Sunday, 30 November 2008

I Thee Red

This is the table we sat around last night to help our friends J and L celebrate their commitment to each other. They were married several months ago in New York and last night we hosted a party for some of their Australian friends and family.

Dinner for 10 then others joined us for cake and hours of dancing. A fabulous night! - If this hangover is anything to go by.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Four Out of Four

Whenever I meet people I don't know there are several things I am quick to tell them that I feel go some way in explaining who I am.

The first of these is that I am one of four sisters. So important do I think this fact is, that I even mention it on my résumé. It shapes the way I communicate, the way I experience the world, my style, my self as a woman and most definitely my sense of play and joy in the everyday, and the every night; most recently last night.

My sister E came to town with her guitar and played as support to Justin Townes Earle. It was one of the best nights I have had in ages: the combination of E's clear, quiet grace and Justin's Fuck You punk-country generosity.

Several months ago I blogged about Paul Auster's introduction to a book about the high wire artist Philippe Petit. In it Auster says: "Each time we see a man walk on the wire, a part of us is up there with him." This is how I feel about my sisters.

Their triumphs are mine, their worries are mine, their pre-performance butterflies are mine. What I describe is not enmeshment or my desire to look through their cupboards. 

When one sister is away, a piece of all of us is with her. When one has a child, that love touches each of us. When one is up on stage, up on a high wire, up all night, up to her neck in duties, our blood flows towards her like, well... blood.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Tagged & Texted

Hot diggity damn, I've been tagged.

Normally this isn't my kind of thing, but seeing as though I was tagged by EC over at (Text)ure and (me)aning, I am thrilled. I mean, how could I refuse a request from someone who hand-knits text messages??

The rules:
* Mention the rules on your blog.
* Tell six quirky yet boring, unspectacular details about yourself.
* Tag six others
* Go to each person’s blog and leave a comment that lets them know they are tagged.

EC normally blogs text messages she sends and receives on any given day. And so in honour of her, my six unspectacular details are my 6 most recent text messages:

1. G'day Meg, the laundry liquid has come in. Cheers, Fiona Harris, Daylesford Aromatherapy. (FH>M)
2. Directions were perfect!! Thankschyoo! xo (E>M)
3. On my way to Creswick. Much love gorgeous one. (PJ>M)
4. Just saw all your texts. Thank you! At Bee's avoiding the hail. Rainy day and all I want to do is be nude wichoo. (M>PJ)
5. Amazing! Lovely guy. That sort of thing is normal for me. Always happy to help. Ariba! (J>M)
6. Perhaps Brunswick St and Brunswick St books? (PJ>M)

And so, in the spirit of the exercise, I hereby tag:

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

The Birthing

My folks are in town and I spent the better part of this morning with my mum sitting at a corner table at a café writing in our journals.

One of the techniques we use to get us started, something Mum has been doing for years, is to take a line from a poem and then incorporate it into our work: The line itself, a single word, or maybe just the sentiment.

Today's poem:


Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Between the Houses

When the first missionaries came to this land two centuries ago, they stole the Dreaming from the Aborigines and replaced it with the fear of God. They called the rituals that they didn't understand, bad. They took something that was untamed and joyous and put a barbed wire fence around it.

This fence was around Z this morning. He woke us up with breakfast in bed again. He was so chuffed with himself. 

"Oh my God," PJ or I said, I can't remember who, when Z told us that he had also made his own breakfast and for the first time ever, his own lunch.

Even though PJ and Z's mum's differences were so great as to cause them to divorce, on the whole the parenting Z receives in our house and his mum's is similar in style. Though of course there are some major divergences.

"Don't say Oh my God," Z said to us. "God is a rude word."

This issue has come up before and each time, PJ and I have explained that even if you believe in God, to say Oh my God is not being rude, it's just an expression.

Z's mum doesn't believe in God, but being the daughter of religious missionaries, it's not surprising that she censors Z according to her parents' conservatism.

I think Z's mum lets Z have a bit too much sugar and watch too much TV, but these differences are so minor compared to this indoctrination; compared to this suffocation of innocent Dreaming and the instilling of fear of something that doesn't exist.

Monday, 24 November 2008

The Man in Question

We moved into our house at the beginning of this year. We have made ourselves feel so at home so quickly, it's funny to think we haven't even been here 12 months.

When PJ went to see the council planning officer last year, the man asked why we wanted our house to sit sideways on the block instead of facing the street. 

"Because we want it to face north," PJ told him, in disbelief.

And lucky we got our way. Not just because our house is now solar passive, but also because our vista includes the side of the building on the corner of our street.

This morning our house was a flurry of six year-old excitement. Z woke up and said he saw a robber wearing all black going into that corner building. 

How did he know he was a robber? 

"The man was carrying a robber bag, don't you know Meg?"

He asked us to call the police but we said we couldn't because we hadn't seen the man in question. Instead, we asked him to draw a picture of the robber, which we took to the local police station before school. 

The cop on duty played along beautifully. He stamped Z's drawing and decorated him with police ribbons and stickers for his bravery.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Private Domestications

PJ serves breakfast on the deck.

A chicken at the door.

Toenails too long.

Droplets like stars on a clear night.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Men Standing Around

The rear of the bus was stuck on the road. The incline of the driveway has caused many a vehicle to scrape its undercarriage or get jammed. I know this because the driveway is 100 metres from our house.

PJ, Z and I walked up to the end of our street and watched.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Guerilla Grasses

PJ recently said that growing our own heirloom vegetables feels like one of the most politically potent acts we can do in the face of neoliberal capitalism.

Plant as protest. Plant as poem. Plant as placard.

I have recently discovered the work of Edina Tokodi aka Mosstika, who, in the tradition of political guerilla gardeners is a cultivator of eco-urban sensitivity and a planter of important seeds.

I think that our distance from nature is already a cliché. City dwellers often have no relationship with animals or greenery. As a public artist I feel a sense of duty to draw attention to deficiencies in our everyday life... I usually go back to the sites to visit my plants or moss, sometimes to repair them a bit, but nothing more generally as they tend to get enough water from the air, condensation, and rain - especially in certain seasons... I believe that if everyone had a garden of their own to cultivate, we would have a much more balanced relation to our territories. Of course, a garden can be many things.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

The Tall Man

I finished reading this book a couple of days ago but wanted to blog about it today on November 19, exactly four years after Cameron Doomadgee's death, the event around which this book is based. He died while in police custody on Palm Island, an Aboriginal community off the north east coast of Australia.

Doomadgee was arrested one morning for drunkenly swearing at the tall policeman Christopher Hurley. Forty minutes later he was dead.

I share journalist Mark Dapin's sentiment:
This book is everything it should be: a sad, beautiful, frightening account of one man's pointless death, interwoven with the brutal history of Palm Island and a golden thread of Aboriginal mythology. Every sentence is weighty, considered, even, restrained. Every character is explored for their contradictions, every situation observed for its nuances, every easy judgement suspended... It is The Tall Man's triumph that Hooper finds the common humanity in the accused and the accuser, the police officer and the street drinker, the living and the dead.
I read this book in a few days, a testament to the absorbing story but more so to Hooper's writing. She is present in the narrative but never intrudes. She provides just enough space – between the protagonists' motivation and her own – for readers to inhabit and make up their own minds.

It's not a space I want to inhabit. It's not a series of events I enjoyed reading about. But as a white Australian I feel it is a history that I cannot turn away from just because it makes me feel uncomfortable, just because it makes me feel ashamed.

Earlier this year Kevin Rudd formally apologised to indigenous Australians. His speech began:
I move that today we honour the indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history. We reflect on their past mistreatment.
The Prime Minister's apology for past cruelties was way overdue. But what of the mistreatments that are ongoing? Or is that the subtext of Hooper's book's title? The tall man, aka the middle finger, extended.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

You

This is my favourite zine. It's called You and has been distributed by Luke You free every week since November 2001.

One of the best things I did when we were in Newcastle was take part in a letter writing marathon. People were invited to handwrite letters that would then be distributed in the zine's hallmark brown paper bag with Y-O-U stamped on the front.

Participants wrote down their addresses and yesterday afternoon my package arrived with two zines inside. 

"Wouldn't it be funny if one of these was my letter?" I asked PJ as we carefully undid the staples from the top. And lo and behold, one was.

"Dear You," it starts. "Do you recognise my handwriting? It hasn't changed since I first learnt to write." Which is true.

My sister E's filing cabinet at work

Monday, 17 November 2008

Physical Graffiti

Our friend J is visiting from the US. He is here to introduce his family and friends to his new lady friend, whom I will meet tomorrow night for the first time when they come for dinner.

On Friday PJ and J spent the day in Melbourne, tagging the streets with their bodies.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Environmental Parties

Today marks the end of National Recycling Week. 

Thomas L Friedman, in Hot, Flat, and Crowded, labels events such as National Recycling Week, Walk Against Warming, and Earth Hour, as environmental parties – whereas what is really needed, what is essential and critical and vital, he says, is an environmental revolution.
In our household we are big recyclers, though it's not something we are huge advocates for. We believe more so in reducing our waste output. Living in the country our options are limited for things such as bulk buying and public transport, but we do our best.

Our best is not the best, but we are on our way. As is energy economist Joan Pick who has been on her way – only on foot – since 1973.

Since then she has run or walked approximately 217,929 kilometers - the equivalent of nearly five and a half times round the world.

She said: "Some people criticise me by saying I ought to get out more but that's one thing you can't say about me - I'm out all the time!"

Saturday, 15 November 2008

For My Niece

Happy 8th birthday Indigo!!

This video reminds me of you and the graceful way you move through the world.

Friday, 14 November 2008

The Great Confirmer

My post earlier today about The Yes Men's latest action reminded me of Maurice, who was my imaginary friend growing up.

Maurice was an old, balding, portly man who never said much. In fact, he only ever said a single word: yes. My mum called him The Great Confirmer.

Should I climb the Japanese Maple even though we've just been called in for dinner? Yes. Do you think it would be OK if I borrowed my sister's jumper even though she's not home? Yes. Should I lick the meringue mixture off both beaters even though I'm only allowed to have one? Yes.

But Mum would use him against me: Maurice, should Meg clean her room? Should Meg brush her teeth and go to bed now? Should Meg bring her washing down from the laundry basket?

I am reading Chloe Hooper's The Tall Man at the moment, and thinking about The Yes Men am also reminded of something she wrote:

Lawyers have a term for the tendency of Aboriginal witnesses to agree with whatever is put to them so as to be polite, avoid conflict and get off the stand as quickly as possible - it's called "gratuitous concurrence."

Good Times

My brother-in-law and I once discussed the idea of a newspaper in which no bad news would be printed. A couple of days ago, The New York Times issued such a paper, a stunt initiated by The Yes Men.

From the media release:
Early this morning, commuters nationwide were delighted to find out that while they were sleeping, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had come to an end.

If, that is, they happened to read a "special edition" of today's New York Times.

In an elaborate operation six months in the planning, 1.2 million papers were printed at six different presses and driven to prearranged pickup locations, where thousands of volunteers stood ready to pass them out on the street.

Articles in the paper announce dozens of new initiatives including the establishment of national health care, the abolition of corporate lobbying, a maximum wage for C.E.O.s, and, of course, the end of the war.

The paper, an exact replica of The New York Times, includes International, National, New York, and Business sections, as well as editorials, corrections, and a number of advertisements, including a recall notice for all cars that run on gasoline. There is also a timeline describing the gains brought about by eight months of progressive support and pressure, culminating in President Obama's "Yes we REALLY can" speech. (The paper is post-dated July 4, 2009.)

"It's all about how at this point, we need to push harder than ever," said Bertha Suttner, one of the newspaper's writers. "We've got to make sure Obama and all the other Democrats do what we elected them to do. After eight, or maybe twenty-eight years of hell, we need to start imagining heaven."

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Kill Bill

Billy, left, was getting worse. She had stopped laying, had gone off her food and was becoming increasingly antisocial. Unfortunately PJ had to kill her yesterday. I asked him how he did it, thinking I wanted to know, but when he said he wasn't going to tell me I was pleased.

Instead of letting Cuba and Dirt eat her, in case they too became sick, PJ put her in the compost. If she couldn't provide us with eggs, then let her decomposed little body turn to soil and help make our vegetables grow.

All day I have been thinking of these Monbiot words:

Darwinian evolution tells us that we are incipient compost... I like the idea of literal reincarnation: that the molecules of which I am composed will, once I have rotted, be incorporated into other organisms. Bits of me will be pushing through the growing tips of trees, will creep over them as caterpillars, will hunt those caterpillars as birds. When I die, I would like to be buried in a fashion which ensures that no part of me is wasted. Then I can claim to have been of some use after all.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Talking (About) Books

It's hard having three sisters, I'm always getting my memories mixed up with theirs. I was going to write that when I was younger I subscribed to a magazine called Ranger Rick, but I think that was my sister K. As I grew older I subscribed to Smash Hits, Mad Magazine, Fast Company and then Vogue Living.

Oh the joy of ripping open a package with my name on it!

Earlier this year I subscribed to Creative Nonfiction, whose issue number 35 I have just finished reading. It is an exciting mix of essays and blog entries on a wide range of topics. To give you an example, here is a mashup of ten of the first sentences:
Many Travel Stories Begin as an Attempt to Impress Pretty Women. I'm a little... out of the loop. There are two wooden figures on my husband's desk. Sachiko must be considered "different" here in Japan. One day in 1934, he sequestered himself in his family's greenhouse in London to perform an experiment. Two five-inch syringes with bright orange caps have been placed atop the white linen of the grand banquet table, like little sterile centrepieces. We know exactly where the spill occurred: 44.7°N, 178.1°E. On a cold spring day in 2002, I found a damp and crumpled piece of paper on a beach near Reykjavík, Iceland. The facts are indisputable.
It's not just the words of the book that spoke to me, but the book itself. Here, I'll show you what I mean:

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Guest Blogger: ETG

A fortnight ago I invited a reader of this blog, ETG, to be the inaugural Guest Blogger in the Land of Meg. Ladies and gentleman, without further ado I present to you her post:
We have been cleaning out my grandfather’s garage. He died five years ago and now we live in the house that he shared with my grandmother. The garage has to go, being a relic of the age when Asbestos was considered the wonder product.

There was so much stuff in there to sort through. Sure, some of it was ours and a lot of our stuff was pretty easy to quickly assess and discard (unused paper plates from our engagement party in 1998??) but grandfather’s stuff was another matter altogether. As well as holding the sentimental value of things belonging to the only grandfather I got to know, these were the props of his story, the backdrop to his territory.

Where would you find grandfather? He was either in his armchair reading the newspaper or in the garage. This multitude of jars, tins and boxes were his collection. He had plans for this stuff. Who knows how many jars full to bursting with different sized nails, different sized screws. A 1920s fire extinguisher. His RAAF duffle bag. A shoemaker’s last, a paper bag of rubber soles, a jar of shoemaker’s tacks. Then a smaller paper bag of smaller rubber soles—for Grandma’s shoes. Who knew he repaired shoes?

It is all now amassed in the driveway. Some of it will just have to go to the local recycling centre being either unrecognisable or unusable but a lot of it will be kept, refashioned or reused by my father and me. Or just placed somewhere in memory of a man with plans.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Burnt Soup Stories

On the way to school this morning Z was asking me the hardest mathematical questions he could think of. Even though I have never been any good at maths, I was able to answer his 6 year-old questions with ease. After each answer he sat back in his seat, bewildered at how I could possibly be the guardian of so much knowledge.

I remember thinking the same thing about my own parents. In fact, this thought regularly crosses my mind about them.

But today it is not just my own parents I would like to applaud. Three years ago Loobylu wrote about an incident in her life and her mum's reaction to it. Still all these years later I think of her mum's words when I feel my blood boiling over something that feels huge but is ultimately not.

Well - that big pot of stock became soup this evening and was sitting on the stove simmering while I read Amelia some stories and, thanks to still being a bit of a novice with electric cooking, a huge amount of pasta stuck to the bottom of the pot and burnt. The house is full of that evil burnt food smell. Big-P has just gone out to pick up two small pizzas. What a waste of stock! What a sad shame. It smelt so good just twenty minutes ago. I called my mum to moan about it and she said in all her wisdom “Ahh, life is full of burnt soup stories.”

Sunday, 9 November 2008

The Dorm Room Spy

A decade ago I spent a few years travelling around Asia on my own. I loved how the language barrier forced me inside my own head. It was fantastic for my writing. In journal entries from those travels I refer to myself as the Dorm Room Spy. I was always looking, looking, recording.

It's not very often that I can tap into that objectivity, but last night I could.

I spent the night working at a wedding with my friend B. We wore long black aprons and poured drinks, cleared plates and called everybody Madam and Sir. I wondered beforehand how I'd find it (I loved it) and if I'd cry in the speeches (I did).

I was as interested in my own reactions as I was those of the formally dressed guests.

It felt like theatre; the proclamations, the conventions, the sentiment, the ritual. I observed the intimacies with tenderness. They made me soft, a softness I observed with exactitude. It fascinated me to look at myself looking. Taking note of how I was taking note.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Truganini

I spent the majority of yesterday afternoon clicking refresh on the New York Times website to get updated voting results. And as the perfect antidote I spent the whole of today with my hands in the soil.

Our trees don't care about Bush. Our worms don't understand red and blue States. Our hens can't tell the difference between Tina Fey and Sarah Palin. Our seedlings aren't interested in the significance of an African American president.

Our earth does so much, but knows nothing about our hierarchies of dominance and enslavement. It has no fists to fight back, no voice to yell stop, no feet to kick out in defence.

I felt inside the earth today, my hands ache from their digging.

Yesterday I was gloating and global, today I am soil-coloured and voiceless just as Truganini was before her bones were stolen and exhibited as testament to something that reviled her.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

The Artist As Family

While the Democrats are celebrating their victory in the US, we are celebrating a minor victory of our own.

PJ, Z and I applied for an artist in residency at a museum in Newcastle, and we have had our application selected.

The three of us are going for two and a half weeks next year – the artist as family – and each of us is responsible for a different component of the project. Part of my section is to start and update a blog about our experience, which I will create as an example, with the students of my blogging course that starts this coming Monday.

I like the light in this room as captured in this photo. I took it at the museum we'll be going to, when PJ and O launched their book there last month.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Seven Words

Over the course of this week I have had hundreds of readers come to my blog by way of Claire Robertson's creative HQ, Loobylu. She has a cult following, and it's not hard to see why.

Claire and I worked together seven years ago. I remember when she first told me about her blog, I read and loved it, though I didn't completely understand what a blog really was and what it was for. As a long-time diarist, I didn't understand why someone would want to air their private thoughts publicly. 

Oh, how whole worlds change!

Here is a zine that Claire illustrated the cover for. It's called How Comics Can Change the World. Open it up and the first words you read are: "Do not pay money for this comic." I often think about these seven words. 

Despite what governments tell us, and despite how our whole lives revolve around us being slaves to it, the things that really make a difference in the world have nothing to do with money.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Seed Hunter

Last night we watched Seed Hunter, the fantastic ABC doco about the Australian scientist, Ken Street. Street is charming and candid and oh so likable as we follow him and his team on their noble crusade.

The spiel:
As Australia and much of the world wrestles with hotter weather and a dwindling water supply, mass starvation at a global scale is on the cards if we can’t find ways to improve crop resilience. Scientists are exploring many solutions to adapt our food supply, including going back to mother nature herself to locate the genes that can withstand our changing climate; genes that, thanks to a high yielding monoculture, have almost disappeared. Australian scientist, Dr Ken Street, aka the ‘Seed Hunter’, spends his life searching for the tiny seed that could play a role in helping food producers around the world.
Two and half months ago I wrote about the harvesting of the first GM canola crops since the GM ban was lifted. Then yesterday I read that this harvested canola is now on its way to our grocery shelves.

We might think we can avoid GM ingredients if we want, but we can't. How can we when the canola oil that's being sold to us as cooking oil is not labelled as being GM? How can we when this oil is being mixed into our processed foods, and the leftover meal fed to our livestock?

While biotech giants such as Monsanto are racing towards their desired 100% seed ownership, Ken Street and his crew are scouring the globe in search of ancient seeds that will help ensure the survival of all Earthlings. There's no question as to whose team I'd rather be on.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Product Placement

I love the taste of this water. I have often thought that maybe because it is sourced from a nearby spring it has all the goodness in it that my body needs to flourish. Our bodies are best when we eat locally grown seasonal food, so surely it's the same for local water?

I love the simplicity of the label and the fact it is bottled locally, and in glass.

When I was thirsty and on the go I used to buy water in a plastic bottle, refill it a couple of times then recycle it. This was before I learned about the toxins these bottles leach.

This was before I realised that although I may have been recycling mine, 65% of plastic bottles end up as landfill. 

This was before I read that 314,465 barrels of oil are used every year, just so Australians can drink water bottled in plastic.

This was before I moved up here where there are natural springs aplenty, and where Coca-Cola Amatil source the water for their Mt Franklin brand. Every day we see petrol-guzzling water tankers chugging to the bottling plant in Melbourne from local springs. 

This was before I found out that Coca-Cola pays $2 per megalitre of water they take, which is about 5c a tanker. 5c!!

This was before I read this quote by the American environmentalist Derrick Jensen: "If people will pay for water bottled in plastic they will suffer any indignity.”

This was before PJ became a water activist and made this film as part of his campaign: