, especially after dark.

Last night PJ and I went to Melbourne to see our gorgeous friend SV perform with her cabaret outfit for the Fringe Festival.

Every time we come to Melbourne, the first things I notice are how many cars there are and how many people smoke. But this time the first thing I noticed was how people were just carrying on, business as usual. 

The shops were full of shoppers and their hands were full of goods in plastic bags. How is it that the papers can be so full of doom and gloom but that the majority of people haven't noticed?

A bit of denial is a good thing, I know this. Otherwise being awake would be too hard. But for how long can be people be in denial about the state of things?

Global warming? Peak Oil? The Wall St Crisis? The list goes on and on. People still smoke, gamble, eat junk food, fly overseas on holidays. We delude ourselves to get by, I get that. 

But what I don't quite get is the extent.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Public Concern

This is the first image that came up when I googled Private Public.

This morning I left later than usual for my walk and ran into two different parties of bush walkers in full Gore-Tex attire. At my usual hour it is just the native animals who spy me in my op shopped conglomeration of mismatched colours and layers.

I had my iPod and was in my own world as I listened to the latest This American Life podcast, so to see other human forms amongst the trees really punctured my sense of solitude.

The private made public.

Later in the morning over coffee I read the chapter of Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine entitled, 'A Corporatist State,' in which she writes:
In some ways, however, the stories about corruption and revolving doors leave a false impression. They imply that there is still a clear line between the state and the [disaster capitalist] complex, when in fact the line disappeared long ago. The innovation of the Bush years lies not in how quickly politicians move from one world to another but in how many feel entitled to occupy both worlds simultaneously.
The public made private.

And then just now I read on (Text)ure and (me)aning about artist Sophie Calle's fascination with the interface between our public lives and our private selves.
Calle's followings, recordings and wanderings are her work.
She brings the public/private space to the gallery.
To the published page.
To the archive of the extraordinary ordinary.
The private made private made public.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

With Decorum

For my birthday I asked my sisters for a totem tennis. It sits in our garden and gets a beating when Z has a friend over or when I am feeling angry. 

Sometimes I feel very very angry. Are you surprised? Why is it that anger is not something we talk about easily? And why is that I don't know many people who are very good at being angry? (Does that say more about the people I hang out with or more about people in general?)

While we were in Newcastle, we went to hear a panel on which there was a woman whose paper absolutely and utterly infuriated me. Still when I think about it now, I feel my cheeks darken. And during question time I told her, then challenged her with a question she answered with indifference.

Afterwards I felt terrible. Even though I had acted according to my own integrity, I felt as though my anger was not in the spirit of the day. And then I was angry at myself for not knowing how to be angry.

PJ is the first boyfriend I have had where I have not felt as though a squabble will culminate in a break up. And as a result, I feel more competent with my anger. But fighting with a sibling or a lover is easier than expressing anger towards a stranger with decorum.

Monday, 6 October 2008

The Conquerer

A few nights ago I was one of 17. We car convoyed to a big gaudy Greek restaurant on the petticoated outskirt of Newcastle: families, feta, folk dancing.

I asked those seated around me what words they know in Greek.

PM, who's on the home straight of his PhD said that he has been hibernating, working. When he leaves the house, the light reaches him from different angles; sounds and encounters are as daydreams.

Recently on a milk errand he found himself a pedestrian behind a man, and a woman in a dress cut low at the back.

Sideways up the centre of her spine she had some letters inked that PM had to sneak closer to read.

The tattoo comprised 6 letters that spelt a Greek word that PM made sure he memorised to look up later.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Between My Toes

About Yesterday

All morning I had a line from my paper in my head: "The French Government doesn't think so." It was the one sentence in my whole presentation I wasn't sure how to intone.

My talk was about violence on YouTube and in it, I discuss how last year the French Government passed legislation that outlawed the filming of violent acts by any citizen who is not a professional journalist. Bloggers, amateur documentary filmmakers or those filming to collect evidence of a crime are not exempt.

In the end when it was time for my paper, that line found its own place and my ideas waved in the breeze of the day, like a flag.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Hair Horse

A quick shower before our early morning's flight.

I place my hair on the wall so as not to clog the drain.

The horse gallops on the tiles.

We fly.