Saturday, 31 January 2009


There's no point waiting for governments to take the necessary steps towards a more sustainable future for the planet. We haven't got forever.

If premier Brumby isn't going to pledge adequate funding to create more bike paths in his car-centic Transport Plan for Melbourne, maybe it's time we created our own?

More here.

In other laneway news, if you're in Melbourne tomorrow, my sister Emily is playing at the St Jerome's Laneway Festival at 2.30pm on the QV stage.

Friday, 30 January 2009

T-Shirt Giveaway

In 2005 I took part in the Melbourne Fringe Festival with a project called Display Purposes Only. It involved hundreds of hand printed t-shirts distributed in 13 international cities. Each t-shirt had a card attached asking that the finder register their t-shirt online by uploading a photo of it and answering a series of questions.

Would you like one of these t-shirts?

Please leave as a comment your name and email address or some way of contacting you and in a week's time, I will let you know if my random number generator has singled you out.

The Fine Print:
In the spirit of the original project, I ask that the lucky recipient emails me a photo of their t-shirt (with or without them in it) as well as answers to the questions initially asked of the t-shirt finders, so that I may blog them here.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009


I remember when I was young going to live music gigs and coming home feeling like the luckiest girl alive if I managed to get hold of the musicians' set list. There are some writers who inspire this feeling in me. I see their name on the cover of a magazine or book or in a table of contents and I feel my heart change gear. Malcolm Gladwell is one such writer.

I try to read everything he writes in the New Yorker, I read his first book The Tipping Point and I have just finished reading his third, Outliers. I listened to his second book, Blink as an audio book and ever since, I hear his voice in my head saying his words as I read them. He has a really great voice, really great hair, and a really great explanation of what an outlier is:
"Outlier" is a scientific term to describe things or phenomena that lie outside normal experience. In the summer, in Paris, we expect most days to be somewhere between warm and very hot. But imagine if you had a day in the middle of August where the temperature fell below freezing. That day would be an outlier. And while we have a very good understanding of why summer days in Paris are warm or hot, we know a good deal less about why a summer day in Paris might be freezing cold. In this book I'm interested in people who are outliers—in men and women who, for one reason or another, are so accomplished and so extraordinary and so outside of ordinary experience that they are as puzzling to the rest of us as a cold day in August. My wish with Outliers is that it makes us understand how much of a group project success is. When outliers become outliers it is not just because of their own efforts. It's because of the contributions of lots of different people and lots of different circumstances— and that means that we, as a society, have more control about who succeeds—and how many of us succeed—than we think. That's an amazingly hopeful and uplifting idea.
I find all of Gladwell's ideas uplifting. And I found this book uplifting too – I just couldn't put it down.

Even though he has a penchant for the macabre – suicide, police shootings, plane crashes – his curious explorations are filled with much humour and joy. And as I've learned of late, a love of life must be preceded by a love of death. Well, maybe not a love of it, but a genuine acceptance.

The final chapter of the book is about his grandmother and mother and the circumstances that helped shape them into who they were, and then him into who he is; an honouring of the matriarchy that has great resonance with me right now.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

I Write This

I write this on my mum's computer while she packs her bag for Tasmania where she'll spend two weeks with my dad.

I write this after a productive day of working on the fifth storey of an office building in Melbourne, punctuated by nectarines, coffees and lunch with my lovely friend Chris.

I write this after meeting my sister E after work. We sat on a metal bench on the street and talked like only sisters can before I took a tram to my grandfather's house.

I write this after dinner with my mum at a busy vegetarian restaurant.

I write this wearing only a singlet. The door leading out to the balcony is open and the city sounds enter the living room like a mixtape.

I write this and you read it with a soundtrack and a Tuesday tale of your own.

Monday, 26 January 2009


We spent the afternoon down at the lake again today; swimming, reading, listening to the Hottest 100 playing on a nearby stereo.

Doesn't this look like heaven? I love that this is practically our backyard.

These three girls floated by on their cloud and I had to snap a photo.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Waste Not

We had leftover pancake mixture this morning so I thought I'd cook a few up for the chooks. I got sidetracked and left this one on the pan too long. It didn't burn but it was a bit stiff. I soaked it in water and fed it to them along with some others I made.

They ate them all.

What we don't use or feed the chooks, we compost.

Growing up my mum used to say that the meaning of life is compost. Oh how wise you are Mamman.

What we don't use goes to enriching our land and what I don't use, goes to informing this Land.

PJ calls this lack of waste a closed-cycle ecology, I call it Blogging 101.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Umbrella Tree

When I first saw this tree on swissmiss I thought about all the rain I couldn't stop crying over my grandmother's death.

Today I looked at it again and thought about the tree's flight in a giant gust.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

The Changing of the Guards

I have been working in Melbourne these last few days and spending nights at my grandfather's house with all the extended family.

At work I am stimulated and engaged and at night I fill my handkerchief with all the tears I have inside me as I worry about my grandfather and mourn my grandmother's death and deal with the abruptness of her final full stop.

Today at work during morning tea we watched Obama's inauguration speech and for the first time I was able to see my Booba's death in a wider context.

What's that line from Ecclesiastes? To everything there is a season.

Monday, 19 January 2009

In Absentia

This is us yesterday morning before all our lovely guests arrived.

I thought I could do it: separate the two halves of my day into happy then sad, but I wasn't able.

I will have other birthdays and other moustache and pancake parties but my grandmother will only ever die this once.

I love birthdays. Growing up in a family of four daughters meant that every year I got this one day all to myself, but yesterday morning at my party, try as I did to feel happy, I couldn't quite pull it off.

My heart was elsewhere.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Red Ecology

Dear PJ,

Thank you for everything you do always, but right now, thank you for this song and this film.

When I cut my metaphoric birthday cake every day and the knife comes out dirty, I'm really glad that the man standing closest to me is you.

Birthday, Deathday

My grandmother died yesterday and today I turn 35.

I am having people over at 10 for a morning of pancakes and moustaches, then this afternoon we will bury my Booba.

A few people have remarked how bad I must be feeling to have my grandmother's funeral on my birthday, but really I couldn't be more pleased. It means I get to see all my family and it means I will have her close to me.

If a birthday is a celebration of a life, then it feels appropriate that my day includes a celebration of my Booba's life too; her influence over me was a like a spell.

She lived her whole life for other people – she was a woman of her generation. But this afternoon will be just for her. We will honour her, cherish and remember and salute her and hold close all the memories of her that are our favourites.

I have a lifetime's worth.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

That Which is Possible

happy happy!
Four years ago our friend Jason and his partner at the time, Esther, handmade a series of beautiful postcards. Each card contained a picture of claimed roadside food, recipes for preserving and a map of where the various plums, pears, apples, blackberries, and quince can be foud and when approximately, the fruit are in season. They sent the postcards to friends and also to random strangers, to encourage a practice of gleaning and self-sufficiency.

They called the project That Which is Possible.

Yesterday PJ and our friend O, maps in hand, went out to see what treasures they could pluck.

These early season cherry plums are proof of their afternoon's success.

Happy happy! 

And a happy birthday to you O! We look forward to another whole year of discovering treasures with you, and discovering the treasures of you.

Friday, 16 January 2009

A Whole Lotta Nothin'

A week ago I bumped into a friend of my sister K's who said that she remembers when we were young how I would sit on the couch scribbling away in my diary, participate in my surrounds, then return to my pages.

This got me thinking about the objectivity a writer has to cultivate in order to remain detached, which is one of the reasons in my 20s I spent so much time in countries where I couldn't speak the language.

For me as a writer, living with other people can compromise my words, so I need to make a conscious prioritisation of my writing time, which PJ understands as he too writes and treasures the quiet.

Maybe it's that I am more of a dreamer than PJ but I tend to do a lot more procrastinating and need, what I heard the writer Cate Kennedy refer to as, Window Time – just staring, eyes glazed over, not looking at anything in particular. It feels like I'm doing nothing but really, this is part of my process, a part that gets sacrificed because if I have limited time to write, hanging out on the couch with my feet up just doesn't feel like the most productive thing I could be doing.

I should take heed of what Freud says in Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming; how an important outcome of daydreaming is to disconnect; not to be confused with escapism as it's the opposite of that.

I say: Here's to more dwelling! Here's to daydreaming! Here's to more thoughts that go nowhere, that don't want destinations, that don't need to be justified or qualified or directed.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Raising Boys

From reading a book about caring for chooks to a book about caring for sons – two subjects about which I knew zilch before I moved to the country.

It still makes me LOL when I think about the things that define me now compared to those that defined me in the city. Wanting to read a book called Raising Boys, for starters.

Some interesting things I learnt: 
  • The opposite-sex parent often holds the key to self-esteem for a growing child.
  • A young man driving a car on his own is relatively safe, but when he has a young male passenger, the chances of a fatal crash increase by 50%. If the passenger is a young female, the young male driver is more careful and is actually safer than he is on his own. If this driver is accompanied by two young males, the death rate of the driver increases by over 400%!!
  • Young boys need positive mentors as well as adults who care, in addition to their parents.
Although Steve Biddulph doesn't specifically mention the relationship between stepmothers and their sons, I got an enormous amount from reading this book. Some parts I found too simplistic, but for the most part it provides good common sense informed by practical research and hours and hours of time spent with boys of all ages, their families, teachers and community.

I loved best the parts where Biddulph writes about the spirits of boys and ways to nurture and provide space for their personal evolution from boyhood to manhood. 

I also liked reading that from their mothers, boys learn how to relate to females. I like to think that because Z has two different kinds of mums, he has a winning chance of growing into a well balanced, broad minded, positive young dude.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009


I'm glad this echidna didn't read my blog when I confessed that I am not a fan of visitors dropping by unexpectedly.

Monday, 12 January 2009

What I Would Do

For my sister A on her birthday:
  • Make breakfast for Z and his friend who stayed over.
  • Wash my hair.
  • Take Z to his swimming lesson.
  • Pick up the car with its four new tyres.
  • Catch a train to Melbourne.
  • Have a meeting about my next contract.
  • Kiss the birthday girl on both cheeks.
  • Eat party food in her honour.
  • Laugh with my nieces and mum and two of my sisters and play that game where you write a sentence and fold the page over, then write a word for the next person to start their sentence, then read it all out at the end. One of the sentences I wrote was about having to eat lunch before birthday cake. I was so full after my sandwiches though, that I had no more room for cake.
  • See a vampire movie.
  • Stand at the train station wishing I had taken a slice of birthday cake so I wouldn't have to buy a vending machine muesli bar.
  • Sit next to a man reading a book about how to stop smoking, while I think about sisters and aging and travel and making homes, while I make my way home on the train.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

The Give and the Take

On the way to the train station in Melbourne last night, we passed by some people rummaging through a skip piled high with goods from a nearby church-run op shop. They found some old suitcases they were filling with their loot. The wastefulness was mind blowing; clothes, toys, books, office supplies, food, games – it was all thrown in.

What do charities do with their donations they no longer want? Donate them to landfill? Give them to another charity? Last night that was us. We found a laundry basket to fill and joined the others in their merriment and scavenging and disbelief that such goodies were freely available for the taking, to the takers.

Today we took part in another activity of abundance. For the second month in a row, a local winebar has provided the space for a harvest swap meet where gardeners are encouraged to bring their excess produce to swap. We took parsley and carrots and took home lettuce, chocolate mint and peaches, which we shared just now with friends on the deck in the gloaming.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Chook Book

Because I'm an enthusiastic reader, I'm always eager to see what books strangers are engrossed in when I see people reading on public transport.

On the way down to Melbourne today I read this book on the train and then on all the trams I took. I held it out in front of me like a proud shield.

Keeping chooks is one of the greatest joys in my life and I want people to know that I am not some random redhead on public transport, but that I have chooks!

I learnt a lot whilst reading the Chook Book. Of course you can never read too much about something you love, but I have learnt more than a book can ever teach just from hanging out in our yard and quietly watching our birds in all their feathered glory.

So many people have commented to me how dumb chooks are – what pea brains. And maybe they are compared to dogs or cats, but what nobler job is there than sitting on eggs of new life. I was in awe of Cuba when she was broody and I am in awe of those little pea brains who can create something as complete and contained as an egg. 

After all these millions of years of evolution and with all my years of education, if only I could create something so wonderful each day.

Thursday, 8 January 2009


It's been three weeks since we received 8 fertilised eggs and I am thrilled to announce the arrival of 5 chicks to our brood.

I am home just now from my mum's birthday party, where she provided all the delicious food for her family to lunch on.

In this photo, mama Cuba is doing her version of that too – grounding up the feed into small enough pieces for her babies to eat.

Happy birth day!

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Unknown Online Doors

As well as teaching a course on blogging at the local neighbourhood centre next month, I am running a course called Exploring the World Wide Web. In it, people who are not confident knocking on unknown online doors will learn all about Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter and more. The neighbourhood centre's course guide came out this week with my courses listed. To celebrate, here's this:

Artist Filippo Minelli says:
All my Contradictions have the same motivation/meaning. Technologies and the marketing behind them usually push the almost religious aspect of their evolution, as also said by Leander Kaheny in his Cult of Mac book, and the users are pushed to live in an intense way the abstraction from reality, living technologies only as an idea and sometimes without even knowing their real functions. And this aspect works for the social-networks too. 
The idealization connected with these experiences provokes a small-but-important detach of the perception of reality and what I want to do by writing the names of anything connected with the 2.0 life we are living in the slums of the third world is to point out the gap between the reality we still live in and the ephemeral world of technologies. 
It's a kind of reminder, for people like me which I'm an Apple user and also have social-network accounts that the real world is deeply far from the idealization we have of it, not only in the third world and even if technologies and globalization are good things.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Guest Blogger: JS

Our lovely friend Jeff has just returned from visiting his partner Cath in China. Here is a snapshot from his time away:

This morning, walking in Lu Xun Park, I slowed, and then stopped, to watch a man writing traditional characters on the footpath using a large calligraphy brush dipped in water from a plastic drink container. By the time he had completed a line of text his first characters had already begun to evaporate.

Further along, sitting on the edge of the path practicing characters was an older man with a beard. At his feet was a puddle of unintelligible words. Buying breakfast from a stall in Tina ai Lú I silently held out a handful of coins for the young girl selling baozi. Having just arrived in Shanghai, and my only Chinese being nihao, I could only point and hope she understood.

A small child smiling on the back of a pushbike repeated phrases her mother sang as she peddled passed one of the street’s corner fruit and vegetable stalls. Language I realized was something I had taken for granted; now words were unfamiliar, and I felt more infantile than the child on the back of a pushbike repeating her mother’s song.

But I also experienced something other than a sense of alienation as I held out my handful of coins at the baozi stall. There was something more. The characters written in water evaporating on the warm concrete footpath, and being stepped over by passing pedestrians may have been unintelligible to me; however the gentleman’s practice, his gestures were not. The young girl, with a prod from her father, selected the correct coins from my palm and handed me my meal.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Nice One

Once there was a really nice girl. She was really nice. She lived in a nice house surrounded by a nice garden in a nice neighbourhood. She met a really nice guy and they got married and had a wedding list so all their nice guests could give them all the nice things they wanted.

They went on their honeymoon to the beach where they spent most of their days reading books about nice things. At night they ate nice food in the resort restaurant. They befriended the waitress who was really nice. She reminded them of the woman who arranged the flowers for their wedding. She was really nice too.

The couple came home and went back to work the next day. They made extra big dinners so they could take the leftovers to work for lunch in Tupperware containers. They worked hard five days a week and at night they reclined on their couch and watched TV. Their couch was nice. It wasn't new but it looked new. The colour matched the picture on the wall above really nicely.

On weekends they ate breakfast out at a nice little local café. Later when they would have kids, their kids would play with the café owners' kids and then later, the two families would car pool to and from school.

Their school was really nice. It had a big tree in the front yard. One day a bigger kid threw his shoe into it and fell out when he went to retrieve it. He broke a bone in his wrist and then the kids weren't allowed to climb the tree any more. All the parents thought that was a good idea.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Without the Rind

Several months ago, I wrote about World Dividers; how the world can be divided into two categories, those who do certain things and those who don't.

I was too quick to judge, it seems. 

Last week I had tea with someone I know very well. This is her iPod with the protective plastic still on the click wheel. When I saw it I was shocked. I always thought people who left the plastic on their electricals were scared of life, like old people who cover their couches with clear PVC.

But now I've changed my mind. This person I know is fierce in her approach to living.

Protective layers make me think of these lines from Nin Andrews's poem, Notes on the Orgasm:
The orgasm will peel you like an orange. You may feel exposed, raw, even wounded. The orgasm wants you to live life without the rind.

Friday, 2 January 2009

The Dud Avocado

I enjoyed Loobylu's review of this book so much I had to read it for myself. Normally she reads books while stirring pots at the stove or stopped at red lights, but as her copy of The Dud Avocado is so well-thumbed she needed a hand to hold each cover for fear the pages would fall out. 

I liked how she wrote nothing of the contents of this little known classic but rather, about her experience of reading it. As a result I too was unusually aware of how and not just what I was reading.

When I ordered the book online, I requested the first available copy within our network of libraries, which just happened to be a large print book. I have never read a large print book before and I was happy for the new experience, thinking it might also be a good thing for my eyes.

I took this book away with us to the beach. Usually I only read books that fit inside my everyday bag, but I liked that this was one was large: I was on holiday from my usual sized books and I was on holiday from reading nonfiction too. As there was no shade at the beach, I used its size to block out the sun as I lay on my back, my arms outstretched like a sundial.

Have you ever been out somewhere and seen a group of young women completely dolled up to the nines, talking too loudly on their phones and to each other? They take photos of themselves in pose after pose and all huddle round the camera to laugh too loudly at the outcome on the screen. Sally Jay Gorce, the novel's protagonist is one of these young women, (except that it was published in pre-digital 1958), but despite her youth and vapidity, she does manage to endear herself to the reader with her wit and observations.

I was ready to give the book the flick when I first started reading it. I only persevered as I was searching for the reason it was included in the NY Review Books Classics series, and also because the book is loosely based on author Elaine Dundy's real life experiences in Paris when she was a 21 year-old.

While I read this book I also re-read the journals I wrote when I spent three months in India as a 25 year-old. Reading about my own impetuous audacity as a young traveller definitely helped me see Sally Jay with more affection and with confidence that she too will grow up and take steps towards living a life less self-centred and less self-conscious.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Here Comes Everybody

Thirteen years ago on NYE my nanna Jo-Jo died, three years ago on NYE PJ and I met at a party and on the subsequent two NYEs, we have taken part in the annual parade down the main street of our town. Here we are last night:

Sixteen years ago, the graphic designer Tibor Kalman erected a giant billboard on Forty-second Street in NYC. It was bright yellow and had the word EVERYBODY written on it. Even though it was at street level, it hung graffiti-free for its two year run.

Our lovely friend, Ian Robertson who took the above photos, suggested PJ make a sign saying HERE COMES as HERE COMES EVERYBODY is something John Cage used to say and both he and PJ are John Cage nuts. (Incidentally, Cage borrowed the saying from James Joyce in Finnegan's Wake.)

A fabulous night all up. Happy new year EVERYBODY!


From DirectDaily:
Schott Solar produces solar panels with 20 years warranty. In order to present the brand Schott Solar in a distinctive and meaningful way in wholesale markets, they created a 20 year warranty calendar, which sticks out of the wall more than 60 centimeters. A message which can hardly be ignored. The first calenders were sent out for free, in the meantime the sales force is confronted with more and more calendar requests.