Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Octopus Has Three Hearts

I wrote this a while back, but just found it and seeing as it's summer, figured I might just let it out.

The Octopus Has Three Hearts

Summer's sinewy smile
the horizon
frames my legs
hanging like dead weights
over the sea wall.

Somewhere out there
whales will roll and arc
as if the tides
were a hammock.

But here in the reef,
life is smaller
less sanguine.

There's the octopus
with its three hearts
and gills
like feathery filaments:
a whole delicate system
hidden under
flaccid grey flesh.

The octopus,
whose home is
the dappled dark
of the ocean floor

who, like a good politician
discovers its strength
lies in the ability
to elude.

So I'm about a week late...

...but how cool is this wrapping paper from the blog Cakies?

I'm so not thrifty enough to keep those kinds of things in a handy little place. But maybe I'll try to more in 2011. I usually end up wrapping things as I'm running out the door late for whatever event that has demanded the gift. But why not be optimistic about change?

This is also cool, but way too much work for me!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

in which sophie attempts to speak of the ordinary

She's about to knock on the door. The drawers are ready, and I feel ready to give them away, but not quite ready to take $60 for them. But I listed them for 99 cents, and people say ebay's all about market value. But $60 for some IKEA drawers? Seems a bit unfair. It also seems wrong to stand there apologising, explaining that she paid too much, that they're just a bunch of drawers, and actually they've been pretty dusty these last few months and probably not worth the money you're about to give me. I can't give them away, so I try to offer her a discount. Look - there's a scratch there. How about we settle for $40? No. It won't be done.

Or sitting on the floor wrapping presents in brown paper. Brown paper. Why do all the shops decide that Christmas is the time for hideous, eye-stabbing red and green cartoon prints? And why is the brown paper stored at the back of the newsagent with the "craft items"? Brown paper reminding me of the nakedness of God in flesh, the baby in the feeding trough. The humility of naked. But brown paper also reminding me of the presents inside, the money we could've spent on other things, things that have less to do with me and more to do with actual needs out there. But how are you supposed to buck the system when the system is swallowing you whole?

And reading this article by a friend at work's boyfriend, along with 35,000 other people.  And loving this, his response, quoting Jesus, talking neighbours. There's not a quota. And wondering if things will ever improve.

Wanting to write but feeling all dried up. Reading instead. Wishing words would not pass, but simmer for a while. Wanting to stop and just do this reading and thinking thing for a bit.

Working six days in a row, with the flu and a tummy bug, going to a coronial inquest, talking on the radio about collapsing awnings, telling people to drink responsibly, reporting on former rugby league players being violent and dead bodies being found in backyards.

Coffee: "How are the Melbourne plans?" "How are you feeling about moving?" "How long till you go?"

The book of Jeremiah and being taken into exile and told to live well in a foreign land, to leave your countrymen, not to stay there in fear, but to listen and obey, to LIVE. Not to be wiped out. Not to betray, not to doubt.

Twilight in my parent's backyard, the dog under the table making people shriek. My cousins. She's lost her wallet, he's angry. Dad's by the barbecue. The moon rises, eclipsed. Partially, at least. We look for it, but can only see the trees, their silhouettes crackling. Too much to eat. Mosquitoes. Friendly arguments that turn ugly before turning to laughter.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

You know it's Christmas when...

...Sufjan releases a Christmas album on what appears to be a whim, and it's better than his last album.

Listen to it all on SoundCloud here.

I especially love The Midnight Clear:

"Do you delight, do you delight in me?....I will delight, I will delight in this, though you may doubt it."

Saturday, December 18, 2010

An Open Letter to Le Corps

[insert photo of tissues and tea here with caption: Tea and Sympathy]

Dear Body,

I know when written in french, you sound quite formidable. Le Corps toujours! But the fact is, you're nowhere near indestructible.

Just this week, you made small babies look more resilent than your 24-year-old self. How on earth did you manage to contract a tummy bug while still fighting off a virus we're going to codename Lousy Good for Nothing Flu? How?

I had hopes... expectations even, of your abilities. But when your moment to stave off the enemy arrived, you let me down. You let us both down.

Ok, so I got the message pretty clearly. Le Corps, while fearfully and wonderfully made, is also rather vulnerable. Especially that small intestine.

Well, let me just say, props for avoiding hospitalisation and deciding to fight against those who have successfully invaded us. It could've been worse.

And thanks also for the opportunity to lie in bed reading for long stretches, to justify going to sleep before 9pm and eating jelly.

And thanks for the reminder of all that stuff Paul said about this earthly tent and groaning and longing for the heavenly dwelling yet to come. I've heard he was talking about Le Corps. For the record, I can't wait till "what is mortal [is] swallowed up by life".


Friday, December 17, 2010

from the mind of Marilynne Robinson

I recently read an interview by the Paris Review with Marilynne Robinson, author of Gilead. There were some great thoughts. She even has a little go at Richard Dawkins. But you should read the whole interview...

"Ordinary things have always seemed numinous to me. One Calvinist notion deeply implanted in me is that there are two sides to your encounter with the world. You don’t simply perceive something that is statically present, but in fact there is a visionary quality to all experience. It means something because it is addressed to you. This is the individualism that you find in Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. You can draw from perception the same way a mystic would draw from a vision."

"People are frightened of themselves. It’s like Freud saying that the best thing is to have no sensation at all, as if we’re supposed to live painlessly and unconsciously in the world. I have a much different view. The ancients are right: the dear old human experience is a singular, difficult, shadowed, brilliant experience that does not resolve into being comfortable in the world. The valley of the shadow is part of that, and you are depriving yourself if you do not experience what humankind has experienced, including doubt and sorrow. We experience pain and difficulty as failure instead of saying, I will pass through this, everyone I have ever admired has passed through this, music has come out of this, literature has come out of it. We should think of our humanity as a privilege."

"I don’t think I could want something else. For instance, I’m kind of a solitary. This would not satisfy everyone’s hopes, but for me it’s a lovely thing. I recognize the satisfactions of a more socially enmeshed existence than I cultivate, but I go days without hearing another human voice and never notice it. I never fear it. The only thing I fear is the intensity of my attachment to it. It’s a predisposition in my family. My brother is a solitary. My mother is a solitary. I grew up with the confidence that the greatest privilege was to be alone and have all the time you wanted. That was the cream of existence. I owe everything that I have done to the fact that I am very much at ease being alone. It’s a good predisposition in a writer. And books are good company. Nothing is more human than a book."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Grief, Music and Jesus

I've just started reading this thoughtful blog, Papermind, after Ali linked to it. The author, Dan, is in the middle of a fascinating series on the theology and nature of friendship, which I've really enjoyed.

This week, he's written beautifully about grief. I hope he doesn't mind if I just reproduce it here. You should all read his blog regularly. It's brilliant. You should also read this one about Lazarus, Jesus and friendship.

Grief is a mood through which we experience the transmutation of time from future into past. Grief, like music, is the consciousness of time. The contrast might be instructive: music is a formal structure for bringing time to consciousness. Within this structure many further (more particular) relations to time, and to the timeful-world (the world viewed as a timeful order) can be communicated. Music allows us to intuit time. In any particular musical moment we are full of the patterns of communication and coherence that the score has built up through its flowing, we are anticipating the particular notes and figures which will extend this musical coherence, and we passing from this anticipation, through a particular articulation – a note, a silence – which may or may not be what we anticipated, and we are refiguring, re-cohering, the total piece in the light of this moment. In music, when the music truly captures us, we catch a glimpse of that rarest of moments: the present.

Grief is also consciousness of the present. The multiple futures toward which we have invested, sustained by the natural uncertainty of future-time, collapsing into a particular, unitary, actuality. Possibility becoming a story. The coherence and order which the universe requires comes at the expense of these unrealised potentialities. Grief is the consciousness of the perishing of futures.

I guess that’s why it’s so hard to explain to each other, and to comfort, redress, justify grieving. How can anyone console another for the loss of something that never was? The love that was never returned, the children who were never born, the trip that was never taken, the work that was never completed. The loss of these ‘nothings’ is, in a sense, infinite. The lack of definition, the non-concrete nature of these hopes, makes their loss harder not easier. The loss of the possibility of a child includes, in some ways, the loss of the actual child, and the sweetness of his childhood, the glory of his maturity, the loss of all his hopes as well.

The loss of a love that was never returned includes all the loss of all the pathways opened up for us by that love: the friendships never shared, the places never visited together, the histories never told, the further futures never anticipated.

What word of comfort can we speak to someone grieving the future? Each hope was a little singularity, pregnant with universes. And thus the loss of each future threatens to overwhelm us with an incalculable, infinite loss.

How can Jesus be the Lord of this time? How is Jesus the Lord of the futures that never were? If we are comforted in this grief, how is it with the comfort we recieve from God? And, as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, how also, through Christ, will our comfort overflow?

Friday, December 10, 2010


Here are some gems from Gilead, Marilynne Robinson's staggeringly beautiful book which I'm reading at the moment. This is the voice of the fictional Reverend John Ames, who is writing a letter to his son as he's dying. It's not so much a story as a meditation on life.

"Sometimes I have loved the peacefulness of an ordinary Sunday. It is like standing in a newly planted garden after a warm rain. You can feel the silent and invisible life. All it needs from you is that you take care not to trample on it."

"For me writing has always felt like praying, even when I wasn't writing prayers, as I am often enough. You feel that you are with someone."

"When people come to speak to me, whatever they say, I am struck by a kind of incandescence in them, the "I" whose predicate can be "love" or "fear" or "want", and whose object can be "someone" or "nothing" and it won't really matter because the loveliness is just in that presence, shaped around "I" like a flame on a wick, emanating itself in grief and guilt and joy and whatever else. But quick and avid and resourcesful. To see this aspect of life is a privilege of the ministry which is seldom mentioned."

"Now I am about to leave this world, I realise there is nothing more astonishing than a human face. Boughton and I have talked about that, too. It has something to do with incarnation. You feel your obligation to a child when you have seen it and held it. Any human face is a claim on you, because you can't help but understand the singularity of it, the courage and loneliness of it. But this is truest of the face of an infant. I consider that to be one kind of vision, as mystical as any. Boughton agrees."

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Tallest Man on Earth in a music store

Apparently this was filmed when the Tallest Man on Earth (from Sweden) was stuck without his guitars in NYC. I'm loving the old guy whose shop it is.

Monday, November 29, 2010

strange writings from my room

I've been cleaning my room, which is inordinately satisfying.

The unexpected thrills include coming across bits you forgot you wrote and feeling like you're reading the work of a stranger. It's weird.

Here's one poem... yes, let's call it a poem... that I found. I think I must've written it last year some time.


everything is charming everything
blood guiding blood
(dark magic of the theatre)
we expect a new person
like the buxom blonde in
the box, chopped up and
restored at the wave of a wand.
But people are not
made new but
a paler shade of
life. Yes?
We want new. We want
miracle oracle
sublime molecule.
We get the washing up.

by Hollie Chastain

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Because I was thinking about him, I thought I'd just google my great grandfather, Harry.

What I didn't know was that he ran the local theatre in Moonee Ponds, and was really passionate about independent, suburban theatre.

And then I found a newspaper report about a time he was kidnapped!
MELBOURNE, March 22, 1932
Three armed men held up Harry Gyles, manager of the Moonee Ponds Picture Theatre, near his home in Ascot Vale last night. He was bound and gagged blindfolded and taken back in a car to the theatre, which was entered with his keys, and robbed of £36. The thieves then drove Gyles back to the place where he had been held up and cut the bonds on his legs. He managed to tear the bandage from his eyes and reached home, where he gave the alarm. No trace of his assailants has been found.
Talk about dramatic!

Apprently he was also a performer (a singer), did magic tricks and yes, also played one game of football for Carlton when he was 16.

He was also the President of Rotary and the Mayor of Essendon.

What a man!

The big move

image from the Design Files' 2011 Melbourne Calendar

Most of the people who read this blog and see me faily regularly already know, but it's probably about time to tell the world... I'm moving to Melbourne next year!

It's quite a big move, because I'm leaving my job in radio and going back to working for a Christian student organisation. It's called Cross Cultures, it's for international students, and it's all about making friends and meeting Jesus.

I'm pretty excited about spending the bulk of my time caring for people, reading the bible with them and talking about the meaning of life. It's something I love doing.

And yes, moving to Melbourne full stop is also exciting. I have a suspicion it won't be as amazing in real life as it is in my head - I think that's probably a healthy suspicion. Having said that, I'm looking forward to being in what's generally known as a town with a creative, entrepreneurial spirit. It seems to have quite a strong identity, stronger than any other capital city I reckon.

I've noticed that when I tell people about my move they usually say something about how Melbourne is a creative place, and reflect on what they think "Melbourne" means and whether I'll fit in.

Melbourne seems to be quite parochial, in a good way, like it's proud of its culture. Lucy from the Design Files launched a calendar based on Melbourne neighbourhoods this week, illustrated by Melbourne's best artists. It's a good example of how Melbournites dig their own city. Another is Able and Game's tram stop calendar.
I've just found a place to live as well. yay! I'm going to be living in the inner north. My aim was to be close to work and church and uni, but also to be as near to Gertrude Street, Fitzroy as possible.

Where I'm living is a couple of suburbs away from where my great grandparents lived. My Great Grandad was the Mayor of Essendon and played football for Carlton. I kind of like the idea that I'm returning to my roots, and am looking forward to learning more about my Dad's side of the family. Apparently I have to go for Carlton in the AFL, although Dad's mum's side barrack for Essendon. Ahh the politics.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A tree planted by the stream

But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
He will be like a tree planted by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.

Jeremiah 17:7-8

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

summer blues

These hot summer nights call for some smokin blues, I say. And this guy's got the goods. Justin Townes Earle's touring Australia next year and has a new album out. This is little video of him talkin' and playing a new track off his new album (Harlem River Blues), called Slippin and Slidin. Winner.

via James Bradley

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The other reason my Dad is awesome

He gives me petrol vouchers in envelopes with love hearts.

I know. Pretty spesh.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Why my Dad is hilarious and awesome

Mum: the computers crashed.

Dad: what do you mean crashed?

Mum: it's crashed.

Dad: but what about my iTunes tracks?

Mum: it should be fine if you've got them on your iPod too.

Dad: but I downloaded a few yesterday. Maybe they're not ok?

Mum: did you buy them through iTunes?

Dad: they were free but yes, through iTunes. I hope they're ok.

Me: what were they?

Dad: washington.

Me: sorry, what? As in Megan Washington - W A S H I N G T O N?

Dad: yeah I saw her on the arias. The whole thing was awful but she was great.

So yeah, my dad likes washington. He also likes being hip in other ways, like using facebook and watching Australian idol. True story.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

They Draw and Cook

They Draw and Cook - "recipe renderings by artists and illustrators"

Friday, November 5, 2010


Sorry for the double up on the last post if you view this blog in a reader. I thought my post had been lost, so rewrote it only to discover it was there the whole time... mysterious...

Unconditional Love and the Iraq War

Some of you have said you'd like to get into the radio show This American Life but haven't known where to start.

If you're still keen, I'd recommend you listen to a recent episode called Unconditional Love, which tells the moving story of a Romanian boy adopted at age 7 and how he's struggled to be loved and love others, as well as how his adoptive family have perservered with him through intensely difficult circumstances. Might sound sappy, but it's a really interesting look at how integral relationship is to being human.

Also, I recently listened to an episode called Iraq After Us, which probably isn't the best place to start if you're new to This American Life, but if you're at all interested in hearing about the Iraq War through the eyes of Iraqis, give it a listen. I feel like I know nothing of what's gone on the last seven years in Iraq, but this episode gave me a glimpse of what has taken place from the perspective of those whose voices we haven't been privileged to hear from before. The reporters spent a month in Iraq collecting these stories

You can podcast all their episodes.

the muesli diaries

I deal with the important things on this blog. A while ago, I filled you all in about gender-specific bread and drawing on that same concern for your palette, I have undertaken research into muesli.

This is a big thing for me. You see, as a kid I didn't like milk, which meant all forms of milk-drenched breakfast were out of the question. But a few months ago, in a moment of abandon, I decided to take a bit of a leap and try muesli, milk and all. And I liked it. Amazing!

Over the last few months, I've been doing my research into the world of muesli in order to report back to you that the best muesli on the market is....

Table of Plenty's Velvety Vanilla and Heavenly Honey. Velvety Vanilla has macadamia nuts and cranberries! And Heavenly Honey is basically cinnamon flavoured. SO delicious. And actually not that bad for you, because it's only semi-toasted.

I was pleased on the weekend to discover a fellow lover of these mueslis. We were talking about muesli over dinner, as you do.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

mining the slums of the human heart

Kevin McCloud. You know him - the strangely compelling, posh host of Grand Designs. He can usually be found pontificating about an over-budget, behind-schedule eco-glass mansion or applauding the painstaking restoration of a centuries-old abbey in the scottish highlands amid snow and rain.

His latest project finds him being criticised for indulging in "poverty porn". The new doco Slumming It sees McCloud enter, and live in (or at least attempt to) Dharavi, a massive slum in Mumbai. It's clear from the moment he arrives in pristine pink shirt and chinos, perfect posture and upper class accent it's going to be a fascinating journey.

He's received a lot of flack for it and well, it's pretty obvious why. There were so many moments of cultural insensitivity and just sheer colonialist hogwash... But as I was cringeing, I realised I was really cringeing at myself. If I were there, sleeping on the floor of a slum with a rat crawling on my bag, surrounded by four other people who don't have running water or a flushing toilet, I think I'd be saying and thinking some pretty intolerant/dumb stuff too.

He's also been accused of indulging the romantic idea of the 'noble savage' because in his most reflective moments he wonders at the happiness of the slum's residents despite their disadvantage. It's kind of trendy to be cynical about McCloud's reaction - oh how patronising of him. But seriously, his observations were coming from somewhere genuine. What he saw was community. Actual COMMUNE-ity. Community completely different to the Double-Income-No-Kids living in a glass mansion on the hillside kilometres away from the next human that he's usually dealing with.

He was blown away by the way people lived in such close proximity with eachother, and seemed genuinely happy, social and even enjoying their work despite the deplorable conditions.

But should it come as such a surprise that humans thrive in community? It's a historical anomaly that we live in a society where it's normal for nuclear families to define and defend their space so clearly, and in doing so, create a society of loneliness and alienation.

Ali posted a few quotes from Clive Hamilton's book Affluenza this week on her blog. This analysis of our "work/life balance" obsession seems to fit perfectly with what McCloud was alluding to:

Working long and irregular hours does not just cause accidents and make us sick and tired: it breaks down the bonds that hold our communities together … As well as stripping away the time people would generally have to devote to community activities, overwork seems to shape people’s mindsets in such a way that they feel their community is something they must protect themselves from rather than a resource from which they can draw and to which they can contribute. When hours become precious, people tend to hoard them …

As we feel our lives being eked away at work, we are less inclined to use our "leisure time" for spending time together. But the whole system does such damage. If depression is on the rise in our country, surely it's linked to this phenomenon of the loneliness of our indivdiualistic society. But we somehow convince ourselves what we need is more "me time".

Watching the people in Dharavi socialise as they go about their daily business (making pots, gathering water etc), there is no sense of "me time" vs "community time". It's all just life. And I think Kevin is not wrong to see this and want to pause and ponder its significance for a while.

I think it's really interesting that the reaction to the doco has been to judge McCloud. Sometimes it's easier to heap scorn on those who reveal the ugliness of our hearts with an "unacceptable" level of honesty, than to confront it.

Part Two of Slumming It shows on Tuesday at 8:30pm on ABC1.

3 of the best

3 of the best... photography blogs.

Abby Try Again

These photos just says America to me. There is colour, and lots of it. And her Five Senses Friday posts are cool.

Bloom, Grow, Love

Basically every photo Alicia posts blows my mind. There's something magical about them.

Sandra Juto

Sandra is a fabulous character who lives in Sweden, who crochets and draws characters, and is married to one too.
Her blog is a real insight into her life, and captures a sense of place and belonging.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

3 of the Best

3 of the best food blogs....

What Katie Ate -
*Sydney based. There's something novel about a blog based in your home town, that makes it look like a special place even though you know it's not like that in real life.
*Stunning photos
*The recipes are done up like magazine spreads

*Reviews of Sydney restaurants and cafes by fellow a radio/music person Lee Tran Lam
*Great way to find out about new favourites, and old classics
*This place, the Eathouse Diner in Redfern, looks awesome. I want to go there.

Canelle et Vanille
*Entirely gluten free (if that's your thing)
*Really evocative photos and descriptions - it's like you can smell and taste the ingredients through your screen.
*Again, incredible photography.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Deadly Doing

I was just reading some Tozer this morning. Tozer was a 20th century preacher/author/pastor who was self-taught and a bit of a dude. I also read this post on Wendy Alsup's blog about Laying Down Your Deadly Doing. And it just seemed like a good bit of wonder that I chanced upon them both at the same time.

Firstly, Wendy's message against moralistic narcissim, a call to crucify "your deadly self analyzing and introspection that leads to condemnation and discouragement and your deadly self-discipline that leads to pride and Jesus-less self confidence".

And this reminder from Tozer that God is not a brownie points kind of guy. He is abounding in love, delighting in mercy.

"How good it would be if we could learn that God is easy to live with. He remembers our frame and knows that we are dust.... We please Him most, not by frantically trying to make ourselves good, but by throwing ourselves into His arms with all our imperfections, and believing that He understands everything and loves us still."

Friday, October 22, 2010

of late

cliff walk

mum's sweet peas

Monday, October 18, 2010

How to Wait

The ocean waits
for the man to fold
his arms behind
his back.

It waits for the end of things;
the unspooling
of fishing line.
A hook, a sinker. Maybe a fish.

It laughs at white bodies running
like matchsticks along the sand.

It forms waves like words
on the tongue, heard
in the heart then spoken
onto the shore.

It takes on the gleam
of another: the sun,
that showy ball
of who knows what.

And it waits for shutters
to open, to catch
the whole of it,
never catching
more than a glimpse
of the waiting ocean.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

poetry to walk to

This is one of those cool in theory... maybe not so cool in practice things. But seeing as theories interest me, I'll tell you about the Melbourne Poetry Map.

You download a set of poems, and a map, and then go for a walk with poems to accompany you on a journey around the city!

The website's cute. I like the watercolour pictures of the poets.

Monday, October 11, 2010


I wrote this little poem while lying in Jane's hammock in Broken Hill about two weeks ago. We'd just been riding camels near Silverton.

It must be remembered
that camels pull
from scarlet earth
with nicotine-coloured teeth
the size
of your pinkie

and chew
with doey eyes
that roam the pock-marked
face of the desert
in contemplation
of the next green

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Angastan op shop

Staying in a lovely little cottage in Angastan (in the Barossa) this week means we're getting to know the town's locals.

We've had fun chats with the florist, barista, cheese maker, and best of all, op shop volunteer.

Check out her smart moves on the old cashier.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Holiday truth # 1

It is not down in any map; true places never are. - Herman Melville

Saturday, October 2, 2010

of borders and horizons

There is something about knowing you are bound by sea that unconsciously draws you to the edge, to the precipice.

On Kangaroo Island I found myself constantly mediating expectations of perception as we would drive uphill on a crest, and my whole body would anticipate a glimpse of the ocean, only to find before me an infinity of bushland or pasture.

The Island is expansive, taking over an hour to cross from one side to the other and holds a series of mini ecosystems, changing every few kilometres from scrubland to forest, lagoon to marsh, canola field to sheep station, rugged cliffs to still bay or white beach.

I discovered when you're on an island, finding the boundaries and reaching the limits becomes exhilarating.

We stood awestruck at the edge of Cape De Coedic, in the Flinders Chase National Park watching waves of distant antarctic waters scrunch like paper below us, imagining the life of a lighthouse keeper and his family.

And we held our breath while enormous granite boulders sculpted by the earth's molten core dwarfed out bodies on the edge of the vast blue immensity.

Meanwhile, I wondered at the birds constantly transgressing human boundaries in flight, choosing in their freedom to travel over water, to dive, to glide or to rest in a tree. Similarly, I envied the seals who lay on the beach having spent days in the ocean depths feeding, crossing the breach on instinct for survival.

Still, after three nights on the Island, as we drove towards the ferry for our departure, my eyes kept scanning for the horizon. It was only when we made it to the mainland that this strange impulse to map out my surroundings left.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The road to Mildura

Sinews of cotton, the clouds reach sparsely through skies we flew through days ago.

Now we drive down roads wedded to the land by trains of purple weed; pattison's curse is a veil that marks the passing miles.

Mildura is an wooden chest upturned. Objects from several eras spill out and land awkwardly next to eachother. The Victorian post office and Officeworks whisper of the same yearning for communication, of paper and pens, and words written for posterity.

We spend most of our time telling stories, shyly proffering wisdom like a bird held on the palm of our hands, whose conviction we test before letting go.

An air of reassurance prevails. There is something comforting in the shared journey, an alliance of sorts.

Tomorrow we drive to the coast.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Going Away

Catch you in a little while.

For the next 12 days I'll be cycling round the Barossa with a pheasant pie in my knapsack, or kayaking around kangaroo island fending off the sea lions and penguins who want to say hello.

I'm looking forward to it. Who knows, I might find time to blog. Then again, I might be busy doing nothing.

Friday, September 24, 2010

creativity on tap

This is a really cool concept for a blog.

Jowell writes short fiction pieces inspired by photos sent to him by readers. He also reviews music and videos.

Better yet, his blog, Creative Writing Class looks like a series of laneways converging. Very cool. h/t Audrey

fighting accumulation

images form professional collector Lisa Congdon's Collection A Day project

I've been thinking quite a bit lately about stuff, as in things. I have a lot of stuff. Some of it is useful and necessary. For example cutlery, bowls, stationery, cushions, a sofa, a washing machine.

But I also have a lot of non-essentials that I've accumulated over the years: books, cds, more books, more cds. And a whole lot of things that "just caught my eye" and I thought, that would be nice on a shelf somewhere (hello ceramic owl collection).

Then there are those things that are hard to throw out - old instruction books, electronic equipment, cords, files and documents that "might come in handy one day"...

There's also a whole heap of things kept for sentimental value: cards, letters, tickets shoved in boxes under my bed that I never look at.

Sometimes, I wonder why I have all this stuff. Especially when I think about having to transport it all elsewhere at some point. Moving is such a nightmare.

There is something quite instinctual about accumulation, something comforting about having things. We use them to reflect our identity, to make our space our own. But they all too easily come to define us, and become the yardstick for our personal sense of security.

In reality, my stuff weighs me down, tricks me into thinking I'm secure in this world, when really all withers and fades, rusts and spoils.

I have fantasies of getting rid of everything, save for maybe my bed, a handful of books and a chair for guests. This will never happen, but maybe my intial goal for the next three months should be to not accumulate anything; to not buy anything unnecessary.

I started by not buying either of the most recent books listed for my course at uni. I just borrowed them from the library instead. That was easy. But it's funny how easy it is too look at my classmates' shiny copies popped on their desks and think I ought to buy one, that I'm the odd one out.

Feist on Sesame Street

I feel like my blog has become one big video of late, but oh well. I just can't not post this.

Feist's album The Reminder is a favourite, and the song 1,2,3,4 just a bit fantastic. It's makes me smile inside. I often play it while taking off for a run, or walking on a sunny day. It just perks me up straight away.

Anyway, she sang an adapted version to the monsters on Sesame Street... "1,2,3,4 let's count some more!"

As an aside, about a month ago I had to report on a kid being mauled by a sea lion at the zoo, and I couldn't get Feist's song Sea Lion Woman out of my head.. it was a bit inappropriate.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

William Carlos Williams

Words  that dance and speak of the ordinary; "no ideas, but in things". The particularity of life unearthing the universal: this is William Carlos Williams.

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white chickens.

The Farmer

The farmer deep in thought
is pacing through the rain
among his blank fields, with
hands in pockets,
in his head
the harvest already planted.
A cold wind ruffles the water
among the browned weeds.
On all sides
the world rolls coldly away:
black orchards
darkened by the March clouds -
leaving room for thought.
Down past the brushwood
bristling by
the rainsluiced wagonroad
looms the artist figure of
the farmer - composing
- antagonist

Sunday, September 19, 2010

...think Frankie J. Holden as a circus ringmaster

Spruce Bringsteen

They've played the Annandale Hotel, wowed a crowd of thousands at a mass protest and most recently, conquered the streets of Newtown. "They" are the yet to be named, but still awesome, marching band started by my friend James, aka Spruce Bringsteen.

An algae-counting PhD student by day, Jimmy is band master of a bunch of brass, drums and woodwind that play 80s pop covers with such formidible skill and spirit you might mistake them for professionals.

I started by asking James what the inspiration for his band had been. He says it all began with a chance encounter with a group of school kids during a protest in Argentina against a Canadian uranium mining company.

JH: After an hour long march down the highway we were greeted by a rabble of kids from the local school all with their instruments. Their music transformed the place and gave energy and some funk to what we were doing. So we thought we should start a marching band back in Australia. Of course it took a years time and telling some proactive friends before we got it together.

Check out the kids protesting:

Soph: How do you manage to march, look cool and play a drum in time?
JH: I pretend my drum is a fixed-gear bicycle and rims on my glasses an inch thicker.

Soph: What songs get the kids going?
JH: Jump Around by House of Pain. We don’t know this one yet though.

Soph: Take us through your marching outfit.
JH: Think Frankie J. Holden as a circus ringmaster.

Soph: What is your favourite cat video clip on you tube and why?
JH: Right now my favourite is ‘Cat Playing I Spy’.

Soph: Musical inspirations?
JH: I think Tom Waits – In the Neighbourhood sums it up pretty well

Soph: Tell us a story about a rabbit.
JH: My first two pets were rabbits called ‘Misty’ and ‘Cloudy’. They bore no apparent preference for weather conditions.

Soph: Sydneys best kept secret?
JH: The entrance of the secret tunnel into state parliament the pollies use to avoid the media and protestors.

Soph: Last great meal you ate?

Thanks for sharing Jimmy..... long live the marching band in pop culture.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

drum it like it's hot

In a Storms Dressed As Stars first, this week I'll be bringing you an exclusive interview with the founder of Sydney's newest (and perhaps only), 80s covers marching band.

But before I can bring you the interview, you need to get acquainted with the band. So, here they are performing at the Newtown Pop Up Festival, which brought music, colour and a man dressed in a green rabbit suit to the grimy streets of Newtown on Friday night.

My good friend James, the band master supreme, is playing the Tom Tom on the left, sporting a fine red neckerchief.

The "festival" was a couple of hundred people walking through Newtown, stopping occassionally to party. The first stop was a house someone had lived in once... it if that gives you a sense of how strange, but charming this pilgrimage was. The amazing marching band led the way with such hits as "Walk This Way" and "The Final Countdown" to much applause.

We also made significant pauses at the IGA carpark, two dark laneways, two parks and numerous traffic lights. At each location we watched a different performance: fan dancers, two clowns throwing cream pies at each other, a guy playing a song on his guitar from a two storey apartment block and perhaps best of all, a 5 minute Iggy Pop Party. I know what you're thinking, what is a 5 Minute Iggy Pop Party?

There is nothing more I can say to explain it, because the title is very accurate. But I can show you some footage.

Keep an eye out for my exclusive interview with James in coming days.....

Monday, September 13, 2010

A swell afternoon

After bushfire training, my friend Suzi took me to the newest hole-in-the-wall Adriano Zumbo joint. He already feautures on Darling Street in Balmain, but this new patisserie/cafe is up the other end in Rozelle, just off the main street.

Inside, the cafe kitchen is on display through a big glass window. We were able to sit eating our blackened vanilla macarons while watching the pastry chefs make a croquembouche through the glass window. At one point a chef was standing on a chair, whipping a fork covered in toffee around to make the spun sugar. It was quite a spectacle.

Suzi, a jewellry-making-art-teacher-designer extraordinaire, at the Zumbo cafe.

On a sugar high, we decided to go down to Ballast Point, where the site of an old Caltex oil warehouse as been turned into a "park". I use inverted commas, because park makes you think swing sets and grass. But this "park" is more like a giant sculptured landscape.

Perched on the harbour foreshore near Birchgrove, the space is a mix of industrial materials turned into art, cool hidey holes surrounded by native plants, sandstone cliff faces and waterfront views. It doesn't feel cosy like other parks, but its charm stems from the sense you're perched on the edge of the world. This sense was heightened by how barren and empty is was today. I imagine it's more populous on weekends.

Our favourite spot was a rock wall that's dotted with locks engraved with various lovers' names. So far there's about 20 locks covering the wall. I assume someone put the first one up, and people have been inspired to do the same. 
detail of the lock wall

when it's not worth being a hero

Today was my sixth day of work in a row, and they've all been early starts. Needless to say I'm pretty tired.

Luckily, today was just bushfire training, which as my colleague said felt like going on a school excursion, what with wearing casual clothes and going to an exciting new place - the RFS headquarters.

Let me just say... if you live near the bush, either have an extremely good fire survival plan and an immaculately maintained property, or just don't even risk trying to stay and defend your home. I'm no authority on the matter, but it doesn't seem like many people have the mental strength to calmly stick it out while a massive fire engulfs their home. But I could be wrong.

It was really disturbing re-watching footage of the Victorian bushfires and thinking of the lives that could've been saved if people hadn't been caught trying to leave their homes at the last minute.

I'm also now terrified of going anywhere near a fireground. I don't know if that's the point of the training, but I'm kind of hoping I won't have to use my shiny new media pass any time soon. But with summer just around the corner I think I might be dreaming.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Beauty Has A Name

I've seen so many pretty things; but nowhere compares with you.

I've had Thad Cockrell's album To be Loved on repeat for the last week. There is a rare warmth and tenderness to his songs on what's ultimately a pop record.

He reminds me a lot of Josh Rouse. Both are more on the pop end of alt-country, with lovely sandpapery voices. In the past he's teamed up with Caitlyn Carey of Whiskeytown fame, but To Be Loved is just him and his band.

Beauty Has A Name is one of the loveliest songs on the record, although not the loveliest (Rosalyn and A Country of My Own are contenders for that one). But who can say no to a bearded man at a piano?

I'm again surprised and cheered that he manages to express his Christian faith with a confidence that means he doesn't need to sledgehammer the listener. He Set Me Free is probably the most obvious song about Jesus you'll find, and even it's a really charming bluegrass number.\

Hear more at his myspace page.

Monday, September 6, 2010

getting all gushy

To make sense of this post, refer to point three of my happiness list: the gift of family.

Here is my mother. She is, without exaggeration, an absolute gem. And today she was honoured for 20 years' service to the kids hospital at Westmead. Mum says that she knew she wanted to be a nurse at age 5. She wanted to take after her Great Aunty Soph, who was a nurse, and is my namesake. As an aside, Great Aunty Soph's old house still stands on the highway at Springwood, next to the church of Christ. I drove past it the other weekend and I think the little lane next to the church is named after her. Cool, no?

But back to Mum. For about 24 years she's looked after tiny, newborn babies who need intensive care (before that she did other things in nursing). She recently retired after having back surgery.

What is remarkable is the whole time she's worked in neonatal intensive care, she's never focused on the difficulties or tragedies that go along with working with very ill babies, although there are many. What I have heard her speak about, however, are the miracles, the joys and the families; the families who come from everywhere.

You see, sickness does not discriminate, and nor does Mum. She has genuinely loved and served people from all walks of life. Over the years I've heard about babies who've come to the ward from Fiji, remote indigenous communities, Mosman, Penrith and everywhere in between.

It's not really cool to love your parents a lot (or at least to admit to it) but I do. And I felt all mushy today reflecting on what a wonderful person is my mother. She is my best friend, and I admire her more than she probably knows.

All Delighted People

I recently reviewed Sufjan's new EP All Delighted People for Eternity. You can find the full review here.
Here's a taster.

I'll be upfront: this is no Illinoise. Wait, don't let your brow furrow so easily. Yes, Sufjan goes on a bit of an esoteric bender here, and yes, it seems he's in his wilderness years. But for the patient at least, the gold is here, it just needs to be dug up.
If you want to have a listen, the EP is streaming free on BandCamp here. So is the first single from his upcoming album The Age of ADZ.

Have to say, I definitely prefer the sound of the EP to the album at this stage...

I have a soft spot for the Suf, because I discovered his album Seven Swans just after I became a Christian, and it was the first moving, intelligent expression of faith in pop culture I'd encountered. Since then, he's just gone from strength to strength. Lately, those strengths taking on a strange form. But that's ok, he's allowed to go out on a limb. He's Sufjan.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Book of the Ocean

One of my lecturers (who also happens to be a best-selling author: respect), James Bradley, has edited an anthology of writing about the ocean. It looks to be pretty awesome.

I love the ocean, and all forms of art relating to it, not least of all prose and poetry.

Check out the cover... James is certainly pleased with it.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Big Scary: Winter, Spring

photo: Big Scary

So I kind of missed Winter.

Remember Big Scary? They're that little Aussie band doing a different EP for each season, and releasing the singles free on myspace.

Well, I missed winter. But the single, "Thinking About You" is a lovely, hushed, piano ballad that goes a little Jeff Buckley in the middle. You can still hear it on myspace and download it free here.

And yesterday, they released their Spring single, Hamilton, free for download too. It's another great song. I think the magic is all in the sensitivity of Tom's voice and the way the song creeps up on you with its triumphant chorus, then leaves. I like.

The fact that their EPs are selling out continues to prove how clever it is to give people a free taste of your music (Sufjan's doing the same over here).