Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Stunning paper art

Stunning paper art, originally uploaded by Mark Lawrence.

Great paper sculptures in Platform underground gallery. Check it out.

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sickle moon at day's end

This evening I walked to the bottle shop to buy a nice crisp white wine to go with the chicken casserole that I'd left cooking in the oven. There was a lovely, faint crescent moon hanging low in the evening sky, about a hand span above the orange glow over the horizon, last vestiges of the sunset.

It was a lovely evening, with only a hint of crispness at the tail end of a singlet and jeans kind of day to remind me that it was actually late autumn. It was a good way to finish a good day of writing. Not necessarily a day of good writing – there will be time enough to be critical of the writing later – but a good afternoon's worth of writing nonetheless. Considering I hadn't ventured out past the drive way all day, it was great to get out for a breather.

I returned with a nice (for the budget) sauvignon blanc to go with the chicken casserole I was cooking to help christen the new enamelled cast iron casserole we'd bought from Ikea last weekend. Not fancy expensive French cookware, but serviceable and at a price I could live with. (By the way, I'd portioned and skinned a whole free-range chicken myself. Don't get to do it often, but it turned out well.)

Shelley was putting the kids to bed as I pottered around the kitchen and washed the dishes, and Tripple R played some rather unusual music that I wouldn't normally get to listen to. We were waiting to have our dinner after the kids were asleep so that we could have some adult time together – something we've had precious little of this past week.

What a great day of my favourite things: the morning spent with the kids, writing (and time for it with the kids out of the house, thanks to Shelley), cooking a lovely meal, a nice evening walk, and a glass of wine with a delicious meal and conversation with the best company in the whole wide world – my partner. Bliss.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

When I grow up

What teenager didn't want to be a radio DJ?

So I can do it online instead. Song choice inspired by Ampersand Duck at Sarsaparilla Lite. Hats off to Nanny Goat Hill for introducing me to blip – via twitter. Aah, the joys of the internet.


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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Flinders near Flinders

Flinders near Flinders, originally uploaded by Mark Lawrence.

A stencil artwork of Flinders St Station - around the corner from Flinders St Station! At the entrance to subway at Degraves St.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

If you were missing Sarsaparilla - fear not

If you've been wondering what happened to Sarsaparilla over the last couple of months, and wondered if what seemed like a summer hiatus was turning into a winter of neglect, fear not as Sarsaparilla will be back - prettier and better.

Sarsaparilla is a group blog on literature, the arts, culture and public comment from an Australian perspective, and which I recently joined as a regularly contributor late last year.

The team at Sarsaparilla thought a spruce up and re-design was warranted, but a few things broke in the process, meaning things were taking a lot longer than we expected to get it up and running again.

However, we've recently launched a temporary site, Sarsaparilla Lite, to keep our audience's hunger pangs at bay, and to satisfy our creative juices.

And it already displaying the Sars team's excellent insights into dance and performance, television, film, public art and literary awards, and I'm sure there's plenty more to come. So do enjoy this coffee and hot buttered crumpets before you get stuck into the full cooked brekkie.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The devil you know

Late last month, I came across a BBC online photo essay that immediately brought back memories of my undergraduate study of Anthropology. Considering that study was some 10 years and more ago, I think that was pretty remarkable.

The photos were of La Diabldada Festival in Oruro, Bolivia, and feature the gloriously detailed and colourful devil masks and costumes of the festival and its parade. The festival is a strong expression of the pre-Columbian Andean traditions, mythology and ritual that remain strong features of Bolivia's Andean people.

'oruro' by OVRL - devil costumed and masked performer in Bolivia

One of the first things I did was explore whether the massive flickr community also had photographs of La Diablada and the Bolivian Andean community who celebrate the festival. You wouldn't begin to guess the jackpot I hit. I also set it as a task of 'using my degree', something I periodically give cause to obsess about (considering I put a lot of energy, time and resources into completing it!

I was amazed how many photos were published on the Creative Commons license. All the photos here are Creative Commons-licensed photos found on Flickr.

'oruro' [2] by OVRL - devil-costumed performers at carnaval de oruro in Bolivia

When I saw the photos and remembered my second year Anthropology studies, I wondered how much things may have changed in the 17 years since I studied anthropology at university. I was particularly interested in how much the increased accessibility in travel, and the way the internet has allowed an explosion in the sharing of stories, photos, experiences and knowledge of things – including festivals, traditions and rituals – in places we may have once considered distant, unreachable and the domain of the brave few who ventured to explore them, or the isolated people who live these as daily
realities, has affected how we 'know' the world around us.

'Cholitas dançam la Diablada' by Cltn - colourfully masked and costumed dancers on parade

'Máscara de Morenada' by Cltn - masked performer at what appears to be a festival by Bolivians in Sao Paulo, Brazil

The internet has brought together
online the experiences and stories of people across the world, and their documentation and publication under creative commons licenses.

Not withstanding the concerns with the accuracy of much of this information, this development allows other writers, bloggers, media makers and other armchair sticky-beaks like me – and more importantly students and academics – to use them with the freedom that creative commons licenses offer. How much can the internet, social networking, blogging and creative commons licensed content creation and sharing improve teaching in universities? How much is this also unreflexive voyeurism? Perhaps that's the topic for another post.

What I do know is that I certainly did not get to enjoy the colour and vibrancy of these images to assist me in understanding what we were learning in anthropology. I wish I had access to these images then.

'Jallalla...!!' by mabel flores - Bolivian miner offering a salutation with beer

The Andean people in these parts of Bolivia have historically been the working backbone of Bolivia's now declining tin mining industry. The ethnogography, by Michael Taussig, we studied in second year anthropology examined how the devil featured in Latin American working class and peasant communities and expressed their experience of the brutality and exploitation of Latin American capitalism. According to wikipedia, in The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America:
Taussig … argues that through the devil, peasants express their recognition that capitalism is based on the magic belief that capital is productive, when in fact capitalism breeds poverty, disease, and death."

photo by orianomada - a miner in an underground mine in Oruro, Bolivia

As developing countries, and mining communities in particular, suffer in the agonies and conflagrations of another global economic crisis, and communities are threatened by the flight or collapse of capital or falling commodity prices, I also wonder to what extent the internet can contribute to bearing witness to their struggles and document their traditions.

El tio de la mina, Oruro by germeister - shrine to the devil of the mine, El Tio. Such expressions were a central focus of enthonographies of the 1980s.

Galeria del museo etnologico de los mineros, Oruro by germeister - mining museum, Bolivia

Or whether the internet will just become another type of museum. Not that there's much wrong with museums (that are reflexive of their work and role in cultures). I guess the opportunities the internet offers us is more ways to engage with the content online, and with other people creating and sharing this content.

By the way, did I tell you how much I really enjoyed Barista's excellent, highly informed and exploration of the Chinese demon-catching god? (It is
beautifully illustrated by illustrations now in the public domain.) Or Sophie Cunningham's amazing photographs of the Balinese festival to banish bad demons? How remiss of me.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Shaved and shorn

Shaved and shorn, originally uploaded by Mark Lawrence.

Shaved for World's Greatest Shave!

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Counting down the hours

In 24 hours, my boss will (hopefully, if things go well in his day!) shave off my hair for World's Greatest Shave.

This is the final stretch - it's been three weeks since I started this fundraising effort and so many people have been very generous in sponsoring me and donating to the Leukaemia Foundation. But I thought things would go pear-shaped when I discovered earlier this week that there was a technical glitch with my profile page at the World's Greatest Shave website – people couldn't find me to sponsor me!

Today, the very helpful people at World's Greatest Shave have fixed it up by setting me up a new sponsorship page, so you can find me online an sponsor me and raise money for the Leukaemia Foundation – if you haven't already. (I've also updated the links to my sponsorship page in this blog)

If you haven't yet, please do sponsor me and make a donation to the Leukaemia Foundation.

All sponsorship previously made to me will be transferred over, so rest assured your sponsorship of me won't get lost - thank you very much.

Thank you also to my friend Lynn, who has kindly knitted me a beanie to keep my head warm after the shave. And hopefully, tomorrow there will be photos and perhaps a video to share of the shave.

I have to admit to feeling a little nervous about how I will look with my head shaved – down to number 2 of the clippers, I think, or 2/8ths of an inch. But I'm sure it will be fine. After all, it is for a very, very good cause. And there are more important things to worry about in life, aren't there? Or rather, there are more important things in life to not worry about. And this is about those living with Leukaemia, isn't it?

Wish me luck.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Five days and counting

In five days – Friday 13 March, to be exact – I will lose all my lovely hair, down to 2/8ths of an inch of stubble. But all for a good cause.

My boss is going to shave my head for a cure – that's right, I'm in my final week of Shave for a Cure, a fundraising initiative for the Leukaemia Foundation, and I'm hopefully well on my way to my extended target of raising $700 by Friday 13 March to assist the Foundation's efforts to find a cure for Leukaemia and other blood disorders, and to support those living with the disease.

I'm just under $150 shy of my target, so if you haven't already, please consider it and make a donation and 'sponsor' me.

I'm going to give my self a cold head, so that hopefully many, many others wouldn't need to.

Update: There's been a technical glitch in the site for my sponsorship page/profile this week, but the very helpful people at
World's Greatest Shave have fixed it up by setting me up a new page. I've updated the link abve, so you can find me online an sponsor me and raise money for the Leukaemia Foundation. [updated 2.20pm Thursday 12 March 2009]

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Friday, March 06, 2009

Friday Wrap again

Friday wraps are usually when I have so many things going on but don't get time to blog properly about them, and end up with a wrap up at the end of the week.

This time, despite covering a few items already this week, I just wanted to quickly share some things that caught my eye, or that I'm obsessing about at the moment.
And I realise that many things I twitter about don't get covered in this blog, unless I do so on occassions like this.

This looks like a really interesting film, and I'm annoyed I missed out on the free tix. I may just put this on the plate for when we next organise baby-sitting and go out. We haven't been to a movie in such a long time…

Meanwhile, doesn't this:
"…droll comedy of manners that plays on the snobberies of the English aristocracy and the mistrust of all things American."
sound pretty much like half of every British movie ever made? It's from the distributor's promo blurb about Easy Virtue, the new film by Stephan Elliot.

As part of my recent preoccupation with walking long distances, I ordered Unforgettable Walks to Take Before You Die online, but am really disappointed they can't fill the order. Do I have to go all the way to Port Melbourne to get it? Perhaps I could walk…

I'm getting very, very tired Kevin Rudd's rhetoric. I find it done to death and increasingly hollow. Time to close the gap on your rhetoric, Kevin.

The portrait of Aboriginal (Yolngu) singer Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu by Guy Maestri has won the Archibald Prize today. It's amazing, and I'm looking forward to when the exhibition comes to Melbourne.

I'd getting my cholesterol tested – for the second time – tomorrow. It will be good to see what nearly a year of a drastically changed diet and (slightly) increased exercise (and no drugs) has done to dint the high cholesterol that bothered my GP. Fingers crossed.

It's Labor Day on Monday – a long weekend for the kids and I. I'm sorely tempted to take them to the Moomba Parade on Monday morning, but a couple of friends pooh-poohed it because of the crowds. Last year, I went alone to take heaps of photos, though only a few are online (I shot on film). Perhaps this year…

My bike has a flat – again. Frustratingly, it's the same tyre as the one I fixed the last time, so I've got to get it to the shop this weekend to get it fixed. It's been a while, and I've been missing riding a lot.

I'm procrastinating – again – from a heavy workload of writing and editing, with an impending deadline.

Isn't that enough for wrap? It's liberating how much one can cover by saying less about something. Have a good weekend.

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Autumn in my pocket

I've returned to writing in my writing notebook on the tram to work again, and this post begins from what I wrote there.

In my pocket is a light blue cotton handkerchief, the kind that is thick enough and large enough to wipe your face with without it scrunching into a ball, or blow your nose in without being sodden within three gusts – a handy feature for the impending cold-virus season. That's possibly because it is relatively new, and still has the fresh stiffness of new cotton. It has crisscrossing stripes of navy contrast along the edges that mark it as a man's handkerchief, and an upper-case 'P' embroidered in navy blue in one corner. It was my father's.

My father always had a handkerchief with him – every day, he'd put one in his left trouser pocket.
(I've long long followed his habit.) Dad had quite a stock of them. My sister and I insisted that he have one just so for the funeral.

Each time I've been up to Brisbane lately, I return – on my mother's urging – with a small load of my father's clothes. This time, the load included a handful of these good handkerchiefs and a couple of pairs of new socks dad had not gotten around to wearing. They were still attached to their label

Today, I'm wearing a light, grey cashmere jumper of dad's. Now I understand the love for cashmere – light, soft, almost luscious – and appreciate the premium put on them. I'd probably never afford cashmere myself. There was a time, some ten years ago, when my father could afford to buy them and appreciated their warmth and comfort in Melbourne's winter, however briefly he lived here. I found this jumper, along with another maroon cashmere and his chunky blue wool cardigan that I loved to see him in, stored in the bottom drawer of a dresser he hardly used. I wonder if he got to enjoy them much, considering how brief and relatively mild Brisbane's winters are. Though he'd been complaining of feeling the cold bitterly, especially in his hands and feet, in the last couple of years.

This morning in Melbourne, it is cool, grey and raining. It's probably closer to 14˚C than 21˚C in the range forecast for today. Autumn has announced itself dramaticaly, and I'm glad to be warm and snug in a
fold of cashmere.

This morning, the online sponsorships and cash donations for my Shave for a Cure drive had past my $500 target! (As evident in the image of the fundraising meter.) Weighing up the pledges that have been made and the possibilities of another week of fundraising, I've decided to extend my goal by $200 – I'm now aiming to raise $700 for the Leukaemia Foundation by Friday 13 March.

I'd appreciate any help you can offer me to reach that goal, including spreading the word. And thank you to all of you who helped out, made donations, and spread the word.

In a week, I will have my hair shaved for Shave for a Cure. It will be a chilly affair, and I'm glad for my friend Lynn's offer to knit me a beanie to keep my head and ears warm! Thanks, Lynn! Meanwhile, keep warm. Or cool as your case may be.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Shortlist for Commonwealth Writers' Prize

The Commonwealth Writers' Prize 2009 Shortlist has been announced, with a selection of writers across the Commonwealth nominated in the Best Book and Best First Book categories.

From Australia, they've stacked up Aravind Adiga of
White Tiger-Man Booker fame against Helen Garner, Joan London, Christos Tsiolkas and Tim Winton for the Best Book prize. Wow. I don't want to be taking bets on this one.

They've also stacked up Nam Le (for The Boat) and a bunch of other firsties against Aravind Adiga again, this time for The White Tiger, for Best First Book. You'd think though, since Adiga won the Man Booker for The White Tiger that they'll lay of him for a while and let some other writers have a chance? Not that I'd put money on it, but I do hope that Nam Le wins it – I think The Boat is a brilliant collection of stories.

I don't get why Aravind Adiga is listed amongst those from Southeast Asia & Pacific. Wikipedia states he has dual Indian and Australian citizenship, but he lives in Mumbai now, so … what gives?

The shortlistees from Southeast Asia & Pacific for Best Book are:
  • Aravind Adiga (Australia) Between The Assassinations - Atlantic Books
  • Helen Garner (Australia) The Spare Room - The Text Publishing Company
  • Joan London (Australia) The Good Parents - Random House Australia (Vintage Imprint)
  • Paula Morris (New Zealand) Forbidden Cities - Penguin New Zealand
  • Christos Tsiolkas (Australia) The Slap - Allen and Unwin
  • Tim Winton, (Australia) Breath - Picador
I'm interested to see that a Malaysian author, Preeta Samarasan, has been shortlisted for a First Book Award too, for Evening is the Whole Day. I'm a little perterbed that it sounds like it's in the Arrundathi Roy-Amitav Ghosh-and dare I say it, Aravind Adiga mould, but I shouldn't be surprised considering current literary tastes.

I wonder when we will get past writers of Asian and African decent getting gongs for more stories of jungles, plantations, wild animals and bizarre families and cross-generational/cultural conflict, while white authors continue to be lauded for angst-ridden kitchen table dramas. I'm getting tired of how the empire is still enamored with the heyday of its plantations and coolies. Hm, is that too harsh?

Commonwealth Writers' Prize website seems to be crashing, probably due to the heavy demand to see the shortlist, so check out Readings online's news of the 2009 Shortlist, including links to their reviews of the books where available.

I'm waiting to borrow White Tiger from a colleague. What will you read next? Anything from the shortlist?

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