Monday, July 27, 2009

Another first

Following on from my first published piece of non-fiction is my first review! My remix story, published in the Remix My Lit project's anthology, Through the Clock's Workings, was mentioned in the review of the anthology in last Saturday's The Age A2 supplement (25 July 2009).

I was really surprised. I was reading the A2 in bed before going to sleep – trying to catch up on the paper I'd hardly had a chance to read all afternoon – when I came across the review of the anthology. I was pretty excited, I must admit. The review also examined the Remix My Lit initiative the anthology was published from, and remixing generally, so it wasn't much of a straight 'review', but I was amazed my story was actually mentioned.

I was hoping to just link to the review online and leave it at that, but of course A2 content is not online at all, is it? And while fearful that I'd appear frightfully boastful, I thought 'what the heck' and
decided to publish the excerpt that mentions my story. Although, for sake of correction or accuracy, I would not dream of describing myself as a poet. I have to say, when I first saw the opening lines of the paragraph my name is mentioned in, my heart sank, but then I read on!
"…Some Remix My Lit efforts read like tame first year creative writing exercises. The best ones either develop the original in an intriguing new direction (as Amra Pajalic does with Cate Kennedy's Renovator's Heaven) or somehow intensify its emotional effect. For instance, Danielle Wood's story How to Domesticate a Pirate lyrically explores big themes such as marriage, domesticity and consumption. But in the hands of poet Mark Lawrence, words are radically stripped back and rearranged, producing an emotional subtlety I found far more moving than the original work."

I don't necessarily buy into the reviewer's comparison of my remixed story and the original it is based on, but I appreciate the sentiments greatly. After all, it was the powerful emotion in Danielle's story that drew me to read it and remix it and play with it like on a riff at that live remixing event at Fed Square last year.

Still. Wow.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Dancehall station

For the end of the week. Enjoy. I know I certainly did.

Via crazybrave on twitter, with thank. One of the best things I've seen on YouTube in a long time.

[Update: Had a go at fixing the embeded video so that it would fit within the width of the text column. 5.05pm 27 July 2009]

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

A delicate dance in space

This story captured my imagination earlier this week, and I've been meaning to share my take on it sooner. Last Saturday afternoon (local Eastern Australian time), the space shuttle Endeavour docked with the International Space Station some 354 kilometers above the Gulf of Carpentaria.

On first hearing the news of the launch of the shuttle and it's subsequent docking, I didn't really grasp the significance of how delicate the docking manoeuvre is, and the enormity of that event. Not until I read that the two space vehicles were traveling at 28,000 kilometres per hour when they approached each other! According to NASA, this gave Commander Mark Polansky, the commander of the Endeavour, a margin of error of 4.5 centimetres to complete the procedure. That's shorter than the length of my index finger! Ouch. I hate to think of what would happen if he'd missed. Or they'd rammed each other.

For all the bad news surrounding the US's aging shuttle fleet, and some of the technical difficulties – and exorbitant expenses – with the growing international space station, it was good to hear of some success. It is quite heartening to think of the immensity of skill, training, good technology and probably a bit of dumb luck behind the deceptively simple notion of a successful space docking. I am, admitedly, awed to think of these two tin cans hurtling through space at each other, albeit in orbit, and being able to connect in a delicate balance of what I imagine to be lots tiny adjustments involving rocket thrusters, velocity, angles, calculations, and computer programming – and probably 'upside down', at that.

A far cry from the days of hurling grappling hooks on the end of ropes.

Of course, with the Americans' finely tuned sensibility for a good story and creating media buzz, they would have timed this space mission to capitalise on the 4oth anniversary of the moon landing of Appollo 11, and they have made much of the success of both this launch and the docking.

They must be very annoyed, then, when the news came out that the main toilet on the International Space Station broke. How does that happen on a multi-million (billion?) space station? I guess if Melbourne can't even get the air-conditioning to work properly on its trains, it's hard to expect perfection on a space station. Though it's not like you can just call out the plumber or have a new toilet flown in. And it's not great timing when you've now got a joint crew of 13 on board needing the toilet!

The BBC News online service has video of the Endeavour crew being welcomed aboard the space station, which is funny to watch, but I've decided to share this other famous clip instead – in honour of the astronauts (and cosmonauts) dancing that wonderfully delicate dance in space.

Homer and the Space Chips (via huluDotCom)

Let's hope that things stay well for the crews of the Endeavour and the space station as they pursue their missions.

Images from NASA, used under the terms of NASA's fair use policy]

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What lies beneath Melbourne's lanes?

From 'Bone Bed', works on paper by Tom O'Hern, showing in Platform subway gallery under Flinders Street.

They explore the layers of detritus and bones burried under Degraves Street, ane evoke Melbourne's violent colonial history. Showing until 31 July.

[Edited 12.30pm 15 July 2009: merged two separate posts into this one]

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Happy Birthday Shelley!

Happy Birthday Shelley!, originally uploaded by Mark Lawrence.

It's been a wonderful day - we've had a lovely celebration of my partner's birthday. With Nigela Lawson's chocolate cake.

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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Manna from heaven

Gumtree blossoms on a cool wet morning

This afternoon I went along to a NAIDOC Week event hosted by a bunch of federal government departments. It wasn't the most community-oriented event I've been too – it appeared mainly targeted at those in community services or public service departments and agencies who work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Victoria. I went to this event for work reasons.

It was still good because there were a fair few Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people working in either federal public service delivery or Victorian community agencies there, and it was good to meet and greet and see some faces behind the organisation's names.

But the nicest thing about the event was the speech and Welcome to Country by Aunty Joy Murphy, a highly respected elder of the Wurrundjerri, the traditional owners of the land on which most of Melbourne is on, and certainly of Fitzory where the event was held.

Aunty Joy treated us to a potted history of the elders behind the movement for Aboriginal rights in Victoria and the beginnings of NAIDOC, and how Fitzroy has been an important location for Victoria's Aboriginal rights movement and community-controlled services since the early 1900s. But it was her welcome message that gave me the most food for thought.

After she welcomed us in language, Aunty Joy told us that part of the welcome was based the importance of the Manna Gum to her family and the
Wurrundjerri people. Bearing a branch of green lush Manna gum leaves from her traditional country near Healsville, she explained that the welcome invited us to share in the community and its country – from the very tips of the gum leaves high in the sky, down to the roots deep in the earth.

Being someone who likes to visualise things figuratively, this appealed to me a lot. It is lovely to think of sharing in a thousands-year-old culture and its connection to the land in this way. To imagine our connection to the air and the leaves reaching out through it, as well as to the earth via the roots.

It also makes me wonder a fair bit about what we're doing to our ecology and to the climate in our carbon-intensive society.

Friday's NAIDOC March and Rally will be quite a different event – with lots more community, and certainly more issue and politically based – but I value this opportunity for reflection today. Thanks, Aunty Joy.

[Image: The photo is of eucalyptus blossoms I took at my suburban train station a little while ago. I have no idea what type of gum, though.]

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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Everyone should celebrate NAIDOC this week

It's NAIDOC Week this week, a time for celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and communities. The week is also a great opportunity to highlight the strength that culture and community offer Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

There's a lot that you can do to join with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in celebrating NAIDOC Week.

This year's NAIDOC theme, 'Honouring Our Elders, Nurturing Our Youth', highlights the importance the community places on its Elders and its young people. It is important to acknowledge Elders and the role they play in supporting, teaching and guiding young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, many of whom are struggling to find their feet and their way forward.

Brian McCoy's excellent reflection on this year's theme captures this point very well. McCoy, an anthropologist specialising in Indigenous health and well-being who has worked with desert Aboriginal communities for a long time, shows how important NAIDOC week is – not only to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples but to all Australians.

Considering last week's report on Indigenous disadvantage, the latest in a long line of official reports that highlight the growing gap in disadvantage between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Australia, this is an important demonstration of community strength and support. It's a way for many communities to show that they can make a difference, and are making a difference, for the better.

And it's an important way for non-Indigenous people to show their solidarity with Indigenous communities on this matter.

There are lots of NAIDOC Week events across the country. You'll find a calendar of events if you pick up a copy of the country's only Indigenous controlled national newspaper, the Koori Mail. You can also get information from local NAIDOC committees and Indigenous groups.

If you’re looking for a NAIDOC event in Melbourne, the NAIDOC March & Rally is on Friday 10 July. The march starts off at the Aboriginal Health Service on Nicholson St, Fitzroy at 10 am and makes its way to Federation Square.
More details here.

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